Coping Challenge: To Share or Not to Share? Preferential Treatment

*REMINDER: please remember these are my opinions and not anyone else’s opinions.  Feel free to disagree, but please be respectful in how you disagree.  Thank you*

Disclosing Mental Illness

If you’ve read past posts, then you remember how I feel about labels and my thoughts about the term “mental illness”.

If not, here is the short version:
I do not believe PTSD or trauma-related mental health issues to be a form of mental illness in the same sense as say schizophrenia.

  • Schizophrenia has an underlying biological cause originating in one’s brain physiology.  aka the condition is not caused by outside experiences.  It could be developmental or genetic or a mix of influences.
  • PTSD and trauma-related mental health problems are caused by outside influences and experiences beyond an individual’s control and processing ability.  The brain and body adapts to these experiences by utilizing creative coping strategies that change the individual’s responses to stress.

Took me a long time to stop making excuses and apologizing for taking care of myself, but eventually I did.

Now I only share my past and my challenges for specific reasons:

  • Communication and team work for business purposes
  • Honesty when building friendships
  • When my symptoms might interfere with my ability to enjoy life and/or be productive
  • Discuss care with providers
  • Certain Legal and Human Resources situations

The rest of the time, I choose to be as “normal” as possible.  Why else create a toolbox of coping strategies and techniques for every day and special occasion use?

Preferential Treatment

*REMINDER: please remember these are my opinions and not anyone else’s opinions.  Feel free to disagree, but please be respectful in how you disagree.  Thank you*

Mental Illness does not make me “special” or “different”.  I am independent and able to make plans that allow for potential triggers and stressors, especially when traveling.

I do not need or want  preferential treatment when I travel.

Advance planning allows me to arrange my  travel plans to accommodate anxiety, panic attacks, triggers, etc. without having to disclose any information to airlines, bus station attendants, and other transportation officials.

When I make my plans, I expect them to mostly stay the same unless there is some kind of natural disaster or emergency beyond anyone’s control that requires change.

I don’t expect to have my seat assignments randomly changed last minute and for no reason.  Nor do I expect to have to talk with multiple representatives and disclose having panic attacks in order to get a seat assignment similar to my original one.

Yet that’s exactly what happened on American Airlines.  To make matters worse, some of the gate or counter representatives recognized me and were accordingly rude.

So, I stayed calm and professional while quietly repeating my emergency disclosure summary:

“I don’t want to cause problems and understand if you can’t help me, but I have panic attacks.  (This is what happened).  (This is why I am asking for an accommodation).  Any help is appreciated, and I understand if you can’t accommodate my situation.  Thank you.”

In this example, I need to sit in an aisle seat on airplanes.  Doesn’t matter where on the airplane or how cramped the seat is as long as I have an aisle seat.

Everything else can be accommodated.

Coping Strategies

I have none at the moment.  The whole fiasco still pisses me off and probably will for a while.

All I can say is that I’m grateful that a panic attack did not occur at an airline or on a plane.

Yes, I did have a few emotional moments.  But anyone who was awake for 40 hours and had to make 3 connections on 4 planes would have some emotional moments.

Practical Adaptations

  • Don’t fly United Airlines
  • Save up and apply for TSA pre-check
  • Start an air travel fund for emergency trips
  • Travel during seasons that don’t require heavy layers
  • Pay extra to fly on JetBlue or a similar airline instead
    • JetBlue has provided the best flying experiences so far

Reflection Questions for Guests (you don’t have to comment or share unless you want to do so)

  • In what situations do you share information about your mental illness?
  • How would you feel about being forced to disclose such information?
  • How do you feel about receiving preferential treatment?  Why?
  • Would you disclose your mental illness status if it meant getting preferential treatment?  Why or why not?
  • What coping strategies or safety plans do you have in place to cope with stressful situations like travel changes beyond your control?
  • Do you think having a backup plan and coping strategies would be helpful in situations like this?

