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

 

 

DID Post: Inner thoughts, Outer reflections

Introduction

My child parts are asking questions about their past memories – thoughts, feelings, experiences.  They are sharing information through images, feelings, sounds, smells, & tastes and then asking the rest of us for help. (reality testing, perspective, validation, compassion, support coping strategies)

I’m lucky to work remotely right now.  This gives us the opportunity share inner thoughts and support each other even at work.  My child parts feel safe and connected at all times, so sharing with us is not a distraction from “acting normal” and “staying safe” outside of home.  There is no shame or guilt or fear that comes from caring about the rest of the system and not wanting to be a distraction.

Past

Before, this couldn’t happen because our life was very compartmentalized.  Only work at work.  Focus on getting home safely before and after work.  Then only a few hours at home to decompress, do self-care, rest, sleep, and cope with triggers.  Our living situation and general environment wasn’t always safe or didn’t feel safe because of past experiences and present issues with unsafe people.

Present

As we remember, the experiences get processed.  The child parts feel safer and more comfortable with themselves and the rest of the system.  The shame from sharing information, exposing secrets, asking for help, and letting go of the past changes into self-compassion, acceptance, respect, and improved communication skills.  The guilt goes away as each part of me learns to accept the truth: it wasn’t his/her/its fault; none are responsible.

Conclusion

These changes to inner self-talk / self-thoughts are reflected in how I view and interact with the rest of the world.  In being able to communicate with myself better, I also learn how to communicate with others in the outside world.  I can be more objective and learn from my mistakes easier.  My alters can access these thoughts and use the experiences to help them do the same with their memories and experiences.

Then they share what they’ve learned with me.  We all benefit by feeling more at ease with ourselves and each other; feeling safe on the inside and outside; reflecting a new sense of self and confidence in social situations; and being less reactive to many exterior triggers.

There is still a lot to work on, but this is a good start.

Thanks for reading

 

Shame: I wonder how much of my headache is from shame?

Not much to write at this time.  My head aches too much.  But I do recognize a connection between Oriental medicine treatment helping my body feel better and increased feelings of shame or distress in the form of scalp/forehead pain.

Almost like an invisible force is punishing me for remembering, feeling, letting those trapped body memories free.  And since I’m experiencing less fear/guilt/distress over body pain (i.e. I can cope and work through it more and more), the force is going back to basics and using something that scares all of us in the system to make us stop.

That something is head/neck pain.  Triggers all kinds of negative feelings and thoughts.  Triggers flashbacks.  Causes distractions and mistakes.  And makes all of us just want to lie down and sleep OR take a pain pill and sleep.

So work is finished for today.  I ate food.  Had something to drink.  Used the restroom.

Time for sleep or at least some better rest than the last few nights.

Thanks for reading.

Shame: Mistakes do not make a bad person

Sometimes life throws a curve ball.  Plans change.  Priorities change.

I thought my Chinese medicine treatments were over for the semester (winter break) and didn’t plan on one over the weekend.  Instead, the goal was knitting on Saturday and sewing on Sunday with some cooking and relaxing thrown in.  My friend’s scarf has been delayed long enough.  And I need to show some progress for the lessons I paid for.

But I had a treatment on Saturday.  I use treatment because each one is more than acupuncture; the needling is only one aspect of practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Along with the acupuncture, my practitioner used cupping and massage to help with the memories and muscle tension along my spine.  She warned me that the intensity of this  treatment (our goals were less anxiety and helping with cold symptoms) might cause some discomfort for a day or two as my body continued to heal.

This has happened before, so I wasn’t worried.  What I forgot to take into account was the over time and lack of sleep from the week before along with lots of memories.  So instead of sewing and cleaning house, I slept most of the day.  Was awake for maybe 8 hours total throughout the day.

And so, here I am writing my post a day late and feeling like a bad person for not meeting my self-imposed deadline.  And while I know I’m not a bad person, I still feel bad about not posting a late message.  On the other hand, I recognize that I am not perfect.  I do make mistakes.  And sometimes life gets in the way and there’s nothing to be done about that.

I needed to sleep.  My alters needed to regroup.  Our body needed to rest and feel safe.  Yesterday was a lesson.  Self-compassion. Self-care.  Listen to those inner voices.  Some do care.

Because the weekend got me thinking about anxiety, here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama.  I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

dalai-lama-quote

Thanks for reading xo

Shame: Being Kinder to Myself Helps Remove Shame

Introduction

This time of year I think about (read obsess over) my body and its “flaws” as told to me by others.  My body is in pain – joints, muscle, skin, sinuses, bone, etc. – and prevents me from enjoying the fresh air that comes with warmer weather.  March and April are months when people first noticed my body start changing with puberty 20 plus years ago.  It is when the body shaming started.  And the body violence increased.

