Back to Basics: Building Small Successes

In terms of life, this week sucked.  Flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, more spider bites, and unexpected costs of flight/hotel to go visit family just made me miserable.  On top of  that, I’m still mostly unpacked, feeling low energy, and having noise/heat issues again.  Still, these heat and noise issues are nowhere near as bad as as the last place.

Did I mention the smoker who breaks the rules and smokes pot in the building?  No?  All I can say is that I can’t wait to start blending and diffusing essential oils in my place again.

But all the small stuff adds up, accumulates until my mind is overwhelmed and unable to cope with normal stuff.

So, back to basics.  Stay home.  Sleep as much as possible.  Set small goals.  Ask for help.  Act on the help.  Use every known coping strategy or technique available.  Then use them again.  Set a goal.  Conserve energy.  Accomplish the goal.

This week’s goal: set up my new bed frame and sleep on it.

With Ikea bed frames, it helps to also be creative, resilient, and resourceful – all characteristics trauma survivors learn in order to cope with the craziness.  Here’s an example of my resourcefulness:

Headboard to frame...
Cushions prop up the frame so one person can attach the headboard without help

Now, it’s Sunday night in the US, possibly edging into Monday morning depending on your time zone.  And in spite of some misgivings and one wobbly bit, I now have a bed frame put together.  Yay!  A real bed to sleep on.  With my new peanuts blanket and favorites sheets.  Fresh pillow cases to lie on too.

And here is the finished bed:

New bed
Bed first, the rest comes later 🙂

Hope the spiders don’t follow me in there.

And for anyone else struggling for whatever reasons, please remember that you got through it once before.  It was hard then; it’s hard now.  But you’ll get through this time too.

Thanks for reading!

Back to Basics: Gratitude – Meditation, Affirmations, Positive Self-Talk, Prayer, etc. – Practices

The Past

There was a time in my life when expressing gratitude was difficult.  Fear, shame, anger, disbelief in the positive made believing in anything good too much to handle.  I felt grateful for being alive, relatively safe, and able to recover.  I thought about the blessings almost as much as the curses and reflected on both in and out of therapy.  But I couldn’t say or think or share the words/expressions/behaviors with my conscious self and others in the outside world.  That made me feel too vulnerable.

Round 1 of Therapy

My first official therapist was a clinical psychologist who had previously treated a first cousin so was familiar with some family dynamics.  We focused more on rebuilding my internal foundations – repairing cracks, identifying & “disabling” automatic defense mechanisms, keeping me in the present while minimizing “psychotic” symptoms – and coping strategies for anxiety & anorexia.  Her favorite strategies involved Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and challenging the beliefs in my mind.  We touched on gratitude, but not much.  Some words here are in quotes because this therapist did not believe in trauma or DID.  All signs of trauma-related symptoms were deemed “psychosis” or “psychotic” in nature and required medication.

Round 2 of Therapy

My second therapist did not work with trauma – she told me that up front – but she helped me with anxiety and anorexia until the trauma symptoms took over; then I had to find someone else.  But this therapist started teaching me about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and gratitude affirmations or prayers.  She also talked to me about the different 12-step programs and how they are designed around spirituality and connecting to a higher power more than a specific religion.  We practiced creating and saying gratitude prayers (aka affirmations) together in session.  The ones I liked, I wrote down or memorized to use later.

Round 1 of Partial In-Patient programs

Here I learned more about DBT, Positive Affirmations (previously discussed with a doctor-sponsored life coach and touched on in past therapy sessions), and the power of spirituality in healing.  There was also some talk about meditation and deep breathing, but not much.  Mostly centered on mindfulness or visualizations and how to combine affirmations with deep breathing & meditation practices.  But this was a big turning point in my life.  For the first time, I wasn’t alone.  And I wasn’t different from anyone else.  These people cared a lot.  And they tried hard to help us in many ways (including by example) learn the lessons in our groups – especially about boundaries.  I soaked up the information like a sponge and came out with a newer, more positive perspective on everything.

