Coping Challenges: Getting Used to a New Environment

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

My alters and I, we don’t have much to share this week. Unpacking is still a work-in-progress. The transition is easier after 1 week living in this apartment. Discovery and observation are my two best coping strategies right now.

What used to trigger me in the other apartments – noise, smells, privacy (or lack of) – are less stressful here even though they still exist. Some noises are new to me. Others are not. Same with smells and privacy. The apartment is set up in such a way that I have to get creative to balance my need for privacy with my need for natural sun and open blinds.

As for people and sounds, well that is something I continue to work on. But the safer I feel, the easier it is to step back and observe instead of react from a place of fear about these triggers. That means it’s easier to stay present and remember I am okay when the upstairs neighbors move around and make noise. Towels on the window sills help keep external smells outside. Door and window blockers keep out drafts and other smells.

Crystals keep the energy balanced and moving throughout the apartment. This time, they are in bags, small bowls, alone, or in groups on doorknobs, near plants, and so on. I am grateful for the heaters and how they work. Pipes and mechanical equipment in the floors and walls account for some of the vibrations and noise that seem to appear from nowhere.

The bath and shower help with body memories and some sensory flashbacks. It’s private and large enough for me to use as a changing room too sometimes. Using the essential oils or a scented bath will not disturb my neighbors and gives me a chance to have a “spa day” or water-focused meditation period at home.

But it wasn’t and still isn’t easy. There is a lot to learn and adapt to in a new building with new people. The neighborhood is different. The people are different. Traffic patterns and pedestrian movement keep me on my toes – especially as I get used to being here on weekends. A lot of events take place within walking distance, so weekdays are quieter – good for work :).

Processing takes time. And so does creating a home. Soon, when there are less boxes, I will take photos and share them here. Definitely of my garden. Maybe the kitchen too – it’s big and roomy with space to make smoothies – since I spend a lot of time there. Some parts of unpacking are easy for me while others trigger all kinds of messy emotions.

  • Measuring and cutting paper to line my cabinets – triggering.
  • Putting stuff on the walls – triggering
  • Deciding where to put items – neutral
  • Putting together folding shelves and adding items – neutral
  • Is any part of unpacking and setting up again fun for me? No not really.

But all parts of me are in this together. We are happy here. Feel safe here. No one is caged or trapped in this apartment – or in the building. There are security measures that keep everyone safe. And I know who to contact if I have any concerns or questions. That goes a long way to keeping the flashbacks from taking control.

Plus nothing, except an event beyond my control, is going to stop any part of me from settling in and settling down here.

So the unpacking process will be VERY slow. Priority goes to items that are necessary for every day life. Then the fun stuff that makes a home feel like home. Finally, everything else.

For now, though, it’s about recovery and re-claiming my protected, safe spaces. Maybe less about self care and more about self soothing – bringing comfort, peace, and harmony with large doses of love – to re-build my energy reserves and eliminate the sleep debt (i.e. persistent feelings of tiredness from chronic lack of sleep or rest).

What does nurturing mean to you? And how can or will you nurture yourself?

Thanks for reading

Self Care Challenge: 1/20/2020 – Aromatherapy Inhaler for Emotional Support & Panic Attacks — Scent Reflections LLC

Action: Smell essential oil blend in the aromatherapy inhaler when I felt triggered, overwhelmed, or distracted at work.

Intention: Use the essential oil blend to bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered or stressed out.

Reflection: Some people call it a “power pause”. Others call it “mindfulness”. I personally call it a sensory grounding strategy that provides emotional support + cold/flu/allergy prevention by engaging my senses – smell and vision.

Self Care Challenge: 1/20/2020 – Aromatherapy Inhaler for Emotional Support & Panic Attacks — Scent Reflections LLC

I’m doing a Self Care Challenge this week. Come join me at Scent Reflections!

Thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions

Coping Challenges: Buzzwords, Triggers & Thanksgiving

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

United States Thanksgiving Holiday is this Thursday. Then the holiday shopping weekend begins with Black Friday, continues with Small Business Saturday, and ends with Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday is my favorite shopping day because I try to support local small businesses as much as possible. Small businesses are one of the few ways ex-cons, veterans, and people with different educational backgrounds can be independent and successful with stable incomes to support themselves and their loved ones. There are lots of other reasons to shop local and shop small, but those are my two personal favorites.

If you’ve read past posts, then you might remember how challenging Thanksgiving can be. I never look forward to this holiday or the whole “holiday season” that starts in November and ends sometime in January. But this year, I am looking towards my 5 day vacation and doing some fun activities from the comfort of my home.

Buzzwords, Challenge Authenticity and Meaning of

That is part of the coping strategy and part of the coping challenge.

