Coping Challenges: Buzzwords, Triggers & Thanksgiving

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

United States Thanksgiving Holiday is this Thursday. Then the holiday shopping weekend begins with Black Friday, continues with Small Business Saturday, and ends with Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday is my favorite shopping day because I try to support local small businesses as much as possible. Small businesses are one of the few ways ex-cons, veterans, and people with different educational backgrounds can be independent and successful with stable incomes to support themselves and their loved ones. There are lots of other reasons to shop local and shop small, but those are my two personal favorites.

If you’ve read past posts, then you might remember how challenging Thanksgiving can be. I never look forward to this holiday or the whole “holiday season” that starts in November and ends sometime in January. But this year, I am looking towards my 5 day vacation and doing some fun activities from the comfort of my home.

Buzzwords, Challenge Authenticity and Meaning of

That is part of the coping strategy and part of the coping challenge.

What do I mean? Well, words and phrases that become popular in social conversation sometimes lose their impact, authenticity, and specific meaning over time. The can get misused or become misunderstood, categorized, and labeled a certain way or associated with certain groups.

So when these words come up in conversation, people often make assumptions or jump to conclusions thinking they know what I am talking about and get offended, defensive, insulted, etc. when our meaning of the words differ.

One example that stands out came 5 years ago when I was living in an apartment building in Boston, MA. This woman and I were talking about experiencing anxiety and PTSD. She told me “Oh yes, I have a touch of PTSD too.” in a serious tone and proceeded to explain how stressed out she was from work and the recent loss of a pet and some other personal problems.

When she asked me, I explained about my symptoms. She told me that was not PTSD and that I needed serious help. Then proceeded to avoid me as often as possible. When she couldn’t avoid me, she treated me with condescension and wariness.

My struggle right now has to do with other phrases and words with specific meaning in my life:

  • Self Care
  • Resilience
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Reflection
  • Acceptance

These words have become popular as social change supports and encourages people to take better care of themselves, learn how to reduce stress, and live healthier lifestyles.

On the one hand, that’s great because more people have access to knowledge and resources that can teach them how to help themselves make these positive and neutral changes in their lives. They can learn with skepticism and make their own choices (mistakes and successes) with confidence to move forward with their goals.

On the other hand, it gives other people opportunities to manipulate vulnerable populations by twisting the meaning of these words and teaching small bits and pieces of these concepts out of context. People proclaim themselves leaders and experts with self-help guides and quick-fix programs to follow. Maybe they help some people, but what about the ones they fail?

And so I have to ask myself: am I using buzzwords because they’re popular and make me seem “cool” to others? Or am I using words and phrases with a specific intention that helps me achieve my health and wellness goals?

Is it a coping strategy, a coping technique, or a coping challenge?

The answer is unknown at this time. I’m still working through it all.

Is it a trigger?

yes. This kind of thinking feels like walking in circles with pauses to bang my head against a brick wall to escape.

Triggers

Which brings me to triggers.

Well, they still manifest in ways that are new to me. They often surprise and distract me at inconvenient times.

  • My pain levels stay around 5 out of 10…with 10 being the worst. It’s better than years past when my pain level stayed steady at 7.5-9 all the time.
  • This time of year, my triggers are environmental, sensory, and emotional:
  • Flashbacks and body memories cause dissociation and increase in anxiety/hyper-vigilance/agoraphobia
  • Physical pain plays games with my balance and movement – disturbs sleep and distracts from work
  • People moving in and out, city life, cold temperatures, and holiday stress contribute to environmental and sensory stress
  • And of course, my upstairs neighbors continue to be inventive in how they try to annoy me (and our neighbors).

In a way, the triggers haven’t changed. They exist no matter what.

How I cope with the triggers; my reactions to the triggers have changed in positive ways. Most of it is based on the work I’ve done in the past building on itself. Some is new.

Here are the main strategies that help:

Exposure therapy: I express gratitude to my annoying neighbors because they’ve helped me with triggers that used to overwhelm me, cause panic attacks, and make me pass out or not be able to sleep.

