Gratitude – Thank you guests for your comments and support & new blog post subscription through MailChimp is in beta

*UPDATE JUNE 19, 2020* – except for the obviously Spam files, all comments have been approved and are visible on the home page now. Unfortunately, I can’t respond to each one individually so am invoking the Blog Rules. As for many questions about blogging, writing, and compatibility or screen issues, please refer to the links below or read through the FAQ post at the top of the Blog page. You can search for other FAQs too in the search bar.

Next post is on Sunday, June 28, 2020. I hope you enjoy Juneteenth holiday and your weekend.

Dear Guests,

Thank you so much for your kind words, feedback and support. The last post has received over 400 amazing comments, most of which have been addressed to the home page.

I started working my way through all of them in my SPAM filter – because yes all comments go to spam or moderation so I can read them and make sure they follow the blog rules – today after an email notification and was overwhelmed by all your kindness and acceptance.

Most of your comments have not been posted here or replied to yet because I need more than a few minutes at a time on break from work to be as kind and thoughtful as you were to me. That is my task for tomorrow evening.

But to answer a few questions here:

  1. I’ve struggled with a contact form that works and feels safe here, so there currently isn’t one available. However, you can visit Scent Reflections LLC, my other website and use that form to contact me. Just add Untangled Connections or UC in the message so I know how to respond.
  2. Your other option – and this is new aka in beta testing – is to subscribe to the new mailing list via MailChimp popup. I just added this to the site tonight and am not sure if it works. If you do use the pop up, I promise you will only receive blog posts from Untangled Connections. But please bear with me while the kinks get worked out.
    1. Also, if you sign up for the subscriber list, you will get my contact information that way too.
  3. I will not be writing more about current events, but I will write more about discrimination, racism, prejudice, etc. and compassionate, assertive, accepting ways to communicate with individuals or groups while feeling safe.
  4. I will share more about Untangled Connections and why I use that site name. Writing the last 3 posts broke a traumatic amnesia barrier in my mind, so I have access to many more memories that were lost.
  5. Finally, I am happy to discuss writing guest blog posts and link exchanges, but cannot reply to emails from WordPress Comments. WordPress security settings protect both of us (admin and commenter) by disguising email addresses and website data.

To Reiterate: if you want to contact me by email, please either SUBSCRIBE using the pop up window or contact me through Scent Reflections LLC. You can also contact me via Facebook; I post all Untangled Connections and Scent Reflections blog posts there. Twitter will be set up ASAP – which for me means the next free time on my half day at work.

A quick note about media: this blog has always been about the writing first. Photos, graphics, etc. are expensive to create and host here based on this type of WordPress account. If you want to see more graphics and media please use this contribution link or the one in the menu to support upgrades that allow me to create and share more media here.

Thanks for reading and making Untangled Connections such an amazing and incredible community.

Love and Rainbows,

AlterXpressions (TJ)
she/her/hers

Happy Holidays to All Who Celebrate!

As part of my traditions to reclaim the holidays, I send out holiday cards by regular mail and (only if I don’t have a mailing address) email to loved ones, friends and colleagues.

This year, as part of my “add creativity to life” self-care strategy, I created holiday post cards based on a theme of low-stress, fun times, and fostering positive relationships.

To all who celebrate – and whatever holiday(s) you celebrate…This card is for you.
Season’s Greetings & Holiday Wishes

Best Regards,

AlterXpressions

IMG_0795

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.

Back to Basics: Gratitude – Meditation, Affirmations, Positive Self-Talk, Prayer, etc. – Practices

The Past

There was a time in my life when expressing gratitude was difficult.  Fear, shame, anger, disbelief in the positive made believing in anything good too much to handle.  I felt grateful for being alive, relatively safe, and able to recover.  I thought about the blessings almost as much as the curses and reflected on both in and out of therapy.  But I couldn’t say or think or share the words/expressions/behaviors with my conscious self and others in the outside world.  That made me feel too vulnerable.

Round 1 of Therapy

My first official therapist was a clinical psychologist who had previously treated a first cousin so was familiar with some family dynamics.  We focused more on rebuilding my internal foundations – repairing cracks, identifying & “disabling” automatic defense mechanisms, keeping me in the present while minimizing “psychotic” symptoms – and coping strategies for anxiety & anorexia.  Her favorite strategies involved Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and challenging the beliefs in my mind.  We touched on gratitude, but not much.  Some words here are in quotes because this therapist did not believe in trauma or DID.  All signs of trauma-related symptoms were deemed “psychosis” or “psychotic” in nature and required medication.

Round 2 of Therapy

My second therapist did not work with trauma – she told me that up front – but she helped me with anxiety and anorexia until the trauma symptoms took over; then I had to find someone else.  But this therapist started teaching me about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and gratitude affirmations or prayers.  She also talked to me about the different 12-step programs and how they are designed around spirituality and connecting to a higher power more than a specific religion.  We practiced creating and saying gratitude prayers (aka affirmations) together in session.  The ones I liked, I wrote down or memorized to use later.

