Alter Post: Accepting Help

My name is Darkness.  I am between 6 and 10 years old.  My name comes from holding some of the darkest memories and feelings in our system.  It was my job to protect the other parts from the monsters by creating walls between them and reality – aka a darkness that veiled the scary truth.  I was and still am a protector – strong and independent and capable.  I didn’t think that I needed any help; in fact asking for help was considered a weakness back then.

It wasn’t until the adults started going to therapy that I realized help is not a weakness.  Offering help feels good and lessens the feelings of guilt and shame for not being able to protect everyone all the time.  But accepting help?  Admitting I couldn’t handle all of the memories, feelings, and triggers by myself?  Admitting that I couldn’t do everything, protect everyone, prevent the others from remembering, maintain the dark veil?  That I refused to believe for a long time.

Because what would I do?  How could I be a useful part of the system if I wasn’t protecting everyone and myself from the scary memories?  How would I cope with the voices and the pain that came from lifting the darkness?  Who would want to help a monster like me?  One who lived in perpetual darkness reliving what the monsters did to our mind and body?

No, I didn’t believe anyone would offer to help me unless that offer was a trick of some kind.  I didn’t believe I deserved to be helped either.  So I ignored the offers.  And I denied needing anyone’s help.

Until the day, or was it evening, that I got caught in a trap that stuck me in the past and couldn’t get out on my own.

A whole group of alters (different ages and genders) came to find me.  They told me I could get out of this easily.  All I had to do was accept their offer of help.  I didn’t believe them at first.  I fought them.  I insulted them.  I hurt them.  I fought myself.  I insulted myself.  I hurt myself.  I pushed them away.  I hid from them.

They always found me.  They protected themselves without hurting me.  They offered compassion.  They stayed down in the pit with me and never, not once, left.

It felt like days, but was only hours – that last battle.  I was so tired.  I gave in and accepted their help.  As soon as I opened up to the offer, the trap disappeared.  No one was stuck anymore.  We climbed out of the pit and made our way home.  It was kind of embarrassing that the girl alters were stronger and faster than me fora long time as I recovered.

Boys are supposed to be stronger than girls.  Smarter and faster too.  But that’s a lie too.  Maybe boys are physically stronger because of the differences in body shapes.  But not stronger or smarter or faster in the other ways that count.  Anyone can be strong and fast and smart; it has to do with the individual not the gender.

Sometimes I forget that I”m part of a system who loves and accepts me as I am.  Sometimes I forget how important I am to the system; without me we wouldn’t be the AlterXpressions system (a unique, independent woman) and able to do so much.  And without them, I wouldn’t be able to learn, grow, and do my job as part of the system that makes up the woman we are.

A woman with masculine and feminine characteristics who is learning to embrace all parts of herself as I learn to accept myself and my part in our system.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: found a new counselor & more

After 2 sessions with this person, I feel like she and I will work well together for the long term.  There is another person who I might try to see for specialized help, but not continued care.

This helps relieve some of my stress a lot.  I have someone to depend on and contact here on a regular basis.  That means weekly or bi-weekly check-ins, progress, and assistance in gettinf my tool box reorganized.

In other news, my acupuncture visits have been extremely helpful, espscially with the body memories.  They still appear and cause lots of emotional or physical discomfort, but not in the same way as before.  My energy is better, and I can sleep with more ease too.

Yesterday, when I described the source of the pain along my spine, the acupuncturist actually felt the tension and tightness in the muscles and skin along my spine.  The tightness and tension caused pain to radiate along my back and around to my shoulders, chest, abdomen, etc.

She tried a massage technique after the needling that helped a lot.  So much in fact that I slept extra today and was able to release some of the body memories.  With that release came other memories from childhood – some good and others not – that helped me and my child alters make sense of some confusing fragments.

Tai chi starts up next weekend.  And I hope for that to help with the muscle and joint problems cause by everything not being in proper alignment.  The exercise will also fill a need for activity in my life.

For the first time in weeks, I am feeling hopeful and in less pain. 

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenge & Alter Post: Financial triggers and flashbacks of shame

I am triggered.  Tomorrow is my father’s birthday.  It never really bothered me before.  But now, my alters are remembering past experiences in dreams.  And the critical voices – mean, rude, negative, manipulative, insulting, and scary – intrude on my waking hours and try to stop me from moving forward with this month’s tasks: get scholarship information and simplify my budgeting system.

Worrying about money always triggers flashbacks and anxiety from the times when my father controlled me by managing my money, taxes, bills, and car for me.  And when he would manipulate me into giving away expensive stuff to my brother or other family members instead of selling or repurposing the items for myself.  

How?  By making comments about how I wasted time “playing” on these machines or “money” on software or electronics that “didn’t work” right because I was stupid and paid too much.   And by telling me I was in debt and should not waste money I didn’t have.  It would make my credit score worse.  And if I had extra money, why not use it to help my mom instead?  Because I didn’t deserve new or nice things that made me happy.

