Self Care: An off-the-cuff story

I had something else planned for today, but decided to share an unedited story instead.

Verbal communication is a big trigger for me.  I tend to not talk as much as possible because a fear of what could/will come out of my mouth when the automatic defense mechanisms kick in.  The range is extensive:

From mildly irritating and insulting to verbally/emotionally abusive, mean, evil, manipulative, shaming, and purposefully hurtful in such a way that will get me fired and/or blacklisted from work or other places.

Actually, that probably did happen in the past – work or friend circles or socializing – and one of many reasons why I deliberately isolated in the past.

And it’s one of the ways my PTSD still expresses itself: dissociation, depersonalization, hyper-vigilance, extreme reactions to stimuli or “normal” situations, anger management issues, irritability, anxiety, etc. all here

What does that mean exactly?
It means that I can talk and work well with others when my anxiety and triggers don’t interfere.  But I hesitate to do this because the triggers and anxiety are so strong that my automatic defense mechanism kick in without any self awareness.  In counseling, I shared that maybe (and this is optimistic) 50% of the time I can feel the trigger before my defenses kick in.  And less often than that, I can stop the automatic defenses.

This whole verbal communication issue is going to be a life long coping challenge.  The amount of self care and coping strategies just to manage work meetings is enormous.  When I have work meetings combined with managing social situations (interacting with neighbors, friends, family, and store/restaurant employees), well something has to give.

My alters took over some of the socializing (for a few it was their first time in the outside world), but then got triggered and had panic attacks inside our mind.  On one hand this is good because it means we all are recovering and healing.  On the other hand, it leaves in new territory trying to figure out how to cope with alters wanting to participate in the outside world too.

Lessons learned

That’s part of the reason why I’ve been quiet this week.  And why the shared info posts have been less descriptive than usual.  My brain is kind of mushy.  Everyone is tired and grumpy.  Lots of mistakes and lessons learned from internal and external experiences.  There are deadlines at work, and chores to do – chores no one enjoys – that require facing other triggers.  Bathrooms and basements are still scary.  Laundry is scary.  And at this point, none of us really want to be social.  With anyone.  But going out of the apartment to do laundry or take out trash, etc., means the potential to run into other people.

And while all of us had hoped that moving someplace else would bring out positive changes and less of the hate/negativity, etc., we accept that certain hostilities exist everywhere.  And being different, looking different, living on our own  terms makes us a target wherever we go.  Bullies are everywhere.  Racists are more open about their prejudices.  If they can get away with intimidation and harassment, they will and do.

Unless I/we choose to live in a remote cabin off the grid and get everything delivered, there is no escaping people and problems like that.

Self Care and Coping Strategies

Instead, all 88 of us are choosing to work within our limitations and enjoy life as best as possible.  That’s our updated version of self care.

What does the Self Care look like?

  • Work at a job with flexible hours that doesn’t require working in an office or extensive commuting
  • Choose distance learning with self-learning options instead of structured timelines for course completion and attendance requirements
  • Focus on improving our internal family systems’ communication and participation in life
  • Limit socialization and feeling comfortable staying inside instead of feeling shame about choosing solitude and feeling anxiety about running in to neighbors/people at the building
  • Face certain triggers to put up decorations around the apartment and let go of unnecessary clutter
  • Make choices and budget money/time to accomplish home decorating and organizing tasks
  • Continue with meditation and crystal work as part of every day coping strategies
  • Find a park or grassy/wooded/beach area to visit and meditate or exercise or relax and enjoy nature
  • Resolve lingering issues with my mom’s side of the family – find a way to safely communicate and be part of each other’s lives if only in a peripheral sense
  • Take small steps to improve self trust and remove more past conditioning

Life is always interesting and never lonely for us.  Often scary, weird, and loud, but we are never alone.

Thanks for reading

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.

Coping Strategy: Medication for alcohol addiction too?

Extra post because April is Alcohol Awareness Month…

Article Link – Medication for Alcohol addiction?

Some Background

One of the scariest things I ever did was start networking on LinkedIn.  It meant taking pride in my professional self and celebrating success in the outside world – extremely scary considering my fears around success.

BUT…learning to use LinkedIn, and especially the different groups, connected me to resources I never imagined possible outside of a paid journal subscription.  One group I belong to now is called “Mental Health”, and professionals from all aspects of the Mental Health world along with other businesses write about how emotional health affects employees, employers, and careers.

Benefits of Medication for Addiction and Trauma?

One topic that interests me, but is hard to learn about, has to do with the benefits of medication as part of addiction treatment programs.  Many people have issues with addiction and trauma, so deserve to learn about all available resources. And maybe this information will help a guest find a successful path to her or his goals.

I read this article a few days ago, but didn’t have time to share it until now.  It’s written by the CEO of the company that manufactures one medication used to help with alcohol addiction (article’s words).  He discusses the potential benefits of adding medication by comparing statists to the opiate medication treatment programs and reflects on why this option is not as widespread or openly discussed in the recovery/treatment community.