Aromatherapy & Herbalism classes: I’ve been learning how to use essential oil blends for pain management, cold and flue, emotional support, and panic attacks through aromatherapy classes. In herbalism classes, I’ve learned how about specific plants (alone or combined) can support different organ systems and overall health.

Cooking, Making Tea, and Creating Aromatherapy Blends: This appeals to me on many levels: saves me money; allows me to be creative; something all parts of me can do together; work in a safe space at home; have fun

*If you choose to try aromatherapy or herbalism, I ask/suggest/recommend you talk to your doctors and work with a certified practitioner or take classes to learn about the subjects before you try it at home*

Laughter: My perspective changes constantly. Back in the past, I had to hide my sense of humor and stay quiet if I wanted to move through the world unnoticed. My voice is unique and memorable. And humor – well, it’s quirky and eccentric and not always easy to understand. These days I choose to find humor and fun in seeming negative or stressful experiences as often as possible.

What kind of challenges and strategies are you utilizing?

Thanks for reading

Halloween Fears or Autumn Fun? Leaves, pumpkins, apples, hay rides

Anniversaries: Halloween Fright = Autumn Fun?

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My Favorite Month and Season

October is my favorite month for many reasons – not including it being my birthday month.

The leaves start changing color. The air cools down and smells crisp. Apples are in season. Love fresh apple cider – cold or hot with cinnamon – as an autumn treat. Soups and stews are back. Pumpkins. Hay rides. Fall festivals. All that and more.

Autum is my favorite season because it reminds me of home and hearth. Safety and refuge. In summer, there was nothing to break up training or life with the cult except taekwondo. In Autumn, school started. 8+ hours of my day in a place I get to listen and learn – and yes those were my favorite activities.

But it’s also the beginning of my “bad season” when symptoms get worse. Read on to learn why…

The Dark Side

School was full of bullies and feeling outcast. At first, it wasn’t my peers bullying and harassing me. It was the school’s vice president and some of the other teachers. Later on, some of the “class favorites” (mostly girls my age) continued with the bullying and gossiping whispers in class. The boys and other kind of bullies left me alone when they realized I wasn’t an easy target to push around physically.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. For the first 3 years at school (kindergarten – 2nd grade), I never got away from the monsters. School principal was one of them. It’s also part of the reason why the vice principal didn’t like me or any of the principal’s other favorites. But she only picked on me (reasons listed below)

School – torture outside of learning

From kindergarten until 5th grade I was the only Asian student to go through the entire school. Other Asian kids enrolled after me, but not before or during my time there. The vice principle (also my fifth grade home room teacher) did not like me on site. Once she told me in private it was because I represented everything she hated – pretty, short, Chinese, smart – and that I wouldn’t get any “special treatment” while at this school.

The other girls didn’t like me for a variety of reasons. Part of it was my fault though. I didn’t fit in with them, share any similar interests, or try to fit in in any way. Plus, the dissociation started early and led lots of people to think I was a liar and kind of ditzy because I couldn’t remember what was going on as it happened. Nor did I “dress like a cool girl”.

So you get the idea, right? A bookworm, nerdy, quiet, nice girl who seems kind of shy, dresses funny, whose costumes get made fun of by lots of people, and hates attracting attention because it usually leads to shame or humiliation is an easy target for bullies at school.

Bees and Other Weird Things

Oh and even back then, odd things happened to me. Once, between third and fifth grade I think, our windows were open on a hot afternoon. The bees were buzzing in and out everywhere trying to get some shade. We were required to participate in class, so I raised my hand. I knew (or thought I did) the answer or maybe had a question. But I was distracted by the breeze and tickling sensations on the palm of my hand.

My attention was on the chalkboard, and I focused so hard on the answer that I didn’t notice when the teacher and rest of class went silent. They were all staring at me, and I didn’t understand why. Not until the teacher asked me to look up at my raised hand. She and many of my classmates were afraid of bees; some might have been allergic too.

