EMBRACE DIFFERENCES

Writing & Blogging: Guest Comment from 6/14/2020

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.

First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thank you!

Guest Commenter found in SPAM on 6/14/2020

Once in a while, I get a guest comment that is both similar and different to others about writing and blogging. It sparks my curiosity and gets me thinking about my writing process so that maybe I can answer the question.

In this case, the question also involves coping strategies for focus, anxiety, or writer’s block. Maybe it will also answer some other guest comments with similar questions. Everyone’s writing process is different and unique to them. But here is my strategy.

Free Writing

My mind is often full of thoughts and writing ideas. In the middle of the night, my alter personalities share ideas with everyone. But I don’t remember them the next morning. They come back when inspiration strikes, during meditation, or as I practice some free writing.

Most common example is Word Association style. Pick a word at random. Write down the first thing that comes to mind. Then continue writing about it until you feel more relaxed – i.e. the words start to flow easily.

Then go back to the topic you want to write about and try the same exercise.

There are other options for free writing exercises. Maybe try a few others to see what works best for you.

Refocus Your Thoughts

Sometimes, my thoughts are scattered and confusing as I sit down to write. Usually because there is something distracting me. Other times because I feel scared about the topic and am avoiding it. Once in a while, the anxiety overwhelms me and fear blocks the writing.

I use grounding and distraction coping strategies when this happens. Meditation and deep breathing may help, but it won’t stop the other ideas and so on bouncing around in my mind fighting to get out. Maybe this is true for you as well.

When you use a grounding technique (and no it does not have to be sensory grounding), you are bringing yourself out of wherever you were and into the present moment. The moment where you write about a specific topic.

Some other grounding techniques:

  • Remembering facts about yourself (birthdate, graduation date, parent’s first name, last name, etc.)
  • Remembering facts about the day: specific date (June 28, 2020), specific day of the week (Sunday), location (living room), time of day and so on
  • Remembering life milestones: college graduation 2004, first real job, 2006, first decade of recovery 2014, move across country 2016, and so on.

When you use a distraction, you have the opportunity to let out all the other stuff in your mind before you start writing. It’s a way to express whatever is stopping you from wiring about a specific topic.

Some quick distractions:

  • Practice a hobby: get creative and choose something that allows you to express yourself. Often, I get distracted by emotions or memories or associations my mind makes with the topic. So finding a way to express them helps
  • Make a drink or a snack and use it as a mindfulness exercise before you write. And if you don’t want to eat or drink, find something else you can use for a mindfulness exercise to clarify your thoughts
  • Get up and move: physical activity releases endorphins and helps you feel more connected to all parts of yourself. You also get the benefit of self expression here too. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy as long as it feels right to you
  • Change your location or routine. Try writing somewhere else or at a different time of day or different day of the week.

Be Kind to Yourself

Give yourself a break. Writing is difficult business, vocation, passion – whatever you want to call it. Lots of people have opinions about “how to write” and “what makes a writer” or even “how to be a writer/better writer”. They are both correct and incorrect because what works for them, might not work for you.

Maybe the 10-15 minutes you spend writing about other topics is part of your writing process. It’s how you clear your mind so that you can focus on your topic.

You can experiment with that idea by extending and shortening your dedicated writing time. Add 10-15 minutes. Try free writing. Then turn to a new page and start on your topic. Or end your writing time early.

Remember that you are a writer and successful because you put in the hard work to practice and improve your craft. Congratulate yourself for being where you are now and for how hard you work to be a writer.

Remember not to be so hard on yourself either. That is something I constantly struggle with because there is only so much in a day that:

  • I want to do
  • I need to do
  • I can do
Personal Story example:

I have a goal to write one blog post a week for my new blog and continue writing weekly posts here in between aromatherapy/herbal studies experiments, work, getting my business started, and self care.

But last week, I didn’t have anything to write about for my new blog.

This week, I don’t have anything to write about either because my experiments are still in progress. My rose petal and chamomile infused oil will not be ready until next week. The elderberry infused honey has 3 more weeks to macerate. I’m still testing the “soothe my skin” healing salve with homemade arnica infused oil to help with pain and scars.

And the conflict is: maintain my schedule by writing something low quality and maybe not useful. Or skip some deadlines until I have results and something interesting/useful to write about to create high quality content.

I’ve decided to skip a few deadlines so that I can deliver quality content with photos.

Conclusion

The ideas above are some ways I work through the focus problem as I write. The rest of it is simply this: first drafts are always messy and never reflect the final product – at least for me. So I give myself a break when writing something new.