The article DOES NOT promote its drug as a cure or something to buy.  And I DO NOT endorse or support the purchase or use of this manufacturer or other manufacturer’s medications for treatment.   However, why not explore options directly from the source?

My Reasons for Sharing now

While not something mentioned often here, I have personal experience with loved ones whose lives were changed by alcohol addiction and abuse of over-the-counter drugs.  And lots of experience watching classmates I started elementary school with drop out of high school, die, end up in jail, or commit suicide because of drug and alcohol related problems.  Besides that, April is a month of loss and grieving for me.  One I wasn’t able to mourn in the past, but can mourn now.

My memories of past drug and alcohol use are coming back, have been coming back a lot this April.  Like why I can’t stand the smell of pot smoke in my personal space, but cigarette smoke leaves a neutral impression.  Or dreams of being forced to ingest/inject/inhale/absorb through my skin whatever combinations my owner and his people gave us before training.  Then their anger and disgust when I passed out or vomited and then passed out because my body rejected the substances.

As you might guess, substance use and abuse is a sensitive topic for me.  I feel inadequate to write about the topic, so hope that you check out the article for yourself and make your own choices.

Thanks for reading.

Quotes & Affirmations: Tara Brach about “Shoulds”

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This week I had to put aside many “shoulds”.  Life felt too overwhelming, yet not overwhelming at all.

All the typical stuff from this time of year occurred.  But my reactions were different.  My mind felt different.  My body felt different.

The body memories were intense, but not painful.

The flashbacks and nightmares felt scary, but did not fade back into amnesia like they normally did.  I woke up remembering why my body was paralyzed with fear or shaking with adrenaline.

ALL PARTS OF ME had to step back and act like scientists.  Yes scientists.

Observe from a distance.  Use logic to find a way into our tool box.  Analyze our symptoms – anxiety, depression, anger management, emotional overload, numbness, etc. Figure out what coping strategies and techniques to try next.

instead of…

I should feel this way but I’m not.

I should do this even though it feels wrong.

I should not react this way; it’s not “normal”.

I should not use this strategy because ____

THROW OUT THE SHOULDS or SHOULD NOTS….

and let my authentic self with natural/instinctive reactions and choices for effective coping strategies take charge

Maybe this will help you remember to give yourself space too.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Martial Arts Can Help with Trauma rom AWMA Blog

**CORRECTION RE Krav Maga below**

AWMA – Martial Arts & Trauma (all photos credited to the AWMA blog)

One of the best experiences in my childhood was taking martial arts lessons.  The other was warrior training in my other life.  Tae kwon do taught me inner strength, resilience, meditation, discipline, and self defense in a protected setting.  Warrior training did the same, but with punishment instead of positive reinforcement.

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The link at the top of this page is an article from the AWMA that describes how martial arts can be used to treat trauma and help victims/survivors empower themselves through learning how to protect themselves and trusting their bodies again.

Martial arts is also a relatively safe way for victims and survivors to channel anger and feelings of violence from something scary and negative into something useful and positive.  I wish I still had that outlet, but my body can’t handle so much activity right now.  Plus my instincts are too close to the surface.  I fear losing control and hurting people too much to try.

Finally, finding a safe place to learn and practice is not always easy.  Not many instructors are trauma informed and/or willing to let someone with my kind of history take lessons with students.

HOWEVER

That doesn’t mean others looking for a physical outlet or activity more active than yoga or dance can’t try taking lessons.

For people who are comfortable with some or limited physical contact, I’d recommend Judo, JuJitsu, Tae kwon do, or wushu.  Maybe even boxing or kickboxing.  These are physically active, but don’t require a lot of sparring or extreme health until advanced levels.

**Edited to reflect guest comment: The amount of physical contact in Krav Maga classes depends on the instructor and the studio.  Thank you for the Correction**

For people who are less comfortable with physical contact, I’d recommend boxing, tai chi, and/or qigong.  Most of these trainings are in groups with limited or zero physical contact.  The pace is also different and can be better tailored to different levels of physical fitness.

Kung fu is great for many levels, requires limited physical contact, but is physically intense.  Maybe it’s the right option for you, maybe not.

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There are many other styles and types of martial arts out there.  Plus things like boot camps, dance groups, cycling, and so on that may work better for you.  Or even paramilitary/wilderness/survivalist training will work.

What I shared above are examples of the styles I’ve tried and practiced in the past with different levels of success.

If you find a school with instructors who teach using a philosophy of self defense and mindfulness, you will learn a lot more than kicks, punches, submissions, holds, and ways to fight.

Those lessons helped me build a flexible structure to fall back on even at my worst moments.  Maybe they will help you too.  Either way, I hope you click on the link and decide for yourself.

Thanks for reading.