Family: Birthday Reflections

pink green and yellow ribbon illustration
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Birthdays always feel odd to me.

On one hand, I enjoy celebrating life and am always grateful for my second chance.  Every moment is precious, and all parts of me look forward to the day laugh lines appear on our face.

On the other hand, I feel extremely annoyed about all of the expectations that used to come with birthday celebrations.  Parties, going out, being around people, and all kinds of activities that were meant to be “fun” ended up something else in my personal experience.

My favorite kind of gift is when someone close says “happy birthday” and means it.  If the individual chooses to give me something too, that’s always appreciated and valued.

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Giving and receiving of gifts means a lot to many people.  I have a hard time accepting gifts sometimes.  It goes back to my past trauma, triggers, and fears.  Wanting something and asking for it as a gift – didn’t always get me what I wanted.  Sometimes it got me the opposite.

But these days, I can trust the people who want to give me gifts to give me something I will enjoy instead of something they think I will enjoy.

My best gift today was talking with my dad on via video chat.  We talked for an hour about so many different topics.  I got to see his smile and hear him laugh.  He passed the device around so I got to talk with my aunts and uncles too.

It was a great start to my day and brings out hope that things will keep getting better.

My last birthday wish (or hope) is for all of my guests to have a fun day or peaceful sleep after reading this birthday post.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversaries: Happy Birthday Mom

Dear Mom,

Today is your birthday.  I wish you all the best and a joyful day full of fun and laughter.  I love you and accept you as you are always.  You are my mother, a wife, an aunt, a sister, and a daughter to many.  To others, you are a friend, a co-worker, or some other label.

We will never be traditional mother and daughter.  You don’t always like to admit having a full grown daughter, let alone one like me.  That’s okay too.  I forgive you for all that has happened between us.  I forgive myself for sometimes hating what happened to both of us. Hate only gives me heartburn…but pockets still exist and need to be released.

I used to shudder and sleep through nightmares on your birthday – living in remembered fear of the past.  Now, I celebrate your special day with unconditional love and acceptance.  I hope some day you will accept me as I am too.

Your Daughter

Anniversaries: A Different Kind of Birthday

My birthday was last weekend.

I turned 35.  Oddly, I felt a lot of anxiety along with the usual joy and gratitude that comes from being alive one more year.  Why this year instead of past years?  Honestly no one in our system can answer that.

35 just feels like a big year.  A turning point.  A crossroads perhaps.  So much good is happening that the memories are flooding in fast & furious.  Body memories connecting with emotional or cognitive memory fragments create complete memories of past experiences.  Those memories come in dreams and immense pain from my neck down.

In spite of all that, waking up to birthday wishes from friends and family made me feel blessed.  The warm messages brightened my morning and had me excited to start the day.  And it was an amazing day in spite of the pain.

I did not do anything special.  It was a day for self care and exploring spent in blissful solitude broken up with visits to appointments and interesting people in different stores. Time did not manage me that day.  After my appointments, I took my time enjoying the beautiful day as I headed back home.

For the first time that I can remember, my birthday was spent in an enjoyable way with full awareness of everything that occurred.  Not one of us (the alters or myself) dissociated, split, switched, or forgot anything that happened.  We laughed and played and watched movies or read books or knitted while relaxing and waiting for the stew to finish.

The pain did not stop any of us from enjoying the day.  We simply adjusted to the physical limitations of neck/shoulder pain by carrying the shoulder bag on the other arm and using both hands to cook.  Took a lot of breaks in between our travels.  And remembered to eat or drink fluids throughout the day.

And maybe that is what made us all feel so anxious.  A birthday without expectations or obligations to anyone.    Pure joy.  Simple fun.  Interesting, kind people.  Yummy food.  A good night’s rest.

