Body Memories: Identity – what do I look like (self and other perceptions)

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

This is not something I discuss often because the memories are jumbled up – a tangled mess that is filled with distortion. My perception of the experiences will be different from others who have known me in the past or shared the experience.

So I write posts like this with the following caveat:
My memories are distorted and filled with a perception based on negative body image and negative identity. That was then and not who I am now. This story is as factual as possible given the memory holes and distortion. Please read with skepticism.

Anorexia

My anorexia started with disrupted eating patterns and negative beliefs about food, weight, dieting, and self image from early childhood until early adulthood. At first, I internalized the messages from the women in my family – most of whom had weight issues and were constantly dieting – about how a female should look, what she should eat, how much to eat, when/where, etc. in order to be a proper young lady.

I’ve always been short and skinny. My weight problems included gaining weight and maintaining a healthy weight. As a child, that got me reverse shaming – comparisons with other family members saying “oh you’re so lucky you don’t have to worry about your weight. You’re so skinny and you eat like a bird. Wish I was that skinny and could lose weight like you do.” Their “praise” always came at a cost – “Oh you look so pretty and skinny. Why can’t you be as outgoing as your cousins?” or “Look at her; she’s so skinny and pretty. But don’t worry because you’re smarter and have social skills + grace. That’s so much better since looks go away fast.”

Whenever my mom went on a diet, I did too. Because in her mind, we shared a body. So I never saw myself as skinny or thin. People around me did. I always thought I was fat, overweight, and clumsy.

Sometimes, I still feel that way.

The eating disorder started around 5 years old; after the first time I was raped and gang raped. These people liked how I looked and that I was strong and resilient enough to take whatever punishments they handed out. Losing weight was a way to punish myself, control something in my out-of-control world, and punish the people around me by giving them what they accused me of being – a weak, skinny, ugly, dumb, socially awkward child.

Hiding In Plain Sight

Anorexia physically changes a person on the outside and the inside. By the time I hit my teens, I had done enough damage to not be considered “beautiful” or “pretty” anymore. I looked sick and tired and weak most of the time. It was easy for people to ignore me and not take me seriously.

That contributed to the social awkwardness – I couldn’t speak up or have conversations or friends with all the secrets – and my ability to be invisible anywhere at any time.

The downside – once I did speak and get people’s attention, they didn’t/couldn’t/maybe wouldn’t forget me. Or that fact that I was not exactly what I pretended to be to everyone else.

But the experiences leading up to the eating disorder taught all parts of me (because yes, I had already started developing alter personalities by 5 years old) to learn ways of manipulating my body and personality to meet other people’s perceptions of who I was supposed to be. I stayed skinny. My body was thin and bruised easily. I cried a lot and was quiet the rest of the time. It was obvious that I was smart, but also flighty because I had a hard time paying attention and participating in class. Kids didn’t want to be around me because I was too shy, quiet, and weird. Easy for the popular kids to make fun of and use for mean games.

And so, I learned that my survival was based on becoming whatever other people wanted me to be on a moment’s notice.

Who was I? What did I look like in my own eyes?

Young girl: Fat, clumsy, ugly, awful, stupid girl who didn’t deserve to live. Not as good as her cousins or younger brother. Not graceful or acceptable or good at anything. Hates her body. Hates being female. Always being used and shamed.

Adolescent girl: skinny, nerdy bookworm with too many curves and a bad attitude to keep people away from her. Hated herself, hated everyone around her and just wanted to disappear. Boobs too big or not big enough. Butt too big and got too much attention. Skinny in spite of that and always too short. Everyone made fun of me for being too short. Irritable all the time because I couldn’t be myself and show my personality in school. Hated being there and having to find ways to deal with bullies and teachers without blowing my hide-in-plain-sight cover. Lots of temper and anger management issues.

Young adult: ugly, fat, woman who gets too much attention even though she wears ill-fitting clothes. nothing to live for. hates her body and her self. hates her life. ready to die, but suicide doesn’t work. questions the meaning of life when everything hurts all the time, and she can’t even move without pain anymore. Doesn’t want this body. Hates herself and everyone around her. Does not respect anyone or anything. Anger and shame all the time.