Round 3 of Therapy

I was working with this therapist, a trauma specialist, when I started this website and blog.  She taught me about self-acceptance, the power of gratitude in all of its forms, and how to safely express gratitude so that I welcome the positive energy, influences, and opportunities available just by “saying thank you” and “asking for guidance” by example too.  While this therapist uses all of the strategies and techniques listed above, she also uses EMDR, Hypnosis, other trauma-specific types of strategies, and meditation.  But her meditation styles and practices are rooted in Buddhism, and she was able to share resources like Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Han, and the Dalai Lama for me to explore on my own time.  Through her, I discovered compassion meditation, gratitude meditation, ways to breathe so that I can make friends with my fear and be objective as I reflect on my past.  This is when my alters and I acknowledged each other; and we opened ourselves up to the world together for the first time.

Round 2 of Partial In-patient programs

Let’s just say that the break from work gave me the time and space I needed to make some important decisions about family relationships and my personal life.  The people running the program this time were new and completely different.  Their approach was more clinical and detached; they didn’t care the same way as the last group of people who ran the program.  I didn’t learn as much or find their lessons or mentoring as useful as last time.  But then, I was also a different person and my alter personalities were emerging and causing all kinds of interesting experiences in the outside world then too.  But I am grateful for the experience because being there, around so many different women with similar challenges and alternative approaches, gave me the strength and resolve to break from my toxic family situation.

Present Time

I practice gratitude multiple times a day – always in the morning and before bed – because the reminders and affirmations help me stay grounded in the present.  Sometimes I pray, sometimes I use an affirmation, sometimes a compassion meditation, sometimes positive self-talk as I breathe deep for a few minutes.  Either way, it connects me to the life energy found in nature and the universe; and then I feel less alone, less scared, and less stuck in one place.

***I might have mentioned this before, but I will mention it again because this is important***

I do not believe in organized religion – that comes from being raised in a cult – but I do believe in God in all of his/her/their/its many forms.  Each of my alters and have an inclusive attitude towards religion and spirituality.

It’s hard not to when some of the most positive and life sustaining influences were and are: Jewish, Christian (Protestant, Methodist, etc.), Catholic, or agnostic.

Also when some of the most negative influences were and are: Jewish, Christian (see above), Catholic, agnostic, Mormon, Pagan, Satanic, or Greek Orthodox.

So while I do believe in God, I do not assign a specific gender, religion, or form to this higher, universal power.  And I separate my gratitude practices from religion and focus on spiritual connections with nature.  All of us in the system believe that nature in all of its forms are God’s every day miracles.  By connecting with them and sharing thankfulness, compassion, acceptance, and respect we open ourselves to so an amazing support network.  And find answers to questions or directions at a crossroads.

Thanks for reading.

Back to Basics: Reflections Weekend

Not much to write in this post.

I’ve been going slow this weekend.  The pain is intense, and being kind to myself is most important right now.

A lot of times, I can sleep or rest and reflect – that allows everyone in the system to share and help each other safely – but other times I need to move.

This weekend was a “move” weekend in spite of the intense back pain (body memories) and associated grief – more on that in another post.  Plus I had to start packing for my trip and my move.

So I turned cleaning, de-cluttering, and packing into reflective moving meditation exercises.  And got more than I expected accomplished.

Then I took today to clean my kitchen (dread….) and organize my place for a showing.

Finally, I took a nap.

Now I can relax knowing this post is finished – all my obligations met – and I’m prepared to continue working and packing during the week.

Thanks for reading.

Back to Basics: Perspective & Reframing Thoughts

Sorry it’s late…busy yesterday and this morning

“No, sir.  Taking responsibility and being responsible aren’t always the same thing.”

Lieutnant Dallas says this to her boss, Commander Whitney as they discuss the responsibilities of being “in command”:

I’m re-reading one of my favorite on-going murder mystery series right now: J. D. Robb’s In Death series starting Lieutenant Eve Dallas and Roarke.

