Coping Challenges: Hoping for inpsiration

Too many flashbacks.  Too much remembering.  OCD compels me to do something I don’t want to do, yet I give in sometimes.  Obsessions continue.

I hate feeling helpless.

I hate what happens in April.

Winter is over.  Spring is in the air.

I wish for inspiration.  I hope for inspiration.  I ask for inspiration.

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What works?  How to cope?  Moment by moment.  Minute by minute.

Sleep.  Wake.  Eat.  Drink.  Ground in the present.  Breathe.  Meditate.  Distract.  Do everything I can to protect myself.  Backup all documentation.  Feel.  Let go.  Call the hotline.  Give in to the compulsions.

Did all  that.  Once.  Twice.  Over and over again.

Please inspire me to cope for:

  • One more day of work
  • One religious holiday
  • One weekend morning before therapy

I hate remembering.  Yet remembering helps me heal.  If I didn’t need to know, I wouldn’t remember.

Who am I?  Is the monster real?

NO.

Not. A. Monster.

Just me.  parts of me leading a not-so-secret life anymore.

Out of the dark, and into the gray.

Please universe inspire me.

Coping Challenges: When writing a post or journaling feels too overwhelming

I love writing.  Many parts of me also love writing.  I use “many” because some of my parts are too young to be able to write – they draw and color instead.

Like talking with a safe person, journaling or writing a post and sharing it with guests allows me (as the representative for all of us) to break silence.  I express and make concrete what is asking to be acknowledged inside.

What is asking?  Memories, feelings, thoughts, experiences, information, sensations, and secrets.

Sometimes the need to share those secrets feels like a compulsion; it becomes an obsession that creates mental loops pushing and pushing me to do something (compulsion) to make the anxiety go away.

Other times, the need to share those secrets is overwhelmed by the feelings of fear and shame that the monsters/punishers (alters who are stuck in the past and trying to protect everyone from the inevitable punishment for disobeying).  Then the compulsion to hurt myself in some way becomes stronger as I struggle to decide whether or not to write down that specific experience or story.

Most often, though, the problem I have with journaling and writing posts when I feel overwhelmed with the compulsion to share is more comes out than what I intended to write.  And that “more” is triggering – brings up other memories, feelings, thoughts, and sensations no one in the system is ready or able to cope with.

So I’m sorry for the late post.  We are all sorry for the late post.  But no one was in a good mind state to write a post yesterday.  And even with this post, the anxiety is rising.

I’m off to make my favorite drink of hot water with honey.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Memory Floods = Scaring Myself

Going back to school was amazing in some ways – I felt so comfortable and accepted there.  Socializing was a lot easier than I anticipated, and I had so much fun in spite of the stress from lack of self-care time.  But I realized that my concern about self care masked the real challenge.

The real challenge was a flood of memories about my struggles trying to socialize and fit in with peers or attain meaningful goals.  My body started reacting first.  But not in the same way it usually does.  The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments have been helping a lot, so the cramping pain, nausea, and rapid breathing changed to something I didn’t recognize.  My sleeping was okay, but the dreams changed.

My anxiety increased every day as I got closer and closer to the last class.  Up until Friday in class, I debated whether or not to not follow through the rest of the application process.  There is still an email telling my admissions counselor I don’t want to continue waiting in my draft box.  It explains that maybe I am not sure I feel ready to start school in September.  My alters and I do worry that our body is not ready for that kind of stress yet.

Earlier in the day, I texted my counselor about my worries.  She got back to me while I was in the last class and convinced me to wait until after our session to decide about the email.  My counselor and I talked about it in session, but what came out of my mouth wasn’t what either of us expected.  My parts started talking.  They shared what each of us had been told throughout the years without providing context first.  By the time I came back, the session was over.  I felt really mad at myself, upset, and confused.

  • What I wanted to share has to wait until the next session.  But right now, we have to cope with the fallout symptoms from being triggered on multiple levels.
  • Memories of shame and humiliation with regards to socializing, participating in class, and enjoying myself in crowds
  • Memories of what my parents, brother, relatives, so-called friends, and other people said to shame and discourage me from achieving my school-related dreams
  • Coping with the fact that my body and mind are not reacting to these triggers in the “typical” way – and none of us know what to do

So now life has calmed down.  Work schedule is getting back to normal.  And I have an essay to write.  But this weekend was busy with work.  And I finally had some warm, sunny days to enjoy outside.  It was fun hanging out with neighborhood friends and seeing the crowds of people on the street again.

