Alter Post: When two worlds collide

Pip is retired.  She wants to stay retired and find a way to integrate with everyone else.  i.e. participate in co-conscious awareness with our host and everyone else in the real world.

Angora enjoys working and taking classes online.  She’s starting to get more comfortable talking with people in the outside world too.  But not interested in being a host full time.

Some of the younger alters are growing up.  They’re trying to decide if they want to maintain separate identities or merge with others and fade away.

The teen alters are growing up and making changes too.

What we all thought was the worst possible decision now seems like a possible option if we all want to live in the same present reality together.

I hoped moving across the country would stop the evening jaunts to potentially dangerous experiences.  Pip was so excited about finally having down time and a safe place to heal all of our physical injuries.  Angora looked forward to dancing and listening to music again.  Everyone else couldn’t wait to create a real home.

And yet, that past followed us here.  Only now has Pip shared that she had to come out of retirement during our first year in the new city.  The ones who recognized us from before and their friends here tried to cause trouble.  They tested and challenged us until we proved that retirement didn’t mean vulnerable.  That none of us had any interest in resuming the other work here.

Then, in our new building, both Pip and Angora along with a few of the males came out to protect our neighbors and our building.  This time was more and less than people from the past.  It was people who witnessed what happened the first year and caused trouble as neighbors.  It was local homeless people and addicts making noise at night and disturbing us.  It was neighbors with young children worried about the impact of these night disturbances.

So one last time, Pip came out to try and make it stop.  None of the neighbors got hurt.  Not in our building or the others nearby.  None of the innocent or uninvolved got hurt either.  But now the building doesn’t smell like pot.  The homeless people and partiers make less noise at night.

Maybe this time they’ll all believe in our communal retirement.  And understand that retirement DOES NOT equal going soft or being unable to protect ourselves.

But at least it explains how so many of the younger people in this neighborhood recognize me and look at me with mixed expressions of dislike, hate, disdain, horror, fear, or anxiety. And why the host doesn’t always recognize or remember them.  On the plus side: defending ourselves, protecting neighbors and the building without harming them, finally earned some trust.  Now the neighbors are respectful and polite, sometimes nice too.

And the amnesia that comes with a switch happens less often.  We’re looking forward to a day when all of us can work and move together as a united person in mind, body, and spirit.  When our body becomes fully adult instead of going back and forth between pre- and post-adolescence, it will go through normal female stuff instead of stopping or changing under stress.

Until that happens, the moments of fear and confusion when speaking with people will continue.  Maybe, though, this time around people will accept that part of us instead of shunning us.  And maybe we can stop feeling shame about not recognizing and remembering people who greet us.

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: Mindfulness meditation frustration

Mindfulness meditation frustration

Lots of people discuss mindfulness meditation and how beneficial it can be.    But how often are the other meditation styles discussed and used?  As much as we love mindfulness meditation, sometimes it just doesn’t help.  We are not interested in being mindful or grounded in the present. No when we’re struggling with understanding which reality (past/present/flashback/nightmare/daydream) we are in at the moment.

Our goal is to ALL BE IN THE SAME MOMENT AT THE SAME TIME

It’s rather disorienting and confusing for the host not knowing when she is in the outside world.

In moments like this, something hat attracts everyone’s attention and pulls us together helps more than anything else.  What can do that?  A different kind of meditation called visualization sometimes helps us.  Maybe it could be called mindfulness since the focus is on recreating every detail of the object in our mind?  But our visualizations are based on imaginary places, not real ones, and use all of our senses, so not sure either way.

Our preferred visualization is always tree or earth-related.  Something about trees feels especially safe, comforting, and grounding.

But anything can be used for the visualization.

The Visualization practice

We learned a variation of this meditation from the hotline volunteers.  You can do this alone or with a partner or in a group.

In a quiet, safe space
    Sit or lie down in a comfortable position
    Breathe deep and slow – inhale, pause, exhale – 3-4 times
    Close your eyes
    Breathe in for count of 5, then out for count of 5
    Notice the sensations and/or thoughts passing through
    Continue breathing deep and slow

 

Imagine a tree in front of you
Notice the trunk
    What color?
    How old or young?
    How big/small, skinny/thick?
    What shape is the trunk?
    What does the bark look, feel, smell, sound like?
Notice the branches and leaves
    What do you see?  Shapes, sizes, colors, textures..
    What do you hear?
    How do the branches and leaves feel?
    Do the branches and leaves have a scent?  Can you describe it
Notice the ground under the trunk
    Is the ground solid?  muddy?  grassy?  sandy?
    How does it feel, smell, sound?
    What colors?
Imagine you can see under the ground
    What do the roots look like?
    How long or short?
    How thick or thin?
    How strong or weak?
Observe all around the tree
    Is there anyone or anything near by?
    Describe what your observe
Breathe in for a count of 5, pause for a count of 5, then breathe out for a count of 5
Breathe deep and slow – inhale, pause, exhale – 3-4 times
Notice how you feel – stress levels, sensations in your body/mind, feelings you’re experiencing
When ready, open your eyes

We hope this visualization can be a tool in your toolbox to help you when other strategies are less than helpful.