Between 7-15, the perpetrators who liked to use me sexually started being physically violent too.  The violence got worse as my body matured and clients needed to find other ways to “get it up” or “get in the mood” depending on gender.  With the sex and violence came shaming phrases: you want (fill in) because of the way you look; you’re asking for (fill in) with your body language and clothes; I wouldn’t have to (fill in) if you looked like you did before (child body); you are a slut; if you stopped fighting, I wouldn’t have to hurt you so bad…

Epithets like: thunder thighs, big butt, fat belly, flat as a board, big boobs/small boobs, bad skin/nails, hairy legs, vain child, arrogant, self-centered and so on dogged me as I tried to understand the changes happening inside me.  Comparisons to my female cousins made me feel small and worthless and nerdy – invisible and shamed for taking attention away from them – when compared to their popularity and style and social skills.

Being told I was dumber, uglier, quieter, and less adept at anything than my parents and brother with words and actions by everyone reinforced my body and self shame.  In every possible way, I was taught that my body was inferior, unhealthy, ugly, worthless, and not mine.  Basically, I should be dead.  I don’t deserve a healthy, slim body with womanly curves when the rest of my more worthy female relatives are less blessed in those areas.

The Meat of It

I spent high school and college avoiding relationships as often as possible and hiding my body with clothes that did not flatter or suit me.  I spent time around people who hated and made fun of me under the guise of being friends.  I wore hand-me downs and clothes that were decades out of fashion (given to me by my aunts and mother).  Any clothes I bought for myself had to be approved by my parents – I couldn’t shop alone for fear of what I might by.  Grooming wasn’t allowed; not the way most teenagers are allowed to experiment and spend hours in the bathroom or alone in the bedroom trying out makeup and hygiene products.

And I was always on a diet.  Because my parents thought I was fat.  I wasn’t fat – in fact I was dangerously underweight at less than  or equal 90 lbs. for most of high school – but I had curves that both my parents hated and wanted to not see.  Basically, they tried to stop me from going through puberty.  It didn’t work though.  I eventually made 100 lbs and stayed close to that the last two years of college unless I was in a downward spiral.  In college, I gained the freshman 15.  That summer, I dropped down to less than 90 lbs. again.

Senior year in college, many concerned people (none who were friends, just good people who cared enough to help out troubled peers) stepped in and convinced me I needed help.  Free counseling got me through graduation, but didn’t prevent the weight loss or attempted suicide.  Professional counseling after graduation started me on the path to be kinder to myself by getting healthy and rebuilding my sense of self to start.

Conclusion

Being skinny and weak kept me safe.  Being strong and healthy made me a target.  Looking like a woman made me less valuable to the cult (only wanted and paid for child-like bodies) and worthless to my parents.  My father hated my body and made me cover up all the time.  My mother was jealous of my body and liked to criticize my body for her own amusement.  She also liked to hurt me under the guise of “checking for wounds” or “helping me clean hard to reach areas”.

My only thoughts from that time until about 12 years ago were to hurt, punish, hide, destroy my body and feminine parts.

Then I decided that I wanted to stop feeling ashamed of my body.  And I wanted to be healthy.  Every time I tried to do something positive, family stepped in with the shaming.  Then the voices in my head triggered shaming thoughts and compulsions driven by an obsession to look a certain way or not look a certain way.  In all honesty, I thought I was 170 lbs with rolls of fat hanging down everywhere and that I had secretly had breast augmentation surgery because how else could I have large breasts when everyone else had small ones unless they were overweight/obese?

And even some overweight family members (mother included) still didn’t have large breasts to go with the extra weight.  And that was extra shame.  Because I never, ever wanted to have that kind of surgery.  An overtly feminine body would get me unwanted attention and keep me from being invisible.  But every year, I’d be obsessed with thoughts of breast implants, butt implants, feminine curves, padding, etc. and compelled to find information about it.  And I’d look down at my body or in a mirror and see rolls of fat, jiggly body parts, and stretch marks.  Then I’d feel shame and hate.

Until one of my early therapists started questioning me about my thoughts and compulsions.  Together we reality tested each of my beliefs.  Not really assumptions because these were my “set in stone truths” as taught by life.  Little by little, she forced me to look at each body part and decide how much “fat” really existed.

Then came nutrition therapy and the concept of loving kindness towards myself.

And every time I heard a “body shaming” thought, I had to stop and rephrase that thought to something “body neutral”.  Then rephrase the thought to “body positive” after a time.

And every time I felt the urge to hurt my body, I taught myself  to stop and understand where the compulsion came from.  Then remind myself that I like/love my body and don’t want to hurt it.  Hurting my body hurts me too.

Eventually, I started reminding myself that it’s ok to make mistakes and relapse sometimes.  That’s my mind telling me some part is in trouble; time to step back and think before moving on.

These days, being kind to myself means the following:

  • Stop criticizing myself when I experience backlash and shame for using “last resort coping strategies”
  • Remind myself that I am doing the best that I can; it’s ok to give in to the compulsions and obsessions sometimes
  • To feel gratitude that I am coping with the shame and making positive changes to my body image
  • To remind myself of the positive steps I am taking to be body positive – and how much fun it is
  • Making sure I take care of myself no matter how crazy work gets or how depressed I feel when the pain and memories overwhelm me.
  • And to not feel bad when I have to post before or after Wednesday and Sunday because of work and personal deadlines.

Thanks for reading.