Body Memories: Wellness exams, doctor visits & triggers

I had my annual wellness visit  this past week.

Any kind of doctor visit is triggering for me. But annual exams have more triggers than other kinds of exams.

Anxiety

Anxiety comes from traveling to and from the doctor’s office, making time during the work day to go to the appointment, and meeting (sometimes) new people who will be working on my body.

Body Memories

Body memories come back throughout the rest of the exam and sometimes cause problems getting my vitals, etc. Certain tests can’t be administered either. Not because I don’t want them, but because of how my body automatically reacts (based on past experience) to the exam tools. Shots and blood work have a 50/50 chance of working.

How I Cope

Luckily for me, I have a physician who accepts me as I am, is compassionate, and works with me to get as much done as possible with minimal distress.

Then came the matter of getting used to the new nurses and physicians assistants at the location my doctor moved to this year. They all are kind and caring, but my body and my alters did not care. These people were strangers. While I had a choice of letting them work on me or not, what was the point of a visit if not for the check up?

What worked

  • Being honest about my fears and any potential challenges
  • Repeating myself until the person took notice
  • Using grounding affirmations and deep breathing (silently) when talking to the person didn’t work
  • Letting my body and my alters do what they needed to do in order to protect themselves as long as it didn’t involve harming anyone
  • Being patient with the person and explaining again what is happening and why
  • Talking with my alters and checking with them to decide what happens next – try again or make another appointment
  • Throughout the experience – being respectful, using open communication, asking questions and listening actively, practicing patience, and accepting the other person’s choices without judgement – after all these people are professionally trained and experienced in what they do; I’m the oddball

In the end, my alters only took issue with the blood work. In spite of having to try twice and use two different needles, the physician’s assistant got the blood. Some of the results are a little iffy to me (I didn’t fast that morning), but most are on target.

I have to take a vitamin D supplement (normal) because my body does not make enough or make it as easily as I hope and keep an eye on my iron. If my mind can’t stop ruminating on some of the other results, then I’ll have to follow up with the doctor about that too.

Lessons Learned:

  • Try to have my exam on a Thursday or Friday. My mind and body need time to cope /recover and can’t do that if I have to work
  • Call ahead and ask about fasting; then set a reminder the day before
  • Remember to check in with everyone before the needles go in, especially if the physician’s assistant or nurse or technician does not seem to be taking what I say seriously
  • Then remember to meditate and use grounding so that everyone stays calm and agrees to let the tests, etc. happen – remind them the alternative is having to come back again…
  • When in doubt, skip the online portal and make time for a phone call. It saves a boatload of frustration, anxiety, and panic
  • Facing my fear of doctors feels scary and overwhelming until it’s over. I have hope that some day the scary, overwhelming emotions will feel less intense or (maybe) go away for good.

How do you cope with triggers for necessary events and activities in your life?

Thanks for reading

Quotes & Affirmations: A Double Whammy – Family, work & change

I’ll be honest with you.  This week has kicked my ass in many ways.  I almost didn’t know what to share today because everyone had an opinion, but no one wanted to buckle down and write it out.

Double Whammy

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There used to be a game show on TV called “Press Your Luck” that featured a “whammy” cartoon.  Every time a contestant landed on a “whammy”, her or his score was reset to zero.  The contestant had to start rebuilding prizes through trivia, etc.

 

I feel like I’ve landed on two whammy’s this week.  One with regards to my family.  One with regards to work.

Family

As mentioned before, I’m talking with my dad via email again.  We’re slowly rebuilding our relationship and working hard towards being part of each other’s lives again.  That means, indirectly, going back to what broke me before from a different perspective.  It means reaching out to other family and acknowledging them in some way.

My mother’s family received the email and wrote back to me after a few weeks.  It was nice to get a response from them.  Next on my list, and not something I do lightly, is writing to my mother and younger brother.

Why?

Here is where the second quote fits in.

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This is my way of setting an intention and giving something to fill an empty space inside of me.  By filling that space inside me, I have more to give to my loved ones and can help fill a similar space in them.

The next time I visit family, I want to enjoy time with them.  Not have the experienced ruined through my mother’s (and maybe brother’s) negativity and drama tantrums.  My grandma is 102; she’s slowly moving towards the next phase in her life.  I miss my dad.  In spite of everything, I love my mother and brother.  Seeing everyone for a short time will bring a measure of peace and closure.

