Resources: CEO’s video discusses mental illness openly

Another LinkedIn find, and one that I want to share ASAP: the CEO of a communications company talks about his experiences and struggles with mental illness here

I listened to his video and could only say “thank you” as a comment on his post.  It’s touching and profound.  But more important, he shares a message of hope and support for everyone with mental illness.

It’s my first time, so please bear with me: #StopTheStigma is the hasthag going around.

Thanks for reading…

Resources: Options for coping with Bipolar Disorder

Neurofeedback and BioFeedback are Effective Bipolar Disorder Treatment Neurofeedback has been used effectively in the treatment of ADHD, bipolar disorder, OCD, and other mental health disorders. Utilize neurofeedback with a licensed practicioner. It helps you develop powers of self-control and concentration. It strengthens your mind, contributing to recovery. Neurofeedback gives you needed support from professionals,…

via Bipolar Disorder Self Help — Sad N Blue

If you or someone you know has bipolar disorder and is open to new options, please read and share.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: “About Pages” by PlanetSimon

Hello All

“About” pages are one way I like to learn about different authors.  Simon from PlanetSimon has a great post about why About pages are both useful and important.  I couldn’t find a reblog link on this blogger’s post so am sharing the link here: WordPress: Creating an About Page

If you like science and unique perspectives, please also check out some of the other posts too.

If you want to read why I started this blog, the links are listed below.  But seriously, check out the link above.  It’s got great info and reminded me why About pages are so important.

My about page is buried on the main site (not the blog) and has 2 parts.    The first part, linked above, shares the purpose and goals of the website and blog.  The second part gives some background information about me and why I started this blog.

Resources: About Narcissistic Mothers from Courage Coaching

Categories make my head hurt.  I’ve tried to forgive and move on from the toxic experiences with my mother with some success.  What exactly she did to me, the words she spoke, fits into multiple abuse categories.  So many that I stopped trying to fit her into any one category.

Words like “Narcissism” and “Narcissist” are triggering for me because they hold a wealth of emotion, memory, and experience – all related to females more than males.

This post is helpful because the author understands Narcissistic abuse and often provides valuable resources to help others cope with the effects of such abuse.  It’s not a topic I’ve covered in therapy, but maybe it’s something I will soon bring up.

The author shares definitions of different types of Narcissistic Mother figures from Michelle Piper.  My own mom is a combination of about 6 or 7 of these types, not exactly, but close enough.  Some other family members and relatives are combinations of the other types.

Maybe this explains why I seem to always find or attract Narcissistic women more than men into my life and end up repeating patterns.  Sometimes I wonder if the sign on my forehead (you know the one) that says “Vulnerable to Narcissists!  Come and Get Me!” will be there forever?

Then I remember how much progress I’ve made and the amazing, supportive people in my life now.  And I realize that the sign is fading.  Very, very slowly.  But fading.

Either way, I hope these definitions help you as much as they help me.  If not for a mother in your life, maybe a mother figure or mentor instead.

Thanks for reading.

Awhile back, I wrote a blog post on my other site about the effects of narcissistic abuse and the different narcissistic mother types out there, according to respected psychotherapist Michelle Piper. You can find this blog post here: https://mychildwithin.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/narcissistic-mother-types/ After reading through Michelle’s website, I wanted to share the information she provides with my subscribers […]

via Narcissistic mother types — Courage Coaching

Series: 2017 Reflections Part 2

Facing Past Fears

This year, I spent 3 months living in emotionally and verbally abusive situation beyond my control.  3 months because that’s how long it took to acknowledge the truth of my situation, go through the proper steps, and find the courage to get out of the situation using legal and banking resources.  The two individuals involved in this situation acted and treated me like the female figures in my past – maternal, care-taking, educational, authoritative, peers, and bullies.

Before this, in spite of all the work I’ve done to heal and trust outsiders, I’ve never really shaken the belief that I don’t deserve help from legal services, government, financial services, etc. or that asking for such help is a viable option.

