Alter Post: Follow Up on Posts from the last few weeks

*Caveat 1 – This is a journal-entry style post so it looks like a first draft with errors, etc. *

*Caveat 2 – Feeling triggered so no photos or affirmations*

*Warning: this is a long post with lots of information. Take your time reading through everything. Come back and re-read as needed*

Background

It’s been 3-5 weeks since the first post about this topic. I shared my current challenges with punishment, self-harm and explained what it means for me to be an empath. Then I explained why coping with these triggers feels hopeless sometimes and frustrating most of the time.

And yes, these triggers still feel like new territory. My mind and body are not reacting to the triggers or responding to the coping strategies in familiar ways. The panic attacks are more frequent and worse than they have been in a long time. Plus they manifest differently than before (more info later). The frequency means less recovery time between panic attacks, so I am constantly on edge.

All parts of me have been scrambling to find coping strategies that work long enough for us to recover from the panic attacks and find internal balance again. Along with explaining the coping challenges, I/we will also share some of the coping strategies that are helping right now.

This is why we all agreed to wait until now to write a follow up post. The learning curve takes time, and none of us wants to share something before we are certain of its effects on our systems.

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  • Coping Challenges: When People Avoid You because…

    August 18, 2019 by

    Life is awkward on the best of days. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding oneself in unknown situations. Other times there is something going on, and people who care avoid you for their own reasons. Or you avoid them. No one communicates. Or everyone communicates without really saying anything aka addressing the cause(s).

    That ends up with: confusion, hurt feelings, breaking of relationships, etc.

View all posts

Coping Challenges

There’s so much going on in this post, we all agreed that headings and subheadings are useful to us and our guests. Feel free to skip around and read whatever interests you.

Empathic gift challenges and labels

I wrote a post explaining my position on labels, so will keep this short. I prefer not to label myself or others on purpose. We are multi-dimensional, unique individuals with many parts coming together to create a whole person. However, sometimes a label is useful in conversations or posts to help the reader relate to the topic.

The label gives the reader a frame of reference or starting point that makes sense so she or he can follow the rest of the conversation. It DOES NOT identify or categorize or group people with similar characteristics into a stereotype. So when I talk about being an empath, it’s only so that my guests have a starting point if they ever want to learn more about the topic.

What does this have to do with empathic gift challenges? Well, one thing I’ve been encountering more often is being stereotyped and harassed on the street or in stores because of my physical appearance and choice to go places alone all the time. Or, conversely, to not go out often at all. While I don’t consciously pay attention to the people around me when I go out, my hyper-vigilance and senses are always sensitive to the environment.

Because of that, I always know when people are being rude to me – obviously like with the harassment; or not so obviously through their energy – wherever I go.

Have you ever walked into a room or store and suddenly felt uncomfortable or out of place or judged?

Unfortunately, I notice that without even meaning to do so. And there are a lot of insecure, unhappy, resentful people in the world happy to blame others to make themselves feel better. I’ve been getting this from females more than males lately, but also from males too because of my choice to be single and friendly instead of flirtatious.

Why a challenge? It triggers shame from my past and makes me think “I suck” and “why am I doing all this again?”

Panic Attacks

My panic attacks have changed. Instead of the typical process:

anxiety feelings + headaches/dizziness + chest tightness or physical pain + hot flashes + cold shakes = pass out from tiredness and sensory overload (aka overwhelming feelings)

pass out = shut down until my whole self recovers

From alterxpressions

I get this process:

anxiety feelings + headaches/dizziness = pass out from tiredness and sensory overload (aka overwhelming feelings)

pass out = shut down until my whole self recovers

From alterxpressions

The worst part: I never know when the panic attacks will manifest. Or how to cope with them/stop them once they start. Or how to effectively recover balance once the panic attack is over.

How do I feel now? Cranky. Tired. Grumpy in my digestive system. Frustrated. Hungry and thirsty, but not always able to feel it in my body and remember to eat/drink regularly.

Olfactory triggers

My sense of smell is not as acute as my hearing. In fact, I’ve had a lot of problems with nasal congestion and allergies and head colds that clogged up my nose on a regular basis since childhood. Sometimes I wonder if this was/is a coping strategy my body put in place to block out the stinky basement smells from my past.