What do I mean? Well, words and phrases that become popular in social conversation sometimes lose their impact, authenticity, and specific meaning over time. The can get misused or become misunderstood, categorized, and labeled a certain way or associated with certain groups.

So when these words come up in conversation, people often make assumptions or jump to conclusions thinking they know what I am talking about and get offended, defensive, insulted, etc. when our meaning of the words differ.

One example that stands out came 5 years ago when I was living in an apartment building in Boston, MA. This woman and I were talking about experiencing anxiety and PTSD. She told me “Oh yes, I have a touch of PTSD too.” in a serious tone and proceeded to explain how stressed out she was from work and the recent loss of a pet and some other personal problems.

When she asked me, I explained about my symptoms. She told me that was not PTSD and that I needed serious help. Then proceeded to avoid me as often as possible. When she couldn’t avoid me, she treated me with condescension and wariness.

My struggle right now has to do with other phrases and words with specific meaning in my life:

  • Self Care
  • Resilience
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Reflection
  • Acceptance

These words have become popular as social change supports and encourages people to take better care of themselves, learn how to reduce stress, and live healthier lifestyles.

On the one hand, that’s great because more people have access to knowledge and resources that can teach them how to help themselves make these positive and neutral changes in their lives. They can learn with skepticism and make their own choices (mistakes and successes) with confidence to move forward with their goals.

On the other hand, it gives other people opportunities to manipulate vulnerable populations by twisting the meaning of these words and teaching small bits and pieces of these concepts out of context. People proclaim themselves leaders and experts with self-help guides and quick-fix programs to follow. Maybe they help some people, but what about the ones they fail?

And so I have to ask myself: am I using buzzwords because they’re popular and make me seem “cool” to others? Or am I using words and phrases with a specific intention that helps me achieve my health and wellness goals?

Is it a coping strategy, a coping technique, or a coping challenge?

The answer is unknown at this time. I’m still working through it all.

Is it a trigger?

yes. This kind of thinking feels like walking in circles with pauses to bang my head against a brick wall to escape.

Triggers

Which brings me to triggers.

Well, they still manifest in ways that are new to me. They often surprise and distract me at inconvenient times.

  • My pain levels stay around 5 out of 10…with 10 being the worst. It’s better than years past when my pain level stayed steady at 7.5-9 all the time.
  • This time of year, my triggers are environmental, sensory, and emotional:
  • Flashbacks and body memories cause dissociation and increase in anxiety/hyper-vigilance/agoraphobia
  • Physical pain plays games with my balance and movement – disturbs sleep and distracts from work
  • People moving in and out, city life, cold temperatures, and holiday stress contribute to environmental and sensory stress
  • And of course, my upstairs neighbors continue to be inventive in how they try to annoy me (and our neighbors).

In a way, the triggers haven’t changed. They exist no matter what.

How I cope with the triggers; my reactions to the triggers have changed in positive ways. Most of it is based on the work I’ve done in the past building on itself. Some is new.

Here are the main strategies that help:

Exposure therapy: I express gratitude to my annoying neighbors because they’ve helped me with triggers that used to overwhelm me, cause panic attacks, and make me pass out or not be able to sleep.

Aromatherapy & Herbalism classes: I’ve been learning how to use essential oil blends for pain management, cold and flue, emotional support, and panic attacks through aromatherapy classes. In herbalism classes, I’ve learned how about specific plants (alone or combined) can support different organ systems and overall health.

Cooking, Making Tea, and Creating Aromatherapy Blends: This appeals to me on many levels: saves me money; allows me to be creative; something all parts of me can do together; work in a safe space at home; have fun

*If you choose to try aromatherapy or herbalism, I ask/suggest/recommend you talk to your doctors and work with a certified practitioner or take classes to learn about the subjects before you try it at home*

Laughter: My perspective changes constantly. Back in the past, I had to hide my sense of humor and stay quiet if I wanted to move through the world unnoticed. My voice is unique and memorable. And humor – well, it’s quirky and eccentric and not always easy to understand. These days I choose to find humor and fun in seeming negative or stressful experiences as often as possible.

What kind of challenges and strategies are you utilizing?

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenges: When People Avoid You because…

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Life is awkward on the best of days. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding oneself in unknown situations. Other times there is something going on, and people who care avoid you for their own reasons. Or you avoid them. No one communicates. Or everyone communicates without really saying anything aka addressing the cause(s).

That ends up with: confusion, hurt feelings, breaking of relationships, etc.

In my case, I learned a long time ago that people are transient guests in my life. The more they learn about me, the less they want to be around me. On rare occasions, I do meet people and build long term relationships outside of professional ones.

But I can count on 1 hand the number of true friends and loved ones that I interact with more than 3x a month – whether by phone, email, or in person – who have earned my complete trust and respect.