Plus, having everyone together again will make my grandma smile.

Work

In my day job, I finally got some career-related questions answered and addressed.  Now, if I change my mind and choose to stay, there can be a path that allows me change, growth, and challenges.  Along with that, some leadership and organizational changes are taking place.  Our team is changing.  While some doors are closing, others are opening.  So now there’s a chance for me to get my “new job” within the same company.

The dilemma; I’m ready to leave my safety net and fly.  Does that mean I start a new job in a new company and pursue my other projects during off hours?  Does that mean I take on a new role with new challenges and pursue my other projects on the side?

Decision: Keep my options open.  If the new role at the current company goes through, seriously decide to stay or leave.  If that new role gets shunted to the side by corporate again, continue with my existing plans to move on.

Why again these two quotes?

Quote 1:

In a way, I’m going back to what broke me.

I’m reconnecting with family and places that caused so much pain.  I guess it’s a reminder that the person coming back is not the person who left.  She/I/We are going back to visit FAMILY as a whole rather than individual people.  Different perspective; different choices.  Same potential pitfalls if I’m not careful.

I’m also listening to my intuition, creating art, writing, healing/helping others, and learning how to use/utilize/explore/work with my unique gifts for positive outcomes instead of negative ones.  That means journaling, meditation, exercise/movement, bodywork, and learning from mentors who work towards good instead of evil.

The flashbacks are stronger; lucid dreams become nightmares; so many voices sometimes.  But the experience is different this time.  My parts and I, we aren’t afraid.  But the potential pitfalls exist.  And we all have to be gentle with ourselves.

Quote 2:

This quote reinforces my belief in miracles and manifestation of dreams.  For many years, I’ve been working towards going back to my family and moving into a career that brings joy – one that feels like a vocation and something fun that transforms into a “hobby” or “activity” to keep me involved and active during “retirement”.

Honest truth is, I could not have done all of this work or achieved so much alone.  Throughout every phase and step of this Recovery journey, guides and guardians (human, spiritual, and other) have taught me how to help myself achieve these goals.  By guardians and guides, I mean: family, friends, loved ones, mentors, enemies, counselors, even the racist and prejudiced people who went out of their way to verbally hurt me taught something.

It started with changing self-perceptions and perspectives about “people” and “the outside world”.  Next came working through the different challenges in the “real world” outside of my mind.

I started to “see” the world from a loving, kind, compassionate space.  Instead of a scary, violent, dangerous place, the world was full of love, life, laughter, and friendship.  During meditations, I started to see colors and shapes again.  I started to feel safe from the inside out – ready and able to “go home” without fear – and began the process of reconnecting with those I feared most.

“Home” has two meanings here:

  1. “Home” means being part of my family of origin again.
  2. “Home” means living safely within my physical body and working with all parts of me to bring our body back to optimal health

Whatever your challenges and struggles, there truly is a a way for you to live the life you want.

I hope these quotes help you the way they’ve helped me.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Strategy: Internal Family Systems explained by Psychology Today

Internal Family Systems Therapy – From Psychology Today magazine.

Recovery is cyclical.

Trauma never goes away, but the patterns and symptoms it leaves inside ebb and flow depending on context, experience, and life.

For a while, our system was stable.  We were in a good place and able to work on other coping challenges that required attention.   Challenges that interfered with living in the outside world.

Now, a lot of these challenges have changed into coping strategies, techniques or learning paths for future references – i.e. resources.  The others are tangled with issues not ready to be addressed yet, so have moved to the background for now.

And it’s time to focus back on adapting our family system.  My alters and I, we, are ready to start working on integration, self-awareness, and creating ways to live in both worlds. That means trying new coping techniques with our counselor and revisiting past ones too.

Why Internal Family Systems therapy? – it coincides nicely with the whole/parts theory of personality and is what our first trauma counselor used to help us get sorted.  Plus, it’s great for helping people learn to cope with feelings/thoughts/opinions that seem overwhelming or conflicting without shame or guilt or anxiety.

Maybe it will help you too.

Thanks for reading.

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.

