I like being me...whoever that is

Resources: Author Round Up – mishmash of genres & media

Disclaimer: Resource Posts provide information and links to the organization sharing information with guests here. I DO NOT promote, advertise, or receive any benefit/compensation for sharing the information and links.
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*The authors and many links below are from Amazon.com and a Kindle Unlimited subscription that feeds my reading/book addiction. You are welcome to visit and find other ways to source any of the authors’ creations if Amazon and Kindle Unlimited are not your preference*

LGBTQ Books

Of the many new authors I’ve explored, these two have the most compelling stories that send me looking to their websites and social media account for more information. While all the series are LGBTQ friendly, some have LGBTQ main characters in the different books.

  • BR Kingsolver (author website) writes fantasy with some science fiction, mystery, and romance elements in many of her series:
    • Rosie O’Grady’s Bar and Grill – I am currently reading the newest title in this series about a young woman who was sold as a child to a magical organization and trained as a spy. She thought she worked for people who worked to help others and save the world until her last assignment showed the truth. The first book starts with the woman’s life after she leaves the organization.
    • Chameleon Assassin – The bisexual main character was born with mutations that give her traits of a chameleon while also looking human in a world that values scientific enhancements and while shunning others. Her personal relationships and work relationships add unique challenges and perspective to the plot of each book in the series. Can be dark and triggering
    • Dark Streets – A combination of magic and science with the main characters traveling to different realms to fight against enemies trying to take over or destroy earth in some way. Female main character whose supporting cast has a variety of people and relationships. More humor and lightness in this series
    • Telepathic Clans Saga (finished) – I’ll be honest with you; I couldn’t read this series without feeling triggered. In fact, I skipped one of the books because it hit many sore points. But if you like reading about succubi, open sexual relationships, and magical warring clans in an alternate earth, maybe it’s for you.
    • Found in Kindle Unlimited on Amazon general search
  • Dana Marie Bell (author website) writes paranormal romance with fantasy elements and great world-building for each series. She has so many series that I am only including the two series with LGBTQ main characters in the books.
    • The Gray Court series is based on fae mythology. The main characters in the third book are a woman and two men who become bonded mates in a triad relationship as they struggle to keep their loved ones and their way of life safe from “normal humans” and unknown enemies.
    • The True Destiny series is based on Norse mythology and explores relationships among the pantheon of gods and goddesses living as mortals with limited power and some memory loss. No one knows exactly who are friends or enemies – not even within family units. The different main characters find one or two life partners as they unravel the mysteries of their past and avoid enemies trying to kill them. The books I read have m/m or m/m/f main character relationships. Newer entries might have f/f or f/f/m relationships too.
    • This series is not part of Kindle Unlimited, but you can find a book list with free samples here

Self-Help or Inspiration Books

I have two books for this section. One you might have seen before on another list. The other is one of my favorite inspirational authors.

  • The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams
    • If you look on my Pinterest page, you will find the Dalai Lama included in my board of favorite coping resource books. He has inspired me and provided hope almost since the beginning of this journey.
    • The book discusses what joy means to both spiritual leaders from a religious and secular perspective and invites the readers to learn with them as they explore what joy means and how to achieve it in the modern world
    • Books like this are sometimes difficult for me to read, so I listen to them and similar topics as audiobooks and podcasts and am currently listening to the unabridged version from the library.
  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David J. Epstein
    • For many years I struggled with being a work failure in my family because I lost interest in job opportunities and changed careers/classes/direction all the time. I wasn’t “good” at any specific skill set and kept changing majors and career directions throughout my 20s. I started and stopped many graduate school and certificate programs for many reasons and had trouble defining what I wanted to do in life.
    • My dreams were dismissed because being a freelance writer or author is unreliable and difficult to succeed in. And other interests like alternative medicine were hippy-dippy hobbies, not careers.
    • Plus, how could I run a business or work in a company when I dressed poorly, couldn’t do math well, and wasn’t logical or able to commit to a career path?
    • If you experience similar questions or struggles, maybe this book will help you the way it helped me: by exploring and sharing stories about different successful people who specialized from an early age and others who explored for many years before specializing in one or more areas and becoming successful

Hobbies and Other Interests

As you know, I’ve been on partial sabbatical to focus on life outside my computer. It’s my life/life balance or Self Care as I work hard to provide relevant, high quality content here. To keep the topics relevant, I have to take classes, apply the lessons in practical ways, and ensure time for everything else in life.

So I decided to share some blogs, books, and other resources you might find interesting if you write, blog, are interested in self care, own a business, are starting a business or a blog or a website, or like to explore because you’re a curious person too.