Back then, I didn’t know he used my credit to buy stuff and then lapse on paying it.  Or that he stole money from me through identity theft.  I know my mom did that through our shared bank account until I moved my money out an had my name taken off of it.  But I didn’t know my dad was until I checked my credit cards and saw a much higher balance than what I put on the cards each month.  But that was after I went to a bank and had the loan officer check my credit to see if I was eligible to buy a house back when I thought I was stuck in my old home forever.

I struggled with the decision to buy a home or go back to graduate school.  My father discouraged both simply by telling me that the only way to accomplish either goal was to follow his explicit plans.  And he had everything mapped out including my budget, transportation routes for both scenarios, and monthly expenses.  He made it clear that I couldn’t do either one on my own because I wasn’t smart enough to get scholarships or have the credit score to get a decent loan.  But worse, he spread his “worry” about me to mom and the rest of the family.  Mom didn’t want me to do either one; buy a house or go back to school because that meant I was doing better than her.  She told dad everything I told her, but in such a way that I was being evil for wanting something different than the life they planned for me.  So between te two of them, I sufdsnly had tons of family discouraging me from pursuing either financial and educational goal.  And you know what, it worked.  I bowed to the pressure and did not pursue either one.

Instead, I used the money to disappear and start over.

Now, every time I spend money on something that helps me or makes me smile, I get flashbacks and anxiety.  The voices start whispering or yelling at me.  I start switching.  My body hurts.  And I wonder if I really am managing my money properly or not.  I start thinking I can’t afford what I bought or invested in.  And I get mad at myself.

Reading, music, distractions, grounding, the usual stuff is not helping.  Mantras, affitmations, maintaining connections with people are somewhat helping, but not really.  And so I find myself struggling to cope with these unexpected triggers.

Thanks for reading.

About Me: About Labels

I’ve read other bloggers who share information about their own recovery journeys and found them very helpful.  They offer resources, visuals, graphs, charts, and how-tos.  Their posts are well written and appealing to many different kinds of learners.  Their websites are free of many ads too.  Many thanks to any and all who break the silence barrier by writing and sharing their experiences.

One thing I most appreciate about their blogs is how they can define in specific terms what category their abuser fits into or what type of abuse they survived if the writer is a survivor of trauma.  If not a survivor or victim, then I appreciate how the writer can define so clearly the type of mental health issue he or she suffers from and all of the different types of coping strategies that work or don’t work with those particular struggles.

Because I can’t do that.  Not without leaving out or neglecting a group of individuals who have suffered in some way and come here for anonymous, safe support and resources.  Also not without delving deeper into memories and experiences not yet accessible to my conscious mind.  Many of my alters like to take turns and write posts here on the blog too. That means the quality and content are sometimes inconsistent and may seem unprofessional or unrelated to the topic.  But every post is some how related to trauma, abuse, neglect, recovery, and resources; that much I guarantee.

What I’ve shared so far is the tip of  the iceberg.  The focus has been on current events and present coping strategies.  I will continue to do that.  And as often as possible, one or all of the alters will try to remind the post author to include a photo or quote or something visual to go with the words.  That is difficult because at heart, I am a writer.  Words are my best communication tool.  But I want to connect with other types of learning and processing styles too, so adding in audio/visual elements is a personal goal to improve this blog.

And this is my hobby.  I wish I could dedicate more time, but work and life, maybe even graduate school in the near future, will take precedence.  If I knew of a way to get this site to pay for itself without using ads, I would do that.  Then I could dedicate more time to building the resource pages and more interesting posts.  And I could expand the website to offer other kinds of resources too.

But for now, this is it.  I write what I know.  I share what I learn.  And I hesitate to label anything because I am not a professional.  My therapist does not put labels on my parents other than  to call them sociopathic and psychopathic.  Nor does she label me or any of there other clients other than to call us trauma survivors.

She understand that I was a victim of incest by both parents and some family members by marriage; along with that was neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, bullying, shaming, and financial abuse from my parents, sibling, family members, educators, physicians/providers, and community; finally  the sexual abuse from my pediatrician and his ring of pedophiles, cult abuse and ritual torture from the religious cult who ran under the guise of Mormons and had connections with the pedophile ring and drug connections within the community.

I’m 33 going on 34, a victim and a survivor.  I changed my name and moved across the country to try to get away from the negative influences of my past.  Now I have a chance to live without worrying that my past will haunt me every moment of every day.

So no, I don’t use labels.  I don’t try to figure out what kind of abuser my parents or other perpetrators were.  I do read a lot of books about internal family systems, intergenerational trauma, toxic relationships, shame, compassion, coping techniques, coping strategies, and whatever disorders are symptoms of my main diagnosis (PTSD).  Then I work on my own (with my alters) and with therapists to apply what I’ve learned.  Knowledge is power.

Understanding them and their motivations helps me understand myself and my reactions to the world around me.

It also gives me perspective so that I can separate the individuals from the behaviors and thoughts.  By doing this, I can hold the perpetrators responsible, can hate their words and actions, without blaming the human beings.

Blame enables shame, anger, and victimization.