Thanks for reading

 

Coping Challenge: Panic Attack and Missed Appointment

Background

Last week I was very tired.  My muscles hurt.  My brain was fuzzy, i.e. I lacked mental clarity.  Wasn’t hungry or thirsty.  Coped with 1 birthday, 1 holiday, and over time at work.

The nightmares started Thursday.  Waking up frozen in fear and unable to breathe started late Friday/early Saturday.  Waking up in the middle of the night for no reason started late Wednesday/early Thursday.  The gas and abdominal pain decreased after acupuncture treatment on Tuesday, but flared up again on Friday.

The Challenges

I have to say that rubbing my tummy in a clockwise position really does help to get things moving in there and relieve some of the pain.  Hard to imagine, but gas really does hurt until the body lets it out.  So does everything else that gets stuck in there.  Cause pain I mean.

And abdominal pain causes pain in other places too.  For me, it causes low back pain and pain further up my chest.  Then breathing deep becomes a challenge.  Then breathing shallow becomes a challenge.  Finally, I have to consciously remember to breathe.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.

Waking up Saturday morning, I felt fine in bed.  Going down the ladder was slightly uncomfortable because I felt off balance.  Then I go to the floor.

My body rebelled.  Said: “Get me to the bathroom ASAP”

In I went.  And so started the panic attack with my body in pain as it tried to eliminate waste.

Normally, this is not a big deal.  Panic attacks like this have eased up a lot with coping strategies in place.

But this time was different.  We had a time limit.  By we, I mean all of us mental alters and our body (considers itself an alter too).  And the time limit caused even more  triggers.  Caused a regression back to those times when nothing but passing out into unconsciousness made the pain stop.  Without the time limit, maybe we could have made it to therapy.

But with less than an hour to work through the panic attack, everything quickly got worse instead of better.  Not until I texted the counselor to tell her that we couldn’t go because of a panic attack did the pain ease.  50 minutes later, the panic attack was over.

And I missed counseling.  Takes about 10 minutes to dress and leave.  Takes about 15 minutes to walk  there on a good day.  By  the time I arrived, the session would be mostly over.

Coping Strategies that worked:

  • Repeating the following mantra: “I love you.  You love you.  We love you.  I love us.  You love us.  We love us.  I trust you.  You trust you.  We trust you.  We trust our body.  I am safe.  You are safe.  We are safe.” to start.
  • Reminding ourselves: “We are safe at home.  This is our bathroom.  We can stay as long as we want.  We can leave and come back any time.”
  • Finally: “Pain is a warning system and reminder. Pain eases as our body does its job.  We trust our body to do what is necesssary to keep us safe.”
  • Belly rubs and back massage to help stuff on the inside move out.
  • Removing any layers that felt uncomfortable against the skin.
  • Breathing and changing position as needed to ease physical discomfort.
  • Cleaning up; putting on clothes or not; taking care of other needs like food and water; sleeping again.

Conclusion

Staying at home was  the best thing to do.  Following the panic attack, I had a light meal and slept for about 5 hours straight.  During that sleep, my mind and body waged war with whatever was causing the heightened anxiety and panic attack symptoms.

Woke up feeling refreshed and hungry for the first time all week.

Was it my grandmother’s birthday?  Was it Chinese New Year and my conscious choice not to celebrate?  Was it working over time?  Was it an email from my cousin?  Was it an email from the college admissions team requesting a call next week to inform me of their decision?

I honestly don’t know.  All I do know it that I’m tired and grumpy.  Today, for the first time in over a week, I actually woke up feeling rested and like myself.  I worked some more; did laundry; cooked a few meals.  And now I’m exhausted.

Also a little worried.  Missing appointments is a big deal and something I work hard not to do.

How do you handle missed appointments?

