Self Care: Sleepy Day & Short Post

I planned to write a follow up post about coping strategies for air travel when everything goes wrong.  That ways my Thursday/Friday experience traveling home.

But I’m too tired.  My body and brain ned to decompress before the work week starts up on Monday.  After crossing 3 time zones in 1 day and being awake for about 40 hours straight (including airplane naps), every part of me just wants to rest.  Our sleep deficit has not been this bad since before moving here.

Happy Sunday to anyone in the Northern Hemisphere.  Happy Monday to anyone in the Southern Hemisphere.

May you all take time for sleep& self care today also.

Thanks for reading.

Back to Basics: Building Small Successes

In terms of life, this week sucked.  Flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, more spider bites, and unexpected costs of flight/hotel to go visit family just made me miserable.  On top of  that, I’m still mostly unpacked, feeling low energy, and having noise/heat issues again.  Still, these heat and noise issues are nowhere near as bad as as the last place.

Did I mention the smoker who breaks the rules and smokes pot in the building?  No?  All I can say is that I can’t wait to start blending and diffusing essential oils in my place again.

But all the small stuff adds up, accumulates until my mind is overwhelmed and unable to cope with normal stuff.

So, back to basics.  Stay home.  Sleep as much as possible.  Set small goals.  Ask for help.  Act on the help.  Use every known coping strategy or technique available.  Then use them again.  Set a goal.  Conserve energy.  Accomplish the goal.

This week’s goal: set up my new bed frame and sleep on it.

With Ikea bed frames, it helps to also be creative, resilient, and resourceful – all characteristics trauma survivors learn in order to cope with the craziness.  Here’s an example of my resourcefulness:

Headboard to frame...
Cushions prop up the frame so one person can attach the headboard without help

Now, it’s Sunday night in the US, possibly edging into Monday morning depending on your time zone.  And in spite of some misgivings and one wobbly bit, I now have a bed frame put together.  Yay!  A real bed to sleep on.  With my new peanuts blanket and favorites sheets.  Fresh pillow cases to lie on too.

And here is the finished bed:

New bed
Bed first, the rest comes later 🙂

Hope the spiders don’t follow me in there.

And for anyone else struggling for whatever reasons, please remember that you got through it once before.  It was hard then; it’s hard now.  But you’ll get through this time too.

Thanks for reading!

Coping Strategy: Letting go of negative feelings visualization

This is my first time trying to articulate a meditation practice that I created and want to share.  Please excuse any awkwardness as I try to put this into a framework that makes sense outside of my mind.  Feel free to skip the background section and go right to the visualization practice instructions at the bottom of the post.

Background

I have always struggled with expressing and letting go of negative feelings, especially anger and shame.  My parts also struggle with finding healthy, positive, safe ways to express and then let go of anger.  Shame is something all of us try to acknowledge and let go of, but sometimes requires the assistance of an objective third party.

Many people will say that exercise, journaling, crafts, punching pillows, yelling, dancing, tearing paper, drawing, etc. can help release the negative energy that comes with anger.  I agree with those people in a general sense.  Personally, every single one of the suggested activities can be or is triggering and makes my feelings worse.  Only in the past year have I been able to utilize any of these strategies without being triggered.

Lashing out is not something I ever wanted to do.  Therapy and internal reflection taught me how to identify triggers that caused the lashing out at other people/objects/beings.  Real friends and mentors helped me become aware of my words and actions so that I could change my behaviors through a combination of CBT and DBT.  These days I hardly ever lash out at others.  And when I do, I work hard to reflect on why and not feel shame about making a mistake.

The Hotline and therapy sessions along with self-help books eventually helped me stop lashing out at myself – punishment, self-harm, reckless and dangerous behaviors – except under certain conditions when I have to use last resort coping strategies.  Meditation, reflection, and grounding strategies helped me the most with this kind of lashing out.

But none of these strategies or techniques helped me safely express the negative energy that comes with feeling angry or let go of the negative feelings that come from a flashback.

I had to figure out a way to express or let go of the energy stressing out my body without physical activity that caused more instead of less pain and negativity.

That’s how this meditation or visualization practice works.  It helps me let go of the negative feelings and associated energy bursts without moving or harming anyone.  Maybe it will help you too.

The Visualization

Move into a comfortable position that supports your whole body (I prefer lying down)

Close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths.  Inhale for 10 seconds.  Pause for 10 seconds.  Exhale for 10 seconds.  Repeat.

Next imagine you are sitting in a clear bubble.  You can see everything around you (a 360 degree view), but none of it can reach you inside the bubble.  You are safe inside the bubble.  You control what enters and leaves the bubble.

All around you the negative feelings are moving – sometimes they look like dark clouds, other times bright streams of light; maybe monsters, or spiders, or ghosts.  But you are safe inside your bubble.  The negative feelings can’t hurt you or take over.  The negative energy can’t hurt you or take over.

Now imagine a large recycling container with a vacuum on one side and a hose on the other side.  The vacuum sucks the negative feelings and energy into the container.  The container recycles the negative feelings and energy into neutral feelings and energy unrelated to you and any of your experiences.  Then the hose pumps the neutral feelings and energy back into the universe.  All of this is done using a remote control.

The remote control is inside your bubble.  You turn on the recycling container and adjust the speed.  As you watch, the vacuum starts sucking up the negative feelings and energy. You control the speed and sound of vacuuming and the recycler.

Slowly, but surely, the area around your bubble changes, becomes lighter, less crowded, less foggy until all of the negative feelings and energy bothering you right now is gone.  You turn off the recycling container, put it away, and observe your surroundings.

Notice any color changes, or sensory changes.  Notice your breathing – is it still slow and deep, or rapid and quick.  Observe how your body feels – are the muscles relaxed or tense?  Observe your energy levels – have they lowered or evened out or something else? Observe your feelings – do you feel more or less clearheaded, calm, relaxed?