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenge: Self Soothing is Positive instead of Negative

Background

I struggle with self soothing.  My alters, especially my child and adolescent ones, struggle with self soothing.  We all had questions about what that term meant.  Some of us still have questions like:

  • What is self soothing?
  • How is it different from self care?
  • Why is self-soothing a positive coping strategy?
  • How does it work?
  • Can you provide examples?

My adult self tried to apply answers from a variety of sources, but the suggestions triggered anger, fear, shame, and grief.  Then panic attacks.  So I avoided thinking about self soothing until recently.

Present Day

Physical pain requires other types of coping strategies.  Strategies that trigger me and cause fear or anger to manifest into panic attacks or worse – self-harm.  Unfortunately for me, those same strategies are tried and true for body memories.  These strategies include:

  • Trauma sensitive yoga
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy
  • Self-soothing
  • Movement or exercise therapy

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

sensorimotor psychotherapy does work and can be useful, but requires a lot of trust between the client & counselor.  It also requires the client to be at a certain level of recovery with support in place for any increased symptoms.  Deirdre Fay is one of the foremost practitioners.  Her work is great; I tried one of her online workshops, but wasn’t ready for it yet.  Maybe you will be.  I recommend doing your own research and talking with a professional before trying any of her programs.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Trauma sensitive yoga is something I recently started once a month.  Our first session was great.  I learned a lot and am hopeful this will help with my physical symptoms in  a variety of ways.  But more on  this later, after I’ve had another session and more time to try the practice at home too.

Exercise & Movement Therapy

Bessel Van Der Kolk promotes yoga as his number one form of movement therapy.  But drama, dance, martial arts, tai chi, or any form of gentle, meditative movement can produce similar results.  What matters most with this type of therapy is A) doing something the victim/survivor/partner/loved one enjoys; and B) choosing an instructor or group that feels safe, supportive, inclusive, and positive.  A strong support system to help out when symptoms increase or triggers start to overwhelm is important too.

Self-Soothing Coping Technique

Self Soothing has been a struggle to define and understand up until the past month or so.  My current counselor/therapist helped me understand that my child and adolescent alters define self-soothing as hurting others or being destructive/aggressive to feel better.  That is what they learned from their providers and caretakers.  And a volunteer on the hotline defined self soothing as: a conscious act of choosing self care and comfort instead of destruction, aggression, blaming, or self-harm.

What do you think of the

The Challenge

Re-learning that Self Soothing is positive and means comforting myself instead of hurting myself or others.

Helping my child and adolescent alters understand and accept this so that they can use the self soothing too.

Discovering all of the ways self soothing can help with muscle pain, body memories, and physical discomfort in order to build a tool box of useful strategies for present and future use.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the strategies that can help us most are the scariest and most challenging to learn.  I am not afraid to admit that I am afraid of my body.  I am afraid of my appearance.  I am afraid of the sound of my voice.  I am afraid of showing my face on this blog or any social media.

That fear gets in the way of doing most positive actions or tasks to help me feel better.  Instead of moving, everything freezes.  I freeze.  They freeze.  We all freeze into paralysis.  Can’t move our body.

But if you’ve learned anything about our system, you might remember how stubborn and persistent we are.  And so all parts of us are talking with our current counselor/therapist to work on this.  In another week or two, maybe we will share the results of our new practice.

What scares you?  How helpful or harmful would it be?

May all of you who read this find ways to choose self care and support instead of self-harm or harm to others when triggered.

Thanks for reading

 

Coping Challenge: Exhaustion = Late Post

I admit it. I am exhausted.  My alters are exhausted.  The living situation hasn’t improved much.  And any time I try to sleep early, the upstairs neighbor goes on a rampage with the excuse that I am stealing heat.