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Coping Challenge: Agoraphobia

Introduction

During certain times of the year, the pain gets worse and the memories overwhelm my logical thinking abilities.  I start to feel vulnerable outside of my apartment.  Too vulnerable and my brain automatically starts sending out “not safe” signals to the rest of my parts.  So I stop leaving my apartment building.  And then I stop leaving my apartment except when absolutely necessary.

Description

And even the “absolutely necessary” going out causes a problem sometimes.  But then I go outside and feel confused.  Being out of my apartment feels good at first.  I enjoy the scents and sounds from trees, restaurants, people, and dogs.  But the further I get from my building, the more vulnerable I feel.  What if the pain escalates?  What if I can’t get home?  What if I embarrass myself by having a panic attack in front of these strangers?

The questions, the fears crowd my mind and stiffen my body.  My hips start to ache.  My spine curves.  And I focus one step at a time to the counselor’s office.  Potential treat: a hot chocolate (regular or peppermint) from Starbucks before the appointment.  Potential treat: brunch/lunch on the way home.

Since I love food and hardly ever eat breakfast before my morning appointments, the reward sometimes helps me get from A to B.  Hot chocolate that I don’t have to make also helps.  Other days, visiting some stores to window shop works better.

But sometimes not even a reward for going out or meeting needs like laundry or grocery shopping can get me out of the apartment.

Challenge

Eventually, the agoraphobia passes.

While I experience the agoraphobia, I also feel frustration and shame.  Frustration because I want to be outside.  Shame because my fear and vulnerability prevent me from doing what I want.  Triggers occur.  Panic takes over.  And the only safe place feels like home.

Nothing I’ve tried helps.  Nothing makes the agoraphobia go away.

The trigger causing agoraphobia hasn’t revealed itself.  The trigger to make it go away hasn’t revealed itself either.

Conclusion

I wait out the periods of agoraphobia and hope that this one ends sooner instead of later.  But I still hate it.  I still struggle.

I still persist.

Remembering and pain will not stop me anymore now than it has before.

Thanks for reading.

 

Coping Challenge: being emotionally supportive to other family

Since Christmas, I have been struggling with really bad anxiety.  Flashbacks, nightmares, changes in sleep and eating patterns, etc.

The body pain increased too.  That made me wonder what exactly triggered this round of escalation?

two things: letting down barriers and being emotionally supportive of an aunt who is still stuck in the abuse cycle I walked away from.

the barriers: I opened my heart and friendship to a neighbor whose little dog wrapped himself around my heart with one look at his big, dark eyes and some very loud barks.  I walked him a couple times last week to help my neighbor out.  She needed some help since her second job required a schedule change.

This brought back fond memories of when I used to exercise without pain and enjoy it.  Also memories of my puppy from a disastrous attempt at service dog training s couple years ago.  From there, came a tumble of other memories and feelings – some good, others not so great.

Emotional support: I reconnected with family on my father’s side this year.  It has been slow and careful because I don’t want to get sucked back into the toxic system that still exists.  They know that and (for the most part) respect my boundaries.  But I have an older aunt who still gets targeted for the emotional and verbal abuse/bullying/scapegoating by the rest of the family.  We had a conversation about that when she called earlier this week.  The call brought back other memories and familiar pain in my back the next day.  I want to be supportive, but not much else I can do until she is ready to take the steps to protect herself.  Where and how to I set boundaries to protect myself and support her?

I don’t know.  But yesterday was hard to concentrate at work.  I missed my deadline here by falling asleep 1 hour after work finished.

Today, I am taking a mental health day.  Have to because the anxiety is so bad I need to do some serious self care.  Sleep is #1 priority.  Followed by real food and hydration.  Getting outside for the first time in 4 days.  And trying to regain my sense of safety through grounding, soothing, and DBT strategies.

thanks for reading

Coping Challenge: Holidays, Friendship, Family, Death

Bad news is supposed to happen in 3s

First someone I am close to gets sick and is in the hospital around Thanksgiving.  Obviously bad news.

Second I make contact with family members who might or might not be safe.  Not sure if this is considered bad news.

Last Thursday I found out that a friend/mentor/co-worker I’ve known for about 10 years died.  He had cancer and fought bravely for quite a few years.  Obviously bad news.