Take two slow deep breaths.  Inhale for 10 seconds.  Pause for 10 seconds.  Exhale for 10 seconds.  Repeat.

Continue to breathe slow and deep.  Open your eyes when you feel ready.

***feel free to substitute your images for mine at any time in the visualization.  Some people prefer sitting inside an auditorium with a clear dome or laying on the grass instead.  The goal is for you to try this meditation and then adapt it to suit your specific needs if it works***

Thanks for reading this long post.

Shame: Another Backlash Epiphany

Introduction

There have been a lot of good experiences and positive changes in my life lately.  There have also been some unsettling realizations and uncomfortable changes about how I see myself and interact with the world.

The Pain of June (past)

One of the most difficult parts of June is pain management.  When I am awake, my body hurts.  As I try to sleep, my body still hurts.  I want to stay home and rest because the pain keeps me awake.  None of my “regular” coping strategies work.  In the past, the more I tried to use any coping strategies, the more pain I felt.  The more I tried to relax, the more tension my body experienced.

I felt at war with myself, and giving in to my OCD self- harm compulsions was the only way to get relief.  Because self-harm made the obsessive thoughts, voices, and words go away.  But the self-harm provided temporary relief and was addictive.  The window of relief shrunk as my body got used to the distraction.  And like any other addict, I had to increase the pain and self-harm to get any relief.

The Pain of June (present)

This year, the pain arrived on schedule.  The OCD compulsions to self-harm DID NOT follow.  The body memories, flashbacks, and hallucinations did follow the pain.  I’ve been living with the hallucinations for a week now.  The pain has ebbed and flowed…some days worse than others.  But the weekly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments have helped a lot.

I use TCM because each visit includes acupuncture and body work in the form of cupping, massage, or gau sha.  My intern practitioner also teaches me self-massage techniques I can use between appointments.  Together, the acupuncture, massage, and body work helps manage my pain to acceptable levels in spite of triggers.  This allows me to sleep less, feel more energetic, and do more with my time.  (all positive changes)

The Shame of Backlash

The downside is intense backlash and triggering that feels different and is difficult to cope with.  Shame is one of the few emotions we all still struggle with.  It’s something that requires help and perspective from an objective third party who can listen with empathy and help clear out the confusing bits.

Once the shame trigger is identified, healing with coping strategies can begin.  Why the hotline?  Because my counseling sessions take place every week or 1.5 weeks and this type of trigger often occurs between sessions.  If the hotline can’t help, I do reach out to my therapist.  But only when all other resources have been utilized first.

The hotline helped me and my triggered parts calm down enough until our weekend session.  Calm down as in be able to sleep and quiet the anxiety the evening before therapy; not as in make the backlash go away.  My therapist witnessed how the backlash affected me in real time.  She asked some questions and helped me understand why this version of backlash felt different:

Therapist: how do you feel?
Me: I feel fine; just tired.  My emotions are calm even though I am experiencing backlash.
Therapist: how does your body feel?
Me: tense.  All of my muscles hurt, but especially around here (pointing).
Therapist: you’re braced for an attack.  Am I correct in thinking this?
I paused
Me: yes, you’re right.  I do feel braced for an attack – a slap of some kind or my head being pulled back by my hair.

The backlash is my younger par way of saying:
don’t do this!  It’s dangerous.  Our body is going to get hurt.  Then ALL of us will feel t he pain.  And we’ll be humiliated in front of everyone.  And then be punished even worse.

Conclusion

This time, backlash has to do with memories of physical abuse for showing confidence or accomplishments instead of hiding and letting someone else take the credit.  It happens most often when I interact with the world by sharing my experience, skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and abilities with confidence.

The more often I step out and do this, the more often I experience backlash.  When combined with anniversaries or other flashbacks, the pain increases.  Emotional distress remains the same or decreases.  With this new information, my therapist and I are working on coping strategies and techniques for pain-related flashbacks.

As I learn more, I will share the information in future posts.

 

 

Thanks for reading

 

 

Coping Strategy: Meditation Conflicts & Confusion

A quick review of my thoughts about and experience with meditation

I started meditating as a child in Taekwondo classes.  We had 5-15 minutes of meditation every class 2-3 times a week.  The purpose of that meditation was to practice focus and calmness – we focused on breathing in and out, sitting quietly, not moving.  As we got older, the focus transitioned to clearing our minds and letting thoughts flow in and out while focusing on our breath.  It was a sitting meditation with our eyes closed, posture straight.

As I got older and went to college, I learned about yoga and moving meditation too.  This was more like mindfulness meditation where the focus was on being present and acknowledging the sensations brought on by moving slow (yoga) or by the environment (walking meditation).  We let our feelings and thoughts flow in and out, acknowledging each bit while focusing on the deliberate, slow movement our bodies made with each position.

Then I started learning about Buddhism and meditation to clear my mind or free myself from the clutter of incessant thoughts and feelings.  This meditation was the most difficult for me as an adult because every time I started to clear my mind, my past memories (blocked by amnesia) would surface and cause flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.  That kind of ruined the whole clear-my-mind and look into the emptiness goal.  Visualization worked better for me because I got to “paint a picture” with my imagination; less scary than looking into clear water or dark nothing.

Different kinds of meditation suit different purposes

The meditation taught in most therapy groups, sessions, and programs is mindfulness meditation.  Mindfulness can help keep an individual grounded in the present while also teaching how to slow down and be more aware of self/surroundings.  Mindfulness teaches individuals how to be more aware of one’s internal landscape and offer tools to cope with overwhelming feelings.

Focused meditation is about learning mental and emotional self control by letting go of feelings and staying calm.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps build clarity of thought, compassion, and resilience depending on the goal of each session.  The hardest part about focused meditation is clearing one’s mind of stray thoughts and focusing on breathing or emptiness.