Resources: Crisis Text Line Review

A couple of triggering events happened today.  One was related to my past sexual trauma.  The other was more recent – the living situation.  They combined to make a big soupy mess inside me.

The first call to the regular hotline helped me realize I needed to do something else to release the pressure.  Thankfully, my aunt was available to talk.  The immediate issue was express my anger so I could accomplish the rest of my errands.  Talking with her and making a plan did that.

Accomplishing the other tasks and some self care (groceries, aromatherapy diffuser, walking meditation), I finally made it home.  Instead of being able to relax, though, everything started to feel more intense.  But I wasn’t sure what was causing the problem – the living situation or the past anniversaries.

So I called the Crisis Text Line instead.  You can learn more about the history on Wikipedia here.  You can go to the actual website and read how the text line works before trying it here.  The Crisis Text Line is a non-profit organization and free.

PROCESS

Texted the phone number with a request.  Receive an automated response

Shared some information; received an automated response and took their questionnaire.

Received a text from a trained volunteer.  Text chatted with the volunteer for about an hour.  The volunteer helped me feel less alone and made some good suggestions.  I tried the suggestions.  They helped a little.  Offered some suggestions and reasons for those suggestions.  The reasons made sense, so I tried knitting again – even knowing it might be triggering.

Then I texted STOP to end the session.

REVIEW

For people who prefer to send text messages and have a service plan with either a lot of minutes or unlimited minutes, this is a great option.  The first response time is quick – within 4-5 minutes – unless you send a message during busy times.

My volunteer responded within 3 minutes after I finished the questionnaire.  Her responses, while slow in coming, were empathetic and respectful while also professional.  I explained the situation.  She offered empathy and suggestions.  I explained how and what I felt.  She reminded me I am not alone, and it’s okay to feel what I feel.

I explained about what strategies I have tried and why I felt frustrated.  She helped me get some perspective and try something I normally wouldn’t try.  Not because I don’t want to, but because physical tasks are usually not on my list when I am in pain.

The pauses between my responses and hers felt too long and anxiety provoking for me.  The generality of the suggestions and brainstorming did not feel as comfortable as when I talk to someone on the phone.

But then I didn’t share everything  that was causing the anxiety.  So that part also contributed to the anxiety.  My past experiences get in the way here.  For me, the act of calling and speaking to someone, verbalizing my feelings and experiences, is integral to the coping strategy of asking for help.

But the volunteer did help me refocus on the present and accomplish a small task.  One that did feel good and was distracting enough to help me reflect on what really disturbed me once I got home.

RECOMMEND?

Yes, I do recommend this Crisis Text Line as a resource.  I would use it again in similar situations or ones where talking didn’t feel comfortable.

Plus, the Crisis Text Line website has a wonderful and carefully curated list of referral/resource organizations for anyone looking for more or something else.

I also recommend this for anyone who might feel uncomfortable reaching out or asking for help in more traditional ways.  Or is using a coping strategy/technique like this for the first time.

Making that first call or text is the hardest step.

If your experience has been different from mine, please comment and share.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: About Narcissistic Mothers from Courage Coaching

Categories make my head hurt.  I’ve tried to forgive and move on from the toxic experiences with my mother with some success.  What exactly she did to me, the words she spoke, fits into multiple abuse categories.  So many that I stopped trying to fit her into any one category.

Words like “Narcissism” and “Narcissist” are triggering for me because they hold a wealth of emotion, memory, and experience – all related to females more than males.

This post is helpful because the author understands Narcissistic abuse and often provides valuable resources to help others cope with the effects of such abuse.  It’s not a topic I’ve covered in therapy, but maybe it’s something I will soon bring up.

The author shares definitions of different types of Narcissistic Mother figures from Michelle Piper.  My own mom is a combination of about 6 or 7 of these types, not exactly, but close enough.  Some other family members and relatives are combinations of the other types.

Maybe this explains why I seem to always find or attract Narcissistic women more than men into my life and end up repeating patterns.  Sometimes I wonder if the sign on my forehead (you know the one) that says “Vulnerable to Narcissists!  Come and Get Me!” will be there forever?

Then I remember how much progress I’ve made and the amazing, supportive people in my life now.  And I realize that the sign is fading.  Very, very slowly.  But fading.

Either way, I hope these definitions help you as much as they help me.  If not for a mother in your life, maybe a mother figure or mentor instead.