Holidays bring memories and mixed feelings

My anxiety is much worse than normal.  I’m remembering events and activities that happened around the holidays (at parties and events, at home, at church/synagogue, at school) that were buried for decades.

My body is healing and starting to look like it’s meant to look.  This is causing feelings of negative body image, self-consciousness, and fear.

I sent out holiday cards and have received some.  Two cousins sent a gift that made me feel so happy that I got scared.  I bought groceries to cook in the community kitchen; want to feel good and cook something.

Coping Challenges

Grief – brings out tears and feelings of sadness that trigger past feelings and similar situations.  I felt numb; then started crying.  But while I felt numb, I couldn’t stop sneezing.

Negative body feelings – I am so tired.  I am getting cravings to eat and drink stuff that makes me feel kind of sick and can’t avoid all of them.  My body alternately feels good and in pain.  And I am having trouble accepting my “real” body shape.

Hope – that maybe this year I won’t sleep through Christmas

Fear – that I probably will do that

Self-Care – because I am falling behind on some chores and goals with being so tired and sleeping a lot.

Strategy or Strategies?

Gratitude – because I feel so grateful for the typical and also unexpected blessings that have come my way this season

Allowing my feelings to flow through me – express, acknowledge, accept, let go of what I feel so they don’t get stuck inside and cause problems (I hope)

Present-focused attitude – to help me stay grounded and focused on my current tasks

Self-Care – because everyone deserves to be safe and healthy

Starting small – small chunks are easier to finish than large bites.  And small accomplishments add up with less frustration

So how are you going to prepare for the holidays?

Thanks for reading…

Recovery: How Feeling Safe Changes Perspective

This could also go under life-changing moments, but I prefer it here.

Not a long post because still processing and learning to use coping strategies effectively.

Main Point

Feeling safe can change perspectives and long-held beliefs about oneself and one’s relationships with others.

First Change

Recovering memories from body and mind; then piecing them together with help from alters via dreams and nightmares.

Second Change

Interacting with the outside world more as my real self and with less dissociative experiences even in high stress situations.

Third Change

Allowing family back into my life on a limited basis; and through those blood relations, my parents and sibling are back too.

Fourth (and last on this list) Change

The beginnings of an integration where all alters work together as a single unit and allow our body to heal/become/look the way it’s supposed to look based on genetics and a higher power.

What does this mean?

I feel confident and able enough to protect myself from anything my parents or younger sibling might try.

The danger is not so much from my parents as from acquaintances and community members whose identities I don’t remember except in nightmares.

My biggest challenges have to do with facing my fears and triggers without using dissociation as my automatic coping strategy.

Conclusion

I am in a new phase of recovery.  I don’t have any reference points, past experience, or internal guides to start with.  My go-to strategies are dissociate and avoid.  They don’t work anymore.

But something must be going right.  I’m still alive and sane.

Step by step.  Moment by moment.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery:Uncertainty in a new phase of recovery

Not sure how others receive information about their past, but mine come in a few ways.  The main ones are: dreams/nightmares, flashbacks, & body memories.

The PTSD makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the automatic reactions that get triggered each time I remember something.

The DID makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the way my brain developed and learned to store memories, sensation, & experiences.

Back in my old living area, I was constantly bombarded by triggers and memories.  It was all my therapist and I could do to keep me relatively sane and focused on the present instead of spiraling out of control.  I never truly felt safe there and could not move on to work on other aspects of recovery even though I was ready to do so.  Every time I tried, the flashbacks and dreams and body memories bombarded me with warnings.

Now, in my new living area, I am safe to delve into these memories, work on pain management and merging the fragmented sensations from body memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks into whole memories of my past.  I am physically and emotionally safe here.  I can go outside and walk around any time.  I can use public transportation without fear of getting harassed.

I can shop at stores and know that bad service is because of the individual’s issues and not my past.  I can reconnect with safe family members.  I can enjoy hobbies and practice self care that was impossible before.  I can let my body heal and look the way nature intended for it to look instead of how my past molded it.

But with all of that comes learning how to cope with the shame and fear and distress that comes from confronting those triggers.  My tool box is full of options.  I’m learning new ones all the time just by observing how people interact with each other in real life.  Did I mention that people-watching is one of my favorite things to do?