Adult in Recovery: plain, sometimes attractive woman with a slender, curvy body she is learning to love, recognize, and accept. Chooses to live and be healthy by listening to and communicating with her body. Working together with all parts of herself, she learns how to change negative relationships and beliefs into neutral and positive ones. Pain is constant, and she doesn’t like her body much because it draws too much attention. But at least she is learning to be, express, and respect her authentic self. This woman has something to live for and values all the gifts in her life.

Adult now: not conventionally attractive, but happy with how she looks. 9 times out of 10, this woman recognizes the face and body reflected back from the mirror. She appreciates and embraces her curves, works with herself and other practitioners to find/utilize effective coping strategies that feel good, are positive and sustainable, and support her healthy lifestyle goals. She lives an authentic lifestyle full of love, laughter, and as many emotions as she can feel, express, and move on from every day. Her body hurts less, and the body memories are finally starting to leave her physical form. But that creates some anxiety and confusion because now her body is changing and looking/feeling/moving different again.

Other Perceptions

If you’ve read past posts, you have an idea of the negative beliefs taught to me growing up. If you’ve read the paragraphs before this one, you also can get an idea of the perceptions others have/had about me.

Perceptions are subjective opinions based on observations and shared information. Maybe that information is factual, maybe not. Maybe the observations are accurate, maybe they are missing vital clues and cues. Subjective means the observations and information are filtered through the individual’s own knowledge base and sense of self; then mixed with existing opinions, biases, information, emotions, etc. to create the opinion.

For many years, I relied on outside perceptions to understand who I was. I didn’t have an identity or a sense of self. My trainers considered me a blank slate with no personality. Peers who wanted to hurt and insult me called me a person without a personality. They thought it was the worst possible insult ever because as teens we all want to be seen as individuals with cool personalities who also fit in with our friend group(s). My mother taught me that we were the same person living in two different bodies; whatever she suffered, I suffered too. Her problems were my problems. Her failures, my failures.

But, not true with any positive or successful accomplishments. They were all hers.

I can’t remember when I decided to stop looking outward for approval and acceptance. Maybe during grief counseling after one aunt died in high school. Maybe when I started seeing the college mental health counselors. Or a college professor/mentor took me aside for a private talk. Or maybe when the police finally broke up the pedophile ring and put many of the people in jail. I was shunned for the last two years of high school because of the rumors and also some popular kids’ witnessing of me as my alter personality at those events.

But people always looked at me and made assumptions. Their perception was always based on first impressions and my physical appearance. It made my life easy because anyone who had a negative response to me was someone to avoid. That worked until I graduated college and had to get a job.

But by then, I had started counseling and was working on the idea of identity and perception. It was a concept I learned in college psychology classes and followed up on in my own time. The mental health counselor at the time taught me how to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and meditation to work through cognitive distortions and perceptions about myself, people around me, and experiences.

Identity

Identity is a work in progress that occurs throughout life.

Change is constant – always happening, never stopping. People can learn to accept and work with the change or resist/deny/fight the change and struggle in the aftermath as the change occurs.

Who I am now is not who I was in the past. Is not who I will be in the future.

But who I am now is the best version of my authentic self I can be in this moment and who I strive to be as I continue to learn, grow, and become.

It took a long time for me to stop hating myself and all the people around me. It took even longer to learn how to respect myself so that I could respect other people; then earn their respect too. Finally, learning to love myself is a constant practice. It’s easy to say the words, but difficult to do because it means accepting all the parts of myself I like and all the parts of myself I feel uncomfortable about. It means accepting what I have said and done in the past, what I say and do now, and that life circumstances can take away the choices that make me me.

If you were wondering, this is where the meditation practice comes in. Meditation helps me observe my self, my memories, and my experiences through an objective lens or perspective. From there, I can think about my choices and what I could have, might have, or would have said/done/felt/thought differently. And the possible outcomes if something changed.

