DID Post: Sometimes it’s okay to be an uptight (insert word) clinging to structure

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Background

This week, especially, had all parts of me reflecting on the so-called rigidity and busyness of my life right now. Starting something new often brings up boatloads (and I mean cruise ship or air carrier sized) triggers and flashbacks. Enough that I used to get discouraged from trying something new or beginning a project outside of my comfort zone.

Uptight, Rigid, or Something Else?

Something I am often accused of (in my personal life more than professional these days) is being a rigid, uptight, type-A personality, stick-in-the-mud whose life is too regimented to ever be fun. 

My face often lacks the appropriate facial expressions to show others I am enjoying myself, etc. Body language is the same way.

What these people don’t (or maybe can’t/refuse to) understand is that I relax when I feel safe and comfortable. 

The less safe or comfortable I feel, the more tense and rigid my exterior self appears to people.

Structure, DID, and Meeting Basic Needs (aka functioning)

During the years when I would lose time or forget as part of my traumatic amnesia, an ingrained routine was all that kept me functioning moment to moment and day to day.

I might not wake up knowing where I was. Lunch time could turn into an adventure that left me on the other side of town in an unknown to me neighborhood and no public transportation. After work, I might get on the same commuter train as always (time and berth are correct) and end up in another city all together. Mirrors used to piss me off because I never recognized the face or body reflected back at me.

And those are some of the big items that get attention. Smaller stuff like walking into walls and furniture, forgetting a process for work, not being able to learn a dance routine or martial arts technique, were less obvious items affected by DID and traumatic amnesia while also more embarrassing. Adults often chastised me for being inattentive, forgetful, etc. because I was so “book smart” and yet so uncoordinated within my body. Peers used that as yet another excuse to bully and make fun of me when I lived as a “normal” little girl in public school or among blood family.

But that same structure allowed me to live both lives without mixing them up often. Punishment for mixing up my two lives included a lot of pain and sensory overload. When those triggers visit, all I remember is unbearable noise followed by feeling sensations of extreme pain throughout my head and body.

And so, even when I lose a weekend or wake up not remembering what happened for weeks at a time, the structured survival routine embedded in my muscle memory ensures that I and my alter personalities remember to meet our basic needs until awareness and memory comes back. Even for small things like:

  • staring at a computer at work, getting triggered into a dissociative or alter personality switch for seconds or minutes, and coming back not remembering what happened in all that time. But the screen looks different and a quality check of my work shows errors I wouldn’t normally make…

And as I experience the pain again, I think to myself “well yes it hurts, but I’m still here. Alive, present, happy, busy doing what I enjoy.”

Conclusion

My life is not “typical” in any way, but it works for me. I get 99% of my work and personal stuff accomplished from within the relative safety of my apartment. Work is balanced with “fun-to-me” activities and hobbies. Communication with the outside world is often limited to email and phone or video chat, but that feels safe and comfortable.

I don’t feel busy, but people who hear about what’s going on right now often tell me I am exactly that. But maybe it doesn’t feel busy or negatively stressful because I chose each activity and feel joy working on each task?

And these activities are not substitutes for a “more active social life” either. They are how I like to fill my time and enjoy life. Socializing, for me, is a big trigger. When I need person-to-person contact, I check mail at the UPS store, go for a walk outside, get on public transit, or visit a store full of people. Maybe a restaurant or a park instead.

You might be wondering about these “activities”, so here is a short list not in any specific order:

  • my day job with opportunities to learn new skills and utilize my existing ones in creative ways (aka job 1)
  • aromatherapy, herbalism, incense, etc. certification or continuing education classes to develop a new business venture (aka job 2)
  • this website and blog (aka job 3)
  • my plants – talking to them, dancing with them, learning to enjoy having roommates again
  • cooking – my memories are finally coming back so I feel more comfortable and confident here
  • reading books, listening to music, or watching a funny movie
  • bath time – never again will I compromise on renting an apartment without a bath tub. A good soak with epsom salt or essential oil based soap works wonders for self care and relaxing

So my questions to you are:

  • how does structure (or lack of it) impact your life?
  • what activities, work, or hobbies bring you joy and fulfillment?
  • if you had a choice, would you include more joyful activities even though they will or could cause pain from triggers and flashbacks?

Thanks for reading

Resources: Aromatherapy for Anxiety Class

Aromahead Institute. www.aromahead.com
borrowed from the Aromahead Institute’s home page on 24March2019

Disclosure 1: I am a happy, engaged, biased student at the Aromahead Institute and have completed 5 different aromatherapy courses there so far. 

