Admin Post: Self-Care Weekend; see you Wednesday

Hi All,

We’re taking a break from posting.  Not sure what exactly is going to happen or why, but everyone in the system agrees that a Self-Care weekend is necessary.

Among other things, tomorrow is an anniversary…a remembrance of joy and loss.

Plus it was multiple events in August 2010 that informed the “no contact” with family choice of 2011/2012 and beyond.

Finally, I’ve read some excellent posts by guests and the WordPress Reader about Narcissism, Narcissistic Abuse, being highly sensitive in an insensitive world, and what friendships really mean.  We all need some time to process, digest, reflect & integrate everything into our framework.

So, We in the system wish you all a healthy, safe, relaxing, and (hopefully) happy next few days.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Re-Defining the Past

Dental work update

My dental surgery (officially called dental rehabilitation) went well.  Mouth and lips are still swollen and a little sore, but nothing terrible.  I’ve only had to take 2 pain pills between Monday and Tuesday.  The most important thing is taking my antibiotics and following the mouth cleaning instructions.

I’m really happy this happened in May.  Too many of my past medical and dental traumatic experiences occurred between March and May.  The body memories and flashbacks increase and everything goes haywire.  If you visit often, you might have noticed this.

By June, I’m back in crisis care mode – trying to come out of the black hole and “fix” the damage from the last few months.  One thing that always flares up is my book addiction.

Yes, I admit it.  I am addicted to reading and purchasing books.  If I could, I’d have a whole room in my house dedicated to my collection.  As it happens, I recently switched to an electronic book library because of all the moves.  Hopefully, my next one will be the last for a while.  Then I can bring my paper books home where they belong.

So what does all of this have to do with re-defining the past?

Simple.

The goal is to substitute negative experiences with positive ones.  This dental surgery went really well.  All of us in the system cooperated.  No one woke up in the middle of the surgery.  No one has gotten really sick or nauseous from the medication.  Other than the swollen lips and jaw, I look relatively normal and feel pretty good.

The landscape inside my mouth has changed.  It feels good and right to have the bits and pieces (i.e. teeth) that were causing trouble finally gone.  And maybe, just maybe, all of us will be able to “start fresh” with dental hygiene.  No more loss of teeth.  No more cavities.  Actually have a healthy mouth and be able to brush/floss/rinse with mouth wash without flashbacks and body memories.

That’s the goal.

And the care routine the dentist has me on brings me one step closer to creating a routine that doesn’t feel like an addiction or a habit.  Instead, it becomes part of my self care regimen.

Yes, I’m playing with semantics (word meaning) here, but sometimes the minor differences mean a lot.  “Regimen” has positive associations for me.  “Routine” or “habit” have negative associations.

So how else do I cope with the body memories and flashbacks?  Especially when I refuse to self-harm anymore and nothing else is working?

I book binge.

Buy books.  Purge books from personal collection.  Borrow books from library.

And read.

Read lots of books whenever I have a moment of free time.  Spend weekends reading – eating, drinking, sleeping optional – and reading.

I speed read certain types of books.  Others take more time until I learn the author’s rhythm.  Or the professional/academic writing style.  Then I can read it faster.

How is Book Binge different from Reading?

Reading for pleasure and education as a hobby is great.  It’s relaxing and distracting and fun.  I get caught up in the world building and the characters, but I can stop at a reasonable time and sleep.

Reading as an obsession or compulsion to relieve anxiety – not so great.  I worry about buying/borrowing the book.  I worry about starting the book.  I can’t wait to finish and skip to the end; then go back and read the rest of the book (sometimes).  I can’t stop reading even when I’m tired and have to work.

Buying books from favorite authors to re-read when I have the money – great use of my discretionary funds.

Buying books from a variety of authors I like, but don’t love, and may never read again to relieve anxiety – not so great and puts me in debt I can’t afford or crowds an overcrowded apartment.

Conclusion

I’m hoping this dental procedure helps re-define a really bad month of flashbacks and body memories by giving me something good to think about and work with when the darkness feels overwhelming.