And none of them had ever seen bees playing with a human and not stinging them. Yet that’s what the 3 bumblebees and 1 yellowjacket were doing. They were grazing my hand to get my attention. Sat quietly on my palm as my hand closed over them once or twice in reflex. Let me brush my fingers against their (bumblebee) soft body fuzz. As soon as I looked up and acknowledged them; then spoke a quiet response; they left back out the windows and were not seen again.

It wasn’t the first time I had been surrounded by insects or had them leap on to my legs/arms/body during outside gym and recess classes. But it was the first time to happen in doors. And also something to make my class mates not want anything to do with me.

But the biggest reason the girls especially didn’t like me was because I refused to use the bathrooms during break time after kindergarten. I would drink the minimum necessary to stay hydrated in school and hold my bladder until I got home. Or if I was taken out of school early, hold it until I arrived at the next location.

The girls all thought I was stuck up and too good for the school bathrooms. No one ever asked me why – or if they did I probably refused to answer back then – that I can remember.

I never used the bathrooms (girls or boys) because that’s where the school principal and his cronies liked to take their favorite students for “special classes”. Every time I used the bathroom someone was waiting for me. It got me a reputation for being late. And made me paranoid about using public and guest bathrooms for the rest of my life.

Halloween Scares – Apes, Brides, and Scary Masks

I hated halloween, dance recitals, anything that got me attention for many reasons.

One big reason: it gave my mom a chance to dress me up, put makeup on me, and parade me around like a show dog.

Other big reason: it brought up triggers and feelings of shame because my mom liked to dress me up in girly costumes that only made me look “beautiful” or “pretty” or “precious” or any of those other words that judged me on my appearance and behavior.

One year, my mom dressed me up as a bride in a white satin bridal gown and veil for Halloween. I must have been about 6 or 7. She did my makeup and got me white shoes to wear with it. Back then, kids were required to wear their halloween costumes to school for the halloween party. Then dress up again for trick or treating after school.

Mom got lots of compliments about how beautiful I was. How I “looked just like a real bride”. How well she did my makeup. and other comments. I was embarrassed the whole time and tried to hide. My goal for that year – be a clown or a ghost for halloween. But she made me a bride. The neighbors were so stunned, they gave my brother and me extra treats sometimes.

Then we got to a neighbor’s house with what looked like a stuffed Ape or Gorilla sitting under the split entry house – near the front door. I didn’t want to go there. That ape/gorilla felt real to me. It stared at me the whole time we walked up. Just as we rang the bell, it came to life roaring at us.

I don’t remember what happened after that. Or the next halloween when mom made me wear that costume again.

But I do remember being forced to wear that bride costume when my owner and his buddies initiated me into group sex for the first time. That was so popular, they created a whole halloween special for clients and would dress us all up in varying costumes the whole month of October after that year. Would have been 1988 I think.

Learning, Dissocation, Imaginary Friends…my best survival coping strategies

Yup. For about 20+ years, I spent most of my time living in a state of dissociation (aka day dreaming) and studying while talking to imaginary friends. An island of one who only came out to fulfill class participation rules and make temporary, fake friendships. I was honest about it. I was mean when necessary. I wish I could have been different, especially to the few girls who tried to be nice to me since we were all misfits.

But that wasn’t safe. Or possible. Because anyone who befriended me became a target for something.

These days, I spend Halloween hiding in my apartment. I do my best to avoid any large gatherings or places where people of all ages will dress up in costumes from mid-October to Halloween.

And when that doesn’t work, I bring books, headphones, and my sensory grounding strategies with me.

At home, I cook a delicious meal or get takeout. Then rent a movie or read a book. Go to bed early.

AVOID TRICK OR TREATERS AT ALL COSTS – gratitude for apartment living there.