Accountability, aka holding them responsible, fosters forgiveness, compassion, empathy, acceptance, knowledge, and healing.

Which would you choose?

Thanks for reading.

ADMIN: Thank you for your patience

Dear Guests,

Thank you for your patience during this slow post period as I moved.  I am grateful for your kindness and compassion since any changes in routines can be jarring and/or triggering.  My teen, young adult, and not human alters also thank you all for being patient with them as they tried to post once in a while with minimal help from the adults and other alters who usually help them with the process.

Sincerely,

AlterXpressions

Alter Post: Choosing Different in Spite of Cultural Bias

Beware: THIS IS A RANT

Introduction

Chinese culture does not believe in or talk about emotional health or mental health problems.  People with emotional and mental issues are considered “lazy” and “stupid” or “weak” or “sick”.    In terms of physical appearance, a woman is supposed to look like a well-groomed woman with a delicate, petite, slender body, perfect makeup, and hair.  Anyone who does not meet the standard gets “helpful” criticism about diets, clothing choices, skin care, and exercise regimens from family members.  Also reminders and reprimands for shaming the family pride by not meeting the family standards and embarrassing the family in public with a not perfect physical image.  And other Asian or Chinese people who see a bald Chinese woman walking down the street will stare in fear and horror before walking across the street to avoid her, whisper about her ugliness and shameful behavior, and shun her for fear of being contaminated by her presence.

How do I know this?  Because I and the other alters in my system have experienced this first hand over and over by family members and community members and people in the street who are visitors to the United States.  In fact it happened a couple hours ago while I was walking back to work from getting lunch.  Two young women saw me stop next to them as I waited for the light to change and decided to step around and risk crossing the street instead of waiting next to me.  They were both between 18 and 30, Asian background, with long dark hair and perfect makeup, and backpacks that signaled their student status.  It hit hard today since I was already feeling anxious about some other negative encounters on the train and at a library that left me feeling frustrated and wondering when people will stop harassing me because of my past.

In essence, I get treated poorly because I am female, Chinese, a survivor of trauma and domestic violence with a “mental illness”, bald, and a well dressed nerd.  This comes from people of all ages, races, cultures, etc. because I am breaking taboos and ignoring biases.  Most of the time, I am okay with that.  I’ve learned to pick my battles and find like-minded people to spend time with instead of other types.  I don’t take it personally when people cross the street or don’t acknowledge me when they see me walking towards them (since I didn’t choose to avoid them) because a lot of times I do the same thing to people around me.  My walking time is part of my solitude regimen and a time for me to spend with my alters before having to engage with people.  The anxiety and triggers come when people’s body language signals that they are engaging or avoiding me for other reasons besides politeness or avoidance.

Choosing Different

My parents marked me as different and shamed me for being myself from the time I was born.  My mother’s family did the same.  I was compared to my cousins and sibling and found lacking.  My elementary school teachers, peers, and neighbors found me lacking and bullied me because my parents approved of it by not interfering or defending me.  So I decided to be different.  And embraced my differences.

But choosing different is not easy.

Sometimes the secret shame and sense of worthlessness comes back to haunt me.  It happens a lot in summer when everyone is wearing less and spending lots of time outside.  And it’s more than body image or low self-esteem.  It’s about a sense of self and the values that self is based on.  My sense of self was battered and broken and torn apart until the shreds gathered together and hid deep inside where only the non-verbal alters could reach.  Seven years of therapy and self-reflection brought those values back out and repaired the foundation of that core sense.

These days I am secure in my sense of self because all of us alternate personalities agree with the core values that we live by.  That sense of self makes itself known to others subconsciously in how we choose to treat ourselves and others around us.  It makes others nervous to be around us sometimes.  And other times it sparks other feelings too.  But that core sense of self has helped me help my alter partners and the system in general survive and become the woman we are today.

A lot of the time, it’s easy to remember that most people’s reactions are about them and their internal conflicts than about me or one of the alters or the system as represented by our body.  And it’s easy to ignore those people and move on.

Other times, like today, I wonder what it would be like if I wore a wig and dressed dowdy or slutty or ultra feminine and then passed them on the street.  Would they treat me differently?  Or would they treat me the same?  And how would I feel about it?  People used to treat me worse when I had hair than they do now.  But also, I was in a different situation then.  And surrounded by people who supported my abusers.

But then I think to myself, I like how I look bald.  I like talking about my coping strategies and my challenges – sharing information with others to help them get through rough times too.  And I like being me.

The Dilemma

How do I still be myself, stick to my values, achieve my goals and work with administrators and others with biases who have influence over my ability to get into school, pass classes, learn, and so on?

EXAMPLE: But if I want to work in traditional Chinese medicine field and go to graduate school, I will have to deal with people who are biased against my appearance, attitude, and mental health.  The administrators at a school  I tried to apply to earlier this year blocked my application and didn’t tell me until I reached out with an inquiry.  Then they told me it was a “miscommunication” and that I was all set to apply next year.