But these days, scents are among my most common and destructive triggers. I live in a no smoking building on purpose. Maybe I’ve explained my postition about smoking in the past, but it bears repeating again:

I believe in an individual’s right to choose what he or she does – that includes smoking, using drugs, drinking – as long as it doesn’t harm or negatively affect other people.

That said, I don’t care if my neighbors smoke cigarettes or pot or whatever. They smoke outside and the smell comes in the window, that’s okay. I shut my window or turn a fan on to blow it back out. If I smell cigarettes in the building, I won’t say or do anything even if they are breaking the rules. At some point, someone will complain or report the issue.

But when people smoke pot in the building and the smoke gets into my apartment, that is a problem. I get immediately triggered and start the spiral into a panic attack. It’s happened the last two nights in my building and made recovery from the panic attacks that much harder. I am sleep-deprived, anxious, hyper-vigilant, grumpy, distracted, and unable to complete all of my weekend tasks because of the constant state of panic. Not anxiety because I can cope with general anxiety every day. Panic.

So yeah I didn’t get to read any guest comments today. I will try to do that next week. Appreciate your understanding ūüėČ

Coping Strategies

Like I said before, my usual strategies are not working. Lately, I spend a lot of time curled up in a seated position or lying down trying to relax/sleep as my muscles contract and stiffen up because I haven’t moved enough. I just can’t get comfortable or feel comfortable in my own skin right now. And leaving for a while is not an option.

So here are some strategies that have been helping take the edge off my panic symptoms.

Aromatherapy diffuser blends for sleep

A couple weeks ago, I hit my sleep deprivation limit. Meditation and relaxation did not help with my sleep debt. The flashbacks, negative self-talk, and disturbing dreams kept interfering with everything whenever I did manage to sleep. And I smelled pot in my apartment for the first time in months – most of the tenants who smoked in the past left – just as I was starting my sleep hygiene routine.

That disrupted me so much that I couldn’t calm down even after a hotline check-in. Plus I was feeling paranoid about insects in my apartment. So I decided to clean the diffuser and try using essential oils proven to help with insomnia/sleep issues, anxiety, and insects. My particular diffuser is water-based, comes with specific water-to-eseential oil ratio use instructions, and has an automatic turn-off setting.

My mind and body tends to react to essential oils, herbs, and so on in unexpected ways. I try to only use these strategies when I can focus with a mostly clear mind so that the risk (getting oil on my skin, mixing a blend incorrectly, burning myself when I make a tea or soup) is minimal. But I was desperate that night.

You can imagine how surprised I was when it worked. I slept deeply for 12 hours and woke up feeling refreshed with that first blend and used it 3 nights in a row. Then I decided to try a different blend; that one worked okay, but not as well as the first one. Next, I gave myself a break to see if I could sleep (or at least relax) without using aromatherapy. It worked okay, but not great. I woke up tired and grumpy. The last one I tried before this post worked really well and had the benefit of reducing the pot smell.

Here is recipe 1:

Ingredient list:

  • 3 drops of Melissa essential oil
  • 1 drop of Bergamot* essential oil
  • 3 drops of Siberian Fir** essential oil
  • 8 ounces of water (filtered preferred, but I use tap)
  • 1 electric diffuser with an automatic turn-off setting***

*Bergamot oil is extremely phototoxic to skin (human and animal). Phototoxic means that the oil will cause a rash or burns on your skin when exposed to sunlight. If you want to use this blend during the day, please omit the Bergamot essential oil

**Siberian Fir essential oil may cause lung irritation or respiratory discomfort for people with asthma, allergies, or other related issues. A sniff test (sniffing the bottle cap or bottle first) is advised before using the oil around people with respiratory problems.

***All diffusers have different settings with instructions. Electric and gas diffusers use a heating element to turn the water into steam for diffusing. Purchasing a diffuser with an automatic timer and/or turn-off setting is recommended for safe use during naps or sleep periods.

Directions:

Make sure the diffuser is clean and working properly. Add water to the diffuser’s container.