Yes, that could spiral down into negative or catastrophic thinking. But thoughtful, caring, non-judgmental observation allows me to learn from my past instead of wallow in shame and guilt about what happened. Then, if a similar experience happens again (and it almost always will), I can think back on the past and choose a different path with a potential different outcome.

If it’s the same person and the outcome is the same even with a different choice, then I can say to myself: “I tried something different this time. I made choice and a change. The other person did not change or or react or act different. My change made things worse, but it’s not my responsibility or my fault because I did my best. I can feel what I feel and express these emotions safely; then let it go and move on.”

If it’s the same person and a different outcome, then maybe it was one or both of us who created something that allowed us to create a solution or a compromise or decide to not interact anymore…

You get the idea, yes? Because that works for similar situations and different people or context too.

But these mental exercises and examinations of my self: reactions, actions, feelings, thoughts, etc. are what helped me create a positive identity and sense of self not based on external accomplishments, but internal values.

So when the external stuff gets taken away (i.e. breakup with friend or partner, job loss or change, accident, etc.), I am still me with a stable identity and secure sense of self based on faith, unconditional love, respect, and acceptance. Not just of who I am, but also who each being I meet is too.

That is why I chose the photo of a man and a woman sitting together and smiling for today’s graphic representation. They look happy, healthy, comfortable with themselves, and comfortable with each other.

Thanks for reading. I wish I could add more photos, but honestly, I struggled to find even one photo that worked with today’s topic.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: When will I stop punishing myself?

*CAVEAT: This post is based on my personal experience and reflects my opinions, thoughts, and feelings about the topic discussed below. No one else’s opinion or information is shared here.*

I didn’t have time to read and respond to comments this weekend. Life got busy. And I feel uncomfortable responding to comments when my mind is such a mess.

Also, no photo for this week’s post. That kind of creativity is a trigger for anger – like journaling, coloring, and drawing – when I already feel overwhelmed with past stuff coming up and interfering with life.

*Yes I will write more on this topic again*

Back to the question

I’ve written about self-harm and self-punishment in the past. It’s an on-going theme in the story of my recovery and self-healing and one of the biggest obstacles I face now. The more joy I feel, the more intense the backlash becomes. As the backlash moves out of my mind and into my body, I feel helpless and less able to cope than normal.

Hence my body shutting down so often.

It hit home hard this week as I struggled with positive successes and backlash that put me to sleep/meditation for a couple days this week. Luckily, my day job was not so busy with billable work; writing projects require thinking and processing time – not something I need to be in front of a computer to do.

While my body and parts of my mind worked on processing triggers and flashbacks, the rest of my mind mapped out new sections for a first draft.

Friday felt better, but not great. Picked up billable work at my day job, so busy until late in the day. A schedule change for me. Flexible hours changed my personal plans and triggered circular thinking about self care, deadlines, and sacrifice.

Because changing my plans felt like sacrificing my personal time and projects for a job I like, but don’t love or want to take over all my time. That feeling triggered flashbacks to anorexia, being an empath who is also a walking lie detector, food fears, etc.

Explain about the lie detector please?

If you have met me or know me and wonder why I know things about you that you never talked about or can catch you in a lie, that’s why. I don’t purposely look into people’s minds or feelings. I don’t purposely absorb other people’s energy/feelings/thoughts. All that comes to me of its own free will as people and other living beings unconsciously project outwards.

To me, energy and emotions are a sensory experience. I feel them as sensations in my body or vibrations against my skin; I hear them as sound vibrations moving through me; I smell them and taste them in the air sometimes; and I see them in rainbow colors when I close my eyes.

Overwhelming, yes. Uncomfortable, yes. Combined with hyper-vigilance and other increased anxiety or symptoms…well what do you think about the phrase “HOT MESS”?

Reinventing the Wheel…Or Not

Instead of re-writing thoughts about punishment and self-harm, here is a short list of past posts.

Read or not.

If you want the full list, please use the search bar called “look around” to the right.

Short Reference List

Often, I prefer to give you the choice to learn more through the search bar instead of putting links here. It’s counter-intutiive to promoting my site and building a larger readership, but feels right to my authentic self.