The struggle now is learning how to utilize my toolbox for these new and different challenges.  It’s like starting from square 1 all over again.

So the posts here will continue to be about the same topics, but the perspective will continue to change as my journey changes.  Thanks for reading and understanding.

Coping Challenge: Being kind to myself during a coping lapse

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I think about my life often this time of year.  It’s a time of overwhelming feelings and the urge to belong somewhere.

For a couple weeks, I did great with the dietary changes my body felt amazing.  My mind felt wonderful.  And then I had this scary experience with a Uber driver that sent me on a tailspin of flashbacks – being trapped in cars with reckless or anxious drivers and feeling out of control – that pushed me to eat foods that would make me feel physically uncomfortable and/or sick.

I  tried to find alternatives.  I tried to use other grounding and coping skills.  I reached out for help on the hotline and spoke with my therapist.  I talked with my acupuncturist too.  But in the end I gave in and ate the foods that made me bloated, gassy, nauseous, and cramped.

Why?  Partly because I feel mixed emotions about reconnecting with more family members.  Partly because my body is physically changing and healing and becoming the body it’s supposed to be instead of the body it was turned into by past experience.  Partly because one way for me to cope successfully with overwhelming body sensations is to leave my body.  But I can’t leave unless my body is in pain or discomfort; the 2 triggers that allow me to disassociate from my physical self.

Do I feel guilty about harming myself with food?  Not really

Do I feel ashamed of harming myself with food? a little bit

Do I wish I could find an alternative to this?  Absolutely yes

How am I dealing with the minimal guilt and shame?  By being kind to myself and doing what I can to minimize the consequences of eating food that is difficult to digest.

Will I do this again in the future?  Probably.  It’s hard to let go of something that works and drowns out the uncomfortable sensations with familiar ones – even if those familiar ones are harmful and negative.

What next?  keep trying to find a substitute coping strategy that doesn’t involve self harm by food.

Hence the quote above…

Thanks for reading

 

ADMIN Post: Lots happening; can’t share yet

I wanted to share a story about how recovering memories and reconciling a secret or hidden life with the open/or unhidden one affects all of us in the system, but cannot today.

A lot happened over the weekend, and I/we are still processing everything.  I have a lot of decisions that could negatively effect safety, recovery, and life balance by mid-December.  And everyone in the system requires time to process the information, think about our choices, share an opinion, participate in the discussion, and help make the final decisions.

My goal is to write a post for Wednesday and Sunday coming up, but please bear with me if that does not come to pass.  Right now, self-care and being kind to myself takes priority over almost everything except work and taking care of basic needs (food, bills, etc.)

Thanks for reading and understanding.

Recovery Challenge: illness or colds as triggers for emotional distress

I caught my first cold of the season and spent the last two weeks trying to take care of myself.

Between that and cramps, last week felt like an emotional roller coaster.  And the triggers kept piling on themselves.  The voices, the negative self talk, the memory fragments deisgned to shame me into self-harm or reckless behavior, and the pressure of feeling sick without knowing if I was sick or experiencing body memories made for a tiring week.

Emotion regulation is something I struggle with a lot.  When my temper is loosed or my internal defense mechanisms get triggered, the words and tone of voice coming out of my mouth are harsh, blunt, honest, to-the-point, and designed to bring the indiviual’s weakest points or insecurities in his or her face.  The tone of voice deep, loud, and commanding – aka harsh and bitchy to some – and does not take prisoners.

I don’t always remember what I say to people – usually this kind of reaction triggers a switch in alter personalities – in the moment.  But I find out afterwards in dreams and dissociative moments.  I also know this happened by the way people react to me afterwards.  With coldness – silent treatment or the cold shoulder or chilly politness – and insulting rudeness whenever I try to talk to them or they have to talk to me.  And they rale the anger out in smeaky passive-agressive ways like saying one thing and doing something else, spreading nasty rumors, making promises and not keeping them, lying, and trying to blame me for all of it.

That is some of what I have been remembering this past week.

On the flip side, I have also been remembering what my third therapist taught me about these moments:

1) I have a right to feel angry and express myself with assertive/ non-aggressive tone and language that is honest without being mean or insulting.