Disclosure 2: I am not getting paid to share this information or promote the class described below.

Background

As you’ve read in past posts, I am taking classes to become a certified aromatherapist. All of my classes are online at the Aromahead Institute School of Essential Oil Studies. Essential oils and aromatherapy has helped me a lot with my anxiety and related pain management issues, so I wanted to share this learning opportunity with you too.

Webinar Class Details

Andrea Butje is the head instructor and will be teaching a live webinar about how certain essential oils are scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety and stress on March 28, 2019 for $30.

The webinar is on Thursday, March 28th at 1 PM Eastern USA, and is $30.

On the webinar, I’ll teach you about three essential oil components that have been researched and proven to calm the nervous system.

I’ll also teach you about three essential oils that contain these components.

And three recipes for using these essential oils to keep your heart, mind, and nervous system calm.

That’s 3 components, 3 essential oils, and 3 recipes.

These recipes are simple to make, and convenient to use throughout your day.

I will also include some bonus lessons for you—a FOURTH essential oil that can inspire real peace in your heart, and an easy method for making your own vanilla-infused jojoba.

~from the March 20, 2019 email newsletter by Andrea Butje

Andrea gave me permission to share  this newsletter information and link with you. If you are interested in learning more about aromatherapy and can’t afford this class, you can always try the free class here instead. This class served as my introduction and convinced me to continue learning through the school.

Unfortunately for me, I won’t be able to attend this seminar. Life is too busy with work, recovery, and case studies for my certification class right now. But I intend to take this webinar class  the next time it’s offered.

Happy blending and hope you get some relief if you take the class.

Thanks for  reading.

 

Recovery: Panic Attacks, medical procedure, slow & steady healing

Rainbow aka healing light aka love
Photo by Alturas Homes on Pexels.com

Panic Attacks

Well, life likes to kick my ass on a regular basis. It’s a good way of reminding me to stay present, be kind  to myself, and stay open minded about what might come up as life changes.

My body does not often experience a physical panic attack bad enough that all of me is out of commission for any period of time these days. A rough estimate is 2-3 times a year for the last 3-4 years. Compared to once a month or once every few months before that, this is a big improvement.

So why did it happen? Well, something triggered a seriously scary and painful set of body memories that became flashbacks. The flashbacks literally had different parts of me reliving and re-experiencing the past all over again. No, I am not going into detail. Yes I will tell you it all goes back to my childhood/adolescence and life in the cult. And yes, I will confirm it does have to do with being female, puberty, and menstruation.

Beyond that, no I will not share anything else. Every individual experience puberty differently. What happened to me and continues to happen in my body is unique; just as yours is unique to you. Whether male or female, the changes are sometimes obvious; other times not so obvious. But we all go through it. And it affects our experience of life in the present and future.

The gassy, bloating sensations and cramps trigger negative thoughts and experiences for me. From there, it’s like dominoes. One knocks down the other until the entire chain falls. In response, the rest of my physical body tightens and prepares for “attack”. It doesn’t rest until the “threat” or “trigger” (in this case the flashback or series of flashbacks) ends.

On the good side, this one didn’t last as long as the others or cause exhaustion; I was able to work and go on with life as usual the rest of the week.

Medical Procedure

Wednesday, I had my fallopian tubes removed. The procedure itself did not hurt much at all. And my recovery is going well. I’m late posting because I’ve been sleeping a lot the last 2.5 days. The bruising is going away, and the incisions are healing fast – itchy but not painful.

The hardest parts of all this are a) recovery from anesthesia and other medications and b) having limited wardrobe options in cooler weather. 

What? you ask. Well, here’s the short version.

A) Medications and I do not mix. My body has a strong sense of self-protection. While all parts of me felt safe and comfortable in the hospital and around the nursing staff, they/we did not trust them enough to put in the IV. After 5 pokes with the needles, two nurses, and 3 injections of numbing agent, the anesthesiologist managed to get an IV needle into a vein in my right hand. Once the IV worked, I fell asleep and woke up in recovery not knowing anything happened.

But, coming out of the anesthesia was awkward. I experienced flashbacks and panic attacks (like Sunday’s panic attack) as my mind and body struggled to wake up. The nurse offered me extra pain meds, and I accepted not realizing the pain came from flashbacks at the time.

Upside, the pain meds helped with abdominal pain from the procedure.

Downside, I had my usual reaction to pain meds and passed out for a while as the flashbacks and panic attack pain continued to move through my body. No, the pain meds did not help. My body fought the meds like it fought the imaginary intruders in the flashbacks while I was asleep.

