Shame: Writing, regrets, mistakes, and grudges

Earlier this week, I listened to Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong as part of my coping strategy to drown out the distracting ambient sound.  Ms. Brown built on her premise about being in the arena, falling down, and rising up again – specifically the rising up and continuing after falling – in this book.

I’m really happy that I waited until now to read the book.  If I had tried a few months ago or years ago when I first discovered her work, my mind and body would have been ready to learn what Ms. Brown shared.  Especially not about the benefits of journaling, drawing/coloring/sketching, reflection, meditation, and writing one’s thoughts on paper in general.

I tried a few of the exercises as I listened to the audiobook and came back with some lessons learned.

First Lesson:
I feel and experience regrets, but do not want them to influence or take over my life any more than I want grudges or my past to influence my present and future.  So when I say that I live without regrets, it means that I am learning from and remembering what those experiences taught me, but I my intention is to not get caught up in them.

So the phrase “living without regrets” is a trigger for me and means something different than what Ms. Brown discusses.  That’s okay too because I hope that someday I can change my opinion and live with my regrets instead of treating them like triggers or grudges.

Lesson 2:
I feel a lot of shame about my writing, writing goals, and career choices.  That shame is partly fear-based, but also tied in with my sense of self.  It’s part of what makes using coping strategies like journaling and art therapy so triggering.  Writing is something I learned out of necessity because my voice was silenced.

But before the necessity, came a love of writing that had to do with story-telling and sharing information.  Less about teaching and more about helping others learn to think, do, and act for themselves.  aka independence.  It’s something both sides of my family taught me from a very young age.  And something I wanted to share with my younger cousins as soon as I realized how unsafe it was to depend on adults.

Lesson 3:
While I am good at offering help and giving to others, I’m not as good about asking for and receiving help.  Receiving and accepting help is a lot less scary and stressful now than it used to be, but I have a long way to go before the residual shame and fear go away for good.

Beyond that, opening up and letting others into my world is not simple or easy.  One thing therapy has taught me is to be my authentic self always.  In that sense, I am learning to accept and be comfortable as a mostly-solitary introvert who is more often than not anti-social too.  Part of it comes from my own anxiety about being in crowds or interacting with people.  And part of it has to do with questioning my ability to cope with the prejudice and racism that often interferes with activities I choose to participate in.

In this, Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) is my role model.

Here’s an example of my notes from one exercise:

Shame and writing

I feel shame about writing outside of the blog.
I feel shame about being a writer.
I feel shame whenever I try to write a book or think about starting a book.
I feel shame whenever I take steps to change my career.
I feel shame whenever I think about where to take my resource website and blog.
Talking about regrets:
I want to live without regrets because every experience is meaningful to me.  In my mind, regrets are kind of like grudges.  I acknowledge regrets.  I feel the emotions related to the experience that led to feeling regret.  I learn from the experience and remember why I felt and/or still feel regret when thinking about the experience.  Then I let those feelings go for now.  My goal is to acknowledge, experience/feel, learn from, and then let go of those experiences so that they inform my present choices without directly influencing or taking them over.

My favorite part about Rising Strong:

Throughout the book, Ms. Brown acknowledges that mental/behavioral problems and substance abuse along with trauma add complexities to the concepts and learning path she shares in her book.  One chapter towards the end specifically discusses this and clearly states that the purpose of this book is for guidance and support purposes; it is not a treatment plan or supposed to be used as one.

I really appreciate this message because trauma, substance abuse, and mental/behavioral problems really do change how an individual experiences life and emotions.

My Darkness or Shadow self:

I am or can be rebellious, stubborn, bad tempered, slow to anger yet easily triggered (reactive), sometimes insecure, sometimes arrogant, curious, slow to make decisions, sarcastic, sometimes mean, often blunt to the point of rudeness, and type A personality among other things.  I often fight back and stand up when running is the safer option too.

And yet, each of these characteristics helped me become who I am now.  As part of my healing journey, I had to learn that being strong, having boundaries, securing those boundaries, and showing confidence are neither good nor bad.  How they are expressed and how I react to others decides how those characteristics are perceived.  And part of Rising Strong‘s message has to do with embracing the dark or shadowed parts of oneself as much as the lighter parts and valuing all parts of oneself.