2) The language I used (my alters recounted my words and sometimes the other individual’s words too) was not inappropriate for the situation.  My tone was not as modulated as I would have liked, but it was not aggressive either.

3) My body language does get confusing because I automatically go into a protective stance that can read as agressive to others.  Plus my aura and energy spikes so I appear larger and stonger than my physical presence suggests.

4) I was taught to hold everything in and then trapped or baited into losing my temper/raging by my abusers as proof to everyone else how mean and unstable I was.  They shamed me and taught me I was uncontrolled and dangerous and abusive and scary for no reason so I couldn’t ever be angry. I couldn’t control the feelings or the words or the violence that came with getting angry for a long time.  And people used it against me because of the obvious guilt and shame every loss induced.

5) I am not the type of person who deliberately is mean or insulting to others.  That comes out as a defensice mechanism to protect myself.  However, I am perceptive and learned how to read people at an early age – survival skill.  That skill comes into play when I lose my temper and put one or more persons in their place.

6) I am not responsible for how other people act or react towards me, but I am responsible for how I act or react to myself and others.  That said, I do step up and try to make amends if I am wrong.

7) Often the people who call me harsh and bitchy are the ones who have crossed my boundaries more than once and did not listen the first, second, or many times I respectfully and politely let them know and reset the boundary.  They don’t like hearing what I have to say or that I won’t take responsibilty for their part in what happened along with my part.  Nor are they happy I caught them in lies, broken promises, and acts of trying to manipulate me.  So they blame me, project on me, and treat me poorly to try and shame me into obeying their rules instead of sticking to my boundaries.

It’s a conundrum because I still don’t really understand the difference between friendly polite and friendly crossing boundaries well.  Small talk is difficult and my opinions, when I give them, are strong.  I also am not very subtle or smooth; I am blunt in my speech.  And I don’t take insults well; in fact I tend to turn them around on the givers and piss them off.

But even know all of this, using emotion regulation coping techniques, realizing that I did not do or say anything shameful, mean, or insulting does not stop me from being triggered and sxperiencing the backlash that comes from expressing my anger and frustration and sadness.

When I get sick, my emotions are all over the place.  My alters get scared.  Do I have to take medicine?  Will I have to go to the doctor?  Am I safe?  How will I tale care of myself?  How will I sleep and rest with everything on my to-do list?  How can I still get everything done to acoid punishment?  Am I really sick or just being lazy like my mom?

And I start to lose control over my emotions and how they are expressed or communicated to others.  That scares all of me because it’s when I am most vulnerable to getting into emotionally dangerous situations.

In spite of all of this, I have discovered that people in my new city tend to have very good or very bad boundaries.  And interacting with them is teaching me a lot.  Especially the people who judge me at face value and then get pissed off because I politely disarm their veiled insults amd condescending attitude by sharing facts and more detailed information to counter their assumptions.  Only one time did that not happen; and I made my point by staring her down and politely refusing to make any purchases or sign up for store promotions.  All I can say is that I will not be going back their to shop.

Thanks for reading tonight’s rant about struggling with emotional distress and emotion regulation. 

Coping Challenge: Unexpected Triggers, cars, panic attacks, safety

What does a person do when stuck in a car with a stranger and triggered?  How does one cope with the pain that comes from a panic attack waiting to happen while taking a Uber home?  When is the right time to call for assistance without having the driver listen in?  Where does the person go to feel safe and still be present enough to pay attention to the ride?

Since moving, I’ve taken advantage of Uber and its safe driver policy a lot.  Taking a Uber allows me to participate in activities across town that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.  The driver safely gets me to and from doctor’s offices and new-to-me neighborhoods with low levels of anxiety.  We sometimes have interesting chats during the drive.  Other times, we’re both quiet and focused on other things.

I’m still coping with my worst trigger yet.  A doctor’s appointment that didn’t happen and brought me back to my childhood.  In another post, I might analyze what automatic strategies kicked in and how I got home safely, but not today.

All I can tell you is that getting home safely without causing anyone harm during the coping to not have a panic attack or lash out at others is possible.  Maintaining safety after that is possible too.