Allowing my guests to choose when and how they learn more here means more  to me than getting more followers, etc.

This is one time when I feel comfortable sharing some links to past posts here.

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: Eating Disorder is not the same as disordered eating

Eating Disorder History

I have anorexia nervosa.  Right now, it’s in remission.  But stressful times casue a loss of appetite.  If I am mot careful, I start skipping meals, eating less, and forgetting to hydrate.  My body interprets the pattern of skipping meals and eating less as a signal to start hoarding calories and retaiming water to protect vital organs.  It falls back into the cycle instincitvely to protect my body from wasting away because past experience says “who knows when the body will be fed again?”

Even after I got the anorexia under control and found ways to make the allergies go away, I still had problems with disordered earing habits like:

  • food fears
  • dieting restrictions
  • obsessive/complusive behaviors related to food
  • shopping, preparation, cooking, meal times, and so on

I was taking in calories but unable to enjoy eating or maintain a healthy weight.  Low energy, sleep problems, lowered immune system…you name it I experienced it in some way.  My doctors and I are constantly surprised that the only long term sign of decades of malnutrition a d starvation is pale skin because of lack of melatonin production.  That means I have problems absorbing vitamin D and have to be careful of sun exposure.  It also means I have to take supplements.

Present

That was about 4 years ago.

These days my skin is a healthy  warm/neutral skin tone – neither pale white nor a obviously brown, but somewhere in between – and my weight stays mostly the same within a 5 lb range.  This isn’t my target weight or my ideal weight, but it’s the weight my body/mind/spirit believes is best for overall health.

When I do lose weight, it’s less than the 10 lb cut off that tips me into an official relapse.  Problem is that I’m already petite & slim, so can’t afford to lose any weight.  Being slim also means that any weight loss is easily noticed.  Same with weight gain.

I might not notice that my eating habits changed right away.  Probably won’t notice if my sleep patterns or food thoughts have changed either.  But I will and do notice when my tops feel too loose/tight or my pants and skirts start bagging at the waist or feeling too tight.

My stomach and abdominal area is really sensitive to pressure so bloating and discomfort from disordered eating usually catches my attention first.

What is the difference between Eating Disorders & Disordered Eating habits?

One can have disordered eating habits without an eating disorder.

For example, I used to have a lot of rules about what I could eat, how often I could eat it, and where I could eat it.  The rules didn’t include how much or little I at at one meal or what had to happen if I over/under ate.  It was almost like a restrictive diet that allowed me to feel like I was in control, but still eating healthy.  These rules and restrictions would make sense if they were related to a medical or physiological issue that made me sick if I ate something.  But they didn’t make sense for a healthy, young woman without any food allergies or sensitivities.  The restrictions were based on fear and avoidance.  Fear of triggering flashbacks or panic attacks; and avoidance as my coping strategy to not get triggered.

*Main difference here: I was aware of this and able to make the conscious choice to challenge these fears with support from medical nutrition therapy and mental health counseling.*

One cannot have an earing disorder without a history/pattern of existing disordered eating habits.

Example of my thoughts while practicing anorexia:
I’m too heavy.  I don’t deserve to eat this food or even enjoy food.  My parents, these teachers, are all trying to control me and force me to (insert physical activity here).  If I’m too weak, they can’t make me do it.  I hate my body.  It’s the reason why these monsters want to hurt me.  If I don’t eat, my body will change; they won’t want to use me anymore.  I have to punish myself for losing control at (insert family event), so not eating (insert favorite food) anymore will prove that I have will power, etc.

Can you tell the difference in my thought processes?

Why is this important?

Stress does odd things to mental and physical processes.  It changes internal chemistry too.  Trauma causes changes in development.  All of this can cause problems with digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Advertising and the internalized messages from caregivers also have an impact on body image, self-esteem, and eating habits.

As a child, I starved and had to scrounge for food when my parents forgot or didn’t feel like cooking/feeding me.  Most of what I ate were sandwiches, pastries, toast, and junk food (cookies, chips, canned whatever) that got stored in the pantry.  The refrigerator was too heavy to open until I was about 5 years old.

