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.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties

Writing & Blogging: Writer’s Block, Affirmations, & Reader Comments

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.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post. I appreciate your kind words and suggestions. I read all of them just now and tried to at least “like” all of them even if I didn’t reply. Sometimes I’m not sure what to say…

Funny how sharing fear makes it less scary

After I wrote the last post and shared my fears, some of the block disappeared. Still have not written anything yet, but I did find 5 useful articles on PubMed and some interesting references in an aromatherapy chemistry book. Next step, read the articles and start the note taking.

Thanks all of you for reading my post and sharing your stories in the comments. I feel less alone and more connected to a community who can relate to my fears and struggles. That always helps me cope with the fear the crops up whenever I try something different.

Maybe (I hope) it helps you cope with some of your fears too?

Sharing some Affirmations – 2019 reader comments

Back in 2019, I finished a 365 days of Affirmations challenge but didn’t write about it much here. The challenge was a personal one to help me change my perspective about, well, everything going on between 2018 and 2019 when I felt stuck in negativity and trapped. I think maybe 4 posts were dedicated to this challenge and sharing about the “About Page” too, but many guests commented about wanting more posts.

I promised to write more, but not in 2019. The reason? My family of origin came back into my life, and finding balance with them took up most of my available time. Their stories were not something I could share here without permission, and everything I normally would write about was colored by our interactions together.

To make up for that, I’m going to share 5 affirmations from 2018 here. They are yours to borrow and use if you want. Definitely to share too. And, if you’re interested, you can use them as writing prompts.

Writing prompts? Sure. If you want to challenge your skills and your thoughts a lá Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you can use the affirmations as inspiration for journal entries, short essays, stories, poems, your own affirmations, etc.

Perseverance: I open myself up to the universal healing energy that surrounds us.

AlterXpressions

Rainy days give life to plants while making beautiful music.  I welcome all of nature’s symphony into my world.

AlterXpressions

I open my heart to universal unconditional love and compassion.

AlterXpressions

Cooking is an expression of self care and joy.  The combined aroma of cooking food grounds me in the present.  I immerse myself in the sensual pleasure of cooking.

AlterXpressions

I do my best to live within my values no matter what kind of stress fills my inner self.  Self compassion and kindness help me over come my mistakes with people.

AlterXpressions

Guest Comments

Many guests this week asked about my web site theme and Internet browser operating errors. They also asked for some tips about writing and blogging. Since I don’t know what platform you use as a web host, here are some general suggestions:

  1. Check your account’s help sections and resource pages for information. They often have useful articles about how to check for errors on your web site or blog and then fix the errors.
  2. Contact customer service. Sometimes the errors have to do with the platform and not your account. That happened to me a few times in the past.
  3. Review and update your themes at least 1x every other year. More often if you are still working on your design. There are many free themes with customization options to help you create something that fits you.
  4. When choosing themes, look for ones that include mobile browsing options. Both of my sites have the capability to convert their user view to fit a desktop, tablet, and other mobile devices. Not every theme (free and paid) offers this flexibility, so you have to include it in your search criteria.
  5. For Optimization and speed, learn the limits of your account and work within them. Adjust your settings and test them out – by visiting the site yourself or asking others to visit and test the pages/posts for you – and make adjustments. Once you find settings that keep your site/blog safe and allow for optimized loading speeds, etc. you can start pushing those limits.

Honestly, I contact WordPress customer support at least 2x a month with questions when I make changes to either site. In between that, I take the free classes and read the articles to try and figure things out myself first. But I know my limits and the chaos that ensues when I try to fix certain things myself. Lesson learned: know when to ask for help and ask before you make things worse.

If you have suggestions or affirmations you want to share, please write them in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Writing & Blogging: Writer’s Block from a fear & flashback POV

Flashbacks

This is not your typical “here are (x) number of tips to help you write” post. I’m sharing my fears and vulnerabilities about how the trauma and PTSD affect my writing. You will read about the challenges and the background. But this time I don’t have any coping strategies or techniques to share. If this interests you, please keep reading. If not, thanks for visiting.

Any good practical philosophy must start out with the recognition of our having a body

Alter Post: When Fear Tries To Take Over

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*

This is not an easy post to write. Or share. I struggled with what to put in today’s post and almost did an ADMIN – nothing to write post instead.

But I’m here. And I just finished writing about crystal grids and environmental self protection on the other blog. So I decided to try and give you something more here too.

FEAR

Out of all the emotions I struggle with, fear is in the top 3. Right now, in spite of all the change from COVID-19, I feel joyful. My life has been impacted in subtle ways, not obvious ones. And it’s the subtle changes that scare me.

Now that I don’t have to think about and plan for going out of my apartment, a huge amount of internal energy is being re-directed to improve physical health – i.e. cope with body memories. The “cage” of restrictions brought me freedom from spending 25% or more energy on planning ways to cope with being around people and other beings whenever I leave my apartment.

The benefit is that my “self” continues to heal from the inside out. Internal changes are occurring at a fast pace. Spaces formerly occupied by trauma memories and past experiences are opening up/emptying out. Everything feels different. I move different. My tastes and preferences for food and beverages have changed. Some of my interests have changed.

But my energy levels have not changed much. All parts of me agree that if there wasn’t so much internal healing to do, that energy would be directed outward to more activities and physical movement instead. But since none of us are ready for that, the energy has been directed inside.

And I fear what is filling up those empty spaces that open up way to fast for me to fill them up. Will other triggers move and take over the spaces? If I have too many nightmares and flashbacks, will the past traumas come back and refill the empty spaces; then take over again, leaving me back to what and where I was in the past?

What can I fill those spaces with? Memories? Experiences? Positive energy? Unconditional love? Fear? Anger? Hate? And if I fill them with something temporarily, will that temporary stuff get stuck and turn into something harmful? Will it move out easily once the “right” stuff is found and moved in?

I haven’t remembered more of my past. And I haven’t forgotten anything this year (win for me), but I still struggle with remembering and recognizing people. And that scares me too. What if I never am able to remember people outside of a specific group – and even with them I struggled long and hard to remember specific sensory details and clues associated with each person to recognize them – and go through my life continuously offending people because I can’t remember meeting them and talking with them from one hour or week or class to another?

Yes, trauma changes memory in significant ways. But I never considered that this type of memory loss or challenge could be a permanent side effect of my trauma. How did I learn about this? Well, first I spoke about it out loud with my counselor.

Photo by Tobe Roberts on Pexels.com

Then I was browsing Pinterest for interesting pins about trauma and mental health to put in my board. And came across an interesting graphic explaining how trauma affects the four different types of human memory. Four types of memory. I was aware of 2, and the other two were a complete mystery.

So I pinned the graphic and decided to think more about it before reading the rest of the article. You can find links to my Pinterest boards in the Resources page if you are interested. Before I go off on a tangent with the potential to trigger a shame spiral, I decided to practice an exercise my counselor taught me to help cope with fear.

It starts by writing down what I am afraid of on a blank piece of paper. Then creating a down arrow to the next line.

After the arrow, I say to myself I am afraid of (above fear) because I am afraid of (and write that fear down).

And keep doing that until I drill down to what really scares me.

Then I can reflect on the source of my other fears. aka the BIG FEAR and use other coping strategies to work with it.

Will that work? I don’t know. But I’m trying it out now using the example from our last session.

Thanks for reading.