The deal is done.  I spoke with the attorney.  He listened to my story; reviewed the documentation, and agreed to help me.  Within 1 day, the letter was written, lease broken, and freedom on the horizon.  The financial situation is not asa good as I want, but a bank loan will help with that.  Fingers crossed that the loan goes through in time, so I can make the necessary payments.

2018 Resolutions & Goals

This year’s resolution is simple.  It’s five words:

Gratitude

Compassion

Acceptance

Love

Forgiveness

What this means…

Live, laugh, prosper in safety and good health.
Not just for me, but for my loved ones, my enemies, and others in this world.

Be vulnerable and my authentic self as often as possible
No matter how much it hurts.  No matter what challenges I face.  Because in finding and expressing my authentic self at all times, all parts of me integrate and work together as on whole person no matter the stress or triggers or whatever that comes my way.

Work towards improving my physical health
untangle the connection that confuse pain with any other sensation I feel when moving or active.  Then maybe start biking and feel more physically confident to travel and do things.  Accept and view my body in a positive way instead of a neutral way.  To not automatically connect my physical body and appearance with my past and instead connect it with my present.

Feel more comfortable with being an adult female and accepting aspects of my personality related to the trauma aka sexuality
I’ve abstained from sexual contact for almost 18 years and have no desire to try it again any time soon.  But I’d like to be able to acknowledge and accept my sexuality without being triggered or automatically connecting sexuality to abuse.  I’d like to feel comfortable in my own body/skin, accept my appearance in a way that is body positive instead of body neutral.

What are your resolutions and goals for 2018?

Thanks for reading

Resources: Another Author Round-up with a Twist

In the past, I’ve shared some of my favorite contemporary authors who write romance, science fiction, and/or fantasy – mostly skewed towards female or male/female partnership authors – or self-help books.  But I never shared many of my favorite male authors or other types of books – books that taught me many valuable life lessons.

That comes from the scared parts of me who fear sharing such an important cornerstone even with close friends and family.  I am an absolute nerd when it comes to books and have a love affair with ancient/classic stories (before and during the time of Shakespeare) along with early American authors.

And so, many of my favorite male authors come from these categories.  A lot of them still carry memories, so I listen for free on Podcasts or borrow from the library.

If you are interested, here is a short list:

Classic Greek/Roman

  • Euripedes – comedies and tragedies
  • Aristophanes – comedies and tragedies
  • Homer – Oddessy & Iliad
  • Aesop – book of fables

British across many periods

  • Bede – Anglo/Saxon mythology or creation stories
  • Chaucer – A Knight’s tale and other poems
  • John Donne – beautiful sonnets and poetry
  • George Bernard Shaw – not usually a fan of politics or plays, but his are short, interesting.  I actually did my senior thesis paper on his take of Antony & Cleopatra.

American across many periods

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Mark Twain
  • Walt Whitman
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Robert Frost

Youth (mostly within the last 4 decades)

  • Dr. Seuss
  • Donald J. Sobol
  • Sid Fleishman
  • Rick Riordan

As you can see, these books range from fiction to non-fiction, children to adult, and poetry.

What do you think this says about me?  And does it bring up any secret parts in you that might want to be heard?

For me, I’m starting to read these books and enjoy them again – this time without the past shading my experience.

Thanks for reading

Alter Post: Accepting Help

My name is Darkness.  I am between 6 and 10 years old.  My name comes from holding some of the darkest memories and feelings in our system.  It was my job to protect the other parts from the monsters by creating walls between them and reality – aka a darkness that veiled the scary truth.  I was and still am a protector – strong and independent and capable.  I didn’t think that I needed any help; in fact asking for help was considered a weakness back then.

It wasn’t until the adults started going to therapy that I realized help is not a weakness.  Offering help feels good and lessens the feelings of guilt and shame for not being able to protect everyone all the time.  But accepting help?  Admitting I couldn’t handle all of the memories, feelings, and triggers by myself?  Admitting that I couldn’t do everything, protect everyone, prevent the others from remembering, maintain the dark veil?  That I refused to believe for a long time.