When I was in the partial programs, many of the moderators skipped meditation and dismissed it as too hard and not useful because of their failures to achieve positive mediation practice.  I felt angry when I heard this repeated; it made me rethink everything they taught.  Meditation helped me get to where I am and was my frame of reference so I could understand their emotion regulation concepts.

I use focused meditation to help with my shame and compassion work more than any other type.  It helps all of us (my alters and I) get in touch with the scary feelings from a safe and grounded place inside of ourselves.  The mindfulness meditation helps with the severe physical pain that comes from anxiety and body memories; we use this most often during panic attacks, nightmares, and insomnia.  And the moving meditation helps us cope with too much energy or compulsion to over exercise.  It offers a stretch and tone without a lot of exertion.

Lessons from almost 2o years of meditation practice

  • Meditation is hard
  • Meditation takes practice, persistence, and patience to learn
  • Trying to practice a focused meditation with DID and many alters is scary, confusing, and frustrating because the thoughts and feelings of other alters enter and flow through the same consciousness as the one trying to meditate.
  • Maintaining a level of physical stillness for some meditation practices with DID might be a big challenge
    • So far I have not found a way to stop my eyes from moving (sign of switching alters) when I practice a focused standing or sitting meditation with my eyes open.
  • Remember that meditation practice can be fluid and flexible to a degree
    • Try to accommodate personal quirks like alters or injuries in ways that still allow for beneficial practice
  • Clearing one’s mind is not exactly the goal – calming one’s mind is a better option
  • Calming one’s mind is scary for everyone because once you calm down, you can see everything you’ve been hiding from or ignoring or denying about yourself
  • The goal is not to attain emptiness or numbness, but to be able to  observe and acknowledge your internal feelings and sensations without having them take over your life.
  • The goal is to feel and let feelings/thoughts/sensations inform you and help make choices in every day life
  • Meditation helps me pause and step back when I feel overwhelmed, confused, or stressed out so that I can calm down and make choice based on emotion and logic instead of only emotion or only logic

Conclusion

Meditation is a skill worth learning.  There are many ways to learn, but I think that in-person lessons with an experienced practitioner are the best option for anyone with doubts and questions.  Instructors have experienced many of the barriers that frustrate people on all levels and can help students work through them one-on-one.

As with any strategy discussed here, practice, patience, and persistence make the difference between a useful and a not-helpful tool in the tool box.  Please take your time and go into each experiment with an open mind if you try out any of these options.  Then, if the strategy still doesn’t feel right, please move on or tweak the strategy in ways to make it useful to you.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversary: Family Reunions, Birthdays & Shame

Background

End of July and most of August are typically the time of year when out-of-town relatives stay at my aunts’ houses and visit for a long family reunion that ends with the maternal grandmother’s birthday.  Some used to stay with my parents, but that changed sometime when I was in college.  This is speculation because no one ever told me anything, but I guess my relatives couldn’t face the truth of who was acting out against (aka abusing and scaring) their young children.  It’s easier for them to blame the scapegoat than to face a reality they refuse to acknowledge.

Why this anniversary is so scarring

But back to family reunions.  As scapegoat, I was mostly ignored or bullied by everyone.  And made to be the de facto babysitter as a young teen to keep me separated from the rest of my age-mate cousins and younger brother.  I didn’t mind because that gave me something to do with my time.  As I got older, though, so did the kids.  And the next generation of young children came from my older cousins – people who didn’t trust or like or respect me – and other relatives by marriage who didn’t want my help.  So I suddenly had nothing to keep the anxiety away.

And that generation of children were raised to treat me the same way as the adults.  And they did it with relish.  No one scolded them for being mean or indulging in bad habits around me, so they constantly made up ways to antagonize me.  And then with the silent treatment and shunning from the adults, I basically had no place to hide at family reunions.  No one to offer empathy, compassion, friendly conversation, etc.  And no place to go and cope with my anxiety or triggers.  I was on a stage with bright lights pointed at me all the time; they used every word, every gesture to humiliate and condemn me.

Typical Response

Dissociate, not leave the house, feel hyper-vigilant and scared all the time, stop sleeping, have nightmares, miss time from work, have panic attacks, severe body pain and memories, get sick, pass out, not eat, etc. for days or even weeks.  Lose time, lose memories, switch and practice self harm.

Response in new environment

Some disturbed sleeping, lots of anxiety, some flashbacks, lots of shame and tears, problems with my digestion and visit the bathroom a lot, increased body memories and body pain but not so much that I stay home and am incapacitated.  Some switching and reckless behavior – but that is more due to mistakes and learning a new environment that the shame capitalizes on than anything deliberate.

I am:

  • still working 5 days a week
  • going out with friends
  • active on the blog and website
  • going shopping/cooking/to restaurants
  • exercising
  • decorating my apartment
  • keeping in touch with safe family and friends (another post)
  • Utilizing my coping strategies (especially the hotline) while I try to find a provider here
  • making and keeping appointments for graduate school, scholarship research, etc.

Conclusion

The 2 months of anniversaries are tough.  Remembering how I was treated brings back lots of negative feelings that are hard to accept and cope with.

But being here in my new place, I truly feel safe and able to move beyond the typical fear.  Yes, it hurts.  yes I cry a lot.  Yes my body loses control sometimes.  Yes I feel aggression rise to the point where I scare myself of what could happen.

But it all goes away much faster.  I can let myself cry and experience all of these sensations instead of blocking them out.  And because of that, the pain and fear and anxiety lessen each time.  And each experience takes less out of me too.

So yeah, I’m still in rough shape.  The shame overwhelms me and causes me to apologize and over explain and feel terrible about good decisions.  It is constantly messing with my mind.  But I can get help from the hotline and my friends; they listen and help me find self-compassion through validation and reality testing.

