Holidays: Celebration with a Twist

Anniversaries: Celebration with a Twist for Chinese New Year

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.

Unnecessary Comparisons & Competitions within Family Traditions

Holidays of any kind are rather stressful and triggering for me. Chinese or Lunar New Year is one that twists me up with glee and anxiety in equal measures and has since I was a kid.

Glee because I got to openly celebrate this part of my culture at home, in school, and pretty much anywhere without the usual jeers and harassment. Plus the food was always incredible and filled with rare treats our grandparents spent weeks making for all of us. The hong bows (red envelopes with money) were less interesting to me, even after I got older and better understood the concept of “free money”.

Anxiety because it meant spending time around relatives, neighbors, and other Chinese people who compared me with my brother and cousins (and found me lacking), treated me poorly because of where my parents were in the family hierarchy, or ignored me completely. I looked younger than my age, was too smart for my own good, and acted clumsy/socially awkward compared to my socially adept, taller cousins who looked and acted more mature than their ages.

Then there are the traditions and rituals involved in preparing for the Chinese New Year holiday – some that stay the same from region to region, and others unique to family mini-cultures – that actually starts on New Years Eve with dinner. That can take up to 3 weeks of advanced preparation with all the cleaning, organizing, decorating, food preparation, and cooking involved. Finally, the celebrations may start on the evening before, but they last for 4 weeks. And each day of the first two weeks have specific traditions involving travel, visiting, receiving guests, and so on.

College Drama: A hick’s traditions passed over for a green card?

Then, once in college, I met a young man from Hong Kong through a college dorm neighbor. I want to say we were friends, but it was more one sided than that. She liked having me around because my “pathetic” existence boosted her self esteem. Plus I was at least as smart as she was so our academic accomplishments became a competition she strived to win. Since I didn’t care, she often did win.

But that’s getting away from the point. She practically worshipped this young man and wanted to stay friends with him, but he was having trouble with his green card and ability to stay in the US. Before I met him, she asked me about my heritage and how I celebrated holidays with my family. I answered her questions and reached out to other family members for more details if I didn’t have an answer. It was a good excuse for me to re-connect with that part of my culture.

A few weeks later, she came back and told me his opinion: my family and I were a bunch of hicks from the country because people in the city don’t celebrate like that. He called us country bumpkins and other terms I can’t remember.

Maybe if she waited until after asking me to go out with him and consider marrying him so he can get a green card and stay in the US before telling me that, I wouldn’t have been so rude to him when we met. Then again, maybe I would have been just as rude – but less annoying and a lot friendlier during his dorm visits.

Either way, that was the beginning of the end our our pseudo-friendship and another reason for me to hate holidays. Not the first time someone proposed marriage that way even if it was for other reasons, but it was the last time. And yes, both experiences soured me on the idea of relationships and marriage – especially with an Asian man.

Celebration with a Twist

Holidays: Celebration with a Twist
Happy Year of the Rat! Reclaiming another holiday

I do my best, but cannot follow everything. The traditions I know best have been passed down from my grandparents to their children to their grandchildren (i.e. my brother, cousins, and me). Even within that large circle, some traditions have changed with people marrying in and bringing their own holiday traditions. My father’s side of the family decorates different from my mother’s side of the family. And each of my mother’s married siblings follows a blend of each side’s food and decorating traditions.

Planning my move during Chinese New Year wasn’t intentional. But the apartment came available at the right time and for the right price. I had the money mostly saved up and a plan to cover the rest of my other expenses. Plus the act of packing up my old place to move in to the new one constituted cleaning the whole apartment and discarding anything old, broken, unwanted, or holding me back with the end of the year – part of the holiday preparation ūüôā

While I couldn’t decorate the new apartment with traditional good luck and prosperity symbols, I was able to do some laundry, change my sheets, shower, put on clean clothes, and cook a small meal with the basics of a traditional dinner on Friday evening. Then rest quietly until bed time and spend Saturday relaxing or napping as I let my body heal from the physical stress of packing + working + coping with many triggers and 0 down time all week.

In the end, I was able to reclaim another holiday the trauma had taken away from me.

A new home.

A fresh start.

An auspicious new year.