Then meditate and pray that all the self care and coping strategies will help me keep my memories when the bad season of dissociation and flashbacks take over my self
(starts any time between August and October; settles in by November; stops around May…sometimes)

Halloween 2019

This year is different. I am still staying inside. Still cooking something interesting. And still renting a movie.

I’m also writing this blog post and finishing the details to set up my business – a business that will allow me to continue blogging here and offer more coping strategies outside of what gets shared here (aka survival mode) – and offer other kinds of resources too.

Turtle time is real by the way. I started planning this business 7 years ago. Launched Untangled Connections 4.5 years ago as a test run to see if my business would be viable. Announced the new website and business last May to guests here. Continued posting about seemingly random topics. Then took a partial sabbatical – which I will explain next month.

Thanks for continuing to check in here; really appreciate it.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: When People Avoid You because…

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Life is awkward on the best of days. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding oneself in unknown situations. Other times there is something going on, and people who care avoid you for their own reasons. Or you avoid them. No one communicates. Or everyone communicates without really saying anything aka addressing the cause(s).

That ends up with: confusion, hurt feelings, breaking of relationships, etc.

In my case, I learned a long time ago that people are transient guests in my life. The more they learn about me, the less they want to be around me. On rare occasions, I do meet people and build long term relationships outside of professional ones.

But I can count on 1 hand the number of true friends and loved ones that I interact with more than 3x a month – whether by phone, email, or in person – who have earned my complete trust and respect.

More often than not, people read this blog out of general interest and then start avoiding me in real life. Or they make friends with people who dislike me for some reason and start avoiding me in favor of the “new” people. Or have some other reason to “ghost” me as younger people say these days.

That used to hurt a lot. I didn’t understand what about me made people react this way.

Then I realized the problem was not with me, but with the other people.

You see, something about them made interacting with me uncomfortable. Instead of acknowledging this and working with me to figure out a solution, they denied anything was wrong and avoided me or blamed me instead.

How did I figure this out?

Not on my own. Over the course of my recovery, in counseling sessions and self-improvement workshops, this lesson has been reinforced many times.

I am who I am. I change constantly because life is change. Most of the time I am willing to compromise and work with people. Other times, I flat out refuse to change in order to conform or fit in with cultural norms or peer pressure. But I always try to be respectful and accepting of people as they are even if they don’t return that courtesy.

And because I practice unconditional love and acceptance for all beings, I can accept and forgive people who act and react to life with avoidance, denial, blane, or rejection.

They are who they are and coping with life as best they can. When it happens, no hard feelings.

People come and people go. Feeling hurt or blaming myself only triggers shame and guilt for something that is not my responsibility. I asked questions. I tried to make it right. Did my best. Now it’s over and done with.

I wish those people well and move on.

Other people have told me that attitude is harsh and mean. Maybe it’s true. But trying to hold on to something that doesn’t exist anymore…how is that healthy, good, or (insert your word here)?

My only goal is to live my life full of unconditional love and acceptance. For me, that brings out the best qualities in life: joy, fun, prosperity, safety, resilience, strength

And allows me to weather the worst life sends my way.

I hope maybe this story will inspire you, my guests, to reflect on how you can take control of your choices by changing your attitude and intention towards yourself, life, and others.

It’s not easy. It’s a continuous work-in-progress, a life-long endeavor. But it can truly change your relationships for the better like it did (and coninues to do) mine.

Thanks for reading.

Environmental Self Protection IMAGINATION + COPING STRATEGIES = SAFE SPACES Physical safe place(s) - physical locations in and out of home Mental safe space(s) - meditation, visualization, mindfulness Spiritual safe space(s) - aka altars or holy places or nature Home decorating with feng shui & energy clearing practices

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 5 – Environmental

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

What is a Safe Space? Is it the same as a Safe Place?

A safe space is any environment where you or I or anyone feels physically, emotionally, spiritually safe. Ideally we’d feel safe in all 3 areas. Personally, I am for 2 out of 3 at any given time.

