Self Care: Taking Care of a Cold

History of Colds/Sinus Infections

Around this time every year, I start getting a recurring stuffy nose/cold symptoms that sometimes feel like sinus infections. Part of it is body memories. Part of it is real illness. Problem is I usually can’t tell the difference because any cold symptom triggers anxiety and body memories for my alters. Alters whose automatic defense mechanism kick in to hide the severity or intensity of the symptoms as long as possible from everyone.

The “cold” doesn’t start to get better until everyone acknowledges to another person that the cold is real. Then all of the symptoms mysteriously appear to make all of me feel miserable.

Last year it turned into the flu for reasons beyond my control.

This year, it feels like a head/chest cold with some sinus pressure. But my head still hurts, sinuses still hurt, sneezing is loud and unpredictable, and really, really just want to sleep.

The downside:

  • Can’t take over the counter (OTC) medicine
  • Can’t take prescription medicine or antibiotics
  • Going to the doctor won’t help much except to confirm the existence of a cold or sinus infection
  • Don’t feel like going to Chinese medicine for an appointment either – none of my alters want to get treated by a new intern right now

The upside:

  • I can take care of the symptoms on my own for a few days using the herbs and aromatherapy already in my apartment
  • If this gets worse, all parts of me agree to go for a Chinese medicine appointment
  • Our body is less reactive to this trigger, so we have an easier time knowing the difference between body memories and true illness
  • Living in my body and learning what the different sensations helped me (and the others) notice the difference between how my body feels when it is healthy vs unhealthy
  • Past experience taught me that diffusing eucalyptus and peppermint oil helped clear my sinuses and make breathing easier
    • (do not diffuse if you have pets; please use a different inhalation or topical method)
  • Same with an OTC herbal tincture (left over from last year’s intern appointments) that worked specifically for head colds

A Nice Surprise

To be quite honest, I was not expecting any of this to work. My alters can be stubborn about triggers and flashbacks related to illness. They have (in the past) blocked and hidden symptoms from doctors during visits so all of us end up confused about why I visited. They have also been known to switch and take over so that even when I or other parts want to rest we keep going instead.

I think the turning point for this time (we were only in denial for 3 days instead of weeks) was our new plant friends.

If you’ve read past posts, you know that I believe every person has special gifts they can choose to accept and develop or deny and ignore. Me personally, I prefer to accept all of my gifts and explore how they help me become a better version of my authentic self.

Now back to plants – many avid gardeners and growers believe in talking to their plants. Playing music is also beneficial. I also believe that my plants talk to me – not with words – in their own special language. They tell me when they want more water or need to be moved to a different location in the apartment when their leaves droop or start to turn brown. Happy plants are bright green or greenish with leaves and stems standing up or extended out.

So what happened?

My plants were not thirsty, cold, or in need of a move, but their leaves started drooping. And their colors got dull on the first day I woke up feeling sick. Each day, as my cold got worse, their leaves drooped more.

Not until I started taking care of the cold with my favorite drinks (peppermint tea and hot water with honey), aromatherapy, and herbs did they start to perk up.

My plants are perkier now, but still not like before so I know I have ways to go before the cold is gone.

Self Care

  • If the cold doesn’t get better by Tuesday, I will go to the Chinese Medicine clinic for assistance.
  • While there, I’ll also stop at the medicinally to pick up more of the OTC herbal tincture and cough drops that also help
  • More sleep and rest because Monday is a work day…thankful this week is slow instead of busy
  • Figure out grocery and cooking situation because pretty much all of me wants soup, soup, and more soup.
  • Continue with the aromatherapy too because it really does help with the sinus pressure and stuffy nose.

Question

How do you handle colds? Does illness affect you in similar ways?

I hope you all stay healthy and warm (or cool if you live in the Southern hemisphere).

Thanks for reading.

Body Memories: Wellness exams, doctor visits & triggers

I had my annual wellness visit  this past week.

Any kind of doctor visit is triggering for me. But annual exams have more triggers than other kinds of exams.

Anxiety

Anxiety comes from traveling to and from the doctor’s office, making time during the work day to go to the appointment, and meeting (sometimes) new people who will be working on my body.