HAPPY 2020 YEAR OF THE RAT

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Buzzwords, Triggers & Thanksgiving

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.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

United States Thanksgiving Holiday is this Thursday. Then the holiday shopping weekend begins with Black Friday, continues with Small Business Saturday, and ends with Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday is my favorite shopping day because I try to support local small businesses as much as possible. Small businesses are one of the few ways ex-cons, veterans, and people with different educational backgrounds can be independent and successful with stable incomes to support themselves and their loved ones. There are lots of other reasons to shop local and shop small, but those are my two personal favorites.

If you’ve read past posts, then you might remember how challenging Thanksgiving can be. I never look forward to this holiday or the whole “holiday season” that starts in November and ends sometime in January. But this year, I am looking towards my 5 day vacation and doing some fun activities from the comfort of my home.

Buzzwords, Challenge Authenticity and Meaning of

That is part of the coping strategy and part of the coping challenge.

What do I mean? Well, words and phrases that become popular in social conversation sometimes lose their impact, authenticity, and specific meaning over time. The can get misused or become misunderstood, categorized, and labeled a certain way or associated with certain groups.

So when these words come up in conversation, people often make assumptions or jump to conclusions thinking they know what I am talking about and get offended, defensive, insulted, etc. when our meaning of the words differ.

One example that stands out came 5 years ago when I was living in an apartment building in Boston, MA. This woman and I were talking about experiencing anxiety and PTSD. She told me “Oh yes, I have a touch of PTSD too.” in a serious tone and proceeded to explain how stressed out she was from work and the recent loss of a pet and some other personal problems.

When she asked me, I explained about my symptoms. She told me that was not PTSD and that I needed serious help. Then proceeded to avoid me as often as possible. When she couldn’t avoid me, she treated me with condescension and wariness.

My struggle right now has to do with other phrases and words with specific meaning in my life:

  • Self Care
  • Resilience
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Reflection
  • Acceptance

These words have become popular as social change supports and encourages people to take better care of themselves, learn how to reduce stress, and live healthier lifestyles.

On the one hand, that’s great because more people have access to knowledge and resources that can teach them how to help themselves make these positive and neutral changes in their lives. They can learn with skepticism and make their own choices (mistakes and successes) with confidence to move forward with their goals.

On the other hand, it gives other people opportunities to manipulate vulnerable populations by twisting the meaning of these words and teaching small bits and pieces of these concepts out of context. People proclaim themselves leaders and experts with self-help guides and quick-fix programs to follow. Maybe they help some people, but what about the ones they fail?

And so I have to ask myself: am I using buzzwords because they’re popular and make me seem “cool” to others? Or am I using words and phrases with a specific intention that helps me achieve my health and wellness goals?

Is it a coping strategy, a coping technique, or a coping challenge?

The answer is unknown at this time. I’m still working through it all.

Is it a trigger?

yes. This kind of thinking feels like walking in circles with pauses to bang my head against a brick wall to escape.

Triggers

Which brings me to triggers.

Well, they still manifest in ways that are new to me. They often surprise and distract me at inconvenient times.

  • My pain levels stay around 5 out of 10…with 10 being the worst. It’s better than years past when my pain level stayed steady at 7.5-9 all the time.
  • This time of year, my triggers are environmental, sensory, and emotional:
  • Flashbacks and body memories cause dissociation and increase in anxiety/hyper-vigilance/agoraphobia
  • Physical pain plays games with my balance and movement – disturbs sleep and distracts from work
  • People moving in and out, city life, cold temperatures, and holiday stress contribute to environmental and sensory stress
  • And of course, my upstairs neighbors continue to be inventive in how they try to annoy me (and our neighbors).

In a way, the triggers haven’t changed. They exist no matter what.

How I cope with the triggers; my reactions to the triggers have changed in positive ways. Most of it is based on the work I’ve done in the past building on itself. Some is new.

Here are the main strategies that help:

Exposure therapy: I express gratitude to my annoying neighbors because they’ve helped me with triggers that used to overwhelm me, cause panic attacks, and make me pass out or not be able to sleep.

Aromatherapy & Herbalism classes: I’ve been learning how to use essential oil blends for pain management, cold and flue, emotional support, and panic attacks through aromatherapy classes. In herbalism classes, I’ve learned how about specific plants (alone or combined) can support different organ systems and overall health.