Safe spaces integrate and utilize the coping strategies and techniques from the other types of self protection discussed in this series to create a safe, protected environment. aka safe space

Safe Places tend to be physical environments and can be safe spaces. BUT not all Safe Spaces are safe places.

  • Some safe spaces are physical spaces like houses, bedrooms, “home”, libraries, movie theaters, work, holy places, religious or spiritual buildings, hospitals.
  • Some safe spaces are visualizations that people can reach through dreams (day dreaming, sleep dreaming, meditation, dissociation, hypnosis)
  • Some safe spaces are a combination of physical and sensory areas that help people connect with a higher power, nature, or (your noun here)
  • Some safe spaces are sensory grounding objects people wear or carry with them as they go about their lives.

You (and I) never know what your safe space will be until you experiment and create one.

How many safe spaces can I have/make/use?

As many as you feel comfortable having

As many as your imagination can come up with

As many as you need or want

How many do you have/use?

I have a lot. One for each alter personality. At least one (maybe two) general spaces we all use together. Three for spiritual work. And five physical spaces not counting parks and green spaces where I live.

So 88 + 2 + 3 + 5 = 98 safe spaces approximately.

Most of those safe spaces are not physical. But they can become physical with help from physical protection techniques, i.e. touch stones & sensory grounding tools. I build my environmental protection using a combination of sensory grounding tools, emotional protection shields and spiritual invisible armor.

My favorite kinds of environmental self protection are the safe spaces limited only by my imagination because I can take them with me wherever I go.

Please be mindful of meeting your basic needs while creating safe spaces. All of this is part of self care and can be used no matter your budget or lifestyle.

Please do not limit yourself to only self protection coping strategies when you create your environmental self protection. Use whatever feels right to you.

What do Safe Spaces look like?

Environmental Self Protection equals safe spaces
Some safe spaces I’ve visited or only re-created in a visualization

So I am being vulnerable with this collage. Two of the images are from my current apartment. One image is from a vacation I took many years ago before my name change and move. It’s the same place where I found the banner photo for this blog. The final image is a stock photo that represents one of my visualization safe spaces – a location in my mind where all parts of me can get together and “hang out” so to speak. It’s much sharper than the faded memory of visiting Niagara Falls back in high school.

As you can tell, my apartment is colorful using many shades of earth tones to feel safe, calm and soothing.

Water: the smell, sound, look and (sometimes feel) always brings a smile to my face and peace to my mind. A bath cleanses my physical and energetic/emotoinal self by washing away dirt and negative energy. Flavored water (infusions) nourish my body, look pretty, smell and taste delicious.

Earth: Plants at home. Plants and parks all around my neighborhood and throughout the city. They remind me of joy, life, rebirth and laughter. All my plants are budding or having babies. It’s wonderful to watch and be part of the growing cycle. Or mourn when a plant ends its struggle to thrive and moves on to the next adventure (i.e. dies).

Either way, I’m connected to other living beings in a way that feels safe to me.

Fire: Sunlight in my apartment. Candles. Aromatherapy diffusers heating water to spread scents through the air in my apartment. Cooking food for nourishment. Cleaning and laundry. Fire reminds me to take care of my basic needs, so I can thrive and help others too.

Air/Wind: Wind reminds me to bend and be flexible. Nothing is ever exactly what it appears to be through my physical senses. Pause, reflect, use intuition and logic to make choices instead of reacting without thinking. Change the smell of my environment to remove triggers or bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered.

Pulling it all together

Environmental self protection is all about creating safe spaces wherever we happen to be.

Safe spaces, like all the other coping strategies and techniques I discuss, are multi-dimensional and unique to each individual.

I can give guidelines like in this post and others, but no one can create your safe space except you. And once you create it, no one can take it away from you unless you let them take it away.

That is a lesson I learned the hard way. And am still learning today. Kind of like the concept of “home” and “perfect living spaces”. Because, in spite of making my apartment as comfy and safe feeling as possible, I still (in the very back of my mind, buried in the subconscious) live in that childhood cage. The more internal stress I feel, the more my apartment looks like a mess and a reflection of that cage.