As I got older, my mom put me on the same diets she was on.  And punished me by taking away any food I liked whenever the diets didn’t work.  She fed me less so she could eat more because it was my fault she gained weight.  Yeah, fhat doesn’t make sense.  But it’s how she justified her eating habits.

Then came the constant criticism about:

  • how I looked
  • my eating habits
  • food choices

Finally, there were (inevitable) comparisons to cousins of a similar age and generation from everyone.  Too fat, too skinny, too clumsy, too weak…

Connection: Stressful Situations & Self Care (i.e. eating habits)

I don’t know about you, but many of the survivors I have met and talked to have weight problems, immune system problems, and health problems that seem to stem from A) food choices; B) thoughts and beliefs about nutrition; C) beliefs about what their bodies deserve or don’t deserve in relation to food and health; and D) a lack of their own sense of self.  For myself, I still struggle with all four of these topics and probably will for the rest of my life.

Life transitions are among the biggest stressors in my life.  By transition, I mean lots of small changes that accumulate to create a BIG change.

Some examples: legal name change; moving cross country; reconnecting with family; changing jobs; deciding not to hide anymore; advocating for myself at work; decorating my apartment; talking with an attorney; getting my first bank loan approved; becoming more active on social media; changing my self-perceptions for improved self-image.

Hope

But even after all of this, I feel hope and joy whenever a change comes my way.  Each experience taught me that a positive outlook, faith in myself and in the universal energy (aka spirtual or religious belief system) being there to support me as long as I welcome it into my life.

I know that each time something like this comes up, I will feel stressed out.  My body might go into these automatic patterns, or they might not.  The big difference is that I am aware this can happen and can put together safety plans to help recover faster once the stress eases up.

And as long as I stay within the criteria my medical nutrition counselor gave me, I will not fall into a relapse of anorexia no matter what my mind and body are telling me.

Options

If you are not sure whether you are experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder, maybe it’s time to talk with a professional.

Mental health counselors who specialize in eating disorders and have trauma experience are a good first step.

If you are not comfortable talking with a counselor, talking with your primary physician is also a good first step.  He or she can get you a referral to meet with a registered dietitian or nutrition specialist.  Or maybe refer you to a program that offers food and nutrition support.

Finally, there are many non-profit organizations and social media groups (legitimate ones) who offer support for people with diet and eating challenges.  A lot of their resources are free and available in a safe, non-judgmental (sometimes anonymous) location too.

Whatever your eating challenges may be, I wish that you all find the support and resources you need to be successful.

Thanks for reading.

Series: 2017 Reflections Part 1

The many voices of me

This year, my guests got to know the many voices of me in a way different from years past.  They read well-written, articulate posts with few grammatical errors.  They read off-the-cuff first drafts written by single or groups of alters.  Some shared affirmations or quotes; reviews about resources; stories about themselves; and a variety of interests or revelations that changed how coping techniques and strategies were utilized.  The voices of children, adolescents, and adults colored every post.

That made reading or following a lot of what’s been on here difficult for some guests, scary for others, triggering for many (us included), and frustrating for all of us.  Several times this year, each one of us got writer’s block or simply didn’t know what to write here.  It’s supposed to be about resources, but no one has had a lot of time to follow up on that since moving and working through a variety of difficult situations in our new home.

Plus, no one was sure if anyone wanted to read about how different alters coped with the same situation or different situations at the same time.  We were scared to put our voices out there and change the tone of this website and blog.

Gratitude

But we’re happy we did.  In sharing our voices here, more of us have been able to share in the outside world too.  So thanks for giving us a safe space to share ourselves and express out feelings or opinions or thoughts and explore.

Over the years, different alters have instituted their own personal gratitude practices as coping strategies.  This year, all 88 of us agreed to use a morning and evening gratitude practice every day to see how reminders of the positives in life helped us stay grounded.  Sometimes we all meditated together.  Other times we practiced alone or in groups.