For me, I put a safety plan into place – one that I never had to use before:

  • Acknowledge the feelings
  • If possible (aka feel safe with the driver), inform the driver that I am feeling upset and not to take my words/actions personally if I lash out by accident
  • Quietly focus on who can be contacted via email or text for a distraction (I texted two therapists and emailed another one)
  • Focus on maintaining internal calm so that the anxiety does not become a panic attack
  • Get home safely
  • Use any coping strategies that make sense and can be remembered

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenge & Alter Post: Financial triggers and flashbacks of shame

I am triggered.  Tomorrow is my father’s birthday.  It never really bothered me before.  But now, my alters are remembering past experiences in dreams.  And the critical voices – mean, rude, negative, manipulative, insulting, and scary – intrude on my waking hours and try to stop me from moving forward with this month’s tasks: get scholarship information and simplify my budgeting system.

Worrying about money always triggers flashbacks and anxiety from the times when my father controlled me by managing my money, taxes, bills, and car for me.  And when he would manipulate me into giving away expensive stuff to my brother or other family members instead of selling or repurposing the items for myself.  

How?  By making comments about how I wasted time “playing” on these machines or “money” on software or electronics that “didn’t work” right because I was stupid and paid too much.   And by telling me I was in debt and should not waste money I didn’t have.  It would make my credit score worse.  And if I had extra money, why not use it to help my mom instead?  Because I didn’t deserve new or nice things that made me happy.

Back then, I didn’t know he used my credit to buy stuff and then lapse on paying it.  Or that he stole money from me through identity theft.  I know my mom did that through our shared bank account until I moved my money out an had my name taken off of it.  But I didn’t know my dad was until I checked my credit cards and saw a much higher balance than what I put on the cards each month.  But that was after I went to a bank and had the loan officer check my credit to see if I was eligible to buy a house back when I thought I was stuck in my old home forever.

I struggled with the decision to buy a home or go back to graduate school.  My father discouraged both simply by telling me that the only way to accomplish either goal was to follow his explicit plans.  And he had everything mapped out including my budget, transportation routes for both scenarios, and monthly expenses.  He made it clear that I couldn’t do either one on my own because I wasn’t smart enough to get scholarships or have the credit score to get a decent loan.  But worse, he spread his “worry” about me to mom and the rest of the family.  Mom didn’t want me to do either one; buy a house or go back to school because that meant I was doing better than her.  She told dad everything I told her, but in such a way that I was being evil for wanting something different than the life they planned for me.  So between te two of them, I sufdsnly had tons of family discouraging me from pursuing either financial and educational goal.  And you know what, it worked.  I bowed to the pressure and did not pursue either one.

Instead, I used the money to disappear and start over.

Now, every time I spend money on something that helps me or makes me smile, I get flashbacks and anxiety.  The voices start whispering or yelling at me.  I start switching.  My body hurts.  And I wonder if I really am managing my money properly or not.  I start thinking I can’t afford what I bought or invested in.  And I get mad at myself.

Reading, music, distractions, grounding, the usual stuff is not helping.  Mantras, affitmations, maintaining connections with people are somewhat helping, but not really.  And so I find myself struggling to cope with these unexpected triggers.

Thanks for reading.

DID Post: Different Parts; Different Symptoms to Address

CAVEAT

This will not be an in-depth post.  Goal here is to explain that not all alters experience all  of the same symptoms at the same time or ever with examples from our system.  The adults and teens are searching the memory banks, but no one can remember exactly which book or news article or blog post we read that explains this phenomenon in layman’s terms.  Finding and confirming the source may take a while.

This is a very big topic with multiple layers.

It will probably be explored as part of different DID posts, PTSD posts, Alter Posts, and Life Changing Moments posts.  If you are ever in doubt about POV or tone, you are welcome to leave a comment and ask for clarification.  Writing with alters can be tricky to navigate and consistently use the correct tone of voice, grammar, point-of-view, etc. for the guests without getting confused or awkward in the flow of writing.  It’s also a pain to organize multiple POVs in 1,500 words (Maximum of 2,000) or less.

Why is this important to understand?

To the outside world, I am one person with a set of symptoms and co-curring disorders that make up the complex PTSD diagnosis.  As such, I (the whole person) experience all of the symptoms below.