And when I worked in an office, my desk used to reflect the cage too. It got me into trouble (i.e. a target for harassment and backstabbing comments) from people who didn’t like me at work. They never talked to me directly, but they would point, whisper, stare, and talk to people who cared about me. Then those people would say something to me out of real concern. But still triggering and painful.

It wasn’t until I learned how to combine these different aspects of self care and self protection that I learned how to cope with experiences like that in more positive ways. Music, diffusers, crystal grids, other kinds of sound healing, and feng shui helped me create physical safe spaces and apply similar concepts in creating “magic bags” of sensory grounding tools to take with me wherever I go.

Maybe these ideas will help you create your own version of environmental self protection. Maybe it won’t. But I hope they inspire you to play and have fun with coping strategies and self care.

Thanks for reading.

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 4 – Spiritual

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

This is a NON-PARTISAN post about FAITH and BELIEF

Let me start with this: I ACCEPT ALL RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICES THAT EXIST. Each one is valid. Each one is similar and different to the others. No one is better than or less than the other.

Growing up, I was lucky to be exposed to multiple religious and spiritual practices at a young age. It didn’t feel lucky back then because I didn’t fit in anywhere. I didn’t belong to a congregation or publicly affiliate myself with any specific religion. I didn’t know all the songs or prayers everyone else memorized and sang in class. With a few exceptions, most of my blood family believed in something, but kept it to themselves.

In my other life, I was trained to be a good Mormon girl until my owner and his people discovered my gifts and labeled me a monster. Useful, but still a monster. They brought in people of different spiritual backgrounds and abilities to test me, train me, and dole out appropriate punishments. I learned to be wary of psychics, witches, shamans, and healers from them.

More, though, I learned to hate myself and my gifts for making me different. And I learned how to hide/deny/not use my gifts on command. Well, after they taught me how to use them on command – and only to hurt others.

That’s when the self harm started. Yet, every time I made progress to “disappear” or “sleep forever” or “leave”, beings came into my dreams and stopped me. Then guided me towards a safe person, place, or object. And sparked my curiosity to bring me back to the present.

Questions…so many questions. And Faith

So when beings started to visit me in my dreams (or when I dissociated), I had no one to talk to or ask questions. My family and peers thought I was crazy because I kept hearing voices and seeing things they couldn’t see. Nor did they accept any of that as real or valid in spite of being Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Jehovah’s witness, or Mormon. Those were the active religions in my community back then. Not sure what still exists these days.

And I honestly could not believe in a mean, vengeful, God who hated and punished women, children, animals, and other living beings He created because they were inferior.

I just couldn’t.

But I got mad at that version of God instead. And stopped listening or believing for a long time.

What about those beings from my dreams?
Yeah, they never went away. Never left me. They brought light and love, kindness and compassion, fun and laughter into my life whenever I felt lost, alone, and ready to end it all.

And they continued sparking my curiosity about faith, spirituality, religion, etc. so I kept exploring…learning about different practices through books, video, and audio documentaries.

Building Blocks of my Invisible Armor aka Spiritual Self Protection

In this section I’ll explain a little about how I learned to create my Spiritual Self Protection or Invisible Armor.

The Building Blogs of my invisible armor

In college, I found myself drawn to Daoism and Buddhism; learned as much as I could from English translations of their spiritual texts and tried putting some tenets into practice. There were temples I could visit, but that felt (and still feels) too scary. Instead, I discovered the Spirituality and Religion section of popular bookstores and spent a lot of time there.

Then I got more involved in the solitary practice aspect of Buddhism through my first mental health counselor. One of the greatest lessons she taught me (before it ended so badly) was to have faith in something or someone greater than myself since I didn’t have any faith in myself.

It could be religion or spiritual practice. But had to be a higher power of some kind. But that kind of faith will help me as I travel down the path of recovery. If I wanted to learn more about Buddhism, she would share her knowledge, experiences, and resources. I did. She did. Together, we started re-building the foundation that made me me.