When I am continuing on something I started a while ago, I will re-read and review what I wrote before to remind myself of what’s already been written.

But to be completely honest, I am not sure if my main strategy will help you at all. You see, my alter personalities do a lot of the writing for this blog. They compose many articles and so on inside my mind without ever putting anything in writing form. They do all the revising and drafting, etc. inside my mind.

Then, everyone decides what gets written down and published here. I/we type up the post in WordPress and then do some light editing/proofreading to catch the major stuff.

And publish the article as is. Whatever errors, etc. you find here are all ours.

So, if you have alter personalities and coexist peacefully with them, maybe consider letting them have a journal (or a few journals) and tools to express themselves before you start the rest of your writing. And if you don’t have alter personalities, it’s always a good idea to express whatever is going on inside to help you relax and focus on your topic.

Because feeling relaxed, confident, and present are the best tools to help you focus and concentrate on a task.

Thanks for reading.

Shame: When You/I/We always fear “when will the other shoe drop?”

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.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

The one constant in life is change. Some of us flow with change. Maybe work with change. Or embrace change.

Others fear change. Reject or ignore or resist change. Maybe fight change.

Still more people try to control change. Or influence and manipulate it for their benefit.

No matter what though, change happens.

And how you or I or we or he or she or it copes with the change – the choices we all make – decides whether or not the change helps us or hurts us.

For most of my life, anything good always precedes something bad. Positive paves the way for something negative to happen to me, around me, through me as an instrument to hurt others. And so I spent most of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Always fearing positive successful situations and experiences because they never lasted or were remembered. The achievements were overshadowed by my mistakes and failures – all gleefully pointed out in the most shaming and humiliating ways in public and in private.

Not until I went to college did I realize the truth: good things were NOT always followed by something negative.

It was a lesson I learned and believed in for others, but not myself. In my mind and the mind of relatives, friends, etc. nothing good would ever happen to me because I didn’t deserve it. But I was intrigued by the concept that people did not have to live in fear of something bad happening all the time. Curious too. And so I observed these people who always seemed positive that good things will happen, do happen, in spite of their negative experiences.

Therapy and counseling in college was my first taste of supportive people. They saw something in me and encouraged me to continue making appointments no matter how much I resisted. And I did resist. Until something happened in my senior year that made me choose to get help.

I don’t remember much about what was discussed in those sessions. Not even sure I remember going to all of them. But some part of me went. And other parts of me chatted with different college counselors in the mental health department of the student center. It’s when I realized that most people around me were interested in being around me because they pitied and/or felt superior to me. These people could say “Oh I am so glad not to be her. I am much better than she is” and get a confidence boost without having to confront their own insecurities.

That pattern continued for a while even after college. sometime in my mid-twenties, that changed because I changed on the inside. And the people who used to invite me to go places stopped. Instead, they were more open in their rudeness and gossip and insults. They made others who I was genuinely friendly with choose between me and them.

I made the choice easy by walking away from it all. Depression is never fun. but coming out of a depressive mode tends to put a lot in perspective. Especially when you have a supportive counselor on your side willing to challenge your perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors through careful, thoughtful, and respectful conflict (i.e. conversations and questions).

Many people don’t like conflict. Believe it’s negative “a dirty word” and problematic. But conflict is like change. Neutral until applied a certain way based on choices. Then conflict becomes positive or negative; good or bad or evil; constructive or destructive. You get the idea.

Personally, I’ve alternately avoided and run face first into conflict. It’s not in my nature to stand passively and let life happen around me. But I’ve learned to be sneaky about how and when I challenge people, organizations, systems, groups, etc. Not subtle or discreet or controlling or manipulative. Sneaky.

The only times I avoided conflict were when my anxiety and triggers got in the way. Then fear took over, survival instincts kicked in, and I walked away to stay safe. From the outside looking in, many people took that survival mode skill as being passive and easy to manipulate; afraid and lacking courage; and unable to handle conflict or stand up for herself.

I used to believe that too until my parts (alter personalities) shared the truth with me. They shared memories and emotions and experiences from their perspective. Because of that and their commitment to not ever go to jail, we avoided a lot of fistfights and verbal augments that could have turned violent and/or lost me my job in many situations.

Still, there is always a price for winning a challenge, being successful, or achieving a goal. Some people will call that price a REWARD. Others will call it PUNISHMENT. Me/We personally call it “Consequences of Choice” – neutral until someone puts a subjective value on the results.