Add the essential oils one drop at a time. Use the diffuser guidelines for adding essential oils. Some oils come out faster than others, so be as accurate as possible, but don’t worry too much if you add too much. Accuracy takes practice.

Cover the diffuser and turn it on for a set period of time or until the water has evaporated (auto-turn off setting).

Sit back or lie down and relax as the blend diffuses through your room.

This recipe is a guideline only. Please follow the instructions that come with your diffuser and adjust the oil amounts accordingly.

Check Ins

I called the hotline for a check in almost every day the last few weeks. The negative self-talk and intrusive thoughts have a strong hold on my mind and keep the spiral of body trigger + emotional trigger = panic going. Once it starts, I can’t make it stop on my own with known coping strategies.

In the past, I called the hotline for help remembering grounding strategies or practicing different kinds of meditation/relaxation techniques with a partner. Sometimes to help me make a plan of 3-5 coping strategies to use after the call ended. That always helped because I live in the maze all the time these days. To be honest, I’ve never actually found an exit from the maze. Instead, I find sanctuaries within the maze of my mind that offers a break from the trauma and allows me to feel grounded enough to live in the outside world. But that’s something for another post.

These days, I don’t ask for grounding strategies. I ask the volunteer if she or he is willing to talk with me about the situation and help me process the triggers. We talk about what set me off and the strategies I’ve already used. The volunteer listens and helps me understand if what I am feeling is “normal” or extreme in one way or another; in other words validation.

Then explains why and how so that I understand the emotions and sensations in my body too. From there, I can relax a little and fend off the negative self-talk because I understand it’s okay for me to feel the way I do; and for my body to experience these sensations. Eventually, they will not feel so intense and go away.

Funny and Silly movies

Laughter is still some of my favorite medicine. I have a Netflix account and use Amazon Prime until my membership expires in a few months to find funny children’s movies or teen movies…sometimes even adult movies. They can have a “happy ever after” ending or not.

The goal is to find movies that warm my heart, bring out positive feelings (even if I cry a little), and make me laugh. For people who can’t access movies, radio shows and podcasts, TV or cable, or YouTube probably have similar shows too.

My current favorite movies are a children’s series about golden retriever puppies going on adventures (starts with Air Buddies).

Changing my schedule/staying in (agoraphobia)

I’ve discussed my agoraphobia in past posts, so not going to dwell on it here.

Summer makes me want to go out more often and enjoy the nice weather. Longer days means more sunshine and safe times to go out after work. People spend time outside. Children play and laugh in the city’s public water features on hot days. So much to enjoy outdoors.

But my panic attacks keep me inside. I never know when they will hit or how long I have to get to a safe place before I fall asleep. Or how long I will sleep once it hits. Work has been a bit of a challenge, but not as bad as when I had to work in an office for regular hours. One home office perk is being able to work flexible hours.

So until this panic attack phase eases up, I stay inside more often and work my sleep in around the triggers. My plans often change depending on how tired I am or if the panic feelings stop me from accomplishing tasks I planned for the day. That allows me to work my 40 hours a week, meet deadlines, do homework, keep house, pay bills, and write blog posts. Everything else happens when it happens.

Dietary changes

The more I heal, the more in tune or integrated all parts of me become. I can listen to my body and understand what types of food and drink makes it feel healthy and full or sick and uncomfortable. I can listen to my mind and understand how certain foods look/smell/taste/feel affect how my body feels after consumption and digestion.

Sounds like food triggers, but not the same.

Food triggers have a trauma-experience aspect that causes flashbacks or panic sensations throughout my self.

This type of sensory information tells me how the food and drink affect my physiology. Like with dairy intolerance or gluten intolerance. Eating nutritious food that heals and feeds the organisms keeping me healthy makes more sense than doing the opposite.

So I’ve been experimenting with my diet and different cravings that come up. Lately, I’ve been craving fennel, leafy greens, fatty fish, sausage, and carbs. Dairy too, but I think I’m going to try eliminating dairy for a few weeks to see how it affects my digestion and elimination issues. And maybe help with the low energy feelings

What can you do to help your mind and body feel better?