In today’s book, Treachery in Death, Lieutenant Dallas, Roarke, and their team are working on bringing a ring of dirty cops (who murdered civilians and other cops) to justice.  The fact that she’s gathering evidence against another lieutenant and her squad gets her thinking about responsibility, leadership, command, and the responsibilities that go with being a cop & a boss.  Hard not to compare how she runs her squad with how this corrupt lieutenant runs hers, right?

That phrase got me thinking…

I survived abuse and traumatic experiences.  Many of my guests have either survived or have loved ones who survived abuse and/or traumatic experiences.  Here on the blog, I discuss many aspects of life after trauma and skills needed to do more than survive.

One topic I never highlighted, but discussed in a variety of posts, is the idea of responsibility and blame in recovery.

 

For a long time, I blamed myself for what happened.  I believed I responsible for anything and everything bad that happened to me or the people around me.  And I accepted that responsibility well into adulthood – especially with my family.  It’s what I was taught.  It’s what the shame and guilt reinforced.

That plus the physical, verbal, and emotional punishment I received to reinforce these lessons kept me hiding behind a wall of insecurity for many years.  Not until I started counseling and therapy with mental health and trauma professionals did I start to understand that being responsible and accepting responsibility – personal or professional – are different concepts.

What is the difference?

The differrence exists, but I can’t put it into words.  Only in personal examples of affirmations does the phrase makes sense to me.

  • So here are some examples of my affirmations:
  • I accept responsibility for myself.
  • I am responsible for my choices as an adult.
  • I believe that I am responsible for how I act and react to other people.
  • I accept responsibility for my words, actions, reactions, and mistakes.  And the consequences of those mistakes.
  • I am learning not to accept responsibility for people & experiences beyond my control.
  • I am not responsible for what other people say and do
  • I am not responsible for how people speak, act and react to me.
  • I am not responsible for past abuse, my parents, or any other individual.

Reflections for thought…

ABOUT PARENTING
If I was a parent or caregiver, I would be responsible for the care, safety, and education of the children while they are vulnerable, still learning, and unable to care for themselves.

If I was a parent or caregiver, I would be responsible for teaching the children by example how to be kind, respectful, thoughtful, ethical, and able to make good choices as they grow into adulthood.

But would I be responsible for what the grown child (now an adult) says and does?  Do I accept responsibility for the grown child’s experiences if that grown child made those choices?

ABOUT CARING FOR PETS & OTHER LIVING BEINGS
Are these concepts and connected feelings of shame/guilt the reasons why I choose to be alone?  Or why I “failed” in the past when I tried to have a (insert pet or something else here)

Is this why I believe that I can’t take care of myself or any other living being (plant, pet, person?)

Is this why I shy away from socializing and letting people into my life?

Is this why my alters and I struggle with feeling safe and spreading our wings?

If any guests reading this post want to use the affirmations or reflections, please feel free to do so.  Substitute my thoughts/opinions/perspectives with yours.

Thanks for reading

Back to Basics: Nourishing Myself

There are times when I feel so sick that I can’t bring myself to eat.

It’s not that I don’t want to eat.  Or that the alters don’t want to eat.  Solid foods are just plain unappealing and hard to digest.  Drinking my food is an option. Soup usually does the trick.  Something savory and a little sour helps clear many things up.  Other times a smoothie or juice with pulp does the trick.

Only thing is, I don’t the texture or flavor of many pre-made soups and smoothies.  Nor do I appreciate the cost per drink/soup or the ingredients in the most commonly available options.   They have a hard time meeting my personal requirements

  • Pleases my senses: taste/smell/texture
  • Ingredients
  • Cost per item (I am frugal)
  • Ease of access (delivery, grocery stores, pick up, storage, make it myself?)

So I started creating my own recipes for homemade drinks, soups, and smoothies.  They are nutritionally dense, tasty, smell good, easy to make with a few key tools, and require easy to find ingredients.