Aromatherapy, Herbs, and Self Care

  • Aromahead Institute blog learn about essential oils and get interesting DIY recipes
  • AromaCulture magazine’s podcast – interviews with practicing aromatherapists, herbalists, and other practitioners about current research and events related to herbs and essential oils
  • CommonWealth Center for Holistic Herbalism Blog and Podcast – Herbs as food and medicine are a lifelong interest. The blog and podcast discuss herbs, sharesDIY recipes, and offer educational resources to learn more about plants

Content Creation for blogs, websites, etc.

  • Adobe Spark blog has tutorials and free templates people can download and share to create content (my go to for creating images)
  • PicJumbo.com – get free stock photos plus information about related topics
  • LinkedIn Learning – this is normally a paid subscription, but I get it free through my other job. If you’re wondering where I learn the tech skills that make this site unique, a lot of it is from the LinkedIn Learning classes. They are partnered with Lynda.com, so if you are a Lynda.com member there may be a way to get access to LinkedIn Learning through that account

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Finding Language to describe body memory challenges

DISCLAIMER 1 – no photos today.  I couldn’t think of anything relevant and didn’t want to include book covers.  Also, this is a long, potentially triggering post.

DISCLAIMER 2 – what you read here is my opinion only and based on personal experiences. This information is provided as an alternate perspective and optional coping strategy from one survivor to another and does not replace professional recommendations from medical and/or mental health providers

Background

When I first started blogging, I mentioned many books as my favorite resources, but never explained why.  Same went for books that did not help or had unexpected results.

Shame is one reason – a personal shame that belittles me every time I think about sharing an opinion.

Lack of language to explain my feelings, thoughts, and experiences was the other reason. It’s really hard to say “my instincts did not react well to … in the book” and be taken seriously.

Now I have words and language to describe my experience of using Peter Levine’s process.  The experience was neither negative nor positive. It was overwhelming and opened up avenues into the trauma that no one predicted. Not any part of me could cope alone, and we weren’t able to cope together back then. It was before we re-connected with each other.

The process of movement, bodywork, integrating feelings with sensations, and releasing energy is what I described here in the post about Anger. The exploration of bodywork and so on started with Peter Levine’s book Waking the Tiger and continued with Sexual Healing as feelings and sensations started coming back to my body awareness. Plus I was genuinely confused and distressed about not being able to “feel” or “experience” sexual feelings at the time.

So what happened?

As with many steps in my recovery journey, my mind/feelings heal faster than my physical body. Spirit/soul/spirituality/religion helped keep me on the path to recovery through faith and belief in a higher power, but it couldn’t help me bridge the divide between my mind and body. The lack of communication and integration between the two fit the whole “two steps forward, one giant step backward” scenario.

My mind and spirit were and are on the fast track to recovery.  But my body (the parts of me that experienced the worst and most significant amounts of trauma) is taking longer to find its recovery path.

Psychotherapy helped heal the emotional and mental wounds; and partial programs taught me how to safely experience feeling. Neither technique helped me cope with the body pain and other sensations that got worse as my mind healed.

Waking the Tiger taught me a different way of looking at the mind/body/spirit connections and how to identify if a physical sensation related to an emotion or feeling.  But all I felt when inside my body was varied degrees of pain.

Every feeling was connected to pain of some kind. I didn’t have the tools, knowledge, or skill set to work with the pain and find out what was underneath.  Other sensations were hiding underneath the pain.  Part or parts of me knew that, recognized that not every feeling equals pain.

But past conditioning is hard to break.  And my trainers excelled at their specialties. They linked all of my feelings back to pain in childhood so that my body experienced pain every time I felt and emotion. This epiphany did not appear until years later and occurred while I was reading the Pay/Changeling book Series by Nalini Singh.

Reading a series about the recovery process of a whole race that spent 100 years not feeling provided hope that I could feel again too. Someday.  But I wouldn’t have made the that connection without the knowledge from Peter Levine’s books. And I wouldn’t have started searching for information about mind-body therapy techniques either.

Present Time

In the 3 years before I moved across the country, my counselor and I explored different types of mind-body therapy.  She and my other providers encouraged me to try alternative medicine and learn more about the mind-body trauma connection. I read Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book and listened to a variety of webinars about his approach. I tried sensorimotor psychotherapy with different practitioners and also Deirdre Fay’s classes too. And I tried taking exercise classes in a gym or working out on my own in different places.