Thanks for reading

Alter Post: Illness, Bullies, Harassment & Triggers

Sick

I don’t know about you, but bullying and harassment are big triggers for my child parts.  Being sick with a cold, then the flu, then a cold during the bullying period didn’t help.  Any kind of physical illness scares all of my alters because it makes us vulnerable and brings flashbacks to life.

My child alters started crying.  My teen alters got mad.  My adult alters were busy trying to keep our body warm, work, and survive.  None of us could really address the triggers that turned into intrusive voices, negative self-talk, flashbacks, and really awful cold chills that went bone-deep.

First attempt at conflict resolution

Maybe the tenant above tried to talk to us while we were sick.  Maybe not.  I know my alters did try to talk to the tenant above, but that only escalated the problem.  Seems that the tenant took my visit as a personal success, so increased the noise, etc.  With everything scattered from feeling sick and not wanting to take a sick day, we all agreed to try ignoring the individual’s bullying and harassment.

What did the individual do?

  • Walk heavily or stomp around upstairs.
  • Jump around; hit furniture, drop things onto the floor
  • Play with the heat so that my apartment and the other apartment got cold
  • Open and close dresser/closet doors, etc.
  • All day and all evening long for about 1.5 weeks

At first, I wasn’t sure this was deliberate.  But then I noticed the noise only happening at certain times: when all of my lights were out because I went to bed early (I didn’t have blackout curtains on every window then); when I opened the vents more to get rid of the chill in my apartment; after the noise from my climbing up to my loft bed stopped.

Now what?

So what to do when someone is doing this and none of the neighbors want to get involved?  When this individual will not talk to you directly and the last time you tried ended an escalation in negative behavior?

You know the owner of the building will not believe you because the situation is already tense from other stuff?

And all you want to do is sleep and stay warm because you’re sick with a fever, coughing, and vomiting?

When All the Alters Make a Plan…

This time, the child and adolescent alters solved the problem.  They went back and confronted the flashbacks these people brought up.  Observed how the bullies from our past treated us.  Observed what got them to stop.  Decided on a plan of action.  Cried a lot.  Hid under the covers a lot.  And executed a plan.

They decided that the tenant above was a covert bully whose actions needed to be brought into the open.  Otherwise nothing would get resolved.

Step 1: Ignore the tenant’s activity upstairs and try to stay warm.

Since everyone was sick, they focused on helping the rest of the system with work and self care until our weekly doctor appointment.  That also meant we could hang out in a warm, safe place with a public restroom for a while and then start to feel healthy again.  Feeling healthy meant everyone integrating once more and some mental clarity.

Step 2: Laughter is the best medicine

With the mental clarity came the realization that none of us really cared what the tenant upstairs was doing.  The noise didn’t bother or annoy us anymore because we were feeling so much better.  Plus we were able to use our sleep headphones and enjoy music again.  So the next time the tenant’s musical started, we laughed and listened to our own music as we fell asleep.

Results: step 1 and step 2 worked – the tenant’s negative behavior escalated to the point where others were getting disturbed.  They asked the tenant to stop more than once.  The tenant stopped temporarily, but continued to escalate at different times during the day instead.

Step 3: Play the game until the tenant is forced to stop

This was now six days into the harassment.  I felt great.  My alters felt great.  But we all worried about next steps if this didn’t stop.  By now, the upstairs tenant was getting very violent with temper every time I changed my heat settings or the other upstairs tenant changed heat settings.  The violence wasn’t to another individual, but to objects in the tenant’s apartment.  And the resulting noise was loud enough to bother the tenant’s neighbors.  Plus the third floor tenant wasn’t getting any heat; something I felt bad about but couldn’t do anything to resolve at the time.

A Mediator Steps in

Eventually, with the heat vents completely open on my and the upstairs tenant’s floor because otherwise no heat at all came into my apartment, another tenant got involved as mediator.  I agreed to keep my vent 1/4 open and mostly covered on two conditions: 1) the second floor tenant stopped with the noise and playing with the heat; 2) both of them also kept their vents 1/4 open and mostly covered too.  The third floor tenant agreed with one caveat: if I did go to the owner with a complaint, I kept all other neighbors out of it.  I agreed as long as the second floor tenant stopped with the bullying and harassment.