Coping Challenges:

  • Triggers from having loud noises above my head going off at random times throughout the night
  • Stomping and items being dropped from above sound startling to someone sleeping
  • The murmur of voices also is triggering as I don’t know what’s being said, but I know something is and it’s probably about me

Strategies I’ve used to combat this:

  • Sleep headphones – mildly effective, but very comfortable to wear in spite of the headband being too big
  • A bag of crystals under my pillow – soothing but not sure how effective
  • A favorite playlist – moderately effective with the correct headset
  • Continuous nature sounds – most effective with either kind of headset because the sound is continuous
  • my over-ear noise cancelling headphones – very effective but uncomfortable to sleep in
  • A new wool blanket – moderately effective as it keeps me warm when I give in and turn the heat in my apartment down to stop the noise
  • A new down comforter – very effective as it + wool blanket keeps me warm in spite of chilly temps
  • Affirmations to keep my heartbeat steady

So why didn’t I call the police like I planned to if this happened again?

Because I was was exhausted and fell asleep early.  When that tired, not much can wake me up.  A lot can disturb me and sort of wake me up.  But not much can wake me enough to be fully alert.  Only the alters who stayed awake were triggered by what happened.  And only when they were awake because they were tired too.

And none of us really noticed the noise until early this morning when we were ready to wake up.  Yes, we feel bad for the other neighbors who have to listen to the noise, but since no one has tried to knock on our door or talk it out, not much any of us can or will do.  In order for upstairs to be happy, I have to turn off my heat and only sleep at certain times.

Plus calling the police is scary.  I’ve never done it here, but where I used to live it caused problems.

Call the attorney; pay the fee to get out

Yes, I am contacting an attorney sooner instead of later.  But that in itself is also scary and triggering.  So, this weekend probably will be the soonest unless the majority decides otherwise.

Good News

My alters and I did get some decent sleep.  We also cried and laughed and remembered and let go of old stuff.  All in all, it was a decent night.

And now that I am awake, upstairs has quieted down.  My heat settings have not changed.  And I am up early enough to get some other stuff done before starting work.

Conclusion

I apologize for the late post.  It couldn’t be helped.  After work, I set up the slow cooker and then fell into bed only waking up when nature called.

The exhaustion is from a combination of stuff going on right now.  It’s like in earlier posts when I described being awake for so many hours working, living, commuting, until my body gave out and I slept.

Sleep, when one can get it, is one of the best and most healing coping strategies available.  For anyone who is struggling with anxiety, depression or just plain old stress, I recommend finding ways to get more rest and sleep.

Thanks for reading my complaints and rambling today.

 

Coping Challenge: Intrusive/negative thoughts & feeling sick

I am over the worst of the cold that turned into the flu and back to a cold.

While I was sick, the intrusive and negative voices lurking in my mind staged a takeover attempt.  They got really loud and started whispering about all kind of bad things that would happen next.  My body temperature dropped, and I couldn’t eat, so the voices talked about the ills of starvation and anorexia and how all of us deserved the relapse.  And then all of the angry thoughts about personal situations (past & present) became topics of negativity too.

This brought out all of our fears about being sick & vulnerable; made thinking hard; caused so much noise; and made confronting a bully escalate instead of de-escalate.  More on that in another post.

How did I cope?

First and foremost, I practiced as muc self care as possible – eat when I could; sleep or est as much as possible; ignore the noise from the bully as much as possible; stay as warm as I could; stay clean

Second, acknowledge the negative thoughts; let them be heard; let them go;

Third, use affirmations and mantras; remind myself I am safe, my body is safe; my mind is safe; my spirit is safe; all parts of me are safe

Not sure if this works for people without alters, but you are welcome to try it: share the burden of fear/shame/triggers with eachh other; let all thoughts, impressions, images, feelings pass through for everyone to work on together and then let them go

Finally (and I couldn’t use this one until Sunday after my  Chinese medicine treatment) LAUGHTER really is the best medicine for nefsrivity, evil, bullying or anything like it.  Remember times that make you laugh and laugh out loud.  Watch or listen to something funny and laugh.  Visualize yourself someplace so happy you burst into laughter and laugh.

Laughing releases endorphins.  Endorphins make you happy.  Just be careful not to laugh too much or too hard if you’re coughing.  I dis fhat by accident and put myself through a few coughing/dry heaves fits.  But the laughter was so worth it.

I hope you are all healty and staying that way.  Will tey to get back to a regular posting schedule, but not sure of anything until the cold goes away.

thanks for reading