Each resource helped me learn about myself and my body – limitations, boundaries, strengths, and vulnerabilities – so that I could say “yes, this is worth trying again” or “no, I’m not ready for this yet”. Figuring out my limitations helped more than I understood at the time.  Without knowing how far I could go before my body shut down, I kept wandering into the “no trespassing zone” and passing out.  Then getting mad at myself for doing too much.

What are my limitations?

Agoraphobia – it’s a reaction to not feeling safe and not trusting my body to signal me when we need to get someplace safe ASAP.

My physical body – While it looks healthy, whole, etc. on the outside, it’s still healing on a massive scale on the inside. Every molecule, every cell in my body holds some kind of trauma memory. Right now, it holds everything inside and doesn’t know how to let go of or move memories, feelings, experiences, etc. around and out.  i.e. let go of the past.

Lack of knowledge – I couldn’t find answers using conventional methodologies. All of their strategies were too overwhelming for my body to cope with on a sensory level. These days I explore all kinds of healing methodologies.

What works for right now?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – a combination of herbs, body work, and acupuncture that helps move my chi to promote integrated healing and wellness. Works on mind/body/spirit at the same time

Qigong in all of its forms – physical exercise (like tai chi), meditation (standing/sitting/lying down), and energy healing (sound, meditation, physical movement) works on an energetic level to heal by removing blockages, etc. that prevents chi from circulating through my body.

Energy healing education – chakras, kundalini, prana, etc. is a general term for using energy movement for integrated healing of the mind/body/spirit connection.  Qigong is a specific type of energy healing.

Nutrition & diet – eating nutrient dense, whole foods and drinking lots of water.  I do not follow a specific diet because my body does not react well when I try to feed it something it doesn’t want.  Instead, I pay attention to the physical sensations and use that knowledge to inform my food and beverage choices.

Thanks for reading

Alter Post: AlterXpressions – the host reveals herself

Hello Guests,
My name is TJ.  I guess you can call me the host of our expansive system.  But it’s not quite accurate because none of us is ever the host full time.  Not even in the past before anyone knew about alter personalities and Dissociative Identity Disorder.  I’ve always heard voices and made intuitive leaps that defy logic.  And I’ve always been different.
As a child, different meant being a target for bullies and racism.  It meant being too smart for my own good and labeled a nerd with no personality among my peers.  Within my family, being different got me excluded from group activities and punished or made fun of for being too slow, emotional, mouthy, disobedient, or ditsy.  Never for being smart or capable.
I had friends for a little while, but then they slowly disappeared.  As they left, I retreated to my amazing inner world.  When that didn’t work, books were my escape.  Crafts helped too unless Mom found out and decided to interfere.  Then crafts became a punishment.  Either I was with the cult, alone at home, or somewhere supervised by my mother.
The memories are fuzzy, but I do remember the following:
  • Climbing up high to hide from “monsters”
  • Crawling under sofas, beds, etc. to “escape” from something
  • Hiding in cabinets, boxes, closets, etc. and getting punished because no one could find me; then having my hiding places blocked
  • Lots of pain and fuzziness from “medication”
  • Lots of adults and secret games
  • Shame and despair and suicidal thoughts
  • Middle school hell because I got stuck with the “popular” kids
  • High school drama and worse because of “popular” kids, death of family members, being forced to go to prom, and graduation
  • Suddenly losing time  and being abusive and angry all the time without understanding what was happening or why
  • Hating my body and wanting to be invisible – aka negative body image and sense of self
  • Being a social outcast for most of my life because I never learned “proper” social skills
Who am I now?
I am one of many in our system and the face most people in the outside world meet or interact with.  I have a stable job in Corporate America, friends, and loved ones.  Lucky for me, I’ve had the same job for more than 10 years and earned the respect of my co-workers.  They accept my panic attacks and PTSD as part of working with me and value my skills.
The job provided me with mentors and an alternative family that taught me how to be a real person.  From those people, I learned how to be respectful, accepting, honest, and trustworthy.  They taught, through modeling and personal experience, how to interact with people and be social in positive, safe ways.  Without this job, I’d never have gotten away.
My favorite hobbies are: reading, cooking, writing, walking, and sleeping.
When not triggered, I also enjoy knitting, sewing, discovering my personal style, working with my hands, and learning about a variety of topics.
I am interested in alternative medicine, nutrition, personal finance, mental health, intuition, spirituality, wellness, and living a conscious, authentic lifestyle.  I am an empath, a highly sensitive person interested in learning more about angels, spirit guides, guardians, and energy healing.  I want to find ways to work with my alters and integrate so that we all can enjoy life in the outside world.
Personal relationships are difficult because most people can only accept part who I am and reject everything else.  Friendships take time, work, patience, and trust.  Do I want an intimate relationship someday?  Yes.  Will that happen in this life time?  I don’t know.  Do I have hope?  Yes.
Finding a man (because I am heterosexual) who can accept all parts of me sometimes feels like searching for a unicorn.  I mean who could ever accept, not only the darkness inside me, but also that I am a multiple?  Yet I still have hope and am open to all of the possibilities my future holds.  So maybe one day…
Thanks for reading.

