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

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

Beginning with…

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

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

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

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

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

And 30 hours straight without sleep…

The self care:

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

Then writing the email to Dad before the TV.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Self Care at its finest…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here we are today…

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

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

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

That’s all for today.

Thanks for reading 🙂


ADMIN Post: Quiet weekend, short post

Due to the extra post this week, this one is short.

Between the nightmares and the stuff with my parents, body memories acted up and caused lots of pain last week. The pain was bad enough that I cried a lot, had some trouble eating/sleeping, and eventually had a panic attack.

Thanks to meditation and acupuncture, the pain has lessened a lot. But I’m still tired, feeling low energy, and slightly dehydrated from all the sleeping & meditating.

On the good side, a lot of the body memories are starting to leave my body. As it moves, the puffiness and swelling go down too. My muscles start to relax more, and everything feels less painful.

So this weekend is a slow one.

What are your plans for a slow weekend?

thanks for reading

Alter Post: Reclaiming My Body…struggles, steps & successes

Trigger Warning: explicit details and word usage about past sexual abuse and body image issues

Ramble Warning: this long post is written by many alters and might not be very coherent…read at your leisure

A Continuous Struggle

This is not a subject I talk about often on the blog. Thinking about my body feels scary more often than not. I still experience a lot of physical pain from tight muscles and body memories. And what I see in the mirror often reflects my negative self-image.

Different alters control different parts of my body; each of us hold memories in those places. Sharing the burden is easier now than it was before. Yet all parts of me cringe at the thought of ending celibacy or trying to date now.

Some alters never want to engage in sexual activity again. A few dream about having a husband, lover, or partner to share our life with. Most others are intellectually curious about the connections between sexuality, femininity, masculinity, and vitality or life force. All wish for platonic friends or family members to share physical contact with – i.e. hugs, pats, cuddles, holding hands, kisses on the forehead, gestures of intimate yet platonic affection. Maybe a pet some day? Cats probably as our body is not physically healthy enough to care for a dog yet.

Many of us in the alter system don’t like how our body and face looks. Some of us feel shame and embarrassment. Others feel frustration or sadness. Both tend to bring out feelings of or negative attitudes in others. Or attract unwanted attention.

The Coping Challenges

In spite of the many positive steps I have taken to improve my body image, holiday season brings out all of my insecurities. Going back home for the holidays – seeing my parents and sibling for the first time in many years – could be part of that. In general, though, I often get flashbacks of having to “dress up” or “being dressed” and “put on display” by my mother for different holiday get-togethers. And it makes me feel down about my body.

For me, the hardest part about having this negative body image and these feelings of insecurity is not feeling like my body and face are mine. For most of my life, my face and body were under someone else’s control. Other people decided what I looked like, how I dressed, when I ate, who I interacted with, and the types of activities I could participate in alone or with others. Even after I got out of that place, there were family obligations and cultural expectations that told me how to look and act based on my place (bottom) in the hierarchy.

In my head, I still hear all of those people (owners, predators, offenders, abusers, slavers, customers, teachers, class mates & age mates, friends, or relatives) calling me a slut, a whore, a prostitute, a dirty lesbian or bisexual cunt, a chink, slant eyes, beautiful temptress, satan’s get, evil witch, and submissive bitch. I hear them telling me I am fat and scrawny or slender and beautiful just before they rape me or attack me.

Acknowledge the Hard Truths

Well, I was a child prostitute. And I was a beautiful, gifted child turned awkward teen who found ways to hide in plain sight by being an outcast nerd in ugly clothes as an adult. I did have sex with both genders – if rape and forced prostitution count – and multiple partners. So maybe that technically makes me a lesbian and bisexual instead of heterosexual.

Clarification of Insults

But it does not make me a slut or a whore. For one thing, the sex was not my choice. For another, I only engaged in sex when being raped or pimped out. Once I had the choice, I stopped all sexual activity. So while I am okay with being called some of the names listed above, the words “slut” and “whore” really push my buttons.

Sure, I tried to date a few times in college and later on, but it never went past a first date or got physical. I ran first. Or fought second. Eventually, I simply shut down whenever someone tried to flirt with or hit on me. It felt like giving up, but it was also safer for everyone involved.

Expressing Femininity & Vitality in Healthy Ways

I’ve mostly come to terms with the sexual abuse. But I am still working on hating my femininity and sexuality. Still working on hating my face and body. Still working on seeing an over weight, flat chested, pimply girl in the mirror. Or seeing a skinny, straight, flat, weak girl who can’t control her own body in the reflection. Still working to reclaim my sexuality or vitality without having to engage in sexual activity.

My Fear and Hatred of…

I fear not having control over my reproductive system – choosing to get pregnant or not – if some day I become sexually active again before menopause. Considering how quirky my body is about everything, typical birth control methods might not be enough. Plus, I’ve been pregnant. Just the thought of that happening again sends panic signals through all of me. My family history is a mess. I really don’t want to pass on my genetic material. Plus, if I ever do want children, adoption and foster care are options.