Fast foward 15 years, and here I am today. Not affilated with any specific religious or spiritual practice. Buddhism did not fit any more or less than the others I tried. But definitely a spiritual person with a strong faith in higher power. A faith based on my personal code of values; values I live by and use to help me stay safe and secure in my authentic self instead of fear and hate.

I often use”universe” to describe this power, but also call it: Goddess, God, Grandmother Spider, Spirit, Guides, Guardians, Holy Spirits, Angels, Archangels, Wise Beings, Ascended Masters, or specific names of other deities from other pantheons.

It honestly depends on who visits me during meditation and dreams unless one of those “beings ” from my past appears.

Who are those mysterious beings she keeps referring to?

Those “beings” are my personal Spirit Guides or Guardian Angels who’ve been with me for as long as I can remember. I don’t see them with my regular vision; only with my “other” vision when eyes are closed. You can read more about that in the second post of this series.

The religions and spiritual practices I’ve been honored to learn about often discuss special beings who support, guide, communicate with, and connect them to their “higher power”. So I believe in angels, archangels, guardians, guides, and holy spitrits whatever form they take.

My four guardians are: Archangel Michael, Archangel Raphael, Archangel Gabriel (also known as saints in some religions) and Grandmother Spider from the Native American religious practice of certain tribes.

But I didn’t learn their names or how to actively communicate with/listen to them without the barriers of my past getting in the way until the last 3 years living in a new city on the other side of the country from where I was born. In this new city, I found a place with knowledgable practitioners. They offered workshops and private sessions – like counseling, but not – to help people on a spiritual quest. Talking with these people and interacting with others with similar interests showed me that I while I may be a monster, I wasn’t evil. And most people there didn’t consider me or anyone else with gifts monsters.

Short Stories of My spiritual Journey before working with Empathic Healing

I visited 4 people regularly for almost 2 years and still keep in touch with them today. Three people kindly gave me permission to share some of our experiences together and link to their sites if you want to learn more about them.

Spiritual Mentor

I’ve mentioned my spiritual mentor in quite a few posts since we started working together on a regular basis last year. Her name is Jo Garceau, a Spiritual Mentor & Soul Coach with a background in Shamanic Astrology and politics. Jo uses a combination of astrology, storytelling, and symbols to help me understand the “crazy-making” experiences occurring as I took big steps in my recovery.

She taught me about working with energy aka kundalini aka vital force and not to be afraid of how my mind/body/spirit experiences and moves in/around/through/with me all the time. What I remember most is sharing with her how I meditated at least 2x a day to help me sleep and wake up. During every meditation (closed eyes), I “saw” colors, shapes, symbols, figures trying to communicate with me through stories and senses. She asked me if I believe in deities, shamans, guardians, and guides. I said yes. Then Jo shared some of her experiences communicating with deities and spirits from other religious and spiritual practices during meditation. She shared knowledge about Spirit Guides and protection too.

That is how I learned about Grandmother Spider and how she blessed me with the gift of being able to communicate with spiders using sound vibrations. Plants and other non-verbal, sentient beings too sometimes. Working with Jo taught me self acceptance and how to embrace my gifts instead of feeling ashamed or afraid of them.

Healers, Mediums, and Ghosts

Jane de Forest of Jane’s Inspiration is a multi-faceted, compassionate, and kind spiritual practitioner who uses her gifts as an artist, medium, animal communicator, and author to help individuals find clarity about personal, professional, or other life experiences. I worked with her about 4x in private sessions and attended 2 of her events about intuition and gifts.

My questions had to do with work/vocation and family struggles. I shared with her the same stories I share here with you, but also with questions about how to cope with or find solutions for struggles that still bothered me on a spiritual level. Jane accepted me and my past, listened with compassion, and shared information she received through her medium and intuitive gifts as personal artwork that I have displayed on the wall above my living room altar.