Round 1 of Partial In-Patient programs

Here I learned more about DBT, Positive Affirmations (previously discussed with a doctor-sponsored life coach and touched on in past therapy sessions), and the power of spirituality in healing.  There was also some talk about meditation and deep breathing, but not much.  Mostly centered on mindfulness or visualizations and how to combine affirmations with deep breathing & meditation practices.  But this was a big turning point in my life.  For the first time, I wasn’t alone.  And I wasn’t different from anyone else.  These people cared a lot.  And they tried hard to help us in many ways (including by example) learn the lessons in our groups – especially about boundaries.  I soaked up the information like a sponge and came out with a newer, more positive perspective on everything.

Round 3 of Therapy

I was working with this therapist, a trauma specialist, when I started this website and blog.  She taught me about self-acceptance, the power of gratitude in all of its forms, and how to safely express gratitude so that I welcome the positive energy, influences, and opportunities available just by “saying thank you” and “asking for guidance” by example too.  While this therapist uses all of the strategies and techniques listed above, she also uses EMDR, Hypnosis, other trauma-specific types of strategies, and meditation.  But her meditation styles and practices are rooted in Buddhism, and she was able to share resources like Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Han, and the Dalai Lama for me to explore on my own time.  Through her, I discovered compassion meditation, gratitude meditation, ways to breathe so that I can make friends with my fear and be objective as I reflect on my past.  This is when my alters and I acknowledged each other; and we opened ourselves up to the world together for the first time.

Round 2 of Partial In-patient programs

Let’s just say that the break from work gave me the time and space I needed to make some important decisions about family relationships and my personal life.  The people running the program this time were new and completely different.  Their approach was more clinical and detached; they didn’t care the same way as the last group of people who ran the program.  I didn’t learn as much or find their lessons or mentoring as useful as last time.  But then, I was also a different person and my alter personalities were emerging and causing all kinds of interesting experiences in the outside world then too.  But I am grateful for the experience because being there, around so many different women with similar challenges and alternative approaches, gave me the strength and resolve to break from my toxic family situation.

Present Time

I practice gratitude multiple times a day – always in the morning and before bed – because the reminders and affirmations help me stay grounded in the present.  Sometimes I pray, sometimes I use an affirmation, sometimes a compassion meditation, sometimes positive self-talk as I breathe deep for a few minutes.  Either way, it connects me to the life energy found in nature and the universe; and then I feel less alone, less scared, and less stuck in one place.

***I might have mentioned this before, but I will mention it again because this is important***

I do not believe in organized religion – that comes from being raised in a cult – but I do believe in God in all of his/her/their/its many forms.  Each of my alters and have an inclusive attitude towards religion and spirituality.

It’s hard not to when some of the most positive and life sustaining influences were and are: Jewish, Christian (Protestant, Methodist, etc.), Catholic, or agnostic.

Also when some of the most negative influences were and are: Jewish, Christian (see above), Catholic, agnostic, Mormon, Pagan, Satanic, or Greek Orthodox.

So while I do believe in God, I do not assign a specific gender, religion, or form to this higher, universal power.  And I separate my gratitude practices from religion and focus on spiritual connections with nature.  All of us in the system believe that nature in all of its forms are God’s every day miracles.  By connecting with them and sharing thankfulness, compassion, acceptance, and respect we open ourselves to so an amazing support network.  And find answers to questions or directions at a crossroads.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversaries: Experiences become Benchmarks turn into Anniversaries

The past few months have helped me realize that sometimes experiences become benchmarks.  And benchmarks become anniversaries.  Not all anniversaries are bad ones.

These are some of the good ones I feel grateful to remember and want to share:

  • 22 years of keeping secrets and choosing not to address rumors about my sexual orientation that got me ignored, bullied, harassed, etc. by “friends”, family, class mates, teachers, and community members
  • 20 years since one rapist got me pregnant and then forced an abortion
  • 18 years of celibacy by choice – I chose not to have sex or sexual relations until a time came when I changed my mind
  • 13 years into recovery and in the “live” phase instead of “crisis” phase
  • 12 years since I learned about posttraumatic stress disorder and trauma therapy
  • 10.5 years working at the same job
  • 10 years since I started choosing my own medical and mental health providers
  • 5 years since I walked away from my family and started to take my life back
  • 5 years since I learned that the “voices” in my head were real (DID) and not my imagination making me crazy
  • 3 years since I legally changed my name and started to feel safe in all parts of my life
  • 8 months since I reconnected with safe family members
  • 8 months since I moved out of state and started fresh
  • 6 months until I turn 35 years old – 14 years beyond what I assumed by expected life term

Sometimes it takes a look backwards to remember all of the good that happened in spite of the bad.  I feel grateful for the opportunity to remember and celebrate these benchmarks this week.

Thanks for reading