I followed up 3 days ago with another email addressing that “miscommunication” and some other hypothetical questions from earlier conversations.  I also pointed out my upset about how the miscommunication was handled and that the experience will influence how I interact with them and others at the school in the future.  Yes, it was aggressive, and they will probably take it to mean I am holding a grudge even though I said I am not.

To me holding a grudge means treating these people poorly and maintaining anger; lashing out at them and finding ways to make their lives harder if I do become a student there.  That is not what I mean.  Remembering what happened and being wary of trusting them again; being more diligent about clear communication and wary of trusting them at face value when we talk – that is what I mean.

Yes, picking battles is important.  Remembering that this has more to do with them and their internal monologues than me is important too.  But still, spending time with people who act like that goes against our core values.  So the conflict remains…

I am determined to succeed.

My path so far has taken me on many adventures and introduced me to wonderful people and experiences.  Something good will happen.  And this will work out, maybe not on the timetable I want, but it will happen.

thanks for reading my rant 🙂

Alter Post: Fight or Flight or Play Dead?

Not much to say except this week we are all fighting.  

The anxiety is strong.  So many triggers with new people invading our space at work.  So many ways to give in amd not go to work this week.  So many reasons to get up and fight another day – deadlines, seeing friends, accomplishing goals, not wanting to give in to the fear.

Sometimes one of us will signal break time.  Then we go out and walk for a bit.  Or go to the restroom for quiet.  Maybe walk down to the lobby and talk with the guard on duty.  And then get back to work.

Once in a while I feel like running, but can’t leave the desk.  Food, juice or sour drink, chocolate, music, games, or a book help there.  But no one can help us feel the anxiety that comes from tok many people and too much movement and too much noise.

Yeah, I am nof the best writer.  And I don’t proofread either.  But mo one else wanted to post anything using the phone app.  Our personal computer got donated.  The work one is at the office.  And will stay until we bring it home tomorrow – incentive for going into the office.

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: Dreams for a Better Life

My name is Angora.  I am one of the alters who writes or co-writes a lot of the posts here.  There is a name for those of us who stay in charge most of the time, but I don’t remember it.  Instead, I will say that my main role is managing the internal communications and strategies to maintain daily routines.  Others manage the external communications; I only talk with outside people when necessary, i.e. protection from aggressive or potentially unsafe individuals and groups.

Lately, I’ve been struggling with anger.  The other alters in our system have been remembering past experiences and not forgetting afterwards.  Good for us because we need those memories in order to make good decisions for the present and near future.  Anxiety and anger provoking because remembering means reliving and re-experiencing the trauma all over again without the usual safety nets in place.  Negative coping strategies work, but bring shame afterwards.

More than anything, though, is my difficulty with frustration that turns into anger.  I want for all of us to be able to walk outside and not fear running into someone from the past.  I want for us to go into a small business and not get bad service because the manager or sales person is a former classmate from high school/college/grad school or a friend of someone in my family.  I want to go into a bar or a restaurant or a club and enjoy the scenery (music, drinks, dancing, socializing)  instead of acting hyper-vigilant because people are staring or feeling unsafe because places like that bring back bad memories.

Most important, though, I want my alters to have positive associations and experiences if and when they choose to come out and interact with the outside world.  And that won’t happen for another few months when we move out of state.  The downside to living in a small state with close-knit communities even in the city is that I can’t meet new people or start fresh without my past history getting in the way.  A past history full of trauma and bullying that makes meeting people and socializing feel like walking on eggshells all the time.

And so often, these days I and the rest of the alters don’t recognize (not consciously anyways) those people.  But they recognize me.  I am blessed or cursed with youthful features and distinctive looks because of my Asian genetics and alopecia areata.  In my teens, I looked like a child – as long as you ignored my body.  In my twenties, I looked like a teenager.  Now, in my early thirties, I look like I am in my early twenties.  The point is, people recognize me and treat me according to what they remember or think they know about me or the alter they had most contact with.

Doesn’t matter that I/we hold ourselves/act/dress differently.  Most of that just brings out envy and anger because we survived and am enjoying life as much as possible under the circumstances.  They tend to react with shocked stares, disgusted looks, and derisive comments thrown out as loud comments to their social group as I walk by.  Or they turn around and walk away with head averted to avoid me because they think I am going to approach them.  Why would I want to approach the men and women who bullied and shunned me in high school and college?

And some, very few, try to initiate a vaguely friendly contact using the old name.  Or look at me with recognition; then disappointment/anger that I don’t or won’t recognize them too.  That brings fear and combinations of guilt/shame.

The fear because it’s usually a male with whom there was flirting or something going on in the past.

The guilt/shame for two reasons: 1) because I am not the other person anymore and can’t acknowledge the individual without explaining about the name change and the past; and 2) because I am ashamed of what I said/did during interactions with that person and can’t remember to reality test the truth of that shame.

When the alters and I decided to permanently change our legal name, we also decided to change our identity to match the new name.  That meant letting go of the past and not using the old name or references except with close friends from the old life.  It’s easier sometimes to ignore and let them be rude/angry/upset because I acted snobbish or whatever than to trust and open up even if doing that brings feelings of shame too..