If you want more recipes, resources about aromatherapy, herbalism, being and empath, etc…Please follow these instructions

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Final Thoughts

This weekend was tough because of the pot triggers and lack of sleep. Plus some digestion issues that came up unexpectedly. So I am behind on my homework goals for this weekend and have to start that next.

If you wonder at the lack of tags or polish on the post, that’s why. Thanks for keeping me company on the long post.

I hope your week goes well.

Thanks for reading

Anniversaries: Grateful Thanksgiving

Child to mid-twenties

Thanksgiving used to be celebrated 3x every year over the course of 2-3 days: once at my parents’ home with certain family members; once with my father’s side of the family; once with my mother’s side of the family. ¬†There were tables full of food; children, teens, and adults everywhere; noise levels similar to stadium concerts (at least from my perspective) with so many people and televisions on loud; and secrets. ¬†So many secrets and people sneaking off for minutes or hours at a time.

By the time I was in college, Thanksgiving was celebrated 2x every year with less and less family/friends and lots of tension. ¬†Most of us were grown and had other places to be. ¬†The next generation of children were second or third cousins removed on my mother’s side, and I was disconnected to them. ¬†On my father’s side, people cooked while others watched tv or read books (me) and ignored or were ignored by everyone else. ¬†Then my younger cousins and brother scattered to be with their friends while my parents kept me isolated and ignored.

You may be wondering why or how they managed that. ¬†Part of it was me – I isolated myself and chose not to make friends or trust people at that time. ¬†Part of it was them limiting access to my car – they always blocked me in and parked their cars in front of the driveway so I’d have to move their cars to get out. ¬†And I did not want to drive their cars. ¬†Asking them to move the cars was like banging my head against a brick wall.

Mid-twenties to early thirties

Then I walked away from my family.

Holidays became something different.

For the first time in my life, I could celebrate any way I wanted.  I could sleep through the day.  I could be alone.  I could cook or not cook.  I could decorate or not decorate.

Bottom line: I had choices.
And for a long time, I chose not to celebrate.  Instead, I let my alters out to play on those days.  Together, we worked through the scary memories, anxiety, anger, shame, and negative experiences associated with those anniversaries.  We stayed inside; read books; watched movies; slept; and took care of ourselves.

Thanksgiving 2017

My favorite foods of Thanksgiving:
Gravy
Stuffing
Butternut Squash or Yams

After everything that happened over the last few weeks, buying pre-made food to reheat made more sense than cooking from scratch. ¬†Cooking from scratch triggered memories, but re-heating didn’t.

Text messages kept me in touch with close friends and family while keeping me safe from the toxic people.

Instead of sleeping through the day, I put together part of my sofa. ¬†By part, I mean the sofa is in use, but the sectional and sleeper parts still need to be put together. ¬†By the time I finished the main sofa and realized the rest had to wait, my muscles were saying “we’re done. ¬†No more please.” ¬† But the rest of me felt happy and accomplished.

So happy, in fact, that we slept on the sofa that night. ¬†It’s surprisingly comfortable. ¬†In spite of the muscle discomfort and stress from the upstairs neighbor’s musicals, putting together the sofa brought out feelings of accomplishment, joy, and contentment – aka endorphins. ¬† Not even phone calls with my family and flashbacks could get me down.

Gratitude

Maybe it’s petty of me, but I also felt grateful that having a secondary place to sleep pissed off my upstairs neighbor. ¬†She couldn’t disturb my sleep because I wasn’t using my bed. ¬†Therefore, her musical of dropping stuff on the floor above my head didn’t work. ¬†It was the first night in a while that I managed to sleep undisturbed and wake up on my own time.

But then I was also grateful her musical dropping of stuff on the floor woke me up the next day. ¬†It was early enough that I had time to call Ikea, get my replacement parts for the sofa sectional, then go out to visit friends and see a movie. ¬†It was Black Friday, and I was afraid that going to a mall would make things worse. ¬†Instead, it was cathartic. ¬†I felt calm, relaxed, and grounded inside myself. ¬†The movie was good too, but I’m still not a Thor fan. ¬†And I really need to put together a magic bag for crowded movie ¬†theaters.

The musicals still occur just after I settle for bed and randomly throughout the day, but the sleep headphones and a favorite playlist make it all tolerable.

Mostly, I am grateful to have enjoyed Thanksgiving awake and grounded in the present instead of dissociated, hyper-vigilant, and upset.

Conclusion

I am still a solitary person who prefers alone time instead of crowds.  After so many years of being alone and/or lonely in a crowd of people, celebrating alone without any obligations feels good.  Maybe someday the other people in my life will understand that being physically alone does not equal being unconnected to my loved ones.

Relationships, connections, and interactions come in many forms.   And my heart, my mind, my spirit is always open to them even if my physical self shuns sharing space with others.  I keep all of these people and places in my heart and my mind during the holidays, so they are always with me.

Thanksgiving and similar holidays used to anger me, all parts of me.  I could honestly say that I hated the holidays and mean it.  But that hate gradually changed as different parts of me opened up to the rest of us.  We shared our pain, our grief, our fear, and our shame.  Then we learned how to cope with those feelings and associated memories with lots of help and support from outside people.

So thank you guests, family of choice, mental health providers past & present, family of blood, and other providers past & present who’ve helped me get to a place where holidays are fun instead of stressful.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversaries: A Different Kind of Birthday

My birthday was last weekend.

I turned 35.  Oddly, I felt a lot of anxiety along with the usual joy and gratitude that comes from being alive one more year.  Why this year instead of past years?  Honestly no one in our system can answer that.

35 just feels like a big year.  A turning point.  A crossroads perhaps.  So much good is happening that the memories are flooding in fast & furious.  Body memories connecting with emotional or cognitive memory fragments create complete memories of past experiences.  Those memories come in dreams and immense pain from my neck down.

In spite of all that, waking up to birthday wishes from friends and family made me feel blessed.  The warm messages brightened my morning and had me excited to start the day.  And it was an amazing day in spite of the pain.

I did not do anything special.  It was a day for self care and exploring spent in blissful solitude broken up with visits to appointments and interesting people in different stores. Time did not manage me that day.  After my appointments, I took my time enjoying the beautiful day as I headed back home.

For the first time that I can remember, my birthday was spent in an enjoyable way with full awareness of everything that occurred.  Not one of us (the alters or myself) dissociated, split, switched, or forgot anything that happened.  We laughed and played and watched movies or read books or knitted while relaxing and waiting for the stew to finish.

The pain did not stop any of us from enjoying the day.  We simply adjusted to the physical limitations of neck/shoulder pain by carrying the shoulder bag on the other arm and using both hands to cook.  Took a lot of breaks in between our travels.  And remembered to eat or drink fluids throughout the day.

And maybe that is what made us all feel so anxious. ¬†A birthday without expectations or obligations to anyone. ¬† ¬†Pure joy. ¬†Simple fun. ¬†Interesting, kind people. ¬†Yummy food. ¬†A good night’s rest.

The joy and peaceful feelings continue even now. ¬†A different set of Chinese herbs are helping with triggers, sleep, and pain issues. ¬†I did not expect help with the pain, but it’s been helping. ¬†The herbs have made everyone sleep a lot, but that’s okay. ¬†We needed the rest. ¬†And something has changed inside too because the adults finally managed to do laundry!

Plus, the colder temperatures are not bringing up scary feelings or memories for the children as much this week.  It helps that many of the shopping packages were delivered over  the last few days.  But really, the herbs are working with our body and mind this time instead of trying to manipulate changes.  And that feels really good.

Maybe even good enough that mornings will stop being scary too someday.  And maybe good enough that bathrooms and small dark spaces like under sink cabinets will also feel safer too.

Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments: Sleep, Food, Shower, Meditation ;) – an Empath’s POV

Survival Mode

All parts of me still feel drained and off center right now. ¬†Some unexpected challenges and expenditures for my new apartment combined with scheduling appointments around work and the owner’s schedule made this week rather interesting.

Home

general spaces:
I love the energy in this building.  In spite of the old windows that stick and have a hard time opening, quirky sliding doors, and electrical outlets that are not always grounded or placed in ideal locations, this studio apartment really does feel like home.  My neighbors are friendly, respectful, and quiet.  The owner and her management team are respectful, responsible, and responsive too.