I hate not being able to get regular health checks and dental exams without anasthesia. My triggers around medical and dental professionals are among the strongest and most vicious coping challenges. The automatic defense mechanisms and system shut down protocols get triggered every time I start working with someone new. And they bring out my most dangerous alters.

And I hate how often I get triggered by other people giving me nasty looks or making rude/insulting comments about my body parts. People used to pity me and gossip about my awful taste and weird habits behind my back, but were relatively polite and/or friendly unless irngoring me before I stopped hiding. After I stopped hiding, though, lots of people felt justified making nasty comments about my appearance and judging me based on my large bust and curvy shape. Being petite and Asian just made the cat calls and pettiness worse.

I hate how uncomfortable and defensive I feel talking about my “single on purpose” and “celibacy by choice” thoughts with friends & family. And both stances are choices. But it’s even more difficult trying to explain this to males and females who are flirting or coming on to me. Or who think my being friendly is flirting, etc. Confusing for someone with zero experience flirting, dating, etc.

Coping Strategies & Reclaiming My Body

It’s easier now to cope with many of these triggers and obsessive thoughts when the flashbacks come. All parts of me have made personal and life style changes to foster a loving, positive self-image and body image. Next year, I will finally be in a position to take other steps towards reclaiming my body as mine.

Steps like:

  • sterilization (aka tubes tied),
  • safely & confidently interacting with people in social situations,
  • herbal and aromatherapy remedies to support my health without making me sick,
  • (maybe) breast reduction surgery

Now that I am physically healthy and able to maintain a healthy body weight with job security and decent benefits these options are possible. I am not sure what is in my future, but at least now I have more options to feel safe and in control of my self and my body.

What kinds of steps could you, would you, are you willing to take in order to reclaim your body in a positive, safe way?

Thanks for reading

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

Alter Post: When two worlds collide

Pip is retired.  She wants to stay retired and find a way to integrate with everyone else.  i.e. participate in co-conscious awareness with our host and everyone else in the real world.

Angora enjoys working and taking classes online.  She’s starting to get more comfortable talking with people in the outside world too.  But not interested in being a host full time.

Some of the younger alters are growing up.  They’re trying to decide if they want to maintain separate identities or merge with others and fade away.

The teen alters are growing up and making changes too.

What we all thought was the worst possible decision now seems like a possible option if we all want to live in the same present reality together.

I hoped moving across the country would stop the evening jaunts to potentially dangerous experiences.  Pip was so excited about finally having down time and a safe place to heal all of our physical injuries.  Angora looked forward to dancing and listening to music again.  Everyone else couldn’t wait to create a real home.

And yet, that past followed us here.  Only now has Pip shared that she had to come out of retirement during our first year in the new city.  The ones who recognized us from before and their friends here tried to cause trouble.  They tested and challenged us until we proved that retirement didn’t mean vulnerable.  That none of us had any interest in resuming the other work here.

Then, in our new building, both Pip and Angora along with a few of the males came out to protect our neighbors and our building.  This time was more and less than people from the past.  It was people who witnessed what happened the first year and caused trouble as neighbors.  It was local homeless people and addicts making noise at night and disturbing us.  It was neighbors with young children worried about the impact of these night disturbances.

So one last time, Pip came out to try and make it stop.  None of the neighbors got hurt.  Not in our building or the others nearby.  None of the innocent or uninvolved got hurt either.  But now the building doesn’t smell like pot.  The homeless people and partiers make less noise at night.

Maybe this time they’ll all believe in our communal retirement.  And understand that retirement DOES NOT equal going soft or being unable to protect ourselves.

But at least it explains how so many of the younger people in this neighborhood recognize me and look at me with mixed expressions of dislike, hate, disdain, horror, fear, or anxiety. And why the host doesn’t always recognize or remember them.  On the plus side: defending ourselves, protecting neighbors and the building without harming them, finally earned some trust.  Now the neighbors are respectful and polite, sometimes nice too.

And the amnesia that comes with a switch happens less often.  We’re looking forward to a day when all of us can work and move together as a united person in mind, body, and spirit.  When our body becomes fully adult instead of going back and forth between pre- and post-adolescence, it will go through normal female stuff instead of stopping or changing under stress.

Until that happens, the moments of fear and confusion when speaking with people will continue.  Maybe, though, this time around people will accept that part of us instead of shunning us.  And maybe we can stop feeling shame about not recognizing and remembering people who greet us.

Thanks for reading.

Quotes & Affirmations: Tara Brach about “Shoulds”

2018-03-07 20.53.26

This week I had to put aside many “shoulds”.  Life felt too overwhelming, yet not overwhelming at all.

All the typical stuff from this time of year occurred.  But my reactions were different.  My mind felt different.  My body felt different.

The body memories were intense, but not painful.

The flashbacks and nightmares felt scary, but did not fade back into amnesia like they normally did.  I woke up remembering why my body was paralyzed with fear or shaking with adrenaline.