Thanks to Jane, I found the courage to re-connect with my parents, visit all of them face-to-face for Christmas last year, and continue with this blog while studying aromatherapy, herbalism, and how to build a sustainable business. All this as I re-discovered the reasons why I love my day job and ways to make it interesting again by using as many of my skills as possible to align that work with my personal values.

Mentoring, Guidance, and Energy Healing

Terry McGill said he is: “In my own words: Beginner Mind; Listener; and willing to share my gifts with anyone who desires – to the extent they desire.” Thanks to him, I learned that the Tao is much more than a spiritual or religious practice. It is also a healing practice based on energy, love, integration of Self, and lifestyle medicine – those are my words. Some day I hope to feel safe and secure enough to go back to his weekly Tuesday group sessions to learn and explore the lineage and path Terry shares with his students. This one is a bit longer because I have two stories to share.

For now, I will share some of my experiences working with Terry. The first time I met Terry, I was looking for a crystal wand to help disperse clogged energy in my body – something one of the TCM interns I worked with suggested since I had an affinity with crystals and he had much more experience working with crystals. As I tested out different wands in the display case, he came up to me and asked if he could offer a suggestion.

Before this, we had never met. But something about his presence felt right. So I agreed and we discussed the merits of obsidian vs amethyst vs clear quartz wands. Terry suggested the obsidian wand (one I kept going back to, but wasn’t sure why). He said my energy aligns with the energy in the obsidian wand and then demonstrated how it could be used on his own body. I was impressed and bought that wand. To this day, I use it on certain areas of my body that feel energetically or spiritually blocked (usually around my tail bone, but sometimes my throat and belly button too).

Later on in the year (2018), I visited him once or twice for private sessions and also attended one workshop “meetup” as a guest. In between those sessions, we stayed in touch via email because I was interested ,but not able to attend sessions. Terry thought a healing practice called Tao calligraphy might help with my “energy” problems. I wasn’t ready in 2018…too worried about the big family stuff coming up later in the year. But I was ready in 2019. Specifically in March of 2019 when I had my tubal ligation procedure. For the month of March, Terry wrote daily Tao calligraphy blessings for me and transmitted the healing energy via Source or Spirit. I went into that month (usually one where all my symptoms increase) calm, present, and zero panic attacks going into the procedure. For the rest of the month, I managed to cope with everything feeling calm, present, loved, and supported no matter what happened.

Pulling It Together

In the main photo, I listed the foundational values that make up my invisible armor. Then I shared stories about my past and present to illustrate (I hope) how those values came to exist and why.

I was raised in a culture of fear, negativity, opposition to change, and scarcity in many ways. Few unique individuals showed me a different path to love, prosperity, kindness, neutrality or positivity, and acceptance. The hate, fear, and negativity won many battles for my soul. But the core of me never gave up and never gave in. It remembered, hid, and nurtured hope.

College was my first cultural shock. Then came counseling. Followed by work. And finally a place where I blended in and my values were met with acceptance instead of disgust. Where it’s okay to have guardian angels and work with energy in ways not proven by scientific literature.

It didn’t matter what they believed, approved of, or accepted about me. What mattered (and still matters) is what I believe, approve of, accept, and am willing to change about me. All parts of me. In accepting this part of myself – something I denied, rejected, and hid for more than 10 years – I was able to create invisible armor that helped me feel safe and secure interacting with all kinds of people in a variety of places.

An invisible armor that can be fine-tuned using emotional protection strategies, reinforced through physical protection strategies, and applied in any environment at any time.

My gifts are not your gifts. Your gifts are not mine. Maybe some are similar. Maybe none of this works for you. But

  • if you notice things that fall outside of our traditional 5 senses and scientific evidence
  • if maybe embracing this part of yourself instead of fearing it
  • if maybe learning how to use these gifts feels right to you

Why not learn, experiment, explore, or indulge your curiosity?

If not, think of this as a knowledge exercise to create new tools for your coping tool kit.

Thanks for reading.