To me, the consequences of my choices – be they winning, losing, or something else – are “the other shoe falling”. Many parts of me still struggle with the idea that these consequences can be positive and useful, even supportive and constructive in some ways, instead of dangerous, evil, negative, etc.

And so, every time any part of me embarks on something new, then completes the challenge or makes the choice or finishes the project, we all wait together for the other shoe to drop. Anxiety and fear turn our mind to mush, and time becomes fluid. Sometimes I/we can get ourselves out of that space without help. More often, though, one or some or all of us require outside assistance to move back into the timeline.

Not the present or the past or the future per se. Because all of us are grounded and aware of being present in the “now”. But mindfulness works best when time follow a clock and moves in one direction – forward. When time becomes fluid, it moves any direct it feels like. And so while most or all of us alters are in the present moment, we feel like we are also in the past and the future and some other place at the same time.

That’s how I lose time and memories.

Maybe you’ve experienced that too. Maybe not. There are ways to cope with that – Mindfulness being one of the best options – but many of the most effective coping strategies and techniques are best learned under the supervision of a trained professional who can help you cope with unexpected memories or feelings that may appear as you practice.

I tried learning some without supervision and ended up down the hole again in relapse mode for a while. The lapses were less troublesome and harmful when I worked on the techniques and strategies with supervision – the people I trusted were my safety net so to speak and helped me cope with the aftermath of learning, failure, mistakes, trying again, and (eventually) success.

So what are those other strategies and techniques you ask?

  • Grounding Techniques
    • Sensory
    • Intellectual/cognitive
    • Perception challenges
    • Remembering facts (birth date, day of the week, time of day, etc.)
    • Mindfulness & Deep Breathing
  • Meditation
    • Visualization
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    • Body/Spirit/Energy awareness
    • Reflection
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Spiritual Practice and Rituals
  • Group Therapy – many varieties
  • Support Groups & sponsors
  • EMDR
  • Action Commitment Therapy
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Self Care
  • Self Soothing

I’ve discussed many (or all?) of these in different posts on the blog – so many that I can’t actually share links here. For more info, please use the search tool and category menus to find other posts.

So what do I do now when I feel like the other shoe is dropping? Depends because every situation is different. Last night I used grounding strategies, a diffuser, and a call to the hotline. This morning I used meditation and body awareness breathing techniques while in bed and a diffuser while writing this post.

How you help yourself and cope with the fear is your choice. I can’t and won’t (don’t want to) tell you what to do or promise something will work.

The choice is yours, and I/we are here to support you and your choices.

Thanks for reading.

Safe, Respectful, Assertive Communication Grid

Alter Post: Being Assertive & Defending Oneself with Kindness + Honesty and a dash of stubborn

I decided to write about trauma-informed care on Scent Reflections, so here is the link if you’re interested.

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.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

Okay, now all the warnings are in place. You can continue reading or visit another time. I’ve written about Mother’s Day and anniversaries before, so thought I’d share something different this time. You can read about how my alters are learning to use DBT and protect our system (their preferred job) to protect and defend against hostile, rude, triggering, or aggressive people.

Read More »

Admin: R&R weekend

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.

Hello Guests,

If you celebrate, Happy Easter and all that. I hope you managed to celebrate in your own way even if you can’t gather with loved ones this year.

As for me, April comes with some sad anniversaries and memories around Easter. Between that and having some challenging, yet positive discussions about the past with my parents, my body memories flared up this weekend.

All my sinuses and other parts of my face got swollen and are still somewhat painful right now. I spent the weekend sleeping, drinking herbal remedies (tea and soup) to help with the congestion and swelling, and practicing healing meditation when I wasn’t a sleep.

So I don’t have much to share with you this week. All I ask is that you please follow the rules and regulations in place to reduce chances of the infection spreading to other populations. Be mindful of yourself and practice self care as much as possible.

If you are like me, please take extra pains with self care and meeting your needs. Because you might not meet the typical criteria for being high risk, but you are high risk if your mental/emotional challenges manifest as physical illness that lowers your immune system. That is how I often end up sick or manifesting cold-like or sinus infection or flu symptoms when I don’t have any of those infections.

I promise I am taking care of myself, staying safe, and only going out to pick up deliveries – with washable gloves on because my disposable ones have disappeared. I swear I packed them, honest. But they refuse to be found right now. Maybe some day, they will reappear. Until then, laundry works.

Stay safe and take good care!

Thanks for reading!