We might hear everyone communicating or no one – sometimes our thoughts and wishes occurred on a sub-conscious level.  Either way, each of us expressed gratitude for something before going to bed each evening and after waking up each morning.  We also asked for guidance, protection, and to meet others who can teach us how to help ourselves continue to move forward.

Communication

This year’s big goal was about practicing and improving our interpersonal skills – especially the voice and face-to-face kind – for better communication and relationships.  The focus was for work mostly because a lack of verbal skills means trouble for my reviews.

In terms of personal relationships, I wanted to be able to engage in conversations and understand the cues without feeling upset, shamed, frustrated, or confused every time one ended.  I also wanted to be able to remember conversations even if there was switching or dissociation ASAP instead of hours/days/weeks/months/years later.

It’s hard to participate in a conversation when you are not always present or able to follow what the other person(s) is saying whether in a personal or professional setting.

But if I can accept my limitations and turn them into strengths, then maybe, just maybe I will also be able to face my family again without fear choking me.

Family vs Loved Ones

Family are the people whose blood I share.  Loved ones are the people in the family we created together with bonds of friendship, acceptance, respect, love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and trust.  I love my family, but do not trust/am not friends with all of them.  Some of my family are included in the group of Loved Ones; we share blood as well as the other bonds.

This year felt so scary because I reconnected with 5 more members of my family.  Each one offered acceptance, love, and respect – all things I hoped for, but did not expect.  As some loved ones reminded me – keep expectations low and hopes high.  Meeting with them either over email/text or in person felt like parts of my heart mended together again.  The hole is shrinking or maybe being emptied of toxic emotional wounds and healing with a balm of love and acceptance.

Either way, having family again feels really good.  The situation is still complex.  The ties between them and my parents or the others from my past still exist.  And finding a solution for reconnecting and staying safe is in the beginner stages.  We have hope though.  Hope and a lot of people willing to work on it.

Feelings

My alters and I learned we had feelings at 27 years of age.  That was 8 years ago.  Since then, it’s been a BIG learning curve to acknowledge, understand, express, and accept our feelings.  That was what the partial programs and non-trauma specialist counselors taught us the first time around.  What they shared and taught us helped a lot in many ways.

But it didn’t help any of us understand how to express or cope with those feelings when one or many or all of us felt overwhelmed.  Nor did it help us understand what to do with those feelings once they were expressed or coped with.  Observing many other people and how they coped with or expressed their feelings taught us that many people struggle with this too.

A lot of the self help books and books about anxiety or PTSD or healing, etc. skim over this too.  Not on purpose.  But the immediate issue is often learning how to calm down, relax, ground oneself, etc.  What do do after that is not as important in the moment.  And maybe other people don’t struggle the way we in our system have with what to do with the energy and feelings that still exist after coping, grounding, expressing etc.

This year taught all of us how to let go of those feelings once they’ve been acknowledged/expressed/accepted (any of these or other words work too) and we’re grounded or calm again.  Letting go is like learning not to hold grudges.  But the lesson applies to all feelings, especially the neutral and positive ones.  Feelings are supposed to come and go.  They are meant to be expressed and let out not held in.

Holding in feelings is like holding in toxic secrets.  They eat you and hurt you from the inside out.  Personal experience – my anorexia was all about self-hate and self- harm.  I couldn’t kill myself – some alter part of me refused to let it happen – so I held in all of those feelings and destroyed my body from the inside out.

Now, letting go of those feelings allows space for the body memories to surface and be expressed.  Then those memories are acknowledged, the feelings expressed, experiences accepted and let go.  Each time this happens, our pain lessens.  Our confidence and feelings of safety/security increase.  Our foundation strengthens.  And living in the past & present during trigger periods is less scary.

Thanks for reading

Life Changing Moments: Sleep, Food, Shower, Meditation ;) – an Empath’s POV

Survival Mode

All parts of me still feel drained and off center right now.  Some unexpected challenges and expenditures for my new apartment combined with scheduling appointments around work and the owner’s schedule made this week rather interesting.

Home

general spaces:
I love the energy in this building.  In spite of the old windows that stick and have a hard time opening, quirky sliding doors, and electrical outlets that are not always grounded or placed in ideal locations, this studio apartment really does feel like home.  My neighbors are friendly, respectful, and quiet.  The owner and her management team are respectful, responsible, and responsive too.

Unexpected challenges

  • Changing home decorating and budget plans
  • Multiple panic attacks because I am changing my budget plans
  • Learning more about myself and my unique (but unacknowledged) skills
  • Understanding why strategies that worked before are not so helpful this time

The Coping Strategies for Self Care

After a session with my intern Chinese medicine/acupuncture practitioner this week, I decided to try and learn more about empaths and empathy.  She physically felt some of the problems I was experiencing during treatment and shared that information with me with calm acceptance.

It was the first time anyone had ever acknowledged and used extrasensory skills in a professional setting around me.  And it brought me back to face some facts about myself. I am an empath too.  What kind, I’m not sure exactly.  I don’t always or often experience physical symptoms of other people in my own body.  But I can and do experience energy changes, emotions, and other information about people and living beings through my senses.

All of this led me to a psychiatrist and self-proclaimed empath named Judith Orloff.  I’ve been listening to her book called The Empath’s Survival Guide and learning about my extrasensory skills.  This includes coping strategies and skills like – sleep, meditation, water, and food.

While I don’t subscribe to everything she’s talked about so far, her unique perspective helped me understand why these four strategies are always part of my “Back to Basics” plan.

Sleep
Before reading this book, I knew that sleep was essential – my body would knock me out if I overextended myself – but didn’t understand how or why it was so much more effective than taking a pill or using an energy drink to recalibrate like everyone else.  Now I understand that sleep is a time for reconnecting with all parts of myself and allowing those parts to relax and replenish energy levels while also healing themselves.

Food
Anorexia and almost a decade of severe food allergies/sensitivities taught me to be mindful of what I eat, how much I consume, and when I eat (frequency of meals) to stay healthy, energetic, and balanced.  While following these personal guidelines helped me maintain a healthy weight and feel strong, they sometimes frustrated me too.  After reading about how physical sensitivities are part of being an empath and why, I am practicing more self-acceptance and less shame about my unique eating habits & dietary needs.

Showers – aka baths, water, etc. (swimming not so much)
I love water.  I love being near water, smelling water in the air, drinking water, taking warm/hot baths & showers, and surrounding myself with the colors of water.  Swimming – not so much.  Being in the ocean, a river, or a pool – not so much.  Being on the water in a boat – absolutely fine.  But I’m also ashamed of this love for water.  The why is still unclear, but it exists.  The book offers an explanation about why I (as an empath) love water so much.  I am skeptical and keeping an open mind.  Some experimentation is required.  But I always feel amazing after a warm/hot shower with my favorite soap.

Meditation
I’ve practiced different types of meditation since I was 6 years old.  Maybe even earlier than that as the martial arts some of my relatives practiced fascinated me.  Our relationship has been rocky at times, but meditation never failed me when I needed help.  Now meditation helps me sleep better and wake up grounded in the present instead of stuck between the present and the past.  On public transportation or in crowds, a simple mediation practice helps me breathe easier and cope until I am alone again.  Throughout the day, meditation sometimes replaces my need for a nap or helps me get some physical activity (mindful walk or mindful washing dishes).

Conclusion

The next steps on my healing journey are to explore, grow with, and accept my empathic abilities and how they are influencing my current recovery practices.  I don’t know a lot about being an empath or an intuitive; what skills one might have; how to use  the skills without draining myself; or how to protect myself from sensory overload.  Before now, I couldn’t even acknowledge that my mind, spirit, body self even had these skills.

My parts and I chalked it up to having great instincts.  And suffered the mood swings, outbursts, and energy drains from certain people in shamed silence.

Now, it’s time to step out of the closet and learn.  Knowledge is power.  Power offers protection, insight, and opportunities.  Plus, maybe this will help us all integrate and align ourselves better.  And we can move forward with our goal for a second career sooner instead of later.

Thanks for reading.