Step 4: Cover my ass even if it means being on the owner’s bad side for a while

I already knew the owner wasn’t going to do anything about the problem.  For one thing, the tenants in this building are very much the I-don’t-want-to-get-involved types.  They also try to go for the easiest solution with the least conflict.  But I wanted insurance and a record in case something happened that required me to contact legal services.  So the same evening as the mediator event, the upstairs tenant started up with the noise again around midnight.  In turn, each alter who was awakened sent an email to the owner recording the type of noise and heat changes.

Then Angora who is usually the most level headed and Shea who is a fierce protector of our child parts got pissed.  They had just finished reviewing everything the others did over the past few weeks to cope with the bully – self care, affirmations, gratitude prayers, grounding exercises, safe spaces – and were so proud of the strategy they came up with all on their own.  At the same time, we all felt angry  that our parts had to cope with that on their own.

So they broke the rules and texted the owner in the middle of the night.  That woke  the owner up, so none of us got much sleep going in to the next day.  The owner reacted as expected and wrote an email basically telling us that we were liars and to stop complaining because no one wants to hear it.  I wrote back a respectful and polite thank you with a promise not to cross any more boundaries.

Step 5 (final): If the bullying and harassment doesn’t stop, call the tenants association and get the law involved.

Luckily I live in a state with a lot of tenant rights.  And if this continues, I will reach out to those organizations and work with a pro-bono attorney to get this situation fixed.  But only if the issues continue or something else happens to make us break the lease early.

Since I have not broken any laws or terms of the lease, the owner can’t retaliate with a rent increase or eviction.  But we are stuck in a 1 year lease.  And I’m not sure what will happen at the end of it.

Lack of Shame Feelings

Normally, something like this would trigger lots of feelings of shame & guilt that send all or some of us into a backlash spiral.  In fact, that’s what we all expected.  Or at least anxiety because the tenant upstairs and the owner remind us so much of women in our biological family.

But no, that’s not the case.

In fact, ever one of us feels empowered, safe, and confident in our choices so far.  My child parts feel empowered and more confident because they faced a bully and won.  Plus we all supported the child parts and praised them for being thoughtful, respectful, and smart in their problem-solving.  My teen parts feel empowered because they also faced a bully and won.  Instead of getting in trouble for winning, they were supported and praised for working with the child parts and helping them implement the solution.  We adult parts are happy because our child and teen parts feel empowered, happy, confident, and safe instead of scared, angry, or ashamed for standing up for themselves.

Conclusion

In a very real way, these two individuals stood in for many of the female figures who bullied my child and adolescent parts in the past.  The child and adolescent parts faced some very real fears and triggers mostly on their own with everyone being sick.

The experience was not ideal.  And our approach wasn’t perfect or anything we would want to do again.  But it worked with minimal negative backlash to ourselves.  We learned a lot.  My child parts found ways to stay safe, speak out, and cope with past and present colliding.  My adolescent parts did the same.

And now they realize that we adults trust our child and adolescent parts to make good choices and participate as useful members of our system.  They are important and valued and necessary to our healthy functioning as a whole person.  And even though they can’t help with work, they can and do help with everything else.  Plus they can come out and communicate with the outside world too.

So I guess there was a silver lining to all of this.

Thanks for reading.

 

Alter Post: Shoulder pain, monkey bars, & body memories

When you were a little kid, did you ever want to play on the monkey bars?  Or go to gymnastics/tumbling class and do backward rolls?  Climb ropes or rope ladders at the parks?  Go climbing on a rock wall?

Were you made fun of because you couldn’t cross the monkey bars without falling or roll backwards like the other kids?  Did you get teased for not being able to climb up the rope without assistance?

And do you wonder, was I not able to do these activities because I wasn’t athletic or strong enough?  OR was there a different reason?  One that was a secret and not to be talked about?

I think you understand where I’m going with these questions, so please consider the questions my TRIGGER WARNING and do not read on unless/until you feel comfortable coping with the potential triggers in the story that follows.

Read More »

Alter Post: Scared myself into almost shutting down

The Stream of Consciousness aka processing Tuesday’s fear

I’m still thinking about it.  We are still wondering what happened.

Maybe the pressure has been building up for a while.  A lot has happened in less than two years.

Not since 2010/2011 have all parts of me unanimously wanted to run and hide.  To disappear or sleep and never come back or wake up.  That was the year before I wrote a manifesto and walked away from my family.  In 2012, it became permanent.  In 2015/2016, I started talking with some family again.  In 2016, I moved across the country and started a different life.