Because what would I do?  How could I be a useful part of the system if I wasn’t protecting everyone and myself from the scary memories?  How would I cope with the voices and the pain that came from lifting the darkness?  Who would want to help a monster like me?  One who lived in perpetual darkness reliving what the monsters did to our mind and body?

No, I didn’t believe anyone would offer to help me unless that offer was a trick of some kind.  I didn’t believe I deserved to be helped either.  So I ignored the offers.  And I denied needing anyone’s help.

Until the day, or was it evening, that I got caught in a trap that stuck me in the past and couldn’t get out on my own.

A whole group of alters (different ages and genders) came to find me.  They told me I could get out of this easily.  All I had to do was accept their offer of help.  I didn’t believe them at first.  I fought them.  I insulted them.  I hurt them.  I fought myself.  I insulted myself.  I hurt myself.  I pushed them away.  I hid from them.

They always found me.  They protected themselves without hurting me.  They offered compassion.  They stayed down in the pit with me and never, not once, left.

It felt like days, but was only hours – that last battle.  I was so tired.  I gave in and accepted their help.  As soon as I opened up to the offer, the trap disappeared.  No one was stuck anymore.  We climbed out of the pit and made our way home.  It was kind of embarrassing that the girl alters were stronger and faster than me fora long time as I recovered.

Boys are supposed to be stronger than girls.  Smarter and faster too.  But that’s a lie too.  Maybe boys are physically stronger because of the differences in body shapes.  But not stronger or smarter or faster in the other ways that count.  Anyone can be strong and fast and smart; it has to do with the individual not the gender.

Sometimes I forget that I”m part of a system who loves and accepts me as I am.  Sometimes I forget how important I am to the system; without me we wouldn’t be the AlterXpressions system (a unique, independent woman) and able to do so much.  And without them, I wouldn’t be able to learn, grow, and do my job as part of the system that makes up the woman we are.

A woman with masculine and feminine characteristics who is learning to embrace all parts of herself as I learn to accept myself and my part in our system.

Thanks for reading.

Back to Basics: Organizing my Disordered Eating Habits

Different Post format today

Background

I practiced anorexia/was anorexic for 15-20 years; starting with childhood neglect (not always being fed) and “participation” in my mother’s diets as she tried to lose “baby weight”.  Diagnosis and recovery started in 2004.  Remission or full recovery started in 2015.  I wouldn’t be where I am now without a lot of help and support from my care team – especially the dietitian who helped recreate a healthy relationship with food.

Food has always been a big deal in my family.  Weight loss and weight-related illness is a big struggle for many family members.  Part of the anorexia started because I didn’t want to be like them – obsessed about food; unable to stop eating; sick all the time; having to take lots of medicine; being made fun of and criticized for my weight and looks.  Another part had to do with self-punishment and being in control of some small part of my life when everything else was out of my control; I love food and cooking so not letting myself eat and not cooking hurt a lot.  Finally, the anorexia was about body hate; I hated being female and having a curvy female body.

Recovery, Relapse, Restart

The first thing I did when my therapist finally convinced me I was anorexic (and this took 3 months of weekly counseling sessions) was buy a book about anorexia nervosa.  The second thing I did was try to talk to my parents.  Third, I asked my primary care physician for assistance.  Finally, I took matters into my own hands and started research/recovery with my therapist at the time in secret.

I started gaining weight and got really bloated.  The weight gain was noticed; I started getting concerned looks from some and gleeful looks from others.  Concerned by family members who worried that I was getting overweight and might develop diabetes.  Gleeful from family members who were jealous of my skinny body and happy that I was looking fat or fatter than them.  Then came the lectures on behalf of my mom who was “worried about me” since I “refused to listen to her”.

Those comments hurt, but I was committed to getting better.  I didn’t want to be in pain all the time or allergic to 35 different kinds of food.  I didn’t want to be tired all the time or constantly sick.  I wanted to be healthy and active again.  I wanted to walk and practice martial arts or yoga without knee and back pain that plagued me since adolescence.