By valuing all parts of oneself, the light shines through the darkness, burning away the secrets and fears that feed shame and negativity.

Final Thoughts:

There’s a lot to reflect on after listening to one of Brene Brown’s books.  In the correct frame of mind, her books are inspiring and thought-provoking.  In a different frame of mind, her books could be (unintentionally) triggering.

If any of you do decide to read or listen to these books, please be cautious and mindful of how your mind and body reacts.

Thanks for reading.

Shame: A letter to my shame

In past posts, I’ve talked about how journaling triggers anger and other negative feelings inside me instead of helping me cope.

Journaling also felt scary and overwhelming because it brought out thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations I wasn’t ready to acknowledge or accept about myself.  Stuff that made me feel like a monster or an alien or out of place in this world because my sensory perception and intuition are different from “normal” or “average” people.

I didn’t want to put those words on paper.  Not again.  Because putting words on paper makes them real.  And gives others a glimpse into my private world.  Or an excuse to manipulate/abuse/control/shame/hurt me.

But something happened in the last few weeks.  Something inside me has shifted.  Maybe it’s living in a more open and accepting city.  Maybe it’s the next cycle in my recovery.  Or maybe I am finally ready to accept the parts of me that attracted the monsters back then.

Either way, I started journaling again.  And collecting crystals.  And inviting plants into my home as roommates.  The crystals help me feel safe and protected.  The plants bring joy and clean energy into my apartment.  The journaling helps me gain closure with the monsters in my past without having to confront them physically or over the phone.

So, here is the letter I wrote to my shame.  Maybe it will inspire you to accept that whatever trauma happened to you wasn’t your fault either.

Dear Shame,

You think you are still ingrained in me.  But you are not.  That shivery, shaking feeling you experience is the moors connecting us falling apart.  You go home.  To the ones who created you.  To the ones you belong to.

Not me.  Not us.

Them.  The monsters.

As such, you are also a monster.

Monster #23 ->beyond (past, present, future)

When your cause is just, your purpose to educate and inform, you are welcome, valued, respected and accepted by all of us.  Otherwise, shame, please go home and leave us alone.

Thanks for reading

Shame: Learning to Recognize My Own Value

In this case, the quote “Fake it ’til you make it” can help.  In others, maybe not so much.

The Contradiction

I know I have value.  My parts know they have value.  As a system, we know we have value.  I’m learning to show this and advocate for myself on many levels and in my personal life more, but with work or school or finding a new job?

Our family, friends, and colleagues value us same as we value them.  It’s easy for me to recognize, appreciate, and describe the value in other people.  That’s ingrained in me and something I like to do because I do believe every living being has value.

BUT

Recognizing this, accepting it as true is a whole different ball game.  My training, the voices in my head, the monsters all tell me I don’t have value.  The flashbacks and dreams and nightmares show me getting put down or ignored or embarrassed or shamed every time I try to describe my skills or accomplishments until I started to believe that I couldn’t show people my skills or do anything well because I’d make a mistake or embarrass myself with a panic attack.

Like with doing a self-review at work or updating a resume or writing one’s own job description, I have to sit down and commit words to paper that describe how I add value with my accomplishments and skills.

Every time I try to do this, I panic.  Literally have flashbacks and panic attacks or go into freeze mode – especially brain freeze – and come up empty.

The Shame/Fear component

One of the most effective ways to train someone is to be consistently unpredictable with punishments.  Every once in a while, praise the individual on something.  Then next time she does it, punish her.   Then ask her to do the task or perform the skill again a few times without punishment or praise.  The random and unpredictable changes will confuse and shame/scare her into not wanting to ever participate or do or perform that task/skill again.

That’s how I feel about sewing, knitting, decorating, putting things together, coloring/drawing/painting, and crafting.  I have especially vivid flashbacks of being in third or fourth grade and learning how to make bows to put on barrettes or ornaments for Christmas gifts to my family.  The sense of pride and accomplishment for being able to cut straight lines, ironing the fabric to create flat seams, and hand sewing the bows all by myself with my aunt.