Thanks for reading.

Awhile back, I wrote a blog post on my other site about the effects of narcissistic abuse and the different narcissistic mother types out there, according to respected psychotherapist Michelle Piper. You can find this blog post here: https://mychildwithin.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/narcissistic-mother-types/ After reading through Michelle’s website, I wanted to share the information she provides with my subscribers […]

via Narcissistic mother types — Courage Coaching

Self Care: Appreciating Our Special Gifts

An Extra Post This week.  **Potential Triggers or Skepticism as New Age, Psychic, Extrasensory thoughts are included – feel free to disagree and skip**

(My opinion – one shared by my specialists)
Trauma forces victims to get creative in order to survive and cope with the experience(s).

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What kind of trauma?
Any kind – natural disaster, surgery, accident, victim of crime, victim of abuse or assault, difficult pregnancy/birth, bullying, racism, prejudice, etc.

That creativity forces victims/survivors to use parts of the brain that usually stay dormant in other people.  Those parts of the brain can:

  • make our senses more acute
  • enable us to tell when people are lying just by observing and listening
  • allow our intuition to warn us of possible danger or dangerous people ahead of time
  • improve our reflexes so that we can move to stay safe
  • Be sensitive to our environment and other peoples emotions in order to protect ourselves
  • “Know” things about people, places, animals, plants, objects or environments without understanding how or why (intuition?  empathy?  ESP?)
  • Develop talent for logical thinking, communication, biology, math, history, visual arts, etc.

Why call them gifts instead of curses?
Because all of the above have helped me on my path to recovery in some way.  My perception of the world is influenced by my past.

I learned to use the environment and my senses/perception to protect myself without knowing or understanding that in the past.  Therapy helped me understand how my hyper-vigilance worked, what triggered it, and why my senses reacted in ways that didn’t make sense according to “typical” developmental processes.

Rejecting Labels, Moving Past Bias, Embracing Gifts
Once school started, I started rejecting my gifts.  Considered them curses and ignored what they were telling me.  I was already being abused and bullied and rejected by my family, peers, and community.  Having unique talents, extrasensory or psychic gifts, or being interested in New Age philosophy only made me more of a target back then.

Labels:
Here on this blog (and throughout the website) I openly reject labels and aim for inclusivity instead.

Inclusive = radical acceptance, open mind/heart/spirit, 100% compassion, respect, and validation of all perspectives

Doesn’t matter what you want to call them.  They can embraced and turned into useful, productive life skills.

Moving Past Bias
It took me a long time to start accepting this part of myself again.  In fact, I didn’t start opening up to it until after moving to a place that discussed the paranormal at Starbucks and grocery stores.  It gave me courage to start talking about it in therapy and how these perceptions affected my coping strategies.

Embracing Gifts
My therapists and medical practitioners encouraged me to pursue these interests and learn more about how these abilities worked.  By doing that, my triggers became less intense and more manageable.

Why Talk About Gifts Now?
Conversations with my loved ones back home convinced me that many of us have unique abilities we hide from, reject, or deny because they are outside of the norm.  Two of them have affinities with crystals both similar and different to mine.  We shared knowledge and enjoyed learning how crystals have helped out in unique ways.  Then they accepted my gifts: crystals from my collection tuned to them.  And one friend told me the crystals are helping with certain activities.

Conclusion

Each of us is born with innate gifts.  Some of them get developed over time; others don’t.  Some don’t ever come out.  Others are activated by life experiences. Without context, they can be scary and feel crazy-making.

 

My gifts are not yours.  And your gifts are not mine.  But you DO have gifts.  And maybe some of the weird, scary stuff happening to you is coming from those gifts – they’r’e trying to get your attention.  Or maybe not.  The possibilities are endless.

What happens next is up to each one of us and how we choose to approach recovery.

But I hope you can keep an open mind and maybe start to reconsider your perceptions of coping challenges.  They could be gifts in hiding.

Thanks for reading

 

Resources: Martial Arts Can Help with Trauma rom AWMA Blog

**CORRECTION RE Krav Maga below**

AWMA – Martial Arts & Trauma (all photos credited to the AWMA blog)

One of the best experiences in my childhood was taking martial arts lessons.  The other was warrior training in my other life.  Tae kwon do taught me inner strength, resilience, meditation, discipline, and self defense in a protected setting.  Warrior training did the same, but with punishment instead of positive reinforcement.