Moving out of state can’t happen fast enough.  Sure, there’s a whole lot of crap to organize and wade through before August.  But it’s days like this, managing ok because of the work-from-home accommodation, that I really wish I lived someplace else so the triggers and fear wouldn’t cause physical problems that prevent me from going outside.  Or sleeping.  Or taking care of myself.  Or doing something I enjoy.  And prevent my alters from feeling safe, comfortable, happy, and confident in their coping strategies to get through this rough patch.

Living someplace where no one knows my past and treats me poorly because of it.  Knowing that anyone who does act negatively around me does so because of a personality or lifestyle clash instead of a shared past relieves me and the alters of many triggers.

That is our dream.  It’s been our dream for a long time.  And soon that dream will come true.  Thanks for reading

Alter Post: Senses and Survival Skills

Like many survivors, I survived using my 5 senses.  My alters learned to trust some senses more than others.  This impacted our development in many ways; some senses became more acute while others stayed normal or became dulled or not trusted to provide accurate, reliable information.

WARNING…what comes next may be triggering for some readers.  Please continue if you feel like you can read the rest of the story

 

 

 

 

 

 

That said, I have a hard time remembering faces and landmarks.  All buildings and towns and cities look alike to me.  Faces and details get blurred under stress.  Trees become blobs, etc.  I can see colors, shapes, symbols, words, and movements fine.  Part of me says this is a survival skill developed to prevent me from being able to identify my perpetrators when questioned by authorities.  Part of me says this is a survival skill developed so that I could function at school and other activities among victims and perpetrators without revealing secrets.  Part of me says that I can’t share what I don’t know.

My hearing is acute.  I can hear sounds that most people would not notice or realize existed around them.  For example: buzzing sounds from mechanical equipment in office ceilings; mice running in the walls, under the floors, between the ceiling and the floor; neighbors playing music inside their house across the street; conversations in meetings behind closed doors on the opposite side of the floor from my cubicle; horns blowing outside on the street from inside my apartment with the windows closed.

The perpetrators used to blindfold me before saying or doing anything.  Sometimes they blocked my ears too.  Then put stuff on my lips and tongue or force me to eat and drink their “snacks” to keep me calm.  I learned how to scent different chemicals and what they tasted like too by eating and drinking these foods.  That is how I manage to avoid many of them now.  Just smelling or tasting certain textures and flavors causes anxiety and fear bordering on panic.  Textures against my skin and sounds have the same effect sometimes.

On the plus side, I now have the skills to read non-verbal language with frightening (to me) accuracy; can tell when unsafe people are around me; know when people are lying; identify sounds and smells that warn me of potential danger in advance; and find creative solutions to work/home problems that sometimes work better than standard ones that confound me.

I wonder what other survival skills came from changes in sensory perception.  Something to think about when my mind needs to work on something…

Read More »

Alter Post: Why Relocation can be a good thing

this blog discusses safety issues a lot.  Most of the time, the safety issues are related to coping challenges and coping strategies for internal or emotional safety.

This post is different.

It is about physical safety.  Sometimes survivors can stay in the same neighborhood/town/city/state as the abusers and be physically safe.  Other times, relocating and hiding is the better option.  The abuser’s investment in the survivor determines a lot of this.  By investment, I mean how much of the abuser’s lifestyle and health is dependent on being able to hurt the survivor anywhere and any time.

If the abuser is not very invested or believes a replacement can be easily found, he or she might let the survivor go without much retaliation or work to bring the survivor back.  If the investment is moderate, the abuser might oersist for a while before eventually moving on.  And if a large part of the anuser’s lifestyle, identity, or self image is dependent on her or his relationship with the survivor, the abuser might never stop harassing and searching for the survivor.

My situation is number 3.  I couldn’t leave the state or the city when I first decided to break ties with my family of origin.  My job, my counselors, my life was centered around the city I worked in.  And I didn’t have any outside supports to help me even if I tried. So I started with basics: change phone; change email; change address.

That didnt stop them though.  They knew my work address and phone number.  My grandparents had my cell phone number.  The donors convinced my grandparents to call on their behalf and coached them on what to say while listening to the conversations.  They sent letters and cards to my work address.  So for returned mail, I gave the reason that I don’t work there anymore.

That is when life got really complicated.  The donors had family friends call my office number to see if I still worked there by using an excuse of calling the sibling instead more than once.  The sibling has lots of friends who live and work and go to school in the same city as me.  He got them to give me dirty looks and keep track of my whereabouts as I used public transportation to get around.  Some even went so far as to physically and verbally harass me.  And they found out where I lived through old school mates (mine, younger sibling, cousins), students from when I taught martial arts, and friends of friends.

I also had to worry about the people I didn’t remember: ones I met in grad school and was rude to, people my alters met and didn’t want to be around, and childhood perpetrators I didn’t recognize but felt scared around.   So I moved every year for three years looking for a way to escape the stalking and harassment, not dealing that it was real, prosecutable, and causing a lot of triggers.  Because I was dissociating and switching so much, I often forgot events or dismissed them as part of my craziness.  It wasn’t until after I got mugged, that I realized there wasn’t going to be a safe place for me to relax and take care of myself unless I took steps to really disappear.