After that, I have about 3 weeks of traumatic amnesia where I see myself opening the drawer I reserved for crafts; looking at the half finished bows, needles, thread, and fabric; trembling in fear with blurred vision as I tried to take one out and work on it; freezing into a blank-minded paralyzed state; and then coming back to myself with the drawer closed.

I never did finish those Christmas bows.  Nor did I pick up a needle or thread or use a sewing machine for years after that.  In fact, the fear was so bad, that I failed my sewing home economics class.  Even though I knew how to sew; I knew how to thread a bobbin and what all of the part of the machine were called, I couldn’t pass the test or demonstrate knowledge in front of the teacher or the class.

When I tried to take sewing classes a few years ago (before the move), the same thing happened again.  I froze in fear and moved way to slow to keep up with class.  And embarrassed myself in front of my classmates.  I still try to sew, put things on the walls of my apartment, knit, etc.  Sometimes I can accomplish the goal.  Other times, not so much.

Present Time

These days, I’m getting ready to make some big changes.  Kind of like diving into the deep end of a cold pool instead of starting at the shallow end and easing my way in.  Beyond doing basic stuff for pleasure or fun (hobbies listed above), I am also taking online classes in aromatherapy and reviewing my current skill set for work.  Plus I am taking training classes through work to get better at interviewing, working in a team, using Excel, and so on.

Why?

Because I want to be able to talk about my job or career with confidence when asked professional or academic questions – working with colleagues, school interviews, reviews, meetings with my team mates, group, department, or colleagues in other departments no mater their role/rank/status.

I want to be able to recognize my value without having a panic attack or letting the negative voices in my head take over to stop me from being me.

But more than anything else, I want to show by example that race, religion, ethnicity, gender, size, sexual orientation, age, etc. mean less than nothing when an individual has achieved a secure sense of himself through knowing, respecting, valuing, and accepting all of himself as he grows and changes throughout life.

This means EVERYTHING including: the GOOD, the BAD, the IN BETWEEN, the STRENGTHS, the WEAKNESSES, the DARK, the GRAY, the LIGHT

How Do I Do This?

No idea.  Right now, my plan is trial and error.  Then learn from my mistakes.

Sure, this sends me into a confused state more often than not.  But I always come out of it with insight, information, sometimes knowledge or wisdom, and a little more confidence that I am on the correct path for me.

Maybe someday you will try this too.  If you do try it, know that at least one person is by your side cheering you on.

Thanks for reading

Shame: Fear of small talk & talking about my interests/ideas

Introduction

Lots of posts tonight.  I’ve been saving them up since most of my time is spent with grandma and other family or hanging with old friends

So in continuing the themes from the first and second posts of today, this post is about facing my conversational fears.

Fear of Sharing Ideas outside of work

I and my alters often feel shame about sharing our interests with outside people.  We also are not comfortable making small talk, although the adult host personalities are getting better with that in the home state.  We also have limited control over the automatic switching between alters who feel compelled to take over and speak without identifying themselves.

We also tend to be so focused on not offending or insulting someone else, that whoever is talking can end up offending & insulting the individual regardless.  Or the repeated apologies, I statements, questions to check in on the situation, and projected insecure behavior from all this stems from these fears:

  • rejection
  • humiliation
  • public speaking
  • socializing
  • making verbal mistakes – i.e. stuttering, switching and not knowing what comes out of my mouth, dissociating, being talked over and unable to express myself
  • anger/frustration/disappointment because I keep repeating myself trying to say something but can’t verbalize without being interrupted and losing my train of thought

The Shame connection

I have consistently been told that I am:

  • not smart
  • lacking social skills
  • not loud enough
  • too loud
  • full of stupid ideas & opinions
  • not worthy of being listened to
  • going to embarrass and humiliate myself when talking or sharing ideas out loud
  • talking funny/confusing/weird
  • a boring conversationalist
  • not supposed to talk because my opinions, interests, ideas, etc. are not interesting
  • not supposed to ask questions because the response will always be negative and/or demeaning or (worse) silent treatment
  • not allowed to talk because I always embarrass the people with me by opening my mouth
  • so scared about talking that I start switching alters and am unable to follow a conversation or control what’s coming out of my mouth
    • usually conflicting opinions and words, sometimes gibberish, sometimes stuttering or stumbling over my words

These lessons have been embedded in me since I started talking and then (either consciously or unconsciously) reinforced by life experiences as I grew up.  On the negative side, it means verbalizing anything is painful to an almost physical degree.  On the positive side, these experiences forced me to become a better listener (when I’m not switching) and a better writer.