I need my quiet evenings and 1 day a week of staying inside.  But I can spend that time being productive and happy (either doing something or doing nothing) instead of out of my mind with fear and disorientation.

Thanks for reading

DID Post: Different Parts; Different Symptoms to Address

CAVEAT

This will not be an in-depth post.  Goal here is to explain that not all alters experience all  of the same symptoms at the same time or ever with examples from our system.  The adults and teens are searching the memory banks, but no one can remember exactly which book or news article or blog post we read that explains this phenomenon in layman’s terms.  Finding and confirming the source may take a while.

This is a very big topic with multiple layers.

It will probably be explored as part of different DID posts, PTSD posts, Alter Posts, and Life Changing Moments posts.  If you are ever in doubt about POV or tone, you are welcome to leave a comment and ask for clarification.  Writing with alters can be tricky to navigate and consistently use the correct tone of voice, grammar, point-of-view, etc. for the guests without getting confused or awkward in the flow of writing.  It’s also a pain to organize multiple POVs in 1,500 words (Maximum of 2,000) or less.

Why is this important to understand?

To the outside world, I am one person with a set of symptoms and co-curring disorders that make up the complex PTSD diagnosis.  As such, I (the whole person) experience all of the symptoms below.

In truth, I am 1 person made up of 88 alternate personalities.  About 20 of these personalities maintain control of our system (aka parenting, basic wellness care, interacting with the outside world, ensuring basic needs are met).  Not all of us experience the same kind or severity of symptoms even though all of us feel body pain and physical symptoms to different degrees.  This is because not every one of us alternate personalities has every symptom and disorder on the list.

Confusing and scary, yes?  Or no?

A List of Symptoms and Co-Curring Disorders related to the Complex PTSD and DID:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Panic Attacks
  • Body Memories
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Fear related to crowds and feeling trapped
  • Dissociation
  • Body dysmorphia
  • Phobias – spiders; agoraphobia; bathrooms, pools/oceans/swimming; slugs/caterpillars/flies and other insects that leave trails of slime, silk, sound in the environment; the dark; falling down
  • Fainting/passing out
  • Severe body pain
  • Insomnia, restless sleep, disordered sleeping, nightmares, night sweats, night terrors, sleep walking
  • Flashbacks, deja vu, and related fugues
  • Shame/guilt/anger/self-harm/emotional overload

Some examples:My child alters experienced the most abuse and have all of the symptoms above.  But they struggle with utilizing coping strategies because the shame is embedded so deep in them.  The disordered eating started young with neglect, got worse with diets, and became full-blown anorexia by 6 or 7 years old.  But they don’t understand body pain or menstruation – any kind of physical pain scares them and reminds them of abuse.

My teen alters experienced less physical abuse (thank you for the martial arts training), but more physical and non-physical sexual abuse in the form of inappropriate visuals/touching/talk and body shaming.  Many of them have the worst body image issues and eating problems.  They have a hard time accepting our body.  The physical pain is acknowledged, but hard to cope with – triggers self-harm, starvation/restriction, suicidal thoughts, etc. to numb it out.

The adult alters experienced mostly verbal and emotional abuse, neglect, shaming, isolation, public humiliation, silent treatment/shunning, emotional blackmail, bullying (all alters experienced this, but not like adults), and stalking to  isolate and remove opportunities to move forward.  They experience the most body pain and have the best resources to cope with it.  But their ways of coping are not always useful or helpful because they do not address the needs of teens and children to learn how to acknowledge, accept, and cope with physical pain or the accompanying triggers and flashbacks.

Female alters have trouble coping with the pain related to menstruation because of memories related to specific punishments for any talk or overt physical changes that took place during puberty.

Male alters have trouble with body image and sexuality because of the sexual abuse and gender misdirection during childhood.  Females and males sexually abused our body/self.  They also liked to physically abuse our body during the sexual encounters.  Mom kept trying to convince daughter she was a boy and adopted throughout childhood.  Many non-incestuous sexual and physical abuse experiences also happened in a quasi-religious/cult environment with drugs and alcohol involved.

And the non-human alters hold most of the negative feelings like aggression, anger, guilt, sorrow, and of course shame.  Their first response is: a) fold up and disappear; and b) lash out and hurt/defend/protect with violence.  They also hold the internalized messages from abusers and struggle with hearing the voices, obeying compulsions, obsessive thoughts, and reality testing.

Conclusion

When I and my alters get triggered, we all experience a range of flashbacks, anxiety, and symptoms.  One strategy does not work for everything – not even grounding or self-soothing or meditation.  Sometimes one strategy can help take the edge off of the worst of the symptoms for everyone in the short-term.  But that strategy will not work in the long-term or even feel helpful sometimes.

As alters learn to trust and communicate with self and each other, they find ways to “tell” what kinds of coping strategies will help, what kinds will make the symptoms worse, and what ones they are unsure about.  Having one body with so many different needs to address can be difficult.  That is why many of the strategies and techniques here are mental and emotional based instead of physical.

With imagination and creativity, many alters can learn to use, utilize, and/or adapt the coping strategies and techniques on their own or in groups on the inside while the ones “in charge” and maintaining life on the “outside” are working, walking, shopping, interacting with others, etc.  That’s what we do, and it allows us to function better in the outside world.

I hope maybe some of this can help others struggling to understand and cope with the internal confusion that sometimes comes with unexpected and expected triggers/anniversaries/symptoms.

Thank you for reading.

DID Post: What does my internal system look like?

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I haven’t written much about DID lately.  That is because my alters and I have been quietly working on internal strategies related to communication and organization.  We’ve been creating a map of where everyone lives and trying to establish coping strategies to help with shame and backlash that comes from self-expression and communication related to switching.  This way, even when alters go away for alone time or get lost, they have a way to find home again.