How to disappear without moving out of state?

I started looking up resources and asking for help about legal name changes for domestic violence survivors.  That got me in touch with the relocation program and an attorney who helped me join a lot of programs designed to keep my information confidential.  I did this before my last move 2 years ago.

It doesn’t change what happens when I run into people from my past during day to day activities.  But it does change how I feel and react to those occasions.  Because of the legal name change and the address confidentiality, I am more physucally safe.  I can tell those people they have the wrong person when they start to bother me and walk away knowing I am safe.  I don’t have to worry that they will find me where I live now.  Or that they have people who can bother me where I live.  None of them have connections to this city or friends in my area.

that has allowed me to take control of the dislocation and only use it when necessary.  As for the switching, the alters and I communicate and cooperate more so that information gets shared.  That builds trust and allows everyone to be aware of situations even if they were not involved so we can all take part in maintaining health and safety.  And with less dissociation comes more recovered memories, trust in ourselves and each other, and confidence that I or whovever is in charge can take care of everyone or switch to let another alter take care of everyone.

That confidence allows me to remember that I can physically protect myself and do not have to be afraid of accidentally hurting someone if my automatic defense mechanisms get triggered.  I try to avoid situations that get physically or verbally aggressive.  But I also am  at a point in my life/recovery where I am not willing to step back and let others hurt me without defending myself in some way.  That is where DBT has helped a lot. DBT taught me effective verbal communication skills to help me protect afainst and deflect verbal or emotional abuse without lowering myself to the other individual’s level: i.e. mean, insulting, aggressive, etc.

So yeah, until I leave the state I live in, this will continue to happen.  I and my alters will get triggered.  One or more of us will defend ourselves.  Then will come backlash and increased symptoms until the coping strategies start to help and everyone in the system feels safer again.  Because even though our home neighborhood is relatively safe, our work one is not.

The hope for this year is our relocation out of state.  Our circumstances have changed for the better.  Financial stability; minimal debt; being able to keep my job as a remote employee; and a stable support network is making this all possible.

Relocating, changing my name, and doing all of this is and was scary.  It was like starting over from scratch without any safety or support cushions to help me if I fell.  But the peace of mind is worth every bit of the struggle.

Alter Post: New Year Resolutions

Every year my alters and I decide on a goal for the year.  Then we break it down into smaller parts or objectives to work from now until December.  Sometimes the goals are big and have to be broken down into parts.  Other times, the goals are simple and straightforward.

Last year’s goal was to stop hiding.  It was broken down into 6 parts:

  • Take classes about personal style
  • Create and define a personal style
  • Improve interpersonal communication (face to face)
  • Go out and socialize more
  • Learn to love my physical self and start shopping for clothes that suit my personal style
  • Let outsiders see and meet who I really am by wearing clothes that express my personality and using confidence to interact with others

This year’s goal is part of a life long commitment that involves all of my parts working together.

Self-compassion; being kind to ourselves and each other; reaching out to each other for comfort, soothing, support without fear of triggering everyone in the system; and learning to depend on each other for assistance is the overarching goal.

It’s big and ambitious, true.  It also will help us cope with anything that threatens our emotional safety outside of our safe places.  That means we are free to travel, socialize, and enjoy new experiences with less fear of triggers taking over and causing problems.

So here is our goal for the year: learn to be kinder to ourselves and each other through compassion and multi-tasking coping strategies that help every alter in the system.

  • The multi-tasking part is relatively simple for us; we’ve been doing it for a while.  Learning to feel safe and confident enough to reach out and use multiple coping strategies together is tougher.
  • Help child and adolescent parts feel safer and more confident with themselves and the adult alters so that they are not afraid to reach out and ask for comfort when triggered
  • Find ways to let child and adolescent parts take part in learning new skills and spending time with adult parts; i.e. spending quality time together either doing nothing or working on a hobby, etc.
  • Finally, have child and adolescent parts be more assertive and learn to advocate for themselves when they require assistance or comfort so they can express what they want or need and get the help, support, etc. they deserve

And if this goal goes into next year, that’s ok too.  We all want every alter in the system to feel like he or she belongs and to know that she or she is a valued member of our family.

Thanks for reading!

Alter Post: Quotes from one of my favorite book series

This time of year, I tend to get depressed and sad.  The memories are mixed so I am not as angry.  My parts feel anger because they don’t want to listen to and observe people discussing the “holiday season” activities.  We all feel anxiety because this time of year brings a rise in stress and aggression throughout the community – party planning, gift buying, weather changes, etc.

Our way of coping is re-reading our favorite books about people who’ve been through traumatic experiences and still found ways to thrive – in our case paranormal romance novels.  The following quotes are from Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series (books 1-4).  I hope they inspire hope, understanding, and compassion in you the same way they do me.