Starting the Process

My first real relapse came in 2007 after I moved out on my own for the first time.  I lost about 8-10 lbs in 3 months.  It was the weight loss that spurred me into getting help again.  First a primary care doctor who I could trust.  She recommended me to a dietitian who specialized in eating disorders.  Later both suggested I start therapy again, so I started looking for someone.  This therapist did not work in trauma, but she helped with everything else.

Between the two of them (dietitian and therapist), I learned that I was:

  • Afraid of food
  • Afraid of my body
  • Afraid of looking attractive
  • Clueless about nutrition
  • and Confused about diets and dietary needs

Then my dietitian moved to another department within the program, and I got someone new.  Her approach was different, and I was wary at first.  We’ve been working together for the last 8 years with a lot of success.  The second dietitian helped me understand more about diets and nutrition.  We addressed my food fears and body fears with facts about how different kinds of food help improve different body functions – mini anatomy and physiology lessons.

Redefining What Food Means to Me

Through my work with the second dietitian, I rediscovered my love of food and learned to separate my body negativity from my desire to be healthy.  The last few years have been focused on getting healthy and discovering what healthy means to me not about weight gain or appearance (that didn’t come until last year).

So what does food mean to me?

  • Food comes from a plant, a fungus, a bacteria, or a living organism (fish, fowl, animals, etc.)
  • Food does not come from a laboratory or genetically modified living organism
  • Food can be created by processes like fermentation (beer, miso, tempeh, pickling, canning) and dehydrating to name a few, but not by chemicals and additives
  • Food is nutrient dense with a variety in calories.
  • Food is colorful like a rainbow and goes through a decomposition process after it ripens
  • Food can be eaten raw, cooked, or baked
  • A variety of food per meal is more tasty, interesting, and nutritious than the same foods all the time
  • Food has to taste and feel good going in (chewing), going through (digesting), and going out (removing toxins) in order to help me maintain my health
  • Food is separate from how I look in the mirror or what others think of my body

And how does that relate to health?

 

Once I learned to separate my negative body image and body self-hate from my food thoughts, I started to heal.  After I decided to let myself enjoy food, my food allergies started to go away.  Once I decided it was okay to be “fat” and gain weight, my weight normalized.

This means I eat when I am hungry; drink fluids when I am thirsty; used the bathroom when my body says it needs to release toxins; and exercise as much as possible to maintain flexibility, stamina, bone density, and muscle development.

My focus is on nutrient dense foods that I don’t have to eat a lot of and are easy to cook 80% of the time and everything else 20% of the time.  That gives me leeway to experiment or to try out new/different foods for grounding and self-soothing purposes as part of a coping strategy.

“New” Eating Habits 

  • Flexibility is key
  • Eat a lot of nutrient dense food in small portions throughout the day
  • Eat until I am full and then stop; I can always eat later
  • Remember to hydrate or drink soup with one or two meals to get enough liquids
  • Smoothies can be meals too and are easy to digest
  • It’s okay to eat junk food sometimes
  • Denial and restriction only make me feel worse not better
  • Too much dairy and animal protein causes digestion problems so eat sparingly
  • Eat what I love and love what I eat
  • It’s okay to NOT enjoy eating sweet foods, chips, and desserts; it’s like others not liking chocolate or ice cream

Final Thoughts

Diet books did not help much as I researched information about anorexia and food allergies.  Regular cookbooks did not help much because all recipes included foods that made me sick.  So I started looking at “alternative food lifestyle” cookbooks – aka vegan, vegetarian, raw foodist, and allergy friendly cookbooks – for inspiration and ideas.  That is partly how I rediscovered my love of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains.

I am not vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, pescatarian, or meatitarian as I’ve heard people refer to themselves.  I am a woman who enjoys eating real food that comes from plants (most of  the time) and living organisms (sometimes).  Most of the food is minimally or not processed, but a lot of it is processed in some way.  I eat a variety of different foods so that most vitamins and supplements are unnecessary.  High processed and chemical-laden food products make me ill and cause problems, so I avoid or eat them in small amounts.

I still have issues with body image and having a curvy female body, but those are topics for a different post.

Thanks for reading

 

 

Back to Basics: “It takes a village…” – taking responsibility for my own care

A different post format today.