Anger: Learning to acknowledge and feel anger inside

 

My Terrible Temper

Have I mentioned that I have a terrible temper?  Well, I do.  And that temper gets let out when I do feel angry – not frustrated, or upset, or irritated – so I work hard not to go there.

The only times I truly feel anger (even rage) are when I get triggered into flashbacks or fight/flight/freeze/faint responses.  And then, it’s often one or more alters who feels this anger and shares the memories with us.  We all work together cope with the anger safely now.  No one wants to lash out or take this anger out on undeserving people in the outside world.

Only the outside world?

Sometimes it feels that way.  The anger inside me/us is deep, old, and strong.  Much of it is directed at people who are not part of our lives anymore.  But before they departed our lives, these predators convinced the majority of us that we need to be angry with ourselves and not them.  Even now, many of the alters in our system still believe this and turn the anger inwards.

Feeling the Energy Change Around Me

When you or someone around you is angry, do you feel the energy or environment change around you?  Does your stomach start to hurt or your head suddenly ache?  Do you feel scared of the anger?  Does it change your mood?  Can you feel the anger intensify as an argument escalates?  Can you feel the anger die down as people calm down and try to talk it out using different tones?

I do.

That is what I experience every time I feel angry or someone around me feels angry.  Why?  Not sure, but here is my reasoning.  **Here again I feel the need to remind guests that this is only my opinion (the AlterXpressions System) and not that of anyone else.**

Anger is an emotion.  Emotion is charged energy.  Energy spreads out once it’s released into the atmosphere.  And because anger scares me, I tend to reject or deny or avoid it.  I would look for an escape when the anger is around, but not directed at me. I would try to avoid confrontations so that I don’t experience the trembling, sick, shaky, confusing, negative feelings afterwards.  That never worked though.

Instead, the avoidance, rejection, and denial seemed to attract more and more angry feelings, negative energy, confrontations, explosions of anger from myself etc. into my world.  Got to the point where I was afraid to be around anyone in case the anger spilled out of me or someone else around me.

What changed?

  • Learning (as an adult) that feelings are real and that expressing one’s feelings is a natural, healthy part of being human.
  • Understanding what emotions are and how our mind uses the information they provide to help us stay safe & make connections with others.
  • Finding caring individuals who understand the language/experience of trauma and are willing to help victims/survivors teach themselves coping techniques for overwhelming feelings (aka Dialectical Behavioral Therapy).
  • Learning other coping techniques to help understand how feelings/emotions affect thoughts & behavior (aka Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) so that patterns can change for the better.
  • Understanding that energy can be changed
    • Feelings eventually go away
    • there are many other techniques to help accept the feelings instead of denying them.
    • aka meditation, grounding, Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Hypnosis Therapy, Somatic Therapy, and the list goes on.

Once I stopped rejecting the anger and started accepting it, the anger felt less intense each time.  My temper stopped getting the better of me.  And I stopped attracting so much anger and negativity into my life.

Another Use for Grounding

Every anniversary and holiday I struggle with overwhelming feelings and anger.  They make the time off feel stressful because my usual coping strategies and techniques are necessary but not sufficient.

**While I understand many of you may feel skeptical about reading books like this, please do  try to keep an open mind.  Many of the ideas and information on this website and blog come from alternative healing and alternative thought resources.**

And then I went to my favorite new age book store last Sunday and found a book called “The Reluctant Empath”.   The authors are two practicing shamans who tell the story of a young man who struggles with being extra sensitive to his environment.  The authors discuss coping strategies & grounding techniques for dealing with the energy and feelings the boy used growing up.

Two things stood out from the first 4-5 chapters:

  1. These people were not telling me I need to shield myself from the negative or the positive feelings & energy as the only effective way to cope
  2. These people were telling me that there is an alternative that works better BUT
    1. It’s counter-intutitive
    2. It takes a lot of practice
    3. It means facing fears

What is the alternative?

Grounding out the feelings – yes a grounding coping strategy

Now, I’m not going to be the best at explaining this concept right now.  To be honest, I’m still learning how to use it.  But here is my take on their grounding technique:

Our minds & bodies are conduits for energy.  Energy helps our heart beat, blood flow, brain work, etc. as it flows through us.  Why not use that flow to move external energy in, through, and out of ourselves instead of letting it get stuck in our bodies?