Now, it’s 2017, and I have a real home.  I have neighbors and friends.  A life full of interesting and frustrating and fun and sad and happy and scary moments.  A life in transition.

Something big is going to happen.  Something inside is pushing me to make changes.  Something else is pushing me to stop and hide, go backwards.  And yet, for all of these feelings inside, the rest of me is lacking direction.

The need to DO SOMETHING is so strong it feels reckless.  It also feels scary and triggering.  So many parts of me are crying right now.  The rest are reliving some of their worst nightmares on purpose.

All because we want our body to get better.  We want to get rid of the last remnants of toxicity (stuff carried forward from before) in our lives.  It keeps sneaking up in the most unexpected places.

Some examples:

  • Knitting needles and yarn bought pre-move make completing a project almost impossible.  But new needles and yarns bought in the last two weeks have rekindled the joy and relaxation feelings again.
  • My emergency savings account has money earned or gifted to me from lingering past experiences.  Every time I try to add more and save, something happens and all that’s left is what I started with when I came here.  What to do?  Use the money to pay off debts in advance and zero out the account.  Then start refunding it with money earned in the present.
  • Need a new phone because the existing one is over 4 years old and the battery is starting to die.  Yet the idea of getting a new phone (and paying full price for it) fills me with anxiety.  All parts of me.  It’s like saying goodbye to a phase in life.
  • My bedding doesn’t fit the new bed.  My blankets don’t either.  They are warm and comforting, but bring on memories too.

Other Fears & Blocks to progress

  • I’ve almost completely swapped out all of my clothes and shoes so that none of the lingering memories trigger flashbacks.  But I still fear putting clothes away, doing laundry in the basement, and transitioning from season to season.  What do I fear?  That my clothes will disappear or get ruined if they are not always in my sight.
  • I want to put up organizational hooks, but fear putting things on the walls.  What do I fear?  Shaming, punishment, humiliation, making mistakes.
  • I want to write to my parents and other family members – ones that are no-contact – and tell them goodbye forever.  But another part of me says don’t because what if forever isn’t forever?  I want to be able to accept gifts from relatives, yet have trouble because of the invisible strings attached (imagined or real – they exist in my mind and make me want to avoid using what they give me).
  • My inner voice is telling me big things will happen.  My body is humming all the time as it gets balance out and heals from the inside.  The blockages, the muscle cramps, the body memories are connecting with feelings and spirit.
  • The cold weather here triggers feelings of abandonment and fear.  Wind blowing against my skin doesn’t feel safe.  Waking up in the dark after hearing noises at night or my neighbors unexpectedly, feels like waking up in the compound again.  Most of me knows I am safe.  But a small part of me is waiting for all of this to be taken away.
  • Using my credit card reward points to fly out of state and see a different cousin for the first time in 7 years is also scary.  But it feels like the right thing to do.  And I’m only staying for a few hours.  But it will help with the letter-writing decision.  And with the closure too.
  • And exploring my interests in New Age ideas feels scary as well.  But my love of crystals and plants, my curiosity about life & living won’t allow me to ignore that part anymore.  So I spend money on new experiences there too.  And surprisingly, all of the information from these sessions is remarkably consistent.

So here I am at midnight writing a post.  I still have to work in the morning.  I still have counseling after work.  I still have chores to do and food to cook.  Lucky for me, I had people to talk to when the paralysis hit.

They helped me get perspective.  They helped me move out of the paralysis and not give in to the “run & hide” urge.  3 errands, an unexpected snuggle with a dog, two phone calls, a text conversation with my counselor, dinner out, and 2 Netflix movies later combined with some knitting and finance stuff have helped a little.

It almost feels like a circle is closing.  One chapter ends, and another begins?  Or maybe I’m feeling anxious about turning 35?  Thirty had me doing mental cartwheels.  Every year after that brought the same kind of joy.  Until this year.

Many of my girls (female alters) have been healing so well, I am happy for them.  My boys (male alters) struggle so much more right now.  They are more connected to Pip’s world and our physical body that these current changes affect them more.

And the dreams are changing again.  Still vivid and sometimes scary, but not nightmares.  The Chinese medicine practitioners want to give me herbs to help with all that.  But all of us are reluctant to give up the dreams right now.  Dreams are one way we communicate and process the past together.

But sleep is important too.  And what happened Tuesday is serious enough that the herbs might be necessary.  If I can’t sleep tonight, then probably go tomorrow and get the herbs.  Thursday at the latest.

Did I mention the urge still exists?  It’s not as strong, but wanting to hide & run?  The feelings still exist.  So now it’s time for all of us to dig deep and figure out why.  Because, it doesn’t make sense.  Now is different from then.  Still scary and full of change, but different.

Thanks for reading.