Slave to Sensation

  • “This morning, she’d woken to find herself curled up in bed, whimpering.  Normal Psy did not wimper, did not show any emotion, did not feel.  But Sascha had known since childhood that she wasn’t normal.  She’d successfully hidden her flaw…but now things were going wrong.”
  • “The result of exposure would be incarceration at the Center.”
  • Or she might even discover a way to fix the flaw that marked her.  ut the second she was admitted into the Center, her world would become darkness.  Endless, silent darkness.”

Visions of Heat

  • “Sometimes raged can be a god thing.  It keeps you going when nothing else matters.”

Caressed by Ice

  • “The backlash – the use of pain to coerce compliance – was called backlash.”
  • “Silence, at its simplest, was built on a foundation of reward and punishment.”
  • “Shock a child with pain every time he laughs and he’ll learn to never so much as smile.”
  • “”He made my body feel pleasure, messed with my mind until he controlled my responses and made me enjoy every humiliating, degrading thing he did.” Shame layered her whispered words.”  Brenna to Judd
  • “”The order is wrong.” He knew the logic, had been taught it as part of the conditioning process.  When he saw her frown, he decided to prove his point.  “If I told you I think you have the most beautiful body I’ve ever seen, would you feel pleasure?””  Judd to Brenna
  • “”Of course that would make me happy.””  Brenna to Judd
  • “”What if a stranger on a dark street said the same?”  “I’d get out of there as fast as my legs would carry me.””  Judd; then Brenna
  • “”The link must be present between a body and a free mind.  Without that link, it’s not pleasure but a facsimile so wrong it’s pain””  Judd to Brenna

Mine to Posssess

  • “”They want to put implants in children’s brains to ensure full implementation of Silence.  The chips will turn the PsyNet – currently composed of individuals – into a hive mind, with the Councilors the controlling entities.””
  • “”It’ll destroy innovation, bury brilliance for the sake of conformity.””

Alter Post: Giving In / Giving Up Does Not Mean Failure…It Means I Changed My Mind

Childhood

I wanted to be a writer growing up.  I also wanted to be a doctor of some kind – specialize in herbs and the kind of folksy medicine that helped me through the worst of my injuries as a child.  Some parts wanted to be an ice skater or a gymnast or a dancer too.

We fell in love with science.  Words were an escape – reading and learning couldn’t be taken away from us – but science was like cooking and baking; full of questions, answers, and investigating.

But then all of these blocks got in the way.  Random people who were once friendly turned against me.  People I thought were friends humiliated me.  Instead of helping, teachers made everything more difficult.  Even when I excelled and did everything correct, I still “failed” and got punished.  When I made mistakes or gave up, I was told that it’s ok because I am a failure.  Trying again or trying harder wouldn’t change the outcome so giving up or giving in was good.  Better not to try at all.

Adolescence

And so my life went until I went to college.  There I found a different part of myself.  One that enjoyed challenges and classes, but not people and socializing.  The triggers in my head; the nightly phone calls home; the nightmares and ugly thoughts circling inside me; the lost time scared me.  Instead, I gave in to the pressure and finished at a local state college with high school “friends” to offer “support” and “help” when I needed it.  Relatives also lived close by and offered “escapes” too.  But the part that opened up refused to close again.

The alter voices and the monster voices fought inside my head and spoke through our mouth.  Everyone on campus thought I was crazy.  I encouraged this because I didn’t want friends.  Friends were people who might try to stop me from my (at the time) main purpose: do well; learn; live as much as possible on my terms until I died.

But I didn’t die.  Not sure, but maybe the counseling center had something to do with that.  And maybe someone inside (one or more alters) refused to let the monsters win.

Young Adulthood

Letters got lost in the mail.  Phone calls never received or returned; or answered by family.  Networking opportunities lost.  All because the organ donor and sperm donor and blood sibling (mom, dad, younger brother to those unaware of my classification system) would hack my cell phone and email to get my contacts and then proceed to trash me or harass potential clients/employers on my behalf.  And when that wasn’t enough, they enlisted their relatives and connections to assist them.  Or lie and block my ability to get resources that would allow me to take advantage of opportunities around me.

Twelve years later

I am still alive.  We are still alive.  Every year we live past 21, we celebrate with joy.  Because none of us were meant to live past 21.

I am a professional writer.  This blog is one avenue; everyone in the system helps make the blog and website work.  My day job is the other one.

The healers in me (alters who want to pursue a career in healing arts – not medicine) are working with a graduate school program for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Either way, we did not stop.  We did not give in.  We did not give up.  We did not fail.  We stopped.  We changed our mind.  We went in a different direction for a time.  We stopped again.  We changed our mind again.  We pursued and achieved our goals.

Alter Post: Small Successes Add Up

It’s fall in the United States.  Except for the South and desert areas, this means cold weather, lots of wind, and having to winterize living spaces.

