It is not so much what you believe that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action

Quotes & Affirmations: Thoughts from Lin Yutang

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.

I don’t have much to write about this week. Instead, I decided to let quotes speak for me instead.

Lin Yutang is a Chinese-born writer and philosopher whose work speaks to me deeply. I read The Importance of Living early in my recovery journey and experienced a life-changing moment that continues to positively influence my life now.

Any good practical philosophy must start out with the recognition of our having a body
It is not so much what you believe that matters, as the way in which you believe it and proceed to translate that belief into action

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Getting Used to a New Environment

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

My alters and I, we don’t have much to share this week. Unpacking is still a work-in-progress. The transition is easier after 1 week living in this apartment. Discovery and observation are my two best coping strategies right now.

What used to trigger me in the other apartments – noise, smells, privacy (or lack of) – are less stressful here even though they still exist. Some noises are new to me. Others are not. Same with smells and privacy. The apartment is set up in such a way that I have to get creative to balance my need for privacy with my need for natural sun and open blinds.

As for people and sounds, well that is something I continue to work on. But the safer I feel, the easier it is to step back and observe instead of react from a place of fear about these triggers. That means it’s easier to stay present and remember I am okay when the upstairs neighbors move around and make noise. Towels on the window sills help keep external smells outside. Door and window blockers keep out drafts and other smells.

Crystals keep the energy balanced and moving throughout the apartment. This time, they are in bags, small bowls, alone, or in groups on doorknobs, near plants, and so on. I am grateful for the heaters and how they work. Pipes and mechanical equipment in the floors and walls account for some of the vibrations and noise that seem to appear from nowhere.

The bath and shower help with body memories and some sensory flashbacks. It’s private and large enough for me to use as a changing room too sometimes. Using the essential oils or a scented bath will not disturb my neighbors and gives me a chance to have a “spa day” or water-focused meditation period at home.

But it wasn’t and still isn’t easy. There is a lot to learn and adapt to in a new building with new people. The neighborhood is different. The people are different. Traffic patterns and pedestrian movement keep me on my toes – especially as I get used to being here on weekends. A lot of events take place within walking distance, so weekdays are quieter – good for work :).

Processing takes time. And so does creating a home. Soon, when there are less boxes, I will take photos and share them here. Definitely of my garden. Maybe the kitchen too – it’s big and roomy with space to make smoothies – since I spend a lot of time there. Some parts of unpacking are easy for me while others trigger all kinds of messy emotions.

  • Measuring and cutting paper to line my cabinets – triggering.
  • Putting stuff on the walls – triggering
  • Deciding where to put items – neutral
  • Putting together folding shelves and adding items – neutral
  • Is any part of unpacking and setting up again fun for me? No not really.

But all parts of me are in this together. We are happy here. Feel safe here. No one is caged or trapped in this apartment – or in the building. There are security measures that keep everyone safe. And I know who to contact if I have any concerns or questions. That goes a long way to keeping the flashbacks from taking control.

Plus nothing, except an event beyond my control, is going to stop any part of me from settling in and settling down here.

So the unpacking process will be VERY slow. Priority goes to items that are necessary for every day life. Then the fun stuff that makes a home feel like home. Finally, everything else.

For now, though, it’s about recovery and re-claiming my protected, safe spaces. Maybe less about self care and more about self soothing – bringing comfort, peace, and harmony with large doses of love – to re-build my energy reserves and eliminate the sleep debt (i.e. persistent feelings of tiredness from chronic lack of sleep or rest).

What does nurturing mean to you? And how can or will you nurture yourself?

Thanks for reading

Halloween Fears or Autumn Fun? Leaves, pumpkins, apples, hay rides

Anniversaries: Halloween Fright = Autumn Fun?

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.

My Favorite Month and Season

October is my favorite month for many reasons – not including it being my birthday month.

The leaves start changing color. The air cools down and smells crisp. Apples are in season. Love fresh apple cider – cold or hot with cinnamon – as an autumn treat. Soups and stews are back. Pumpkins. Hay rides. Fall festivals. All that and more.