In truth, I am 1 person made up of 88 alternate personalities.  About 20 of these personalities maintain control of our system (aka parenting, basic wellness care, interacting with the outside world, ensuring basic needs are met).  Not all of us experience the same kind or severity of symptoms even though all of us feel body pain and physical symptoms to different degrees.  This is because not every one of us alternate personalities has every symptom and disorder on the list.

Confusing and scary, yes?  Or no?

A List of Symptoms and Co-Curring Disorders related to the Complex PTSD and DID:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Body Memories
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Fear related to crowds and feeling trapped
  • Dissociation
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Phobias – spiders; agoraphobia; bathrooms, pools/oceans/swimming; slugs/caterpillars/flies and other insects that leave trails of slime, silk, sound in the environment; the dark; falling down
  • Fainting/passing out
  • Severe body pain
  • Insomnia, restless sleep, disordered sleeping, nightmares, night sweats, night terrors, sleep walking
  • Flashbacks, deja vu, and related fugues
  • Shame/guilt/anger/self-harm/emotional overload

Some examples:My child alters experienced the most abuse and have all of the symptoms above.  But they struggle with utilizing coping strategies because the shame is embedded so deep in them.  The disordered eating started young with neglect, got worse with diets, and became full-blown anorexia by 6 or 7 years old.  But they don’t understand body pain or menstruation – any kind of physical pain scares them and reminds them of abuse.

My teen alters experienced less physical abuse (thank you for the martial arts training), but more physical and non-physical sexual abuse in the form of inappropriate visuals/touching/talk and body shaming.  Many of them have the worst body image issues and eating problems.  They have a hard time accepting our body.  The physical pain is acknowledged, but hard to cope with – triggers self-harm, starvation/restriction, suicidal thoughts, etc. to numb it out.

The adult alters experienced mostly verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, shaming, isolation, public humiliation, silent treatment/shunning, emotional blackmail, bullying (all alters experienced this, but not like adults), and stalking to  isolate and remove opportunities to move forward.  They experience the most body pain and have the best resources to cope with it.  But their ways of coping are not always useful or helpful because they do not address the needs of teens and children to learn how to acknowledge, accept, and cope with physical pain or the accompanying triggers and flashbacks.

Female alters have trouble coping with the pain related to menstruation because of memories related to specific punishments for any talk or overt physical changes that took place during puberty.

Male alters have trouble with body image and sexuality because of the sexual abuse and gender misdirection during childhood.  Females and males sexually abused our body/self.  They also liked to physically abuse our body during the sexual encounters.  Mom kept trying to convince daughter she was a boy and adopted throughout childhood.  Many non-incestuous sexual and physical abuse experiences also happened in a quasi-religious/cult environment with drugs and alcohol involved.

And the non-human alters hold most of the negative feelings like aggression, anger, guilt, sorrow, and of course shame.  Their first response is: a) fold up and disappear; and b) lash out and hurt/defend/protect with violence.  They also hold the internalized messages from abusers and struggle with hearing the voices, obeying compulsions, obsessive thoughts, and reality testing.

Conclusion

When I and my alters get triggered, we all experience a range of flashbacks, anxiety, and symptoms.  One strategy does not work for everything – not even grounding or self-soothing or meditation.  Sometimes one strategy can help take the edge off of the worst of the symptoms for everyone in the short-term.  But that strategy will not work in the long-term or even feel helpful sometimes.

As alters learn to trust and communicate with self and each other, they find ways to “tell” what kinds of coping strategies will help, what kinds will make the symptoms worse, and what ones they are unsure about.  Having one body with so many different needs to address can be difficult.  That is why many of the strategies and techniques here are mental and emotional based instead of physical.

With imagination and creativity, many alters can learn to use, utilize, and/or adapt the coping strategies and techniques on their own or in groups on the inside while the ones “in charge” and maintaining life on the “outside” are working, walking, shopping, interacting with others, etc.  That’s what we do, and it allows us to function better in the outside world.

I hope maybe some of this can help others struggling to understand and cope with the internal confusion that sometimes comes with unexpected and expected triggers/anniversaries/symptoms.

Thank you for reading.