But those coping strategies, while effective, did not and do not address the trigger being discussed here.  And my issue with switching personalities and sounding self-centered because of all of the talk about myself.

And when I brought this up to my friend, she told me that I could:

  • talk about ideas
  • ask how the other person is doing
  • find something other than myself to talk about if I really wanted to or tried

Did you read the last bullet?  IF I REALLY WANTED TO AND TRIED TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE

What that friend doesn’t realize is:

  • I am aware of doing this to people for different reasons
    • Sometimes I do it on purpose as a coping strategy to drive people away when nothing else works – annoying/rude/off-putting/abrasive/self-centered
    • Sometimes I do it to test if an individual is listening to me or not
    • Most often I do it because the other person or persons have a habit of making assumptions and interrupting me without letting me finish so this becomes a conversation pattern that is difficult to disrupt
  • I am not always able to control or stop it from happening, especially in stressful or triggering situations
    • Awareness is key, and I am not often aware any switching occurred until too late
  • I am not always able to tell the individual I am talking to that my alters are the ones talking to them.
    • i.e. “Oh, hey, it might sound like I’m talking about myself a lot and acting self-centered, but I’m really not. My alter personalities like you and feel comfortable talking to you as individual alters so are using “I” for themselves.  Complicated, yes, but true.  Not all of the “I” statements  are about the “me” you know best.  They are from the other “me” personalities.”
  • Less often these days, I do this in conversations sometimes when I switch without awareness because talking is triggering

FROM Rude/Offensive Language TO the Socially Appropriate Language Process

And yes, this is a process – one I can’t do alone – that requires asking a counselor from the BARC Hotline, my therapist, or a trusted friend for assistance.

Although I am starting to realize that asking friends (even close, trusted, good friends) for help with this is NOT such a good idea.  But lessons learned and all that.

In order for me to verbalize my thoughts, I have to go through the DBT process for expressing my feelings to be able to verbalize what to say to anyone in a conversational tone.  So here are the steps:

  • Identify my feelings
  • Identify the cause of those feelings with words
  • Identify the goals or purposes of the future conversation
  • Use “I” statements in this phase to clarify my feelings and opinions and boundaries
  • Call the BARCC Hotline and ask the counselor for help:
    processing and reality testing the situation
    my experience of the situation
    and my potential verbal response to handling the situation
  • Work with the counselor to refine the goal and possible ways to approach the conversation without it sounding rehearsed or like a therapy session
  • Repeat as needed with another counselor or my therapist while in session

YES, it’s a long and clunky process, but this coping strategy has helped me improve many conversations and work through the backlash of having such conversations without rehearsal too.

BUT, I can’t use this process EVERY TIME with EVERY conversation I talk to in ANY situation.

Why is this fear & shame so important to clarify and work through right now?

  1. It’s the single biggest stumbling block to becoming more social & living a full life in the present moment
    1. Find a way for alter personalities to feel safe enough to reach out to each other in our system so that we can help and support each other – understand and find ways to cope together without blame/shame/guilt/frustration/anger/fear getting in the way
    2. Making & keeping friends
    3. Socializing without anxiety
    4. Feeling confident in myself and being able to portray that in my conversations
    5. Find a balance so that my alters stop automatically switching and talking during potentially stressful or triggering conversations
    6. Find a way for all parts of me to be able to converse and verbalize when they feel like it instead of interrupting or causing issues
    7. Dating and potentially being part of an intimate relationship
  2. It’s a major trigger I have to face in order to accomplish my professional goals in the future
    1. go back to graduate school
    2. get my degree in alternative medicine
    3. work as an alternative medicine practitioner
    4. make this website & blog a self-sustaining business so that I can continue to improve the website design and expand the Resources page
    5. make my existing job less stressful
    6. networking & future job hunting

How am I going to cope with this?