Today, I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes with options:

Basic Green Smoothie:

Ingredients

  • High powered blender with or without a smoothie option
  • 8 ounces of water, milk, or non-dairy milk (almond is my favorite)
  • 1 handful (or more) of leafy green vegetables – spinach and lettuce do not add to or change the flavor of your smoothie
  • 1 Apple cut into chunks (size depends on power of your blender)
  • 1/2 of a 10 oz bag of frozen mixed berries
  • 4 ounces (approx 1/4 container) of silken tofu

 

Cooking Instructions:

  • Add ingredients to the blender in this order: liquids, cut fresh fruit, leafy green vegetables, ground/powdered ingredients & seeds, frozen fruit or ice.
  • Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides or push down ingredients between blending as needed
  • If the blender gets too full, start blending the liquids and fruit first.  Then slowly add in the rest of the ingredients until fully mixed.
  • Makes between 1-2 (up to 3) servings

Extra Info:

  • Optional ingredients: 1 tsp of ground flaxseed, chia seeds, sesame seeds, etc. for extra vitamins/minerals/fiber
  • Alternative ingredients A: add banana, avocado, yogurt, or ice to thicken the smoothie.  Or add less liquids
  • Alternative ingredients B: can substitute any apples and mixed berries for any fruits.  Can substitute almond milk for any other liquids.
  • Alternative ingredients C: I don’t recommend meat or eggs for protein.  Whey and soy proteins have a weird aftertaste.  I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but there are affordable, neutral tasting protein powders that work great in smoothies

Rice porridge aka congee in a slow cooker:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of white rice
  • 8 – 12 cups of liquid (vegetable-based or meat-based broth)
  • 2 stalks of green onions chopped fine
  • 1 lb of marinated protein (seafood, fish, chicken, pork, tofu, etc.) chopped or diced into medium-sized pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon of grated or sliced fresh ginger (or 1/8 teaspoon of ground ginger)
  • Add ins: sesame seeds, peanuts or other nuts, mushrooms, sliced vegetables, salt to taste

Cooking Instructions:

  • Add the rice, broth, meat/protein, ginger, & half of the green onions to the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Rice will look like a thick soup and take on color of broth.
  • Ladle the soup into individual serving bowls.  Add sesame seeds, mushrooms, vegetables, and fresh green onions on top and serve.

Extra Info:

  • I prefer to mix everything together and then eat, but it’s a personal preference.
  • some people cook the meat, fish, or other protein separately and add in just before serving**
  • I am lazy and often throw everything into the slow cooker at the same time.  It tastes just as good, but veggies tend to lose their crispness and meat can taste overcooked.***

Hot flavored water (makes individual servings):

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz mug or larger
  • Water of choice (I use tap)
  • 1-2 teaspoons of Honey (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice or 1/4 wedge of fresh lemon
  • Frozen or fresh fruit of choice (I tend to use frozen berries, mango, cherries, or pineapple)

Cooking Instructions:

  • Add honey or lemon to cup
  • Add frozen fruit to cup (fill 1/4 of cup max.)
  • Boil 6-8 ounces of water
    • Electric kettle needs a minimum of 2 cups
    • Boil water on stove top and pour into cup
  • Pour hot water into the cup and mix with honey/lemon/fruit.  Let cool down and enjoy
  • Pour water in cup and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes.  Or use the beverage option.  Take out and mix honey/lemon juice/fruit with water.

Extra Info:

  • Microwave option A:  Add honey or lemon or both and water to cup; microwave on high for 2-3 minutes; take out and mix
  • Microwave option B:  Add frozen fruit and water to cup; microwave on high for 3-4 minutes; take out and mix
  • For multiple servings: Bring water (best to use 4 cups min.) to a boil in medium-sized pot.  Add ingredients to taste.  Bring back to a boil, stirring lightly, until water changes color or flavors mix.  Turn off heat and pour into mugs.
    • If you prefer a drink without pulp, separate liquid from pulp using a strainer.
    • The pulp is great in smoothies, fruit bread, muffins, etc.

 

I hope the recipes, if you try them, bring you as much comfort as they do me.

 

Thanks for reading.