Body Memories: Recovering Memories and working through pain

My focus is on safety, self-care, and comfort or self-soothing to help with the body memories and pain.

Many of the coping strategies I use for pain management are not available right now because the food options here are different from where I used to live.  There is not much of a Chinese community with authentic foods through restaurants.  What is available is hard to get to without a car and tends to be very salty.  Cooking has been interesting with community kitchens and lack of pantry space for utensils, etc.

And cooking or food is a major coping strategy for me: provides sensory and physical grounding, soothing smells, nourishment, a connection to loved ones who passed on years ago, etc.  A microwave is useful, but cooking grains and pasta or meat is trial and error right now.  Soon, I will have an electric kettle, rice cooker/steamer, and slow cooker to make cooking easier.  But they are low priority right now.

The same is t rue for real dishes, cooking utensils, silverware, etc.  I have chopsticks, plastic bowls, and soup spoons thanks to my aunt.  That plus a Chinese cleaver (like a butcher knife), a paring knife, and disposable utensils are all I want for now.  Buying dishes and silverware is personal, so I am willing to wait until I find exactly what I want – be they new or new to me via thrift stores.

I’ve been remembering again.  And the last few days have taught me that sometimes I have to relive the pain and scary sensations in my body in order to remember.  Then the pain will lessen instead of increase.  And the other symptoms will change too.  But remembering why my spine hurts so much in certain places and causes problems with alignment, joints, and muscles from head to toe is not easy.  Neither is remembering that my parents caused the pain as punishment and a way to keep me in place when other stuff was happening.

Yes, I am being vague.  I am still processing and putting together the memories.  Still working on what tools I have available that can help the most.  And working through the realization that many of the tools I depend on most are not accessible right now.  As I put the pieces together and experience less pain, I will write about why experiencing the physical symptoms of pain, shaking, headaches, etc. is a necessary part of retrieving my memories and then making sense of them.

Thanks for reading.

Body Memories: Am I sick or reliving an experience or both?

CAUTION: The story below is kind of gross…read at your discretion

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Every year around April and May, I get really sick with a sinus infection of sorts.  It’s viral and causes my sinuses to get filled with fluid; it blocks passageways around my jaw, ears, and throat while leaving the areas around my nose and eyes slightly swollen and heavy-feeling.  The sensation itself is not unknown to me as I have been prone to head colds and sinus infections since childhood.

The difference between this one my others is the intensity of symptoms that come with it.  As a child and teen, I spent the months sneezing and blowing my nose; it looked rather gross to people who saw me constantly sneezing and using up tissues like people change underwear or socks or started sneezing and couldn’t get tissues quick enough.  During college, when I realized tissues were hard to carry and dispose of with class schedules, the sneezing changed to nausea followed by bouts of vomiting over a period of days.

And if I was lucky, that wouldn’t happen again for a while.  As for outward symptoms, nothing swelled up or looked obviously wrong with my face.  My jaw and teeth started to hurt.  My nose and eyes started to hurt.  Then my throat and ears.  Everything felt stuffy.  Finally, headaches and exhaustion kept me from feeling hungry or thirsty.

The doctors told me it was allergies and gave me medication.  The medication kept the stuff inside me so I stayed sick longer; made me sleepy and lethargic; caused other reactions that made me sick.  Then they thought it was a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics.  Then they thought maybe it was a deviated septum; that got corrected in high school and kept the worst infections away for a while.  When I switched doctors, the new PCP told me that there are bacterial and viral sinus infections.  Antibiotics don’t work with viral ones, so try saline solution, lots of fluids and warm liquids, tylenol, etc.  That actually did/does help some.

Odd part is, I only get sinus infections and head colds around or after certain events and anniversaries:

  • Visiting parents and certain relatives
  • Going to parties, bars, dancing, social events with family or acquaintances
  • Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day
  • Birthdays and family get-togethers
  • School beginnings/endings, holidays, graduations

And the severity of symptoms depends on how long I stayed at events and anniversaries.  A new trigger is painting my nails; I tried it over the weekend for the first time in over 10 years.  Won’t be doing that again.

So now I wonder: am I really sick with an infection or is my body reliving something that is making me feel and act sick?

Either way, I have to treat this like an illness, yes?  It’s not going away on its own, so I guess the answer is to try the usual and then some less typical strategies?

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Boundary Maintenance

Extra post this week.

To maintain professional boundaries and confidentiality, I try not to get too specific about the details of my job and co-workers.   The same is true about friends and people I consider family.  Only if I have permission from them, do I share specific details or information.  Bear with me if this post is clunky as I try to maintain the boundaries and confidentiality and share my story.