I don’t know.  We don’t know.  It would be different if we lived separate lives.  But we are “integrating” into one unified self.

By “integrating”, I mean we are becoming a balanced and unified personality without any alters disappearing.

Yes that defies the conventional meaning of Integration for Dissociative Identity Disorder.  But, none of us want any alters to poof out of existence.  We’ve lived together for 34 years and want to continue doing so – only now as a merged, single personality to the outside world.

This topic is something for all of us to discuss with our current therapist.

Thanks for reading

Shame: Another Backlash Epiphany

Introduction

There have been a lot of good experiences and positive changes in my life lately.  There have also been some unsettling realizations and uncomfortable changes about how I see myself and interact with the world.

The Pain of June (past)

One of the most difficult parts of June is pain management.  When I am awake, my body hurts.  As I try to sleep, my body still hurts.  I want to stay home and rest because the pain keeps me awake.  None of my “regular” coping strategies work.  In the past, the more I tried to use any coping strategies, the more pain I felt.  The more I tried to relax, the more tension my body experienced.

I felt at war with myself, and giving in to my OCD self- harm compulsions was the only way to get relief.  Because self-harm made the obsessive thoughts, voices, and words go away.  But the self-harm provided temporary relief and was addictive.  The window of relief shrunk as my body got used to the distraction.  And like any other addict, I had to increase the pain and self-harm to get any relief.

The Pain of June (present)

This year, the pain arrived on schedule.  The OCD compulsions to self-harm DID NOT follow.  The body memories, flashbacks, and hallucinations did follow the pain.  I’ve been living with the hallucinations for a week now.  The pain has ebbed and flowed…some days worse than others.  But the weekly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments have helped a lot.

I use TCM because each visit includes acupuncture and body work in the form of cupping, massage, or gau sha.  My intern practitioner also teaches me self-massage techniques I can use between appointments.  Together, the acupuncture, massage, and body work helps manage my pain to acceptable levels in spite of triggers.  This allows me to sleep less, feel more energetic, and do more with my time.  (all positive changes)

The Shame of Backlash

The downside is intense backlash and triggering that feels different and is difficult to cope with.  Shame is one of the few emotions we all still struggle with.  It’s something that requires help and perspective from an objective third party who can listen with empathy and help clear out the confusing bits.

Once the shame trigger is identified, healing with coping strategies can begin.  Why the hotline?  Because my counseling sessions take place every week or 1.5 weeks and this type of trigger often occurs between sessions.  If the hotline can’t help, I do reach out to my therapist.  But only when all other resources have been utilized first.

The hotline helped me and my triggered parts calm down enough until our weekend session.  Calm down as in be able to sleep and quiet the anxiety the evening before therapy; not as in make the backlash go away.  My therapist witnessed how the backlash affected me in real time.  She asked some questions and helped me understand why this version of backlash felt different:

Therapist: how do you feel?
Me: I feel fine; just tired.  My emotions are calm even though I am experiencing backlash.
Therapist: how does your body feel?
Me: tense.  All of my muscles hurt, but especially around here (pointing).
Therapist: you’re braced for an attack.  Am I correct in thinking this?
I paused
Me: yes, you’re right.  I do feel braced for an attack – a slap of some kind or my head being pulled back by my hair.

The backlash is my younger par way of saying:
don’t do this!  It’s dangerous.  Our body is going to get hurt.  Then ALL of us will feel t he pain.  And we’ll be humiliated in front of everyone.  And then be punished even worse.

Conclusion

This time, backlash has to do with memories of physical abuse for showing confidence or accomplishments instead of hiding and letting someone else take the credit.  It happens most often when I interact with the world by sharing my experience, skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and abilities with confidence.

The more often I step out and do this, the more often I experience backlash.  When combined with anniversaries or other flashbacks, the pain increases.  Emotional distress remains the same or decreases.  With this new information, my therapist and I are working on coping strategies and techniques for pain-related flashbacks.

As I learn more, I will share the information in future posts.

 

 

Thanks for reading