Body Memories

Body memories come back throughout the rest of the exam and sometimes cause problems getting my vitals, etc. Certain tests can’t be administered either. Not because I don’t want them, but because of how my body automatically reacts (based on past experience) to the exam tools. Shots and blood work have a 50/50 chance of working.

How I Cope

Luckily for me, I have a physician who accepts me as I am, is compassionate, and works with me to get as much done as possible with minimal distress.

Then came the matter of getting used to the new nurses and physicians assistants at the location my doctor moved to this year. They all are kind and caring, but my body and my alters did not care. These people were strangers. While I had a choice of letting them work on me or not, what was the point of a visit if not for the check up?

What worked

  • Being honest about my fears and any potential challenges
  • Repeating myself until the person took notice
  • Using grounding affirmations and deep breathing (silently) when talking to the person didn’t work
  • Letting my body and my alters do what they needed to do in order to protect themselves as long as it didn’t involve harming anyone
  • Being patient with the person and explaining again what is happening and why
  • Talking with my alters and checking with them to decide what happens next – try again or make another appointment
  • Throughout the experience – being respectful, using open communication, asking questions and listening actively, practicing patience, and accepting the other person’s choices without judgement – after all these people are professionally trained and experienced in what they do; I’m the oddball

In the end, my alters only took issue with the blood work. In spite of having to try twice and use two different needles, the physician’s assistant got the blood. Some of the results are a little iffy to me (I didn’t fast that morning), but most are on target.

I have to take a vitamin D supplement (normal) because my body does not make enough or make it as easily as I hope and keep an eye on my iron. If my mind can’t stop ruminating on some of the other results, then I’ll have to follow up with the doctor about that too.

Lessons Learned:

  • Try to have my exam on a Thursday or Friday. My mind and body need time to cope /recover and can’t do that if I have to work
  • Call ahead and ask about fasting; then set a reminder the day before
  • Remember to check in with everyone before the needles go in, especially if the physician’s assistant or nurse or technician does not seem to be taking what I say seriously
  • Then remember to meditate and use grounding so that everyone stays calm and agrees to let the tests, etc. happen – remind them the alternative is having to come back again…
  • When in doubt, skip the online portal and make time for a phone call. It saves a boatload of frustration, anxiety, and panic
  • Facing my fear of doctors feels scary and overwhelming until it’s over. I have hope that some day the scary, overwhelming emotions will feel less intense or (maybe) go away for good.

How do you cope with triggers for necessary events and activities in your life?

Thanks for reading

DID Posts: Seasonal memory loss started again…

I haven’t written a post about DID in a while. It’s so much a part of me and my chosen lifestyle that I forget how much of a struggle it was to get here sometimes.

Every year something unique happens in my life. It can start any time between the first day of school and Halloween.  It ends some time between March and May the next year. Average length of time is six months.

During this time period, my symptoms increase to an overwhelming level; my body memories activate and never stop or slow down; and all of my  typical patterns (sleep, exercise, eating/hydrating habits, work) change.

It starts with a feeling of sadness that permeates all parts of my consciousness. The sadness is followed by hyper-vigilance, paranoia, and lethargy.  I stop sleeping. I dissociate more often.  My hunger decreases, and I’m tired all the time. Everything feels like a challenge.  Nothing brings joy. Staying at home feels safe.

Time slows down or speeds up without my realizing it. I feel like I am moving through a fog. Fear makes fun activities like cooking and going out too scary to contemplate. Lack of appetite = weight loss = more body memories and body-related symptoms.

Worst of all, I start forgetting every day things and not recognizing my surroundings.

How do I know this happens? Why can I describe it so well?

The awareness started after I got a real job that required me to remember routines and processes, so probably 2006/2007. Shortly after I walked away from my family, I experimented with self-training a service animal to help with the PTSD. While that story is for another post (maybe), the whole experience brought the lost time issue into present reality.

It started in August with meeting, hiring, and learning basic dog care and dog information from a professional dog trainer. By October, I had a puppy and was working with him and  the trainer through a 4-level dog training program. One Saturday in February, I woke up and couldn’t remember any of the training exercises and activities we had been working on since October.