The joy and peaceful feelings continue even now.  A different set of Chinese herbs are helping with triggers, sleep, and pain issues.  I did not expect help with the pain, but it’s been helping.  The herbs have made everyone sleep a lot, but that’s okay.  We needed the rest.  And something has changed inside too because the adults finally managed to do laundry!

Plus, the colder temperatures are not bringing up scary feelings or memories for the children as much this week.  It helps that many of the shopping packages were delivered over  the last few days.  But really, the herbs are working with our body and mind this time instead of trying to manipulate changes.  And that feels really good.

Maybe even good enough that mornings will stop being scary too someday.  And maybe good enough that bathrooms and small dark spaces like under sink cabinets will also feel safer too.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversaries: Happy Birthday family and relatives

Today is my brother’s birthday.  Yesterday was a blood relative’s birthday.  Over the weekend was another relative’s birthday.  This weekend is Mother’s day.  Next week is two more family birthdays.

The memories are strong this week.  So are the physical symptoms that come with my PTSD.  Strange how my alters and I experience our physical changes both together and separately.

Yesterday, I realized that crying makes me sneeze and look like I’m having an allergy attack.  My nose drips constantly, and I’m always sneezing or cleaning up.  My eyes get red and itch, but hardly any tears come out.  The headaches and muscle aches get worse.  It makes me feel sick to my stomach and scared because I don’t know how to make it stop.

And that happens because my alters are crying, not me.  And they weren’t allowed to cry as children or teens.  But they were allowed to sneeze and look like they had allergy attacks.  So I sneezed and so on all day yesterday and a few times earlier in the week.

It’s been so long since I truly cried that I forgot the physical sensations associated with crying – pressure around my nose and eyes, drippy noes, red/swollen eyes, feeling clogged up, having to mouth breathe, and constant sneezing – since I obviously am not lady-like when I cry.  And neither are my alters.

But why the tears?  My therapist and I are working on ways to express anger and other feelings in healthy ways.  And people often tell me that crying can relieve pressure/tension and have many different meanings.  Tears are not weakness either.  So maybe everyone needed an outlet and couldn’t think of anything else to express all of the anger, fear, shame, hurt, guilt, and sadness of the memories.

Either way, the tears opened up a path for my alters to finally confront the worst memories and feelings that tear us up during the month of May.

I thought they all had to do with my parents, my brother, my relatives and how they treated me.  But it’s more than that:

  • Senior prom/prom queen nomination
    • I didn’t want to go, didn’t understand why my mother and brother forced me to go, didn’t understand why suddenly so many classmates who tolerated and ignored me now hated me, until yesterday.  Why was I nominated for prom queen?  I wasn’t popular.  I didn’t have the best GPA.  I didn’t participate in many school activities.  Maybe someday the reasons will come back.
  • High School graduation
  • College graduation
  • The end of 2 cults
  • The end of a combined pedophile/human trafficking porn ring
  • Injuries and “secret” ER visits to get treated, but not completely fixed
  • The secret life changing into something positive, but still a secret because hardly legal or legitimate
  • Seemingly conscious choices in the “public” life that were not
  • Finally understanding why my body hurts so much in so many places and potentially how to fix the related problems

Downside – I’m really tired and kind of distracted.  My alters are also distracted and feeling scared.  Scared equals angry.  Angry means an unstable temper no matter who is in charge.

And an unstable temper creates more feelings of fear that turns into feelings of anger.

I feel like this anger is different from other anger that we’ve experienced.  With this anger surfacing, the vault opens more.  Memories show up.  Feelings flow through us.  We alters can connect with each other more.

So while I/we are so upset and scared about the instability of these feelings right now, most of us are also happy about the change.  It means all of us are moving forward again.  And we can look back without the pain of shame and guilt distorting our perspective to find a more objective understanding of the past.

So while my brother tried his hardest to make me feel useless, crazy, invisible, and worthless before I left home, I still wish him a happy birthday.  Same for my other relatives – the ones who I miss so much my heart hurts and the ones I alternately love and hate.

Thanks for reading