Most of my job is to make sure deliverables get to the client within the deadline.  In order for me to do that, other people in the department have to be able to meet their project deadlines.

Makes sense right?

And also a good reason why I do my best to ensure that happens by doing the other part of my job.  That part is to troubleshoot small issues, connect people with each other to get answers when someone gets stuck, and share relevant information with people in my department.

Since all of the big changes over the past year, everyone in the company has had to learn a lot of new processes and programs while also doing their jobs.  Some of the processes like user names and passwords for different websites are time consuming and difficult to learn/remember.  Others not so much.  And a lot of people are resistant to change.  They ignore the emails and try to use the “old” ways instead.  Then get frustrated and blame someone else for the problem.

Usually the messenger whose “instructions are not working”.  AKA me.

Then they, (not always with respect) request that I fix the problem for them because (put the excuse here).  Mainly they don’t want to learn the new process and will ask everyone else to fix it for them until someone does.

It happened again last week.  Yesterday, I received the 5th email/call telling me my instructions didn’t work and demanding I fix the problem remotely.  And I got fed up with it.  Because I am not part of IT.  I am not a computer specialist.  And my job is not to do these tasks for other people.  it’s to share information with them so they learn how to do it themselves and are not dependent on someone else to solve their problems.

So how does one address this boundary issue?  I talked it over with my supervisor – mostly because I wanted to be clear what my job is and is not before I send something out publicly.  Then I asked my contact in Customer Support (IT for software programs and someone with experience dealing with these people) who works closely with IT for advice.  She gave some great information that helped me refine what to say.

Then I had to figure out how to get the message to everyone in multiple states, territories, and countries while also maintaining a professional tone.  Being a writer, I chose email and spent an hour crafting my message.  After I sent it out, I felt better.  And I got some positive responses back too.

But I still feel triggered.  And it’s not helping with my sleep issues and feeling vulnerable this time of year.  My therapist says I did a good job.  And so far I haven’t had any negative feedback from my supervisor or any of the managers.

Will I be able to do this next time?  I hope so.

Will I be able to avoid the backlash like I did this time?  Maybe.

Do I feel better, safer, more confident now that I pushed everyone back to the other side of the boundary?  Absolutely, yes.

This time of year it is so easy to fall back into old patterns and then start the new year feeling bad.  I hope this story empowers others to maintain their boundaries too.  Because maintaining boundaries this time of year ups our chances for a better time in the future.

Body Memories and Healing: Learning to accept temporary changes

Introduction

Part of my recover that has not discussed here before is the anorexia nervosa.  While our mind has recovered to the point where we do not practice anymore, our body has not.  Under stress or floods of flashbacks, it reverts back to what it knows to handle the stress, relieve the pain of backlash, or let the rest of us know something is wrong.  It starts slow in the subconscious.  We are not as hungry and thirsty.  Do not have to use the bathroom as much.  Crave foods we normally don’t want.  Not want to eat foods we normally enjoy.  Feel tired.  Start skipping meals.  Stop drinking as much fluids.  Have trouble sleeping.  Forget to eat.  Feel physically weak.  Lose weight.

Realization and Facing Facts

And that is when we realize something is happening.  Something not good.  Only none of us are actively practicing anorexia; consciously restricting or starving ourselves; over exercising or using laxatives on purpose.  It used to confuse everyone and make us question whether or not we are in remission/recovery for the eating disorder.

Around this time, different alters start panicking; others start putting the recovery plan into place; and one or more email/call the dietitian for assistance.  As we start to gain weight, parts of our body bloat and look “fat” while others do not change.  Usually it’s our abdomen and stomach that bloats.  Sometimes our lower back.  The bloating is normal as our body tries to protect and heal our organs while we start the weight gain process.

Problem is, not everyone in our system is aware that the bloating is normal.  Or that it happens when bodies get activated too.  Because the anorexia combined with physical abuse damaged a lot more internal organs than can be accounted for or diagnosed by current medical science.  The bloating triggers us into flashbacks and nightmares related to negative body image, sexual abuse, etc.  It makes everyone want to lose weight again on purpose to make the “fat” go away.  Or try extreme dieting again.  And when the bloat doesn’t go away, we are confused.  Because nothing that we use to cope with anorexia is working.

Conclusion

This is happening right now.  Our whole abdomen from below the rib cage all the way down past our stomach is bloated with a cushion of water.  It looks and acts like fat.  It makes our clothes fit funny by giving us a muffin top.  And just this weekend we realized that the bloat is not going to go away until the memories and related internal damage are healed.  This could be a while.  And it will take some research and experimentation to figure out what coping strategies and resources will help.  Has this ever happened to you?  How did you cope?