And maybe by working on this routine, I will feel less compelled to hide inside books.  I will be able to do something besides immerse myself in fantasy worlds created by amazing authors.

And when nothing in my library or the public library holds my attention (I’ve read or re-read the books too many times in the recent past), I can find something else to do besides buy books and finish them in the same day.  Luckily, Amazon.com has an excellent return policy.

How do you re-define your past so it doesn’t affect the present so much?

Thanks for reading

Body Memories: Reflecting on Coping techniques for pain management

Body Memories

The traumatic experiences (aka memories) of past abuse held in one’s physical body.  Can cause feelings of physical pain, illness, muscle tension, digestive problems, and other issues related to the body.

Coping Techniques – a short analysis

 

I (we mostly think of ourselves as a single unit these days so “I” is appropriate) have been searching for coping strategies that help with body memories for quite a few years now.  In past posts, I’ve mentioned trying some strategies that were partially effective or not effective at that point in my recovery.  Part of the lack of success had to do with my place in recovery.  Part had to do with environmental triggers.  And part had to do with shame.

  • Sensori-motor psychotherapy – I was ready to try something new.  My alters were ready to try something new.  None of us really  trusted the individual recommended to us.  And the scheduling became an issue.  Then, something happened in a session (only the alters involved remember exact details), but suddenly this person and this treatment didn’t feel safe anymore.
  • Trauma-sensitive yoga – My mind was ready.  My body wasn’t.  I didn’t know how much physical pain I carried until after trying different types of yoga at different studios and with different instructors.  With recurring nightmares, triggers, dealing with so many people around me, not always feeling emotionally safe, and instructors sometimes being rude, stopping for a while seemed to be the right thing to do.
  • Acupuncture part 1 – in my old home state, I tried acupuncture.  It helped a little.  But then I stopped feeling comfortable with the person who treated me.  And I started feeling anxiety about the long commute.  The treatments stopped working.  And the nightmares started up again.  So I decided to wait on continuing this.
  • Acupuncture part 2 – in my new home state, acupuncture is combined with other parts of Traditional Chinese medicine like body work and massage.  I feel very safe at this clinic and trust both the intern practitioner and the supervisors there.  My body memories are starting to lessen and cause fewer incidences of moderate/severe symptoms.  The physical pain is also lessening.  My body is changing and getting healthier on the inside where the worst damage is.
  • Chiropractic part 1 – Chiropractic helped a lot when I went to a practitioner I trusted.  My spinal health and back muscles improved a lot.  I started to be mobile again.  Optimism and hope propelled me forward in the first phase of recovery.  Then I moved away from that practice and started with a recommended group closer to my new place and job.  But I didn’t feel as safe or comfortable there.  And I didn’t trust those people as much.  After 1 year or so without progress (I think I actually regressed), the main chiropractor talked to me about next steps in a private meeting.  We agreed that I could stop for now since the spinal manipulation wasn’t working.
  • Chiropractic part 2 – Part of the reasons the second round of treatments didn’t work was because my parents stepped up the pressure with more emotional and verbal abuse.  I was making a lot of progress; had a well-paying job; lived on my own; and started making plans for my future.  Plans that were opposed to what they wanted of me.  Between their manipulations and the stress of being “independent” for the first time, my trauma memories and nightmares trumped any progress the chiropractor might have made.  I learned, then, that trust between myself and the practitioner was a key element to progress and recovery.
  • Chiropractic part 3 – In the new home state, I am ready to look for a chiropractor and start treatments again.  My counselor says that a multi-pronged approach to physical healing will help a lot.  Since chiropractors focus on spinal health and spinal manipulation, I feel hopeful that my next round of treatments will help.
  • Massage Therapy – Yesterday I had my first massage in a long time.  It felt amazing.  And I trusted this massage therapist a lot.  We had a long conversation before my first visit and also discussed the approach and boundaries before starting the session.  I felt safe in the massage therapist’s care.  And my muscles felt so much better afterwards.  By better I mean less painful and tense.  Physically, my head, neck, shoulders, and back felt lighter too.  Yesterday evening, I slept better than I had in a long time.  So I am hopeful this will help too.