Cooking, Making Tea, and Creating Aromatherapy Blends: This appeals to me on many levels: saves me money; allows me to be creative; something all parts of me can do together; work in a safe space at home; have fun

*If you choose to try aromatherapy or herbalism, I ask/suggest/recommend you talk to your doctors and work with a certified practitioner or take classes to learn about the subjects before you try it at home*

Laughter: My perspective changes constantly. Back in the past, I had to hide my sense of humor and stay quiet if I wanted to move through the world unnoticed. My voice is unique and memorable. And humor – well, it’s quirky and eccentric and not always easy to understand. These days I choose to find humor and fun in seeming negative or stressful experiences as often as possible.

What kind of challenges and strategies are you utilizing?

Thanks for reading

ADMIN: 2018 Changes Part 1

Introduction

Back at the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, I mentioned a couple times that some changes were coming to the website and blog.  I wanted (still do) to update and add more quality resources and make sure that the content stayed high quality and relevant to the original intentions and keeping this a safe, anonymous, FREE resource.

Why?

There are new and different priorities taking over right now.  Some of my explorations require a bigger time investment and a new space to write/share thoughts.  Others are or will be big life changes that also require dedicated, long term focus.

Since I want to do all of that and maintain this website and blog, compromises and changes have to take place.

Website/Blog Changes

  • Untangled Connections is moving to a paid account by June 2018
    • The domain name and/or URL might change (I’m still trying to understand this), but the Web site Name and accessibility WILL NOT CHANGE
    • I will write an ADMIN Post announcing the changes 1-2 weeks before they take place
  • At some point, probably the next holiday or vacation, I’ll be collating all of the Resource posts and putting the links on the Resources page
  • The Search and Menu functions will change to become more user-friendly
    • This might require changes to the theme, but I will know more after making the upgrade

Schedule Changes

  • Posts about me, my experiences with resources, reviews, etc. will take place 1x a week – probably on Sundays
  • Posts about topics and ideas from the Internet or other bloggers will be shared as I find them – could be none one week or up to 4 another week
    • These posts may or may not have comments from me, but the links will be available in the body of the post
  • You might or might not also find links to videos, websites, and Podcasts instead of links to blogs, articles, and organizations

Life Changes

  • I’m implementing phase 1 of the career change plan with the goal of complete changes by 2020
  • I’ve finally saved up and bought the supplies to work on aromatherapy certification lessons (blending, case studies, research paper, etc.), so will be spending a lot of time on that.
    • The new blog mentioned above is part of these lessons. ¬†It will chronicle my explorations in class and with personal use to help maintain emotional, spiritual, and physical wellness
    • **REMINDER** I am not a practicing medical professional and probably won’t be until the agoraphobia becomes less intense, so anything on there will be informational only
  • My home still needs a lot of work – organizing and decorating – to make it feel safe and comfortable and easy to clean no matter my emotional state
    • Requires thoughtful purchasing of storage solutions, time to organize said solutions, and space to cope with any triggers all that brings up
    • Requires creating and implementing new house chore routines to address trigger issues like laundry, food shopping, cooking, and other tasks that require leaving the apartment
    • Requires creating a safe space in my apartment where I can meditate, do crafting, and go for self soothing comfort

So, yes this is a lot.  Not everything will happen this year.  I am going slow, turtle slow.  And my social media usage is taking a big hit because of that.  But there is progress in every aspect of these big changes.

And each small bit of progress is a success.

Whatever you’re doing, please go slow and make time to celebrate your progress too.

Thanks for reading

Survival Mode: When everything just feels wrong

Yesterday was the first day all week that I left my apartment and the building.

Sometimes life is too overwhelming. ¬†Thoughts stick in my head; refuse to leave. ¬†Everything tastes funny. ¬†My body feels off, but I”m not sure how or why. ¬†My mind is foggy. ¬†So tired, yet unable to sleep. ¬†Everything feels wrong.

But then, it is March. ¬†My mind tells me I”m supposed to feel sick and lethargic. ¬†My body is trying to recapture those sensations through body memories. ¬†Runny nose, allergies, blocked sinuses, colds, infections, and a swollen face are my spring norm.

Instead, the opposite is happening. ¬†The herbs are working; all of the clogged up spaces around my eyes, nose, ears, and jaw are opening up. ¬†Sure, it feels like a major head cold. ¬†The sensations of stuff moving inside surprise and distract me sometimes, but they don’t hurt like in the past.