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The link at the top of this page is an article from the AWMA that describes how martial arts can be used to treat trauma and help victims/survivors empower themselves through learning how to protect themselves and trusting their bodies again.

Martial arts is also a relatively safe way for victims and survivors to channel anger and feelings of violence from something scary and negative into something useful and positive.  I wish I still had that outlet, but my body can’t handle so much activity right now.  Plus my instincts are too close to the surface.  I fear losing control and hurting people too much to try.

Finally, finding a safe place to learn and practice is not always easy.  Not many instructors are trauma informed and/or willing to let someone with my kind of history take lessons with students.

HOWEVER

That doesn’t mean others looking for a physical outlet or activity more active than yoga or dance can’t try taking lessons.

For people who are comfortable with some or limited physical contact, I’d recommend Judo, JuJitsu, Tae kwon do, or wushu.  Maybe even boxing or kickboxing.  These are physically active, but don’t require a lot of sparring or extreme health until advanced levels.

**Edited to reflect guest comment: The amount of physical contact in Krav Maga classes depends on the instructor and the studio.  Thank you for the Correction**

For people who are less comfortable with physical contact, I’d recommend boxing, tai chi, and/or qigong.  Most of these trainings are in groups with limited or zero physical contact.  The pace is also different and can be better tailored to different levels of physical fitness.

Kung fu is great for many levels, requires limited physical contact, but is physically intense.  Maybe it’s the right option for you, maybe not.

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There are many other styles and types of martial arts out there.  Plus things like boot camps, dance groups, cycling, and so on that may work better for you.  Or even paramilitary/wilderness/survivalist training will work.

What I shared above are examples of the styles I’ve tried and practiced in the past with different levels of success.

If you find a school with instructors who teach using a philosophy of self defense and mindfulness, you will learn a lot more than kicks, punches, submissions, holds, and ways to fight.

Those lessons helped me build a flexible structure to fall back on even at my worst moments.  Maybe they will help you too.  Either way, I hope you click on the link and decide for yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Quotes & Affirmations: Choosing Love as a form of vengeance

 

This week, the OCD is really strong.  I am struggling with compulsions to be self-destructive, let shame take over, and push people away because I don’t deserve to be around good people.  Instead of being self-destructive, I chose to watch crime dramas, procedurals, and super hero shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.  When TV & movies didn’t work, I re-read one of my favorite books about overcoming obstacles.

Here is the quote from Archangel’s Storm by Nalini Singh

“I’ll find my vengeance in living a life overflowing with happiness,” Mahiya vowed, “In drowning myself in love, not hatred.”

This quote reminds me that I have choices.  And so does anyone whose survived trauma and abuse.

Mahiya survived over 300 years living with a narcissistic father who hated the sight of her and blamed her for the fact that his wife wouldn’t forgive him for cheating on her with her twin sister.  Mahiya’s aunt was the ruler of the territory she lived in.  The aunt used her as a tool for vengeance and tortured her for fun as long as she was useful.  Then Mahiya’s father dies, and the aunt no longer has a reason to keep her alive.

If Mahiya can survive living in that kind of situation for 300 plus years, I can get through one or more nights of flashbacks & nightmares that trigger OCD.

So can anyone else as determined and courageous and resilient as Mahiya.  Because survival is one thing.  But living a life of joy & love in spite of past trauma is something else.

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

Coping Challenges: Fear Responses

My Fear Response

I haven’t discussed FEAR much because the words get strangled in my throat or stuck in my mind/body/spirit and refuse to budge.

That’s what FEAR does – it paralyzes me – without my consent or awareness most of the time.

FEAR also triggers a physical response.  My muscles tense.  Adrenaline flows.  Senses get heightened.  Body starts to tremble and shake.  Head hurts.

The urge to make myself small and hide is intense.  If not hide, make myself invisible.

DO NOT DRAW ATTENTION or else…

my brain and body tell me at the same time.

“Fighting” back

What do I mean?

Learning to acknowledge and make friends with FEAR so that I use it instead of letting it use me.

Becoming more aware of the internal signals that tell me when FEAR could be triggered so I can put coping strategies or techniques into play before it is triggered.