“It takes a village to raise a child”

I am not sure where that quote came from, but my therapist mentions it often in our sessions.  It’s a reminder that one person alone cannot handle everything, especially not something like recovery.  But finding trustworthy people to help and support recovery (support network) is not easy, especially not for people who feel helpless, hopeless, trapped, unsafe, or confused.  And putting oneself out there to meet new people; interview them; talk to them about such scary and personal experiences without really knowing them can be triggering.

Creating a support network takes courage, persistence, self-trust, and access to resources.  Courage to reach out and accept help that is offered through research and resources.  Persistence to follow through on research and utilize the resources available.  Self-trust to trust in one’s instincts about the people being interviewed as potential members of the support network.  And yes, this includes family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and professionals of all kinds.

Why talk about it now?

Two reasons:

  1. I am leaving much of my existing support network when I move out of state in a few months and want to share some of what I have learned as I reflect on how to recreate a support network in my new home
  2. I feel less anxious about sharing some of my struggles with finding safe providers on the blog right now

Taking Responsibility for My Recovery and Care

Parents and legal guardians are responsible for the majority of their children’s care and support.  They choose doctors, schools, activities, social experiences, and even friends sometimes.  If, like me, the parents or legal guardians are also abusers, the child or children do not always get proper care.  But they learn that the care they receive is “proper” and “all they should expect”.

My pediatrician was also one of my abusers.  He got me pregnant and then forced an abortion when I was 15.  Before that, he kept me on a variety of allergy medications and other drugs to help my parents “manage” me and my constant illnesses better.  Shortly after the abortion, he died of a heart attack.  And I was told to “choose” a new pediatrician.  Except this pediatrician was the same one my cousins used.  She did not abuse me, but she also turned a blind eye to (what I now realize) all of the inconsistencies in my file and my symptoms.

Then I turned 18 and had to find a new doctor.  I also had my first experiences with doctors outside of my local community (college).  These doctors did not constantly brush off my symptoms and give me drugs to “feel better”.  They asked questions and followed up on any inconsistencies.  In fact, one told me that maybe the drugs were making everything worse; I might want to try not using them and letting the cold go away on its own.

Then I went back home to meet my new doctor.  This doctor who happened to be my mother’s doctor, and had been her doctor for most of my life.  I didn’t like her.  And she didn’t care about me.  Going to see her caused lots of anxiety.  And she didn’t care about my concerns or mental health problems unless they were treatable with medicine or by a specialization she approved of (aka physical therapy and orthopedic doctors)

Four years later, I graduated from college and started treatment with a clinical psychologist who treated one of my cousins previously.  We worked together ok, but she also wanted me on medication.  And she did not acknowledge trauma in any way even though she saw and heard (from interviews with my parents) that I was being controlled and abused by them before I did.

Her solution was for me to move out and start living my own life. That caused tension and a lot of distrust on my side; how was I supposed to do that when I couldn’t even find a regular job, let alone take care of myself?  Eventually I stopped seeing her.  The psychiatrist didn’t bother with me after I stopped taking the medicine he prescribed; and he was upset with me because he believed that I lied when I said the medicine was making me sick and sleepy and numb.

Around this time, I also tried working with a chiropractor; that was a positive experience until some new people were hired to work the front desk.  The new front desk people took a lot of pleasure in bullying me, and none of the other staff stopped him.  In fact, they egged him on.  So that place didn’t feel safe anymore.  I didn’t feel safe bringing up to my provider.  I left and never went back.

Then I moved out and had to find new doctors close to me.  I also had to buy medical insurance and make sure the premiums were paid on time.  A few months later, I also had to find a new mental health provider.  By now, I already knew what I did and did not want in a provider.  And I knew that finding one would require me to talk to people and engage them.  But working with the psychologist did help before.  And doing these scary activities was worth the effort if I could start sleeping and eating again.

That is how I took responsibility for my own recovery and care.

Shared Knowledge

Here are some of the criteria I used to find a primary care physician (PCP) – the cornerstone of my support network.