Expenses and Scheduling

All of these treatments cost money and time.  I am lucky to live in a place that has a lot of options within walking distance and others that are accessible by Uber or public transportation.  Medical insurance helps with more traditional therapeutic modalities like psychotherapy,  medicine, and medical doctors.  If you are lucky, sometimes your insurance also provides discounts for alternative medicine providers in their network.  Other times, it’s a matter of deciding what is necessary and then figuring out how to find affordable, reliable, professional care.

For example:

  • psychotherapy with a trauma specialist is #1 on my priority list, so I found someone in-network with my medical insurance.  This means I pay a monthly premium for medical insurance and a reasonable co-pay at every session instead of the full fee; my insurance covers the rest.  Luckily, I found a practitioner within walking distance of my apartment, so transportation doesn’t cost anything unless I have to pay for Uber during bad weather.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (the acupuncture and body work parts) helps a lot, but the treatments are expensive without insurance.  And finding a practitioner in my neighborhood and with evening/weekend scheduling options can be difficult.  So I go to the student clinic at a teaching college for treatments.  The price per treatment is reasonable; the interns and supervisors provide quality care; but transportation can get expensive since I have to either use public transit or a Uber ride.  Still, the combined costs are less expensive than if I went with a private practice for weekly treatments.
  • Massage Therapy is new to me.  I could find someone in-network so that a discount is applied to pricing, but I prefer referrals from people I trust for this sort of hands-on experience.  Finding someone closer would lower the transportation cost.  But since I won’t have to go for massage treatments as often as the other kinds of therapy, I think I’ll be sticking with this massage therapist team for a while.  Besides, they have evening appointments (big plus).
  • Chiropractic is one treatment that I will use my medical discounts for.  Also I will hope to find someone within walking distance of my apartment.  From what I remember, chiropractic treatments are sometimes a lot harder on my body than the other kinds.  Being local means I can take my time walking home and not have to stress out about transportation or anxiety attacks on the commute.  There are many safe places I can stop in for a break if necessary.
  • Routine medical treatment is something I plan on using my medical insurance for also.  But finding a practitioner who is also trauma sensitive has been difficult.  I definitely will have to build in transportation costs, extra travel time, and time spent looking for a provider on this.  Patience will get me what I want though.  Last time I rushed into making this kind of decision, I ended up really sick and with an upswing in PTSD symptoms.  Lesson learned.  And hopefully the small co-pay will even out the transportation cost.

Conclusion

I am lucky to have a full time job with flexibility in my work schedule.  The money I make allows me to cover the cost of medical care and still be able to make ends meet.  Living in my new city helps too.  Except for food, the cost of living here is a lot lower than where I used to live.  And my work/travel expenses are lower since I work from home.

But even when I lived in the other place, recovery treatment and managing my money properly were high on my priority list.  Sometimes I worked a lot of over time and had crazy hours.  Sometimes I couldn’t save a lot of money or zeroed out my accounts to pay all of  the bills.  Sometimes, I had to go into a little bit of debt to make myself safe.  But having a plan and understanding my finances (i.e. how much I made and where my money went) helped me make good choices of where to live and how to make the most out of what I had with limited resources and lack of a support network.

And since two of my favorite distraction/grounding/meditation coping strategies are reading and researching information, I used the quest to learn about personal finance and financial planning to help with many sleepless nights.  Maybe it’s too much for you to think about now, but understanding how and where your money goes can provide a sense of emotional safety, self-confidence, and independence.  The best part, though, is that anyone can manage his or her own finances.

It doesn’t matter how bad you are or think you are with math…

It doesn’t matter how much math or thinking about math scares you…

Maybe if math is a trigger, that could cause problems in the beginning…

Personal finance is less about numbers and more about knowing yourself, understanding your spending and saving patterns, and being able to make your own choices about where your money goes.  