B) Because the incisions are on my belly button and abdomen, I can’t wear pants or skirts or keep anything like waistbands on the area for too long. March is still cool/cold out in the Pacific Northwest, so I still need to wear something under and over my dresses. It’s made getting dressed/staying comfortable at home and going out a bit difficult. Plus, I can’t bend over or do much heavy lifting even at home. That requires some creativity to get things accomplished and easy meal options. Luckily, my relatives sent care packages that made cooking easier the past few days. But I’m kind of tired of all that and itching to try something else for a change.

Slow & Steady Healing

This Wednesday marks 1 week since the procedure. Everything is healing well even if the rest of my body is protesting with physical pain. The most painful areas are unexpected to be quite honest. I am often aware that the sides of my body and mid/lower back around the bottom of my rib cage and shoulder blades experience sore muscles and pain. Same with my hip joints and the base of my skull.

But I have not experienced actual pain in those areas for some time. They would feel tight like a rubber ball when poked. The pain appeared in my face or along my spine. Confusing, yes? Lately, though, I have been some experiencing physical pain (kind of like when you exercise too hard and your muscles protest a day or two later) in those areas. Not enough to limit my movement, but enough to trigger anxiety and flashbacks.

And this is where the aromatherapy classes and exercises come in to play. In each lesson we are given category of essential oils to learn about and “blending” exercises to complete. That means I use the class knowledge about essential oils, essential oil chemistry, blending, carrier oils, and therapeutic properties to create my own oils, lotions, bath salts, body butters, etc. My first blends were geared towards muscle pain relief, decongesting my sinuses, and improving circulation in my body (not just blood, but lymphatic system too).

They worked really well, so I felt hopeful about the next group of blending exercises. Many of the oils in these three categories helped with pain relief, stress, anxiety, and wound healing. So I chose to create a bath salt, a healing lotion for minor cuts and bruises, and an oil-based ointment that worked like Neosporin for short term use. 

antibacterial, nourishing, and relaxing bath salt

Since the incisions are too new and delicate, I can’t use any of these blends directly on those areas. But I used the bath salts the night before my procedure because 2 of the 3 oils have antibacterial properties and I can’t use over-the-counter antibacterial soaps. The third oil has general anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.

lotion to reduce stress-related muscle tension or pain

And the lotion works really well for my entire body and head/face. I’ve been using it 1-2x a day on specific body areas every other day to test it out. Last night, I tried it all over and experienced a really good sleep. For the rest of this blend’s use (until I finish), that will probably be my go-to choice. Put the lotion on all over before bed time and relax into sleep. But, the next time I make this, I will be using less oil overall because the ratio of oil to lotion is too high for long term use.

trial blend to heal wounds, bruises, etc. have to see if it works…

The third ointment has not got much use yet. It’s a powerful healing ointment made with Tamanu carrier oil and a mix of essential oils with wound healing therapeutic properties that works well on bruises, abrasions, rashes, or scabs/scars. I’ve been waiting for approval from the doctor and nurses to use around (not on) the bruised and tender areas near the incisions. 

And no, I am not going to list the oils and blends at this time. One day, in a future post, I will share some of my recipes with you. For now, there are many safety concerns related to using essential oils, and I am not willing to give you half-assed information that includes a recipe, but not measurements, safety precautions, or reliable places to make purchases.

So the recipes will have to wait.

And posting new content might be erratic until I catch up with my day job and am more mobile. Recovery requires me to sleep more, rest more, and get up and move once every 1-2 hours while I am awake to keep up circulation. There’s a lot going on, and I want to be present for you when I share these posts.

Thanks for reading.

 

Alter Post: A minor procedure in the future…Fear of Success…and contact

* Two posts this week because there’s a lot to share.* And both are long

A minor procedure

If you are new to the blog, you might not have read the posts discussing choicespregnancy, abortion, or relationships. There are quire a few as sexual abuse is one of the main reasons for me being the way I am, so don’t feel bad if you skipped them. I don’t wish that information on anyone and only share those experiences here as a way of sharing knowledge, resources, support, and hope with others.

Last week, I had my pre-op exam with the gynecologist who will perform a bi-lateral tubal ligation on me in 1.5 weeks. What is that? basically I’m getting my fallopian tubes permanently removed as part of a sterilization procedure.

In layman’s terms, I’m getting my tubes tied.

And I’m so excited that my emotions and body sensations have been yo-yoing all week. It’s finally happening. Yes, I am concerned about the anesthesia and some post-op requirements like the antibiotics and pain meds. But otherwise, everything is all set and ready.