More often than not, people read this blog out of general interest and then start avoiding me in real life. Or they make friends with people who dislike me for some reason and start avoiding me in favor of the “new” people. Or have some other reason to “ghost” me as younger people say these days.

That used to hurt a lot. I didn’t understand what about me made people react this way.

Then I realized the problem was not with me, but with the other people.

You see, something about them made interacting with me uncomfortable. Instead of acknowledging this and working with me to figure out a solution, they denied anything was wrong and avoided me or blamed me instead.

How did I figure this out?

Not on my own. Over the course of my recovery, in counseling sessions and self-improvement workshops, this lesson has been reinforced many times.

I am who I am. I change constantly because life is change. Most of the time I am willing to compromise and work with people. Other times, I flat out refuse to change in order to conform or fit in with cultural norms or peer pressure. But I always try to be respectful and accepting of people as they are even if they don’t return that courtesy.

And because I practice unconditional love and acceptance for all beings, I can accept and forgive people who act and react to life with avoidance, denial, blane, or rejection.

They are who they are and coping with life as best they can. When it happens, no hard feelings.

People come and people go. Feeling hurt or blaming myself only triggers shame and guilt for something that is not my responsibility. I asked questions. I tried to make it right. Did my best. Now it’s over and done with.

I wish those people well and move on.

Other people have told me that attitude is harsh and mean. Maybe it’s true. But trying to hold on to something that doesn’t exist anymore…how is that healthy, good, or (insert your word here)?

My only goal is to live my life full of unconditional love and acceptance. For me, that brings out the best qualities in life: joy, fun, prosperity, safety, resilience, strength

And allows me to weather the worst life sends my way.

I hope maybe this story will inspire you, my guests, to reflect on how you can take control of your choices by changing your attitude and intention towards yourself, life, and others.

It’s not easy. It’s a continuous work-in-progress, a life-long endeavor. But it can truly change your relationships for the better like it did (and coninues to do) mine.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: When will I stop punishing myself?

*CAVEAT: This post is based on my personal experience and reflects my opinions, thoughts, and feelings about the topic discussed below. No one else’s opinion or information is shared here.*

I didn’t have time to read and respond to comments this weekend. Life got busy. And I feel uncomfortable responding to comments when my mind is such a mess.

Also, no photo for this week’s post. That kind of creativity is a trigger for anger – like journaling, coloring, and drawing – when I already feel overwhelmed with past stuff coming up and interfering with life.

*Yes I will write more on this topic again*

Back to the question

I’ve written about self-harm and self-punishment in the past. It’s an on-going theme in the story of my recovery and self-healing and one of the biggest obstacles I face now. The more joy I feel, the more intense the backlash becomes. As the backlash moves out of my mind and into my body, I feel helpless and less able to cope than normal.

Hence my body shutting down so often.

It hit home hard this week as I struggled with positive successes and backlash that put me to sleep/meditation for a couple days this week. Luckily, my day job was not so busy with billable work; writing projects require thinking and processing time – not something I need to be in front of a computer to do.

While my body and parts of my mind worked on processing triggers and flashbacks, the rest of my mind mapped out new sections for a first draft.

Friday felt better, but not great. Picked up billable work at my day job, so busy until late in the day. A schedule change for me. Flexible hours changed my personal plans and triggered circular thinking about self care, deadlines, and sacrifice.

Because changing my plans felt like sacrificing my personal time and projects for a job I like, but don’t love or want to take over all my time. That feeling triggered flashbacks to anorexia, being an empath who is also a walking lie detector, food fears, etc.

Explain about the lie detector please?

If you have met me or know me and wonder why I know things about you that you never talked about or can catch you in a lie, that’s why. I don’t purposely look into people’s minds or feelings. I don’t purposely absorb other people’s energy/feelings/thoughts. All that comes to me of its own free will as people and other living beings unconsciously project outwards.

To me, energy and emotions are a sensory experience. I feel them as sensations in my body or vibrations against my skin; I hear them as sound vibrations moving through me; I smell them and taste them in the air sometimes; and I see them in rainbow colors when I close my eyes.

Overwhelming, yes. Uncomfortable, yes. Combined with hyper-vigilance and other increased anxiety or symptoms…well what do you think about the phrase “HOT MESS”?

Reinventing the Wheel…Or Not

Instead of re-writing thoughts about punishment and self-harm, here is a short list of past posts.

Read or not.

If you want the full list, please use the search bar called “look around” to the right.

Short Reference List

Often, I prefer to give you the choice to learn more through the search bar instead of putting links here. It’s counter-intutiive to promoting my site and building a larger readership, but feels right to my authentic self.

Allowing my guests to choose when and how they learn more here means more  to me than getting more followers, etc.

This is one time when I feel comfortable sharing some links to past posts here.

Thanks for reading.