Luckily, I did remember having a dog and how to take care of him. Reflecting on that experience, though, showed me a similar pattern of remembering and forgetting that spanned decades. My counselor at the time was not surprised when I shared this with her in session. She explained to me that many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) have such experiences.

A full switch (my term, not  the professional one) between alter personalities means a full consciousness switch – as in one personality leaves or goes dormant while the other takes over completely – and whoever is in charge retains the memories of those experiences. Alter personalities in a non-integrated system often are not aware of each other and do not communicate or share memories if  they are aware of each other.

close up of pictures
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

My counselor reassured me that the memories weren’t lost or stolen. Instead, they were stored someplace in my mind that the present me (or me in charge) couldn’t access.  If and when I did need that information, it would become available. By this time, we had been working together for almost two years. She was familiar with my patterns of increased and decreased symptoms, triggers, etc. more than I was.

When my counselor realized how much  this bothered me, she offered to help me create a plan to minimize the negative effects of my seasonal memory loss. The first (and most effective to me) was focusing on Internal Family Systems therapy to foster communication within my alter personality system.

The coping strategies and techniques I have discussed in the past are all part of this plans so I’m not going to describe them again here.

Who is in charge? And what will I remember next May?

Back then, it was me or Pip or a combination of our four dominant personalities in charge unless something triggered one of the others into taking over. I  didn’t know about my two simultaneous lives, so couldn’t factor that into the equation. But that mattered less because the memories still disappeared and often didn’t come back again for years.

These days, we all work together and are all “in charge”.  Sounds weird, but that is the truth. Each personality or part of me has a specific set of tasks to do in order to keep our system running smoothly. We have others trained to perform multiple tasks or act as back up if someone isn’t feeling well or needs extra help, but all of us are needed if we want to be at our best.

So what will I remember? I honestly don’t know. And at this point in my life, I am not sure if I would want to know. One of the best lessons therapy taught me was that I don’t have to remember everything that happened. And I will remember what I do need to remember at the exact time that information is required to help us:

  • achieve a goal
  • maintain safety
  • not make the same mistake again
  • something else I can’t describe with words

Conclusion

While memory loss is scary and often feels uncomfortable, I can now accept it as another part of my life. Sure, I miss being able to remember everything and sometimes mourn the loss of those memories. But at the same time, I trust all parts of me to find and share memories, skills, and experiences as we want or need them to thrive in our present life.

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenges: Finding Language to describe body memory challenges

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

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

Background

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

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

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

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

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

So what happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Present Time

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

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

What are my limitations?

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

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

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

What works for right now?

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading

Recovery: Blog Break – Spiritual Quest – Back 4 Sundays from today

Dear Guests,

I hope you are enjoying summer or winter (depending on where you live).

A lot has changed in the last few weeks.  More change is coming up faster than I want to think about.

The last two years have open-end up whole new worlds (not quoting Disney’s Aladdin here – no t on purpose) and opportunities.

I’ve met some incredible people and discovered other ways of thinking/consciousness that provide different kinds of insight into my current struggles.

But it wasn’t until the anger left that I realized I was on a spiritual journey.

A spiritual journey is different for every person.  It’s not the same as recovery or a recovery journey.  I could be a healing journey, but not all healing journeys are spiritual.

The memories coming back now remind me of how lucky I was to grow up in religious and spiritual diversity even if that education came with a steep price.

Judeo-Christian religions taught me about community, love, and sacrifice.

The Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka Mormons) taught me the value of volunteer work and cooperation.

Buddhism taught me about compassion and walking the middle path to see through illusions and reduce personal suffering.

Wicca taught me to understand, accept, trust in, and appreciate my connection with the natural world.

Daoism taught me about qi and provided me a path back into my body so that I could start living in the present instead of the past.

All of these different religious and spiritual practices are teaching me other lessons and opening up other paths to explore.

But underneath it all, what I learned and value most from all of these religions and spiritual practices is that they all have one theme in common: UNCONDITIONAL, UNIVERSAL LOVE.

That LOVE is expressed and taught in different ways, but it exists in all of the practices listed above.

Not sure what will happen next, but now is a time for me to be patient and observed.  So, I will catch up with you all Four Sundays from today.

Thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions