Recovery: Slowing Down & Self Care

Short post today.

I am recovering from a week of panic attacks and flashbacks today, so have not got much to write about.  After this post, I plan on sleeping some more to get ready for Monday’s work, etc.

In other news, I continue to slow down my life to focus on what feels meaningful and important while letting go of what doesn’t with joy and grace.  But more on that later.

Finally, apologies to anyone whose blogs I follow for not being an active commenter.  I am following your progress and cheering you on from the sidelines (aka as a lurker) even though I can’t keep up with all of your updates.  I’ve been on an Internet cleanse on and off for the past few months – only checking in with school, work, and existing author sites on my “read” list – to understand my anger and frustration towards technology.

Social media, in general, is not something I am comfortable with no matter how hard I try to learn and feel safe using it.  If not for the fact that I need some kind of presence to exist for work and this blog, I’d shun it all together and live happily with phone/text, email, and letter-writing.

So please keep me on your lists.  I am following, reading/viewing your updates, and cheering you on from the sidelines.  But I will never be active and seldom will comment. It’s just not who I am or how I choose to live my life.  If I do have something to share, I will comment or use the comment box to send an email thorough your website/blog.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversaries: Happy Birthday Mom

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

Your Daughter

Anger: sitting with sensations in my body

Catching Up Slowly

The short version is that I spent a lot of time sitting with the new feelings and sensations inside my body.  By that I mean all of the feelings buried underneath the anger revealed themselves and started moving in my body.

It felt like going through puberty again, although without the hormones to make everything feel more confusion.  Those feelings and sensations include: sexuality, sensuality, physical attraction, femininity, and masculinity.

I still experienced anger and frustration, but not in the same way or with the same overwhelming intensity as before.  In fact, the anger didn’t feel like anger until I started paying attention to the sensations in my body every time I felt angry.  The sensations flared up at the peak of my anger and drained away as I acknowledged and sat with them.

What sensations for anger?

Tensing of my jaw and neck muscles.  My eye lids tightening around the corners.  Increased heartbeat.  Stabbing pain in my mid back.  Sudden discomfort, bloating, and lack of appetite around my abdominal/middle back area.  A surge of adrenaline that made me want to MOVE, but not hurt anyone.  And a feeling that something sludgy was moving around inside me trying to get out.

“Doing” versus “Sitting with”

For someone who hasn’t lived in her body for about 30 years, all of these sensations and feelings felt new and scary.  I didn’t know how to cope with them. What could I do?  How do I keep from getting distracted?

Talking with my counselor validated my decision to not try to “do” anything to the feelings and sensations.

By “do” I mean use coping strategies to contain or balance or change them in some way.

Instead, we agreed that I would “sit” with these feelings and sensations to learn about and from them.  Sitting with uncomfortable feelings is not new to me.  I developed a process for doing this around 2010 to help dial down the intensity of physical panic attacks and created the acronym AEVAR and mantras to chant with the acronym words.

  • AEVAR
  • Acknowledge – I acknowledge all of the feelings and sensations in my body, mind, and spirit
  • Experience – I experience all of the feelings and sensations moving in, around, through, and out of my mind, body, and spirit with friendliness, love, and compassion
  • Validate – Each sensation and feeling is valid, real, deserving of respect, and a valued source of information
  • Accept – I accept all of the feelings and sensations as valid, real, and useful in sharing information with me
  • Release – I let go of all the feelings and sensations with love and acceptance knowing that they will come and go like waves in the ocean
  • The chanting helps all parts of me feel grounded and safe enough to be patient until the intense feelings and sensations release themselves.

Chanting the words (and believing in them) is a mantra in itself.  You can add others that fit your circumstances or not use a mantra at all.

What does this have to do with the break and spiritual quest?

The Break

Sitting with my feelings instead of employing a coping strategy takes a lot of time, focus, and energy.  It required changes to my daily routines in order to meet basic needs and maintain self-care.  More meditation and deep breathing.  More relaxation techniques to help me rest or sleep.  And more grounding/mindfulness exercises to help me stay focused on my job as work got busier and busier instead of slowing down like usual.

art boiling eruption fog
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After a while, though, doing this on my own brought out more questions and insecurities than answers.  I was working through major family breakthroughs at the time and experiencing intense hyper-vigilance that negatively impacted my relationship with neighbors in the building.  Everything felt sharper, more intense.  Energy or something was building up inside of me, and I didn’t know how to let it go without causing an explosion.

So I turned back to my spiritual practices.  During meditation, I asked God, guardians, guides, the universe, angels, and archangels for support and guidance.  I practiced listening to my intuition and using that knowledge to make choices.  And moved into the next step of my spiritual quest.

Spiritual Quest

Without the anger buffering me from all of the hidden feelings and sensations, all parts of me started having more flashbacks and intense dreams.  I felt fear differently and confusion all the time.  The outside world seemed more unfriendly and dangerous than before.  And all parts of me were feeling frustrated with a lack of resources about certain topics related to our past history of sexual and physical abuse in the Western Medicine canon.

We used the month off to explore other healing methodologies, spiritual practices, and ways of thinking that might offer information about the feelings and sensations of something moving through our physical body and spiritual self.  Astrology, a tarot reading, books about chakra systems (from spiritual and psychological perspectives) and life force energy (aka qi, kundalini, auras, magnetic fields, energy fields, etc.) from practitioners and healers were some of my resources.

All of these practitioners embodied love, compassion, and acceptance as part of their lifestyles.  It showed in their speech, body language, and interactions with others.  And all of them incorporated teachings from eastern religions, western religions, and mythology from around the world in their practices.  They shared information and wisdom with me, provided direction, and offered resources so that I could continue on my journey.

Today’s Featured Image

I found this quote on my Facebook feed – gratitude to the friend who shared it – and saved it to share here too.

Why put it with a post about anger?

This quote embodies the main lesson learned from each reading session with a practitioner of tarot, astrology, etc. during the past two months.

Love – universal, unconditional, compassionate, and accepting – really can manifest positive changes in oneself and in life.

Without letting down my guard and changing my beliefs about the outside world, and the universe in general, I would not have had the courage and faith to believe in this kind of love and let it protect all parts of me from the inside out.

That love and protection provided the support and tools to finally drain out the seeming bottomless pit of anger.

Without that love protecting and healing all parts of me on the inside, I would not have had the courage to keep sitting with the feelings and sensations until my intuition guided me to unexpected answers.

So I’m sharing that love with all of you.  It’s a gift freely given.  Yours to accept or not.

Thanks for reading.

 

Coping Strategies: Day 94 of “365 Days of Affirmations” challenge

Background

About 3 months ago, I decided to try to write a unique affirmation every day for 365 days.  You can read about it here in this post.  Today’s featured image is an affirmation from Louise Hay whose book You Can Heal Your Life inspired me to persist on my recovery journey after my first big relapse.  Maybe it will help you too.

As a writing challenge, I was pushed to sit and put time/effort/discipline into practice on a regular basis.

As a mental health challenge, this was a way to get all parts of me to change perspective from negative or neural to positive and friendly.

As a personal challenge, this helped (and continues to help) cope with and work through fears of failure, rejection, worthlessness, and shame.

How and Why?

Writing Challenge:
My writing style (not work related) is rather undisciplined and spontaneous.  That works okay for some things like Alter Post stories and so on, but it’s not that great when I try to organize ideas and improve my skills to provide useful, concise, well-written content overall.  The discipline of having to write even a few words every day has helped a lot with organization and self-discipline for writing.

Mental Health Challenge:
Change is difficult for anyone.  For me (especially when the I is more like them, us, we, him, her) staying positive and changing our perspective about life from negative to positive is a challenge.  Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Action Commitment Therapy (ACT) can only do so much if the rest of me isn’t willing to put in the work.Writing at least 1 positive affirmation about my intention for the day forced everyone to think outside the box and get creative.  Imagination and curiosity always gets everyone in my system excited and willing to try something new.

Personal Challenge
Fear of failure as in stop trying because you can’t win or aren’t good enough.

Fear of rejection as in why bother because no one cares?  Anyone who finds you writing this is going to criticize and insult or make fun of you.

Fear of worthlessness (lack of confidence) and shame as in you can’t do this.  You’re not smart enough or good enough at writing to create affirmations.  You should be ashamed of yourself for thinking you can write affirmations, let alone the disciplined enough to write one every day.  You’re too lazy and irresponsible.

Those have been the thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and voices in my head for as long as I can remember.  Most of the time, I can use coping techniques and strategies to get around them.  That’s not enough anymore.

This challenge was and is a way to use “small successes” and “determination” to keep writing the affirmations even when I miss one or more days in a row because life got in the way.

Celebrating Day 94

Today is Day 94 of the challenge.  At my lowest point, I missed writing 5 affirmations/quotes in a row.  On my best days, I wrote up to 3 affirmations and/or quotes in a day.  Some are phrases.  Some are poems.  Some are paragraphs.

All of these affirmations are unedited first drafts right now.  The first 10 or so are awful and require some revising.  But I’ve decided to be vulnerable and share some of my favorites with you.

Affirmation 94: “I love my family unconditionally and accept them as they are”

Affirmation 79: “The universe is full of friendly people.  Universe is friendly, not scary.”

Affirmation 8: “I am safe and secure in my home.  Today is an excellent day for laundry.”

Mantra 31:

“I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Memories can’t hurt us.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Family can’t hurt us.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  The mail will be delivered without fuss.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Lyft is faster and safer than a bus.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  Therapy today is right for us.

I am safe.  You are safe.  WE are safe.

Past is past.  Present is now.  I/WE believe in us”

Thanks for reading

 

 

 

Alter Post: Eating Disorder is not the same as disordered eating

Eating Disorder History

I have anorexia nervosa.  Right now, it’s in remission.  But stressful times casue a loss of appetite.  If I am mot careful, I start skipping meals, eating less, and forgetting to hydrate.  My body interprets the pattern of skipping meals and eating less as a signal to start hoarding calories and retaiming water to protect vital organs.  It falls back into the cycle instincitvely to protect my body from wasting away because past experience says “who knows when the body will be fed again?”

Even after I got the anorexia under control and found ways to make the allergies go away, I still had problems with disordered earing habits like:

  • food fears
  • dieting restrictions
  • obsessive/complusive behaviors related to food
  • shopping, preparation, cooking, meal times, and so on

I was taking in calories but unable to enjoy eating or maintain a healthy weight.  Low energy, sleep problems, lowered immune system…you name it I experienced it in some way.  My doctors and I are constantly surprised that the only long term sign of decades of malnutrition a d starvation is pale skin because of lack of melatonin production.  That means I have problems absorbing vitamin D and have to be careful of sun exposure.  It also means I have to take supplements.

Present

That was about 4 years ago.

These days my skin is a healthy  warm/neutral skin tone – neither pale white nor a obviously brown, but somewhere in between – and my weight stays mostly the same within a 5 lb range.  This isn’t my target weight or my ideal weight, but it’s the weight my body/mind/spirit believes is best for overall health.

When I do lose weight, it’s less than the 10 lb cut off that tips me into an official relapse.  Problem is that I’m already petite & slim, so can’t afford to lose any weight.  Being slim also means that any weight loss is easily noticed.  Same with weight gain.

I might not notice that my eating habits changed right away.  Probably won’t notice if my sleep patterns or food thoughts have changed either.  But I will and do notice when my tops feel too loose/tight or my pants and skirts start bagging at the waist or feeling too tight.

My stomach and abdominal area is really sensitive to pressure so bloating and discomfort from disordered eating usually catches my attention first.

What is the difference between Eating Disorders & Disordered Eating habits?

One can have disordered eating habits without an eating disorder.

For example, I used to have a lot of rules about what I could eat, how often I could eat it, and where I could eat it.  The rules didn’t include how much or little I at at one meal or what had to happen if I over/under ate.  It was almost like a restrictive diet that allowed me to feel like I was in control, but still eating healthy.  These rules and restrictions would make sense if they were related to a medical or physiological issue that made me sick if I ate something.  But they didn’t make sense for a healthy, young woman without any food allergies or sensitivities.  The restrictions were based on fear and avoidance.  Fear of triggering flashbacks or panic attacks; and avoidance as my coping strategy to not get triggered.