Unexpected challenges

  • Changing home decorating and budget plans
  • Multiple panic attacks because I am changing my budget plans
  • Learning more about myself and my unique (but unacknowledged) skills
  • Understanding why strategies that worked before are not so helpful this time

The Coping Strategies for Self Care

After a session with my intern Chinese medicine/acupuncture practitioner this week, I decided to try and learn more about empaths and empathy.  She physically felt some of the problems I was experiencing during treatment and shared that information with me with calm acceptance.

It was the first time anyone had ever acknowledged and used extrasensory skills in a professional setting around me. ¬†And it brought me back to face some facts about myself. I am an empath too. ¬†What kind, I’m not sure exactly. ¬†I don’t always or often experience physical symptoms of other people in my own body. ¬†But I can and do experience energy changes, emotions, and other information about people and living beings through my senses.

All of this led me to a psychiatrist and self-proclaimed empath named Judith Orloff. ¬†I’ve been listening to her book called The Empath’s Survival Guide and learning about my extrasensory skills. ¬†This includes coping strategies and skills like – sleep, meditation, water, and food.

While I don’t subscribe to everything she’s talked about so far, her unique perspective helped me understand why these four strategies are always part of my “Back to Basics” plan.

Sleep
Before reading this book, I knew that sleep was essential – my body would knock me out if I overextended myself – but didn’t understand how or why it was so much more effective than taking a pill or using an energy drink to recalibrate like everyone else. ¬†Now I understand that sleep is a time for reconnecting with all parts of myself and allowing those parts to relax and replenish energy levels while also healing themselves.

Food
Anorexia and almost a decade of severe food allergies/sensitivities taught me to be mindful of what I eat, how much I consume, and when I eat (frequency of meals) to stay healthy, energetic, and balanced.  While following these personal guidelines helped me maintain a healthy weight and feel strong, they sometimes frustrated me too.  After reading about how physical sensitivities are part of being an empath and why, I am practicing more self-acceptance and less shame about my unique eating habits & dietary needs.

Showers – aka baths, water, etc. (swimming not so much)
I love water. ¬†I love being near water, smelling water in the air, drinking water, taking warm/hot baths & showers, and surrounding myself with the colors of water. ¬†Swimming – not so much. ¬†Being in the ocean, a river, or a pool – not so much. ¬†Being on the water in a boat – absolutely fine. ¬†But I’m also ashamed of this love for water. ¬†The why is still unclear, but it exists. ¬†The book offers an explanation about why I (as an empath) love water so much. ¬†I am skeptical and keeping an open mind. ¬†Some experimentation is required. ¬†But I always feel amazing after a warm/hot shower with my favorite soap.

Meditation
I’ve practiced different types of meditation since I was 6 years old. ¬†Maybe even earlier than that as the martial arts some of my relatives practiced fascinated me. ¬†Our relationship has been rocky at times, but meditation never failed me when I needed help. ¬†Now meditation helps me sleep better and wake up grounded in the present instead of stuck between the present and the past. ¬†On public transportation or in crowds, a simple mediation practice helps me breathe easier and cope until I am alone again. ¬†Throughout the day, meditation sometimes replaces my need for a nap or helps me get some physical activity (mindful walk or mindful washing dishes).

Conclusion

The next steps on my healing journey are to explore, grow with, and accept my empathic abilities and how they are influencing my current recovery practices. ¬†I don’t know a lot about being an empath or an intuitive; what skills one might have; how to use ¬†the skills without draining myself; or how to protect myself from sensory overload. ¬†Before now, I couldn’t even acknowledge that my mind, spirit, body self even had these skills.

My parts and I chalked it up to having great instincts.  And suffered the mood swings, outbursts, and energy drains from certain people in shamed silence.

Now, it’s time to step out of the closet and learn. ¬†Knowledge is power. ¬†Power offers protection, insight, and opportunities. ¬†Plus, maybe this will help us all integrate and align ourselves better. ¬†And we can move forward with our goal for a second career sooner instead of later.

Thanks for reading.