My first DID homework

After my therapist finally admitted to me that I had DID and why she didn’t tell me sooner, she gave me a homework assignment.  It was a long-term, multipart project that ended up taking months.

The assignment: identify my alters and map out what the system looked like visually.

My first attempt identified 20 alter personalities and looked like an idea map (brainstorming tool) of bubbles.  The next one had 60 alters and looked like a flow chart.  Finally, a flow chart and idea map became a spider web.  But no one inside liked that version.  For almost a year, I believed our system topped out at 60 alters, including me.  But then I started hearing a voice speaking in Spanish.  And another two or three played songs related to how they felt.  Many sent pictures or movies.

In fact, 80 alters showed up for the next roll call.

By now, we’d stopped trying to map out the ever-changing landscape and trying to identify the alters with names.  No one had a concrete visual of safe spaces.  And many alters changed their names as they grew and changed through the recovery process.  When I explained this to my therapist, she agreed to put this exercise aside and concentrate on other parts of IFS therapy.

2014 is the year I legally changed my name and finally started to feel safe.  It’s also the year our last 7 alters appeared to the system.  They appeared just after I re-read a book called Amongst Ourselves and started reading/listening to Pema Chodron’s books about fear, courage, and compassion.  And that’s when I realized we were coming at the homework assignment from the wrong perspective.  Instead of going back to our roots (pun intended) and looking for a nature-based metaphor, we had been using logical tools to draw a reasonable representation of an ever-changing, chaotic landscape.

What our internal system looks like

My internal system looks like a bent, twisted, stunted tree with a short trunk and many strong branches that extend in every direction instead of a straight, tall one with a strong trunk and perfect horizontal branches.  Our underground root system is deep and strong like any other tree, but visually, we look different from maples and pines and cedars, etc.  More like an oversized bush that got lifted during a wind storm and continued growing.  Or maybe like a bamboo that a got knotted and twisted into various shapes before continuing to grow to maturity.

IMG_7080  This tree reminds me of the knotted bamboo metaphor above.  I wrote the first draft of this post before finding the photo, but decided not to change either description.  It’s not often I find a mature tree that represents my internal family so well.

But this is important to us because with switching and communication comes a giant helping of shame and self-hatred.  For too many years, we all were taught not to communicate with each other, not to work together.  And when caught, we were abused even more – many of my alters are mouthy and assertive.  They speak their minds and do not hold back.  This was seen as rebellion and defiance; two actions that caused any and all perpetrators to escalate their tactics in order to shut everyone down again.

So you probably will be seeing more posts about DID and coping strategies we use to help with anxiety induced switching, panic attacks, shame, and other triggers.

You will also see a few posts about mindfulness and meditation as relates to trauma and recovery.

Thanks for reading.

PTSD: Depression is not always a chemical imbalance

Introduction

I was talking with a friend of mine over dinner earlier this week, and she mentioned not wanting to take meds for depression.  Another male friend of mine said the same thing a few months ago.  Both said that the medicine makes them foggy and feel numb, so preferred not taking the psychiatric prescriptions.  And during my final visit with my dietitian yesterday, depression and stress related food issues came up.

So I thought this would be a good time to share some facts I’ve learned about depression and anorexia as related to (symptoms of) my PTSD.  You see, the complex posttraumatic stress disorder sometimes includes symptoms and side effects that can also be standalone diagnoses.  Depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, self-harm, phobias, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and dissociation to name a few.

Depression

I struggle with depression often.  It comes and goes in waves depending on a schedule of personal holidays and anniversaries embedded in my mind and body.  For a long time, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses tried to give me all kinds of pills.  Sometimes they gave me the same ones my mother was on; this made sense to them as our supposed symptoms of anxiety and depression were similar.

Then they started giving me other pills to help with the psychotic symptoms: hearing voices; hallucinations, sleep issues, and so on.  The pills were supposed to make the symptoms go away – i.e. I wouldn’t hear voices or hallucinate anymore.  The nightmares would disappear.  And I’d sleep through the night.

Well I did start sleeping a lot.  And for a few months at a time, my mind would be quiet.  But, I felt numb and spent most of my time living in a fog.  Nothing penetrated the fog.  And my coordination problems got worse.  Concentration became difficult.  I started to get sick often.

So I stopped taking medicine and tried to find other coping strategies.  But I kept wondering what was wrong with me that the medicine couldn’t fix a biological/chemical problem like depression the way it did for others.  If I had depression, then it was a chemical imbalance.  Medicine fixed chemical imbalances.  Right?

Not exactly…my last psychiatrist explained to me that people who have experienced severe trauma do have problems with depression.  But their depression is not biological or chemical based.  It comes from having been traumatized; only therapy modalities that focus on healing from trauma can help with that kind of depression.

He said that about anxiety too; the symptoms of anxiety can be masked by medicine, but the cause of the anxiety cannot.  So when the medicine wears off, I will experience all of the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression that were masked.  Sometimes, the symptoms will be worse because they were repressed (backlash).  It’s a risk I would take every time I took one of the pills.

These days, the only time I take one of those pills is if I haven’t slept for more than 24 hours and need to knock myself out.  Hence the nickname “knockout pills”.

Final Thoughts

Find a mental health provider who understands trauma (trauma-informed or trauma trained).  Not all of them understand trauma or how it affects mental health.  Then discuss symptoms and past experiences with medication with this person and see if medication is the right path.  If it’s not, ask for other suggestions and options.  If medicine does seem like a good path, keep a journal of the different symptoms and side effects that occur or not occur when on and off the pills.