*Main difference here: I was aware of this and able to make the conscious choice to challenge these fears with support from medical nutrition therapy and mental health counseling.*

One cannot have an earing disorder without a history/pattern of existing disordered eating habits.

Example of my thoughts while practicing anorexia:
I’m too heavy.  I don’t deserve to eat this food or even enjoy food.  My parents, these teachers, are all trying to control me and force me to (insert physical activity here).  If I’m too weak, they can’t make me do it.  I hate my body.  It’s the reason why these monsters want to hurt me.  If I don’t eat, my body will change; they won’t want to use me anymore.  I have to punish myself for losing control at (insert family event), so not eating (insert favorite food) anymore will prove that I have will power, etc.

Can you tell the difference in my thought processes?

Why is this important?

Stress does odd things to mental and physical processes.  It changes internal chemistry too.  Trauma causes changes in development.  All of this can cause problems with digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Advertising and the internalized messages from caregivers also have an impact on body image, self-esteem, and eating habits.

As a child, I starved and had to scrounge for food when my parents forgot or didn’t feel like cooking/feeding me.  Most of what I ate were sandwiches, pastries, toast, and junk food (cookies, chips, canned whatever) that got stored in the pantry.  The refrigerator was too heavy to open until I was about 5 years old.

As I got older, my mom put me on the same diets she was on.  And punished me by taking away any food I liked whenever the diets didn’t work.  She fed me less so she could eat more because it was my fault she gained weight.  Yeah, fhat doesn’t make sense.  But it’s how she justified her eating habits.

Then came the constant criticism about:

  • how I looked
  • my eating habits
  • food choices

Finally, there were (inevitable) comparisons to cousins of a similar age and generation from everyone.  Too fat, too skinny, too clumsy, too weak…

Connection: Stressful Situations & Self Care (i.e. eating habits)

I don’t know about you, but many of the survivors I have met and talked to have weight problems, immune system problems, and health problems that seem to stem from A) food choices; B) thoughts and beliefs about nutrition; C) beliefs about what their bodies deserve or don’t deserve in relation to food and health; and D) a lack of their own sense of self.  For myself, I still struggle with all four of these topics and probably will for the rest of my life.

Life transitions are among the biggest stressors in my life.  By transition, I mean lots of small changes that accumulate to create a BIG change.

Some examples: legal name change; moving cross country; reconnecting with family; changing jobs; deciding not to hide anymore; advocating for myself at work; decorating my apartment; talking with an attorney; getting my first bank loan approved; becoming more active on social media; changing my self-perceptions for improved self-image.

Hope

But even after all of this, I feel hope and joy whenever a change comes my way.  Each experience taught me that a positive outlook, faith in myself and in the universal energy (aka spirtual or religious belief system) being there to support me as long as I welcome it into my life.

I know that each time something like this comes up, I will feel stressed out.  My body might go into these automatic patterns, or they might not.  The big difference is that I am aware this can happen and can put together safety plans to help recover faster once the stress eases up.

And as long as I stay within the criteria my medical nutrition counselor gave me, I will not fall into a relapse of anorexia no matter what my mind and body are telling me.

Options

If you are not sure whether you are experiencing disordered eating or an eating disorder, maybe it’s time to talk with a professional.

Mental health counselors who specialize in eating disorders and have trauma experience are a good first step.

If you are not comfortable talking with a counselor, talking with your primary physician is also a good first step.  He or she can get you a referral to meet with a registered dietitian or nutrition specialist.  Or maybe refer you to a program that offers food and nutrition support.

Finally, there are many non-profit organizations and social media groups (legitimate ones) who offer support for people with diet and eating challenges.  A lot of their resources are free and available in a safe, non-judgmental (sometimes anonymous) location too.

Whatever your eating challenges may be, I wish that you all find the support and resources you need to be successful.

Thanks for reading.