For the first time since childhood (maybe), the red, puffy, stuffy, tender places around my nose and cheeks are normal colored, smooth, and comfortable to touch.  As those areas drain and heal, so do other parts of my body Рincluding the muscles that usually tighten and prevent me from being active.

Why does that feel so wrong?

something-wrong-eagle
From Google search of “Feels Wrong” images

Probably because I shouldn’t be feeling this healthy, happy, and good, not according to the rules the monsters drummed into my head. ¬†I’m supposed to feel miserable and sick. ¬†To gross out my peers and teachers with my constantly runny, dripping nose and sneezing. ¬†To have to stay inside because of my colds.

How did I get that way? ¬†Still can’t remember. ¬†But the dreams share fragments of stories.

Between this and what I learned among family, my mind has been blown.  Literally.

Survival Mode

Next week, I go back to therapy and counseling. ¬†IT can’t get here soon enough.

Until then, I’m coping as best as possible with the conflicting feelings and sensations inside me.

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If you’ve read past posts, you’ve seen this quote before. ¬†But it’s a good reminder for me right now.

Do as much as I can. ¬†Remember to feel everything and let go of what doesn’t belong. ¬†Keep on moving; there is an end even if I can’t see it. ¬†Finally, backlash is OKAY; it mean’s I’m doing something right. ¬†I survived backlash before. ¬†I’ll survive it again.

Thanks for reading.

Family: Connecting Safely

This weekend I’m flying back to visit family

It’s an unexpected trip, and one I am not too excited about. ¬†With everything that’s happened, I really need some down time. ¬†But I also need to be mindful of the work vacation/sick day policy. ¬†This year, my goal is to stay within the acceptable limits of time off instead of going over by accident or necessity – aka big move or panic attacks or triggers or unexpected family stuff.

Family trees
This was taken back in grad school; branches and leaves remind me of my family connections

My grandma had bad accident late in January, and I couldn’t visit then because of the moving situation. ¬†She is not getting any younger and doing well with recovery/rehab, but I still feel like visiting sooner instead of later is important. ¬†More important than taking a vacation or personal down time to recover from recent experiences.

At the same time, I also need to take care of myself.

My internal family system - sort of
How I see myself…still alive and thriving as I connect my inside and outside worlds

Hence the hotel. ¬†And spending a few days working and connecting with positive people in my network. ¬†I hope it balances out visiting people on my mother’s side of the family too. ¬†And potentially running into my father, brother, mother, etc.

My Self Care Kit goes a little like this:

For flying

  • Warm comfortable outfit
  • Aromatherapy inhalers my friend made me
  • Wireless noise-cancelling headphones + charger/cord
  • E-books/music saved on my phone + phone charger/cord
  • External Battery for electronic devices (fully charged) + charger/cord
  • 1 carry on suitcase + 1 personal bag/backpack
  • Empty water bottle; chocolate/snacks
  • Crystals for grounding, serenity, protection, and mental clarity

For Family

  • Crystals for grounding, protection, courage, and mental clarity
  • Warm, comfortable clothes and accessories in my favorite colors
  • Personal computer with cord for distractions or grounding
  • Chocolate and other grounding stuff
  • Extra warm layers in my backpack in case the house is cold

For Being Where I Grew Up

  • Restaurants with reasonably priced comfort food
  • Room service for times I don’t want to leave the hotel
  • A plan for getting around town – aka public transit card, GPS, and rideshare apps
  • A plan for getting to and from hotel, airport, and work with minimal anxiety
  • Soothing kit that fits in my purse for environmental triggers
  • Fully charged phone with hotline and support phone numbers in case of emergency

And an ESCAPE Plan for everything else.

Things for ME to remember:

  • CBT will help me stay grounded in the present
  • DBT is my best, most effective communication tool
  • No matter what, I am an adult now and can leave ANY time I want
  • Safety first always
  • Travel light, but stay warm
  • Connecting flights are scary, but doable without checked luggage
  • Cramped, middle airplane seats are scarier, but necessary for my budget (sigh)

Hope
A wish that my family will be repaired someday…like the branches of these trees

Wish me luck! ¬†Next post will be coming from a hotel and/or a family member’s house.

Thanks for reading!