I am not opposed to taking medicine or pills.  I am opposed to having my mental clarity and independence compromised.  So if ever there comes out an FDA approved pill that can help with my symptoms without making me foggy or so tired I sleep 20 hours a day for weeks or sick to my stomach, I will try it.  Until then, I am better off without the pills.

Thanks for reading

Body Memories: Am I sick or reliving an experience or both?

CAUTION: The story below is kind of gross…read at your discretion

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Every year around April and May, I get really sick with a sinus infection of sorts.  It’s viral and causes my sinuses to get filled with fluid; it blocks passageways around my jaw, ears, and throat while leaving the areas around my nose and eyes slightly swollen and heavy-feeling.  The sensation itself is not unknown to me as I have been prone to head colds and sinus infections since childhood.

The difference between this one my others is the intensity of symptoms that come with it.  As a child and teen, I spent the months sneezing and blowing my nose; it looked rather gross to people who saw me constantly sneezing and using up tissues like people change underwear or socks or started sneezing and couldn’t get tissues quick enough.  During college, when I realized tissues were hard to carry and dispose of with class schedules, the sneezing changed to nausea followed by bouts of vomiting over a period of days.

And if I was lucky, that wouldn’t happen again for a while.  As for outward symptoms, nothing swelled up or looked obviously wrong with my face.  My jaw and teeth started to hurt.  My nose and eyes started to hurt.  Then my throat and ears.  Everything felt stuffy.  Finally, headaches and exhaustion kept me from feeling hungry or thirsty.

The doctors told me it was allergies and gave me medication.  The medication kept the stuff inside me so I stayed sick longer; made me sleepy and lethargic; caused other reactions that made me sick.  Then they thought it was a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics.  Then they thought maybe it was a deviated septum; that got corrected in high school and kept the worst infections away for a while.  When I switched doctors, the new PCP told me that there are bacterial and viral sinus infections.  Antibiotics don’t work with viral ones, so try saline solution, lots of fluids and warm liquids, tylenol, etc.  That actually did/does help some.

Odd part is, I only get sinus infections and head colds around or after certain events and anniversaries:

  • Visiting parents and certain relatives
  • Going to parties, bars, dancing, social events with family or acquaintances
  • Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day
  • Birthdays and family get-togethers
  • School beginnings/endings, holidays, graduations

And the severity of symptoms depends on how long I stayed at events and anniversaries.  A new trigger is painting my nails; I tried it over the weekend for the first time in over 10 years.  Won’t be doing that again.

So now I wonder: am I really sick with an infection or is my body reliving something that is making me feel and act sick?

Either way, I have to treat this like an illness, yes?  It’s not going away on its own, so I guess the answer is to try the usual and then some less typical strategies?

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenge: How do I Cope with happy, positive feelings? Part 1 – Background

Background:

Since I was thirteen, I dreamed about getting a tattoo.  When I was sixteen, I got my first henna tattoo at a fair in Canada (high school field trip).  It caused an uproar within my family – not in a good way.  But that was my rebellious year   the year after the forced abortion – when I acted out and got into all kinds of trouble.  A few months later (summer), my younger brother convinced his friends to help him get a real tattoo (something he lorded over me for years and used to make fun of me when I got other henna tattoos).

In college, I learned discovered a severe nickel allergy through a bacterial infection (nickel plated earrings) and a rash (metal-framed glasses and buttons on denim jeans).  Some research told me that people with nickel allergies couldn’t get tattoos because a) most of the inks had traces of nickel in them; and b) the stainless steel needles had high levels of nickel in them.  That was between 2000 and 2004.  Between then and now, various cosmetic permanent makeup artists and tattoo artists refused to talk to me about either option because of my nickel allergy.

On the good side, there had been improvements to inks and needles so that people with minor to moderate nickel allergies could get tattoos as long as they didn’t mind the increased risk of allergic reaction and infection.  That was about 3 years ago.  And yes obsessing about getting a tattoo helped keep me sane when life got really bad.  I even tried contacting Native American and other cultural societies that had different ways of tattooing (not using metal needles/inks, etc.) without success.

Two years ago, I moved to my new apartment in a small city/town southwest of where I grew up.  On my first visit to look at the building, I got lost.  Instead of apartments, I found a 1950’s diner inspired storefront that looked interesting.  It turned out to be a tattoo studio.  Then, the realtor found me and helped me to the apartment building.  Not perfect, but it had everything I was looking for at the time.  After 2 weeks of consideration, I signed a lease.  And kept thinking about tattoos in a diner.  Eventually, I looked up the tattoo studio.  The owner had 30 plus years of experience and only did tattoos – old school style.  We exchanged emails; I met him face-to-face once.

But I had a downswing in finances and physical health just as I got ready to make the appointment.

Event 1

Last Saturday, I finally got my two tattoos in black/gray ink: a turtle and a Tibetan Endless Knot aka Chinese Wisdom Knot.  Turtle on left inner forearm near elbow.  Endless Knot on opposite position.  My dream finally came true.  Since then, I’ve been so happy that I managed to sleep every night – real sleep through most of the night.

Event 2

Then I went to work today and shared my tattoos with friends and close co-workers who know my story.  They were happy for me; full of acceptance, joy, respect even though some did not like tattoos (especially on females).  Some asked me what they meant and listened with appreciation as I described the meaning.   The head of our division even told me to wear my tattoos with pride in the office too.  i.e. I won’t get in trouble for leaving my arms uncovered at work.

The Dilemma

I was and am overwhelmed.  I feel happy, sad, anxious, guilty, shamed, unworthy, joyous, content, safe and unsure how to cope with the happy feelings inside of me (hence the negative feelings worming in).  I know how to cope with negative, neutral, and mildly positive feelings.  I don’t know how to cope with this, and it’s making me feel edgy.  Especially with an extra heavy workload and other big things coming up.