Last year we all moved into a new apartment with big bay windows and skylights (third floor under the roof) that provided amazing views with lots of sun.  The bad news was that it also made the apartment super cold and drafty.  For the first time, we put up plastic window covers all by ourselves.  It was so scary, that we messed up pretty bad and had to redo them a couple times.  Two windows, by the way, were 5′ wide by 4,.5′ long (5.5 including space for the sill).  The third window was about 3.5′ wide and just as long.  They are also placed about 3 feet above the floor so we had to use a ladder and a travel blow drier to do this.

But I did it.  So did everyone else who participated.  And we learned what not to do for next year.  The skylights are more problematic because they are set in.  Our solution – diy blackout or thermal curtains.  It works so far for lower ones in the bedroom.  If the living room gets too cold, and our heating bill goes up again, a team of us will cut/sew/attach the sheer thermal curtains to those too.  Not that anyone is looking forward to it – putting those up requires our body to be standing close to the top of a 6′ ladder the whole time – because some are afraid of heights.  And sewing is a major trigger for the child/adolescent parts.

But we got the first part of winterizing finished today.  The first window we did was the bedroom one.  Thought it worked well.  But a week later, part of it fell off.  Had to stick it back on, find the hole, and repair a hole side and corner.  But it’s working now.  Yesterday, we tried a different process and ended up shrinking a side too much; it left a 6 inch gap that had to be fixed with extra tape and plastic.  Took so long, we had to stop and get a snack even though the instructions say not to.  And it was frustrating and tiring; 3 hours holding a travel blow drier and shrinking wrapping plastic around a window is not fun.  So after we finished, we fell asleep.  Instead of waking up unhappy and upset, we woke up feeling good and hungry.

No one planned to work on the third window today.  We had other things to do like cooking, laundry and preparing for work.  But as the day passed, we realized that the window had to get finished today if we wanted to keep the electricity bill down.  The last two successes had our confidence up.  And we remembered to eat big before starting.  And kept a drink nearby too.  We started in a different direction and knew what to look for to prevent problems before they appeared.  That meant, everything except one area went as planned.  Yay!  And even that section did not cause triggers or anxiety or frustration this time.

Lessons we learned:

  1. Do one window a day or a week
  2. Eat first.  And keep a drink handy
  3. Start and finish in daylight if possible
  4. Take our time and check for gaps as we shrink the plastic
  5. Keep extra plastic and tape around to plug the holes
  6. Take a break if you need it
  7. Then go back and fix the rest of the loose parts
  8. Nothing is perfect.  Expect to make repairs

Conclusion: small successes build on each other.  Each success adds to the feelings of competence and confidence.

Doing this last window felt so good, other alters were able to fix the blackout curtains in the bedroom to keep more heat in and get the room to stay darker too.  And so the first part of apartment winterizing is finished.

Alter Post: Public Transportation and Hecklers

Most of us hate crowds.  Our stimulus barriers get overwhelmed by the sensory overload – too loud, too noisy, too much movement, too many smells, not enough space to move without physical contact, etc. – and we start to feel trapped.  It used to be that no one noticed us.  We took pains to be invisible and move around unnoticed so that getting through crowds was easier and less stressful.

But that doesn’t happen anymore.  This year’s goal to stop hiding has made moving through crowds unnoticed much more difficult.  Even though most of us don’t want to admit it, our physical appearance is attractive and attracts interest from males.  Dressing in clothes that fit and feel good brings attention too because of the confidence that shows in our body language.  Most of the time, it can be ignored or brushed off as harmless.  But not always.  And some situations are particularly anxiety-provoking because none of us have the experience to politely cope with flirtatious, young males in mixed-company groups of 10 or more.

That happened yesterday.  It was annoying more than anything else until I got off the train and felt them staring at me as I walked faster and faster, almost running in my haste to distance myself from them as I tried to get to my destination.  Then later that evening as I passed groups of people sitting outside and eating at public tables on my way back to the train station to get home, I heard them call out to me with insults meant to get my attention by angering me.  “You’re not as beautiful as you think. And you’re not very friendly”, etc.

I never know how to handle this because my past experiences with come-ons and flirtation were forced and not consenting.  Also, I inherited genetics that make me look up to 15 years younger than I really am.  One woman yesterday told me she thought I was in my teens.  Most people at work think I am in my early to mid twenties.  Truth is I am in my early thirties; fast approaching mid-thirties.  And those of us (alters) who are interested in sexual relationships are not interested in young, college age males.  Or older males (close in age to the donors and other abusers) either.

So flirting and meeting interesting males within my/our age group in safe places is not exactly easy now.  For one thing, most popular places are filled with college students in the fall.  For another, there’s always the chance of running into people from my past in places like that.  And the crowds make relaxing and acting “normal” a challenge.  It’s a conundrum.  How many of the alters want to have a more active social life?  Will the non-sexual and easily triggered alters be able to cope with these changes?  How do we all maintain our safety and self-care while exploring different kinds of social interaction?

And how do we politely and firmly deal with hecklers like the young males who cat-called or made rude comments to us as we walked by – our body language and facial expression clearly stating that we are not interested – without escalating the issue?

Oh well.  Another aspect of recovery to explore.