Persisting with my goals in spite of the fear and the backlash that comes with it.

Remembering to start small and celebrate every success as a stepping stone forward.

Being kind to myself when the FEAR does take over and cause stickiness or problems with people, places, events, etc.

Letting myself and all parts of me feel FEAR instead of burying or denying it.

Recognizing that FEAR is an emotion, a protective one designed to alert our minds and bodies to avoid potential danger, not something negative or shameful that has to be exorcised.

How I “Fight” Fear

Tall order, huh?  

Baby steps.

Progress is all about baby steps.  So for now I can live with the sore neck and jaw muscles; the minor headache; and the shakes.  It will ease up and go away eventually.

Why not stop doing whatever is triggering the FEAR response?

I like speaking up for myself, talking with people, and being visible all the time.

Being me, expressing myself, writing, knitting, cooking, talking to people on my terms feels good.

I’m not going to stop just because being me triggers a built-in, past life fear response.  That was then.  This is now.  And each time this happens, the FEAR Response lessens.

It’s taken more than 10 years to get here.  It will take the rest of my life to recover with or without setbacks.  Fear is NOT in control anymore.

Conclusion

FEAR is part of life.  It can take over everything and stop people from living or enjoying life.  It can help save lives too.  There is a necessary balance to FEAR responses.  Not everyone learns that balance early in life.

BUT anyone can learn to find that balance and use it as adults.  Like anything else written on this blog, finding that balance takes courage, resilience, persistence, and patience.

I believe in you.  Maybe someday you will believe in you too.  Then we can enjoy more of life together.

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

 

 

Recovery: Creating a home

A mobile home

For decades, I carried home inside.  The most important bits (feeling safe, creating a sense of safety, meeting basic needs, self-soothing) were not tied down to anything physical.  That enabled me to de-clutter until only a few boxes of treasures remained and let me leave reminders of my past (with emotional baggage) behind.

The positive

  • Every item in my possession was something I bought for myself
  • Every item carried a positive attachment – emotional, spiritual, physical
  • Every item suited my current lifestyle
  • All items with negative attachments were removed

The negative

  • I never invested making the apartments feel like home
  • I never put down roots
  • I spent a lot of money on moving instead of saving
  • I always worried about finances

A temporary home

Moving to a new state allowed me to change perspective and get out of the vicious moving cycle.  While I hoped that my next place would be my last one, I planned for at least one more move.  Renting an apartment long distance means a lot of unknowns have to be addressed after move-in.  Working remote also has to be taken into consideration.

And living small has different meanings – minimalist?  tiny house?  micro-apartment? studio?  loft?  one bedroom/bathroom?

Can any of these spaces also fit a home office?

Creating a home

So what does a home look and feel like to me?

Home defined
feels safe; brings joy; allows space for play/relaxation/hobbies; meets physical, emotional, and spiritual needs; and reflects who I am

Wait, what?  How can a home do that?  Tall order, don’t you think?

NO.  Not anymore.

Potential triggers

What do I mean?  Well, 10 years of moving (yikes!?) has shown me that sometimes even spaces that look “right” at first glance or on paper are not.

Ignoring my instincts = unhappy living situation.

Why is this important?  I hope to learn from past mistakes and not let shame or fear triggers guide me into choosing another “wrong” place.  Here are some examples of triggers I ignored in the past:

  • lots of walls – walls remind me of being trapped and enclosed with abusers and perpetrators
  • lots of space – I can’t properly protect and defend myself or my environment without spending a lot of money
  • noisy neighbors or neighborhood – parties, nearby restaurants & bars, highway/street traffic, construction
  • obvious lack of maintenance in apartment and around building – If pests can get in, how safe am I really?  What else can be hidden inside those cracks?

Hope

Before, I didn’t feel like I deserved a real home.  Neither did my alter personalities.  Past experience of “home” did not feel safe.  Redefining the meaning of “home” has been one of our many projects.  Now, all of us feel like we deserve a real home.

Guest/Reader Questions to think about

  • What does “home” mean to you?
  • Is your home “mobile” or “stationary” or “permanent” or “temporary” or “something else”?
  • How do you create a home for yourself?
  • Do you listen to your instincts?

Thanks for reading