Thanks for reading

Shame: Being Kinder to Myself Helps Remove Shame

Introduction

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

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

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

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

The Meat of It

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These days, being kind to myself means the following:

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

Thanks for reading.

Survival Mode: A different kind of survival part 3 – obsessions, compulsions, hearing voices – and getting through one moment at a time

This last post in the series is in essay or story-telling format.  The Q&A doesn’t work this time.

Introduction

I hear voices.  Lots of voices from different parts of my mind.  Not all of them are from my alters.  In fact, most of the time, my alters choose video, images, story-telling, play-acting, music, writing, and sensation to communicate with me.  They only talk when the other communication formats don’t work.   That is how I learned to tell the difference.  Most of the time.  My alters learned to recognize when the voices are triggering them by realizing we only talk to each other when nothing else works.  The rest of the time, we find other ways to show love, respect, acceptance, affection, and information.

The Voices

The voices are different from my hallucinations because they sound real to me; they are the voices of my family members, abusers, bullies, and fake friends telling me to hurt and punish myself because I am worthless.  They insult me; verbally abuse me; taunt me; and constantly tell me ways to hurt myself; then urge me to act on those thoughts.  And if the voices are not working on me, they work on my alters.  It’s a mental loop of negativity that seems impossible to break, let alone stop or ignore.

Sometimes the voices sound like me talking to myself.  Sometimes they sound like a parent or sibling or relative.  Sometimes they sound like a medical professional or an authority figure.  The voices play on my weaknesses, insecurities, and fears.  They use those insecurities and fears to persuade me  to hurt myself and others.  Sabotage my plans for going forward.  Or freeze up so that I can’t study or pass a test or complete assignments or put myself in situations where I will be emotionally hurt and shamed.

Then the voices hit me with shame and guilt for not accomplishing my goals.  They reaffirm my inability to do anything right.

And they don’t stop.  The voices speak to me, to my alters, waking and sleeping.

Why and when and how they appear, none of us know.  My therapist thinks it is a symptom of increased anxiety and a form of backlash or flashbacks or nightmares.  I tend to agree with this.  But that’s not the only time the voices visit.

Only one successful way to stop the voices permanently: give in and hurt myself.

Other less successful ways to stop the voices: take a knock out pill; watch a funny or feel good movie; distract myself; listen to music; use affirmations and positive self talk; reality test my thoughts and fears

 

Obsessions

 

When I don’t give in to the voices, I start to obsess about ways to make them stop talking to me.  And then I think about what the voices are saying and remember all or many past experiences where their predictions of current outcomes came true.  And I get anxious; start to doubt myself.  Then try to use coping strategies to get myself out of the mental loop.  And when the strategies don’t work, feel more angry and depressed.

 

Compulsions

 

One way I learned to deal with the obsessive thoughts and feelings of anxiety from hearing voices was giving in to compulsions or compulsive routines.  I try not to give in to the compulsions because they tend to take over my life.  I get so caught up in using the activity or routine that the rest of my life suffers; not going to work, missing deadlines, procrastinating, feeling shame for doing something I don’t want to do, etc.  Not all compulsions are bad ones, but even safe ones can become problems when I can’t do anything or go anywhere until I finish my compulsion first.  It’s one reason why I am so careful with my habits and routines.  I don’t want them to become compulsions.

 

Giving In

 

Sometimes, when nothing else works and I absolutely need temporary relief, I give in to the voices, obsessions, and compulsions.  I try to find the least harmful behavior or activity that will also soothe the anxiety and do it.  I am not proud of this.  I prefer to find alternatives instead.  The backlash is painful.  But worse, the temptation to give in gets stronger every time I use a negative coping strategy.  And when I am coming off of an adrenaline high with the voices in my mind telling me to use this energy for revenge or punishment, the temptation to get relief instead of waiting it out is strong.

“Waiting it out” means: going without sleep or rest; listening to the voices fighting us (our internal system); experiencing all of the headaches, migraines, physical pain that comes with the internal fighting; not dissociating or switching and forgetting for a while; living with the memories and experiences all of this brings back; and continuing with life and work while coping with it all.

One Moment at a time

Sometimes the best strategy is also the hardest concept to understand.  When I first started therapy/recovery, I was in crisis mode aka survival mode.  Every moment felt like a thousand years.  So I learned to live one moment at a time.  Dissociation and daydreaming helped a lot here.  But that doesn’t help as much now because all of my parts and I have different daydreams.  And lack of focus in the outside world is dangerous.  So now it’s time to find another version of “one moment at a time”  that works for us.  I guess that means going back to basic survival strategies.

I hope anyone else caught in some form of survival mode makes through this round too.

Survival Mode: A different kind of survival part 1 – PTSD

Introduction

I’m late with this week’s post.  The last few days have been difficult with high anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and an adrenaline high that wouldn’t stop; my reactions to recovered memories involving physical violence combined with seasonal body memory pain.  It’s a different kind of survival mode for me and one that I struggle with a lot.  Instead of typical essay format, I’m using a Q&A interview style for this series

Questions and Answers

Q: What is an adrenaline high?

A: I get triggered into panic without having a panic attack.  Adrenaline surges through my system.  I suddenly have extra acute senses, strength, mental clarity, etc. in order to run, fight, or freeze until I can escape.  But once I realize the threat is over, the adrenaline keeps on flowing.  The hyper-vigilance stays and increases over time.  I am jumpy and anxious and unable to concentrate.  I can’t relax.  The adrenaline does not stop.

Q: Why doesn’t the adrenaline stop?  Isn’t there a physiological on/off switch built into our bodies/minds?

A:  My on/off switch was permanently disabled because of past experiences.  Yes most people have an on/off switch that automatically controls how, when, and for what length of time the adrenaline flows and then slows down without crashing too hard.  I have to find ways to manually turn the adrenaline off without causing harm to myself and (potentially) others.