Autum is my favorite season because it reminds me of home and hearth. Safety and refuge. In summer, there was nothing to break up training or life with the cult except taekwondo. In Autumn, school started. 8+ hours of my day in a place I get to listen and learn – and yes those were my favorite activities.

But it’s also the beginning of my “bad season” when symptoms get worse. Read on to learn why…

The Dark Side

School was full of bullies and feeling outcast. At first, it wasn’t my peers bullying and harassing me. It was the school’s vice president and some of the other teachers. Later on, some of the “class favorites” (mostly girls my age) continued with the bullying and gossiping whispers in class. The boys and other kind of bullies left me alone when they realized I wasn’t an easy target to push around physically.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. For the first 3 years at school (kindergarten – 2nd grade), I never got away from the monsters. School principal was one of them. It’s also part of the reason why the vice principal didn’t like me or any of the principal’s other favorites. But she only picked on me (reasons listed below)

School – torture outside of learning

From kindergarten until 5th grade I was the only Asian student to go through the entire school. Other Asian kids enrolled after me, but not before or during my time there. The vice principle (also my fifth grade home room teacher) did not like me on site. Once she told me in private it was because I represented everything she hated – pretty, short, Chinese, smart – and that I wouldn’t get any “special treatment” while at this school.

The other girls didn’t like me for a variety of reasons. Part of it was my fault though. I didn’t fit in with them, share any similar interests, or try to fit in in any way. Plus, the dissociation started early and led lots of people to think I was a liar and kind of ditzy because I couldn’t remember what was going on as it happened. Nor did I “dress like a cool girl”.

So you get the idea, right? A bookworm, nerdy, quiet, nice girl who seems kind of shy, dresses funny, whose costumes get made fun of by lots of people, and hates attracting attention because it usually leads to shame or humiliation is an easy target for bullies at school.

Bees and Other Weird Things

Oh and even back then, odd things happened to me. Once, between third and fifth grade I think, our windows were open on a hot afternoon. The bees were buzzing in and out everywhere trying to get some shade. We were required to participate in class, so I raised my hand. I knew (or thought I did) the answer or maybe had a question. But I was distracted by the breeze and tickling sensations on the palm of my hand.

My attention was on the chalkboard, and I focused so hard on the answer that I didn’t notice when the teacher and rest of class went silent. They were all staring at me, and I didn’t understand why. Not until the teacher asked me to look up at my raised hand. She and many of my classmates were afraid of bees; some might have been allergic too.

And none of them had ever seen bees playing with a human and not stinging them. Yet that’s what the 3 bumblebees and 1 yellowjacket were doing. They were grazing my hand to get my attention. Sat quietly on my palm as my hand closed over them once or twice in reflex. Let me brush my fingers against their (bumblebee) soft body fuzz. As soon as I looked up and acknowledged them; then spoke a quiet response; they left back out the windows and were not seen again.

It wasn’t the first time I had been surrounded by insects or had them leap on to my legs/arms/body during outside gym and recess classes. But it was the first time to happen in doors. And also something to make my class mates not want anything to do with me.

But the biggest reason the girls especially didn’t like me was because I refused to use the bathrooms during break time after kindergarten. I would drink the minimum necessary to stay hydrated in school and hold my bladder until I got home. Or if I was taken out of school early, hold it until I arrived at the next location.

The girls all thought I was stuck up and too good for the school bathrooms. No one ever asked me why – or if they did I probably refused to answer back then – that I can remember.

I never used the bathrooms (girls or boys) because that’s where the school principal and his cronies liked to take their favorite students for “special classes”. Every time I used the bathroom someone was waiting for me. It got me a reputation for being late. And made me paranoid about using public and guest bathrooms for the rest of my life.

Halloween Scares – Apes, Brides, and Scary Masks

I hated halloween, dance recitals, anything that got me attention for many reasons.

One big reason: it gave my mom a chance to dress me up, put makeup on me, and parade me around like a show dog.

Other big reason: it brought up triggers and feelings of shame because my mom liked to dress me up in girly costumes that only made me look “beautiful” or “pretty” or “precious” or any of those other words that judged me on my appearance and behavior.

One year, my mom dressed me up as a bride in a white satin bridal gown and veil for Halloween. I must have been about 6 or 7. She did my makeup and got me white shoes to wear with it. Back then, kids were required to wear their halloween costumes to school for the halloween party. Then dress up again for trick or treating after school.

Mom got lots of compliments about how beautiful I was. How I “looked just like a real bride”. How well she did my makeup. and other comments. I was embarrassed the whole time and tried to hide. My goal for that year – be a clown or a ghost for halloween. But she made me a bride. The neighbors were so stunned, they gave my brother and me extra treats sometimes.

Then we got to a neighbor’s house with what looked like a stuffed Ape or Gorilla sitting under the split entry house – near the front door. I didn’t want to go there. That ape/gorilla felt real to me. It stared at me the whole time we walked up. Just as we rang the bell, it came to life roaring at us.

I don’t remember what happened after that. Or the next halloween when mom made me wear that costume again.

But I do remember being forced to wear that bride costume when my owner and his buddies initiated me into group sex for the first time. That was so popular, they created a whole halloween special for clients and would dress us all up in varying costumes the whole month of October after that year. Would have been 1988 I think.

Learning, Dissocation, Imaginary Friends…my best survival coping strategies

Yup. For about 20+ years, I spent most of my time living in a state of dissociation (aka day dreaming) and studying while talking to imaginary friends. An island of one who only came out to fulfill class participation rules and make temporary, fake friendships. I was honest about it. I was mean when necessary. I wish I could have been different, especially to the few girls who tried to be nice to me since we were all misfits.

But that wasn’t safe. Or possible. Because anyone who befriended me became a target for something.

These days, I spend Halloween hiding in my apartment. I do my best to avoid any large gatherings or places where people of all ages will dress up in costumes from mid-October to Halloween.

And when that doesn’t work, I bring books, headphones, and my sensory grounding strategies with me.

At home, I cook a delicious meal or get takeout. Then rent a movie or read a book. Go to bed early.

AVOID TRICK OR TREATERS AT ALL COSTS – gratitude for apartment living there.

Then meditate and pray that all the self care and coping strategies will help me keep my memories when the bad season of dissociation and flashbacks take over my self
(starts any time between August and October; settles in by November; stops around May…sometimes)

Halloween 2019

This year is different. I am still staying inside. Still cooking something interesting. And still renting a movie.

I’m also writing this blog post and finishing the details to set up my business – a business that will allow me to continue blogging here and offer more coping strategies outside of what gets shared here (aka survival mode) – and offer other kinds of resources too.

Turtle time is real by the way. I started planning this business 7 years ago. Launched Untangled Connections 4.5 years ago as a test run to see if my business would be viable. Announced the new website and business last May to guests here. Continued posting about seemingly random topics. Then took a partial sabbatical – which I will explain next month.

Thanks for continuing to check in here; really appreciate it.

Thanks for reading.

ADMIN Post: Quiet weekend, short post

Due to the extra post this week, this one is short.

Between the nightmares and the stuff with my parents, body memories acted up and caused lots of pain last week. The pain was bad enough that I cried a lot, had some trouble eating/sleeping, and eventually had a panic attack.

Thanks to meditation and acupuncture, the pain has lessened a lot. But I’m still tired, feeling low energy, and slightly dehydrated from all the sleeping & meditating.

On the good side, a lot of the body memories are starting to leave my body. As it moves, the puffiness and swelling go down too. My muscles start to relax more, and everything feels less painful.

So this weekend is a slow one.

What are your plans for a slow weekend?

thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: EMDR Trial 2

Credit to: Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. The information below is for educational and support purposes only. Please discuss any changes you want to make with your provider first.*

BACKGROUND

In past posts, either my alters or I mentioned trying EMDR with different counselors. The results were good in session, but not so great between sessions or in real life. The coping strategies we practiced to help with the side effects of EMDR were sufficient but not enough to quote a past counselor. I couldn’t cope with the side effects of EMDR while living my old life, so put it aside to focus on techniques and strategies that did help.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

So what is EMDR? And why is it helpful (depending on the individual) for PTSD, Trauma, and Anxiety?

You can find an excellent definition and resources here at the EMDR Therapy website

This article defines EMDR

This website is for the EMDR International Association and offers training, education, and resources.

Q&A

Why try EMDR again after so many years?

Short answer:

Different counselor, different approach, different overall living situation

Longer answer:

  • My memories were coming back, and the emotions/sensations/triggers that came with them started interrupted daily life or nightly sleep too often
  • The hyper-vigilance and panic attacks kept increasing because of new or more sensitive environmental and internal triggers
  • Increased sensitivity to internal triggers – existing coping strategies and techniques were less helpful than usual; sometimes  made the overwhelming feelings or anxiety worse
  • My current counselor asked me if I was willing to try EMDR again and explained her process. Then showed me different options to use for the bi-lateral stimulation part of the process.
  • Overall, I felt safe, confident, and ready  to try this again

How did the EMDR work this time around?

The EMDR worked well and helped a lot to reduce my sensitivity to certain triggers and feel more confident about my reactions to situations in real life. The memories are just memories now. Any lingering trauma sensations or triggers left with each EMDR session.

Each Session?

Yes, I have had two sessions so far: one earlier this summer and one in October.

Why wait to share?

As mentioned earlier in the post, there are side effects or after effects that linger for a period of time after the EMDR session. The time period for long those effects last differs from person to person.

For me, the effects last about 2-3 months. During this time period, my focus is narrowed to: meet basic needs and self-care as I work with or through the emotional and physical changes brought out by the EMDR.

Will you share tips and suggestions for preparing for an EMDR session?

Yes. I broke the list down into three sections.

Discussing with or finding an experienced counselor

  • Learn as much as you can about EMDR and how it could benefit you because it does not help everyone
  • If you are seeing a counselor, have a conversation about how EMDR could help you
  • If your counselor is trained in EMDR, ask if you can try it in a future session
  • If your counselor is not trained and you want to try EMDR, ask for a referral to work with an EMDR specialist along with regular sessions
  • If you do decide to work with a specialist, make sure you feel safe and comfortable with her or him before you start anything.

*remember it’s important to trust the counselor and feel safe sharing these experiences in order for any kind of therapy or coping technique to be effective*

Before the EMDR session

  • Listen to the counselor’s process: intake questions, building resources, practicing coping strategies so that you remember them even in distress, discussing memories and choosing which one to work on in each session, etc.
  • Work with the counselor to answer questions as honestly as possible; provide enough information to help you both make informed decisions about the session and after care
  • If a coping strategy does not work for you, say so and work with the counselor to find an alternative
  • The counselor may ask you what type of EMDR tool you want to use for the bi-lateral stimulation part. The choice is yours, and it’s okay to ask if you can try out each one before making your choice

After the EMDR session

  • You will feel tired after your session, so it’s best to try scheduling your session after work or on a day with minimal activity
  • You may experience emotions and sensations differently – that makes coping with and reacting to them difficult sometimes
  • Your body may feel different – especially if you experience body memories
  • You could have more memories resurface – not all traumatic – and have to cope with them too
  • If you are like me (aka open about your unique gifts), you might also have some interesting experiences within your environment or during interactions with people. Traditional coping strategies might not work for those experiences, but your spiritual or religious practice could help. My spiritual practice helps me cope with them

Remember, EMDR is not for everyone. These tips are for informational purposes only and based solely on my personal experience. Please discuss with a medical or mental health professional before making any decisions or changes to your current treatment plan.

Thanks for reading.