ALL PARTS OF ME had to step back and act like scientists.  Yes scientists.

Observe from a distance.  Use logic to find a way into our tool box.  Analyze our symptoms – anxiety, depression, anger management, emotional overload, numbness, etc. Figure out what coping strategies and techniques to try next.

instead of…

I should feel this way but I’m not.

I should do this even though it feels wrong.

I should not react this way; it’s not “normal”.

I should not use this strategy because ____

THROW OUT THE SHOULDS or SHOULD NOTS….

and let my authentic self with natural/instinctive reactions and choices for effective coping strategies take charge

Maybe this will help you remember to give yourself space too.

Thanks for reading.

Series: 2017 Reflections Part 1

The many voices of me

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

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

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

Gratitude

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

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

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

Communication

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

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

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

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

Family vs Loved Ones

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

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

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

Feelings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenge: Self Soothing is Positive instead of Negative

Background

I struggle with self soothing.  My alters, especially my child and adolescent ones, struggle with self soothing.  We all had questions about what that term meant.  Some of us still have questions like:

  • What is self soothing?
  • How is it different from self care?
  • Why is self-soothing a positive coping strategy?
  • How does it work?
  • Can you provide examples?

My adult self tried to apply answers from a variety of sources, but the suggestions triggered anger, fear, shame, and grief.  Then panic attacks.  So I avoided thinking about self soothing until recently.

Present Day

Physical pain requires other types of coping strategies.  Strategies that trigger me and cause fear or anger to manifest into panic attacks or worse – self-harm.  Unfortunately for me, those same strategies are tried and true for body memories.  These strategies include:

  • Trauma sensitive yoga
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy
  • Self-soothing
  • Movement or exercise therapy

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

sensorimotor psychotherapy does work and can be useful, but requires a lot of trust between the client & counselor.  It also requires the client to be at a certain level of recovery with support in place for any increased symptoms.  Deirdre Fay is one of the foremost practitioners.  Her work is great; I tried one of her online workshops, but wasn’t ready for it yet.  Maybe you will be.  I recommend doing your own research and talking with a professional before trying any of her programs.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Trauma sensitive yoga is something I recently started once a month.  Our first session was great.  I learned a lot and am hopeful this will help with my physical symptoms in  a variety of ways.  But more on  this later, after I’ve had another session and more time to try the practice at home too.

Exercise & Movement Therapy

Bessel Van Der Kolk promotes yoga as his number one form of movement therapy.  But drama, dance, martial arts, tai chi, or any form of gentle, meditative movement can produce similar results.  What matters most with this type of therapy is A) doing something the victim/survivor/partner/loved one enjoys; and B) choosing an instructor or group that feels safe, supportive, inclusive, and positive.  A strong support system to help out when symptoms increase or triggers start to overwhelm is important too.

Self-Soothing Coping Technique

Self Soothing has been a struggle to define and understand up until the past month or so.  My current counselor/therapist helped me understand that my child and adolescent alters define self-soothing as hurting others or being destructive/aggressive to feel better.  That is what they learned from their providers and caretakers.  And a volunteer on the hotline defined self soothing as: a conscious act of choosing self care and comfort instead of destruction, aggression, blaming, or self-harm.

What do you think of the

The Challenge

Re-learning that Self Soothing is positive and means comforting myself instead of hurting myself or others.

Helping my child and adolescent alters understand and accept this so that they can use the self soothing too.

Discovering all of the ways self soothing can help with muscle pain, body memories, and physical discomfort in order to build a tool box of useful strategies for present and future use.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the strategies that can help us most are the scariest and most challenging to learn.  I am not afraid to admit that I am afraid of my body.  I am afraid of my appearance.  I am afraid of the sound of my voice.  I am afraid of showing my face on this blog or any social media.

That fear gets in the way of doing most positive actions or tasks to help me feel better.  Instead of moving, everything freezes.  I freeze.  They freeze.  We all freeze into paralysis.  Can’t move our body.

But if you’ve learned anything about our system, you might remember how stubborn and persistent we are.  And so all parts of us are talking with our current counselor/therapist to work on this.  In another week or two, maybe we will share the results of our new practice.

What scares you?  How helpful or harmful would it be?

May all of you who read this find ways to choose self care and support instead of self-harm or harm to others when triggered.

Thanks for reading

 

Alter Post: Shoulder pain, monkey bars, & body memories

When you were a little kid, did you ever want to play on the monkey bars?  Or go to gymnastics/tumbling class and do backward rolls?  Climb ropes or rope ladders at the parks?  Go climbing on a rock wall?

Were you made fun of because you couldn’t cross the monkey bars without falling or roll backwards like the other kids?  Did you get teased for not being able to climb up the rope without assistance?

And do you wonder, was I not able to do these activities because I wasn’t athletic or strong enough?  OR was there a different reason?  One that was a secret and not to be talked about?

I think you understand where I’m going with these questions, so please consider the questions my TRIGGER WARNING and do not read on unless/until you feel comfortable coping with the potential triggers in the story that follows.

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