Q: How does it relate to PTSD specifically?

A: Symptoms of PTSD get exacerbated.  Agitation, irritability, anger easily, frustration, lack of focus, increased anxiety, panic attacks, etc.  PTSD is considered an anxiety disorder.  For me that means all of my “natural” alertness and environmental sensitivity get put on steroids to make flashbacks, nightmares, and triggers both more likely to occur and more intense with each occurrence.  That sends more adrenaline into my system until I am flying on super high energy levels and awareness even as I start to crash from being physically and emotionally drained of energy from the last wave.  No matter how tired I am, no matter how much I want to relax, the adrenaline and hyper-vigilance won’t let me because my brain senses a threat that doesn’t exist anymore.  Once I identify the cause of this state (that I call Adrenaline High), I have to find ways to slow down the adrenaline until it stops.

Q: How do I know when my adrenaline starts/stays on/stops?

A:  My first signs are physiological.  As in my body reacts to the adrenaline first.  Sweating, chills, shaking/trembling limbs, chest tightness, muscle tension, headaches, face pain, joint pain, extra saliva in my mouth, skin feels itchy, flushed or pale skin/skin changes color.  Then comes acute senses: everything is more sensitive and reactive; I jump at noises, can smell or scent objects from longer distances, flavors increase or decrease – taste too much or nothing at all, etc.  And then comes the distraction, loss of vision (everything is blurry), and an increase in mental static/confusion caused by the “hearing voices” that are not my alters trying to convince me that the past is reality and present is a dumb fantasy that will get me (put your idea of a threat here).

Q: Do automatic defenses and coping strategies kick in during adrenaline?

A:  Yes.  I try everything in my arsenal first.  All of positive, healthy, healing coping strategies and techniques from therapy, programs, hotlines, books, etc. get used and reused until I get frustrated.  Then I try last resort strategies.  Hopefully they work.  And if not, there are the strategies I refuse to consciously use: my past automatic coping and defense mechanisms: chemical help (something stronger than Tylenol like prescription anti-anxiety meds); inducing a panic attack that causes me to pass out; self harm (emotional, verbal, physical, spiritual).  As I’ve mentioned before, self-harm comes in many forms and is not always noticeable.  Luckily for me, I have caring friends and co-workers who gently point out and remind me when this happens so that I know it happened and can be more careful next time.

Q: What are some ways to make the adrenaline stop?  Are they positive/neutral/negative?

A:  I don’t know.  This is where I am still experimenting and learning.  The only ways I know for me to successfully make the adrenaline stop are negative (see question above).  Some neutral ones suggested by others include: exercise; deep breathing; hobbies and activities that allow adrenaline-based energy to be released and do not require a lot of focus; listening to music or lullabies; distractions like favorite books, TV, and movies.  I call those neutral because they can be triggering to some and not to others.  As for positive, I am still working on that.

Q: Is there anything else you want to share?

A: Yes.  The backlash from using what’s necessary to come down from an adrenaline high can be worse than the adrenaline itself.  It can cause guilt and shame and more triggers or memories to resurface.

If you can ride it all out with minimal harm to self and others, you have won.  That is the attitude I have to take or else I’d be swimming in shame and guilt every time it happens.  Instead of healing, I’d be back in the downward spiral.  So, when nothing works, ask for help.  Reach out to supports if you can.  Help comes in many forms.  Sometimes I ask myself for help and support to get  through the next (time period varies).  Or I ask for spiritual help.

If you can’t reach out, do what you have to do to stay safe and protect yourself. 

And always remember: this is not going to last.  You got through it last time.  You will get through it again.

Coping Strategies: Internal Multitasking Part 2

Summary of Part 1

In Part 1, we provided examples of situations, conflicts, coping challenges, coping strategies, and possible solutions for addressing triggers and anxiety in the whole DID system.  Many of the strategies were combinations of coping techniques previously discussed on the blog.  Some were new and probably scary-sounding to readers.  Either way, it was a lot of information condensed into one post.

The main point of that post was: sometimes coping challenges require us to step outside of our comfort zones and be brave in order to find calm again.  That means observing the internal struggle like a third party and finding ways to address each trigger on its own.

When people say “multitasking isn’t possible; scientific research…”

We don’t know about you or anyone else who visits here, but the quote above is one of our most hated ones.  Too often, people would tell us to stop, slow down, do one at a time.  Multitasking makes things worse not better.  And how can we tell those educators or family members or co-workers, etc. that we are doing one at a time?  To someone with DID, multitasking is each part working on a single task.  We just happen to occupy one body and appear to be doing multiple tasks at the same time.

In that sense, finding a coping strategy to help each alter in the system when all of us are overwhelmed makes sense right?  And if this coping strategy requires mental and emotional energy (read imagination and feelings) instead of physical energy (body-related activities), then everyone has a chance to find their calm center while also allowing our physical and spiritual parts time to sleep, relax, energize, and find their calm centers too.

Please understand that we are not promoting permanent separation of alters in a system.  Nor are we devaluing the idea of integration at any level.  Instead, we are advocating for us alters to work within our current situation to promote cooperation, collaboration, and semi-integration so that our mind, body, and spirit help each other instead of working against each other during triggering situations.  It is not always possible.

In fact, sometimes we are our own worst enemies because none of us want to hurt or burden the others with our pain when it gets overwhelming.  Therapy and life are teaching us that sharing the pain and the burden with each other helps us more because we can stand together and support each other when one falls.

Ever heard of the quote “Different Strokes for different folks”?

Each of us is similar and different.  We are different ages, genders, and types of living beings.  And we have different needs at different times.  That is why self-care and self-soothing can be so difficult.  How to address the needs of many over a set period of time?  And this quote reminds us to be open-minded and allow for multiple options during a session of multiple coping strategies.