Some OT this week and part of next week allows me to meet deadlines. Taxes today and next weekend will take a big load off of my mind. Some extended time off: 3 paid vacation days + compensation time from when I did OT + 2 weekend days = plenty of recover time.

My family has already sent some care packages too.

Other than some housekeeping chores – and I hope to get those done next weekend too – when my body feels less shaky, I am as prepared as possible.

Fear of Success

It’s been mentioned before. I fear success almost as much as I fear abandonment, rejection, and loss.

That said, I’ve been reluctant to write about (or even speak about ) my recent coping strategy and trauma recovery successes outside the safety of therapy or hotline calls. Sure, I might mention it to family or friends in passing, but they might not realize the significance beyond the task. Not like you, my  guests, might understand.

All my life, I’ve wanted to serve – not in the sense of being a slave or trod upon or giving away stuff for free, but to help others learn and achieve their goals through empowerment, knowledge, and access to resources – and work in a career that allowed me to help others while also learning a variety of skills to feed my curiosity about..well…life.

To start in reverse order, here goes:

  • Last week I presented updates about a task I took on for the team and asked for feedback from the managers group. The vp of our team and my boss were there too. Everyone asked questions, and there was a lively discussion.
    • The big success: it was the first time in all of my 36 years I spoke in front of a group without switching personalities, having a panic attack, dissociating, not talking when I thought I was (or the opposite), or getting triggered into reacting from a past experience instead of the present one
  • This year, my manager approved 3 goals that included me writing internal user guides for our team documentation
    • technical writing has always been a goal/dream of mine in terms of an alternative career path based on my college degree. After 15 years and many people telling me I couldn’t do be a writer, it’s finally happening
  • At the end of 2018, my supervisor supported me in working with HR to update my job role/description to match what I actually do so that I have a future career path at the company
    • This goal is all about self-acceptance and feeling confident enough to advocate for change after being told for so many years that you are not enough and don’t deserve to be heard.
  • Finally, my aromatherapy lessons are progressing to the point where I’ll be doing case studies and a research paper soon. That brings me one step closer to my career change goal. One that is re-defining itself even as I write this.
    • Insecurity that I am not enough (skilled, experienced, intelligent, capable) to create a successful healing practice that supports others on their journeys using aromatherapy as part of a trauma-informed, integrated healing support strategy
    • quite a mouthful, but all  true. I am not and never will be a doctor or medical professional.
    • I cannot and will not ever be able to heal people on my own or tell them what to do or cure them.
    • I can and will offer them choices and empower them to take control of their health in order to heal themselves by offering support, resources, and knowledge to work with what they are currently doing.

It seems like every time I think I know what I want to do when I grow up, life steps in and makes me rethink my conclusions.

Contact

I’ve come to the conclusion that people will have issues with contacting me no matter how obvious I make the links.

Same with the RSS Feeds, subscriptions, etc. 

  1. There are 4 RSS Feed or subscription buttons/links on the Sidebar to the right of every page on this site
  2. One button/link is for WordPress members to use
  3. The rest area for non-WordPress members to use
  4. Many web browsers do not support RSS Feeds anymore, so you may need to download/install an RSS Feed collector like Apple News to subscribe and get my blog or comments on your feed
    1. Apologies, but I am mostly ignorant about this topic. Only learned about Apple News when doing some research on my sites’s home page to address a guest comment earlier
  5. Some web browsers, like Opera and IE are not as compatible with WordPress integration systems (from WordPress support) based on code and software topics beyond my pay grade.
    1. WordPress is happy to work with you to address these issues if you email them questions through their customer support portal

I feel your pain, honest I do.

As someone who is not on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, etc. I miss getting updates from my favorite authors and news about new book releases, videos, etc. now that they moved all that info to their social media sites.

And so, I’m conquering another fear (of exposure/vulnerability./visibility) by moving the contact form to a public place on t he top menu bar.

If you really want to contact me, you can fill out that form. I do respond to those feedback emails as long as they are not obviously spam. The blog rules don’t apply to the comment form.

*All I do ask is that you be respectful and polite if you do send me an email through the contact form*

If you’ve gotten  this far, thank you for your time.

As always, thanks for reading.

SELF CARE: 30 hours awake, fear, and general oddness

Colorful butterfly contrasted with gray scale landscape of trees sideways behind a grassy hill with clouds in the sky. Key words: tired, hopeful, dreams, scared, confused
Self Care is hard…

Beginning with…

I admit it. I’m still afraid of my mother. I’m still afraid of being rejected by my father. Life goes on, but the fear stays. And instead of being my present adult self, I’m instinctively reacting to those fears. It stinks.

Makes life difficult because the instinctive reaction is not something I can control. Wasn’t even aware of it before the past two weeks. Life is bumping along, and then…boom! Family is back. Body hurts. Life feels so confusing. Am I losing myself? Why am I reacting without thinking?

Until finally (with help from counselors) it dawns on me. Dong dong dong…I’m not happy with the boundaries my parents and I agreed to about communication. And the fear of not being able to discuss it with my father bothers me on many levels. Plus, there’s mom.

Anything I tell her or write to her is something she can use against me. There’s no point talking to her about this stuff. A) she won’t care or listen. B) she’ll use it as a way to hurt me and add more drama to my life. But Still have to figure out something.

So I pulled on my big girl pants and wrote to my dad after a few hours of self care at home.

And 30 hours straight without sleep…

The self care:

  • Cooking dinner
  • Watching a funny movie with dinner
  • Chatting with a mentor via email
  • relaxing with some prime time TV

Then writing the email to Dad before the TV.

TV as background noise, and I’m distracted. For some reason, card games are on my mind. I find a free online card game (no gambling, account set up, etc. required) where I play against a computer and get engrossed.

9:00 PM rolls around, and I think to myself…one more game. But that game feels like it lasts forever.

10:00 PM rolls around, and I’m excited to watch the next show. But commercials bore me, and I get distracted by a new round of Hearts.

11:00 PM and I’m listening to the weather reports while playing Spades. The noise continues in the background. I keep playing, wanting to win one time.

2:30 AM a noise outside distracts me, so I look out my window. It looks like late afternoon with all the buildings and high rises lit up against a dark sky.

5:30 AM and the sky starts changing color, startling me out of my game. It’s too late for me to try to sleep; work starts in a few hours. After informing my boss, I start working on the day’s tasks. With the first one finished, we agree that I’m better off getting some sleep before starting the next one. I leave work early.

Self Care at its finest…

Some chocolate & tea to keep me awake as I start to drift off…

A phone call to the hotline to check in and try and remember strategies to help me sleep.

24 hours awake, and my second wind hits. A hot meal, and talk with my mentor leaves me feeling relaxed, but not sleepy.

Some hot chamomile tea and deep breathing sets the sleep mood.

I crawl into bed, under the covers around 2PM and finally drift off. But my body has other ideas…

  • Gotta use the bathroom..wake up…WAKE UP…ouch okay 5PM, and it’s time to take a walk
  • Huh…why so dark…my leg’s itching again…ouch…it’s not going away…9:00PM and it’s time for another visit to the bathroom
  • Dreaming…dreaming…who’s trying to escape this time? Oh wait, time to get up and go to work.

And so starts Thursday with the foggy, confused mind and beginnings of body memory pain.

Pain, bruises, dream-disturbed sleep, and 2 posts today

Thursday began with a headache and minor back/shoulder pain.

Friday began with intense, acute upper back/neck/should pain every time I tried to move my arms. Thankfully, my home made massage oil and steam blend helped enough to make working possible. Early to bed, late to wake up. More massage oil and some time with the self-massage ball on my back and shoulders.

Epiphany hits…it’s not my back that hurts, but the muscles around my arm pits and rib cage. The pain registers along my spine because the other muscles are still numb and can’t register pain. Yay for body memories…not. Late to bed, and late to wake up the next day.

Water the plants, worry about my ivy – it’s not getting enough water and needs to be re-potted – but not sure how to fix the problem yet. Pack a donations bag and off to counseling.

A one-two punch: new building management = lots of anxiety. When was I notified? Officially the notes were taped on Friday. Personally, I got them on my way to counseling. Yeah, new management and I just signed a 14 month lease…

Self Care: drop off some donations (clothing that doesn’t work) and get lunch at a new restaurant. Then visit my favorite store and the library. Enjoy the walking around and go home to relax. Some card games, lots of sleep, and more pain management until Sunday morning.

Pain Management: massage ball, light stretching, and finally looking at myself in the mirror – time to acknowledge the pain and see if it shows on my body. Surprise, yup the front of my chest and under my arm pits look slightly darker in color – aka bruised. And now I’m left wondering…what the heck did I do in my sleep between Thursday and Friday? Or is it really my body revealing it’s hurt so that all parts of me can start healing?

And here we are today…

I’m awake. The head hurts. The body hurts.

Took a walk earlier, but not as much fun in the rain and cold as other times.

Read comments, wrote to WordPress customer support, and published two posts.

That’s all for today.

Thanks for reading 🙂