Math is the tool that helps you understand these concepts through numbers.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery:Uncertainty in a new phase of recovery

Not sure how others receive information about their past, but mine come in a few ways.  The main ones are: dreams/nightmares, flashbacks, & body memories.

The PTSD makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the automatic reactions that get triggered each time I remember something.

The DID makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the way my brain developed and learned to store memories, sensation, & experiences.

Back in my old living area, I was constantly bombarded by triggers and memories.  It was all my therapist and I could do to keep me relatively sane and focused on the present instead of spiraling out of control.  I never truly felt safe there and could not move on to work on other aspects of recovery even though I was ready to do so.  Every time I tried, the flashbacks and dreams and body memories bombarded me with warnings.

Now, in my new living area, I am safe to delve into these memories, work on pain management and merging the fragmented sensations from body memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks into whole memories of my past.  I am physically and emotionally safe here.  I can go outside and walk around any time.  I can use public transportation without fear of getting harassed.

I can shop at stores and know that bad service is because of the individual’s issues and not my past.  I can reconnect with safe family members.  I can enjoy hobbies and practice self care that was impossible before.  I can let my body heal and look the way nature intended for it to look instead of how my past molded it.

But with all of that comes learning how to cope with the shame and fear and distress that comes from confronting those triggers.  My tool box is full of options.  I’m learning new ones all the time just by observing how people interact with each other in real life.  Did I mention that people-watching is one of my favorite things to do?

The struggle now is learning how to utilize my toolbox for these new and different challenges.  It’s like starting from square 1 all over again.

So the posts here will continue to be about the same topics, but the perspective will continue to change as my journey changes.  Thanks for reading and understanding.

Anniversaries: A birthday and flashbacks

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Another quote from the Power of Positivity website (via Facebook)

Ever since moving to my new home, I’ve been recovering memories during sleep.  This is difficult because the memories come as dreams and sometimes interfere with or interrupt my regular sleeping.  That means I’m not getting as much rest as usual even though my sleeping habits have not changed.  Sleep deprivation and its resulting symptoms set in.  And I stop wanting to go out.

This quote resonates a lot with me because the exact scenario happened more than once as I reclaimed independence from my father.  His birthday was last Thursday; a few days after Labor Day; two week’s after my mother’s birthday; a little more than one month before mine.  In the past, memories of the trauma and abuse from my father were hazy and blurred.  Nothing concrete except feelings and fragments.  Now, I am remembering.  And the more I remember, the more I realize how covertly abusive he was.  And not just to me.  To my mother and brother too, but in different ways.

Sometimes I think my parents fed on each other’s negativity and enabled each other to be more abusive and destructive in our family system.  Maybe that is co-dependence; maybe it is something else.  But whatever the case, dad took out his frustration with my mom’s refusal to get consistent treatment and care on me.  And he put all of this projected hopes and dreams for the future on my brother.

And when I moved so far out of their control that they couldn’t force me into compliance anymore, my parents & sibling went out of their way to control how everyone else in our family system and community saw me/treated me.  None of those people are safe.  Not when they all see my mom and ask her how I am.  Not when they ask my brother, father and maternal relatives the same questions instead of asking me.  Not when those people tell lies and make up stories about me that I can’t refute or deny since I have not idea what they’re saying.

The persona they created for me lives on in many minds.  The truth of who I am is a mystery wrapped in an enigma both to me and everyone in my circle of trusted people.  I’m still learning who I am.  I am still becoming the woman I aspire to be.  Like an onion, I have to peel away the layers of denial, amnesia, trauma fragments, and disguises that kept me safe in order to find the authentic person underneath.

And when times are bad; when the switching is almost constant; when the depression sets in, I remember this quote.  And then I go to sleep.  My alters come out and do what they need to do; sometimes we cry; sometimes other chores get accomplished; sometimes exercise; sometimes we have lucid dreams.  A day might pass.  Two days might pass with a few wake-ups to use facilities, get a drink or food, etc.  And then, our mind relaxes into restful sleep.  And I/we awaken feeling refreshed.  And the cycle starts fresh again.

Thanks for reading.