There have been a lot of good experiences and positive changes in my life lately. There have also been some unsettling realizations and uncomfortable changes about how I see myself and interact with the world.
The Pain of June (past)
One of the most difficult parts of June is pain management. When I am awake, my body hurts. As I try to sleep, my body still hurts. I want to stay home and rest because the pain keeps me awake. None of my “regular” coping strategies work. In the past, the more I tried to use any coping strategies, the more pain I felt. The more I tried to relax, the more tension my body experienced.
I felt at war with myself, and giving in to my OCD self- harm compulsions was the only way to get relief. Because self-harm made the obsessive thoughts, voices, and words go away. But the self-harm provided temporary relief and was addictive. The window of relief shrunk as my body got used to the distraction. And like any other addict, I had to increase the pain and self-harm to get any relief.
The Pain of June (present)
This year, the pain arrived on schedule. The OCD compulsions to self-harm DID NOT follow. The body memories, flashbacks, and hallucinations did follow the pain. I’ve been living with the hallucinations for a week now. The pain has ebbed and flowed…some days worse than others. But the weekly Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments have helped a lot.
I use TCM because each visit includes acupuncture and body work in the form of cupping, massage, or gau sha. My intern practitioner also teaches me self-massage techniques I can use between appointments. Together, the acupuncture, massage, and body work helps manage my pain to acceptable levels in spite of triggers. This allows me to sleep less, feel more energetic, and do more with my time. (all positive changes)
The Shame of Backlash
The downside is intense backlash and triggering that feels different and is difficult to cope with. Shame is one of the few emotions we all still struggle with. It’s something that requires help and perspective from an objective third party who can listen with empathy and help clear out the confusing bits.
Once the shame trigger is identified, healing with coping strategies can begin. Why the hotline? Because my counseling sessions take place every week or 1.5 weeks and this type of trigger often occurs between sessions. If the hotline can’t help, I do reach out to my therapist. But only when all other resources have been utilized first.
The hotline helped me and my triggered parts calm down enough until our weekend session. Calm down as in be able to sleep and quiet the anxiety the evening before therapy; not as in make the backlash go away. My therapist witnessed how the backlash affected me in real time. She asked some questions and helped me understand why this version of backlash felt different:
Therapist: how do you feel?
Me: I feel fine; just tired. My emotions are calm even though I am experiencing backlash.
Therapist: how does your body feel?
Me: tense. All of my muscles hurt, but especially around here (pointing).
Therapist: you’re braced for an attack. Am I correct in thinking this?
Me: yes, you’re right. I do feel braced for an attack – a slap of some kind or my head being pulled back by my hair.
The backlash is my younger par way of saying:
don’t do this! It’s dangerous. Our body is going to get hurt. Then ALL of us will feel t he pain. And we’ll be humiliated in front of everyone. And then be punished even worse.
This time, backlash has to do with memories of physical abuse for showing confidence or accomplishments instead of hiding and letting someone else take the credit. It happens most often when I interact with the world by sharing my experience, skills, knowledge, accomplishments, and abilities with confidence.
The more often I step out and do this, the more often I experience backlash. When combined with anniversaries or other flashbacks, the pain increases. Emotional distress remains the same or decreases. With this new information, my therapist and I are working on coping strategies and techniques for pain-related flashbacks.
As I learn more, I will share the information in future posts.
Thanks for reading