Their technique resonated with me because I use something similar to cope with negative feelings and tolerate overwhelming feelings.  My version of this is the visualization technique discussed here

Conclusion

I used to think my problem was with expressing angry feelings.  Now I understand that the issue is with acknowledging and accepting these angry feelings.  By facing my fears around anger and acknowledging anger instead of rejecting it, I am changing the way I think and feel about the emotion and myself.  I can accept myself and the anger inside me now.

By acknowledging the anger as part of me, I am learning how to face and cope with some of the scariest parts of my past so that my recovery can continue moving towards true self-acceptance and a thriving life.

Thanks for reading

 

 

Body Memories: Coping with changes in my physical body continued

In other posts I’ve talked about how difficult watching my body change is for everyone in the system.  Every part of me (including my body as it is an alter personality) struggles with the sensations that signal memories, trauma, illness, or healing as body parts change in:
texture (firm/soft/squishy/hard/bumpy/smooth), size (grow/shrink/expand/contract), color (red/pale/yellow/green/blotchy/tan/normal), and shape.

Right now, my biggest concerns are related to physical pain, recovering memories that trigger changes in my body, coping with both memories and pain, and understanding how to improve my lifestyle (diet and exercise and self-care) to accommodate these changes.

  • Four months into my new home, and I’ve had to face some hard facts:
  • Internal healing means my body mass is shifting even if I’m not actually gaining or losing weight
  • I’m doing slightly more exercise than I used to and using different muscle groups because of the layout in my new apartment.
  • More and different exercise means more calories burned and clothes fitting differently
  • The weather here is milder, but still cool in autumn.  More clouds, less sun equal vitamin D supplements and maybe others too to help with fatigue and other deficiency-related issues.
  • The spinal pain, abdominal pain, persistent cold that won’t go away, bloating around my middle and other odd places, and sinus pressure are all related to my current food choices and lowered levels of activity.

How did I learn this?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including acupuncture and gua sha (type of massage) treatments with a student and supervising practitioner who have been helping me pinpoint where and how the pain manifests to find a root cause.

In TCM terminology, I have a persistent dampness and some heat causing circulation problems with my qi.  That means:

  • I’m having trouble digesting food and getting nutrition
  • I’m having trouble eliminating toxins in my body
  • This is causing sinus pressure, swelling, fatigue, lack of appetite, headaches, stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, mucus/phlegm buildup and so on.
  • It’s also causing the swelling around my spine and abdominal area to increase/decrease depending on what I eat, how much, and when.
  • Acupressure (massaging points related to those problems), dietary changes, and moving around more along with my regular acupuncture treatments will help in the long term
  • The process is slow

Why this is triggering

When I started nutrition therapy, I was eating mostly vegetarian/vegan style because meat products (chicken, beef, eggs, etc.) were too difficult to digest and made me feel sick/not hungry, etc.  But I wasn’t getting enough nutrients at the time.  And I was mostly making this decision from anxiety.  Eating food my family enjoyed triggered lots of anxiety and made eating/digesting food that much harder.

Since then, I’ve become adventurous about food again.  I’ve faced and conquered many of my food-related fears and enjoy trying new foods.  My alters have also faced many food fears and learned to enjoy eating, cooking, shopping, and preparing food.  The cleaning and storage parts are still difficult, but that’s another topic for a different post.  Part of that facing fear was eating different kinds of meat and dairy products again.

Another part was recognizing my cravings and urges to eat or not eat certain foods as triggers and anxiety reactions to hurt/punish myself instead of nourish myself.  And as the memories come back, I’ve been indulging in those foods while ignoring how they make me feel – sick, tired, heavy, low energy.  But eating the food reminds me of happy  times with my uncle and father’s side of the family.

But lately, I’ve been frustrated about my food choices.  Not interested in eating anything really.  Not interested in cooking either.

So when the practitioner told me she could see and feel the physical symptoms of dampness in my body, I decided it was time to make some changes along with regular treatments.  I’m going to try eating more plant based/whole foods style.  When I get a craving for chocolate or dairy or meat, I will pay extra to buy and use one of the substitutes instead.  Instead of buying pre-made juices and hot chocolate, I will experiment with making my own from spices and herbs that are beneficial and can be easily included in those drinks with a blender.

And when I feel like eating a meat product or dairy and my body is feeling healthy again, I will eat a little bit and see what happens next.  If I feel okay still, I will continue to add small amounts.  If I feel bad, I will continue to make alternative choices.

So what do you think?  Is this a good trial?

Thanks for reading 🙂