  • Location: Moving out meant giving up my car.  I needed to find a clinic and hospital that was easily accessible by public transportation
  • Accepted my medical insurance
  • Had staff experienced in working with mental health and/or trauma patients and who were taking new clients
  • Was female, mid-thirties to early sixties, and a fair amount of practical experience
  • Had an open mind about not using a lot of medication, was willing to work with me about mental health treatment, cared about finding causes more than symptoms, did not mind writing referrals to other specialists or that I went with a mental health provider outside of the care group, felt safe and listened without judging me

Here are some of the criteria I used to decide whether or not to stick with my dietitians for medical nutritional therapy

  • Location: accessible by public transportation
  • Accepted my medical insurance
  • Had staff experienced in working with mental health and/or trauma patients
  • Listened without judging or pushing a program/agenda on me
  • Answered questions; offered suggestions, guidance, and outside resources I could follow up on in my own time
  • Focused on teaching me how to help myself become healthy and stay that way
  • Checked in with me and allowed trust to build based on open communication and mutual respect – did not shame me or get offended when I expressed uncertainty about wanting to work with her during our first meeting

Here are some of the criteria I used to find and choose a mental health provider

  • Location: accessible by public transportation
  • Accepted my medical insurance
  • Or as an alternative was open to sliding scale fees, payment plans, etc. to help with costs of outpatient treatment
  • Specialized in trauma (or depression, anxiety, eating disorders if I couldn’t find a trauma specialist)
  • Female, between forty and seventy years old, with at least 20 years of experience working with a vareity of age groups
    • Female only because I am more comfortable with female providers than male providers; none of my childhood or adult female providers were abusive
  • Listened with respect and acceptance
  • Did not talk down to me, condescend to me, shame me, or dismiss my concerns/questions/issues in any way
  • Did not make me feel unsafe, unheard, or crazy during our first meeting
  • Felt safe and comfortable in her office during the first meeting

Here are some of the criteria I used to find and choose a psychiatrist

  • All of the above for mental health, plus did not try to push drugs on my once he or she realized the drugs were making me sick with symptoms and side effects

Here are some general tips

  • If you already have providers you trust
    • Ask what medical insurance they take and make sure you are on one of those plans for a primary care physician and specialists (psychiatrist, dietitian, podiatrist, etc.)
    • Work out a payment plan with the financial department (many major hospitals and clinics have programs and are supportive about helping figure out options as long as you talk to them) or your mental health counselor if you get into financial trouble
  • If you don’t have providers you trust
    • Try calling the phone number on the back of your insurance card
    • Try using the insurance company’s website to search their directory of providers
    • Then be prepared to make a lot of dead end phone calls and set up appointments to interview the providers
      • Dead end because many sites do not have up-to-date contact information
    • If the prospect of doing all of this research and follow up on your own is anxiety-provoking or triggering, try a third party organization or non-profit organization dedicated to helping people find providers
  • Always be as honest as possible and communicate your needs, concerns, or issues clearly when talking with providers.

Any provider who brushes your concerns and questions off is not safe or trustworthy.  Find someone else

Thanks for reading

 

 

Life Changing Moments: Sometimes a Song Changes Everything

Introduction

I love music.  My alters love music.  But for the longest time none of us could listen to music without getting triggered.  Most of my CDs and music choices were taken away from me, made fun of, used or broken by people in my life who didn’t want me to enjoy music or got tired of me listening to the same songs all the time (college dorms and visiting family members).  At home, nothing belonged to me so my parents “borrowed” my music whenever they wanted and kept what they liked for themselves.  And my brother loved music too so he didn’t want me to be interested in music at all.  Because anything I was interested in became evil, boring, etc.

But music is everywhere.  And it’s hard to stop songs from being heard when people like listening to the radio in the car, at the stores, and so on.

The life changing moment

Back in high school, a lot of traumatic events took place.  Some I’ve written about here.  Others are waiting to be told.  But I felt trapped and hopeless until I heard a song called “To the Moon and Back” by a semi-popular pop band called Savage Garden.  The lyrics resonated so well with my life at the time, I thought the artists had been flies on the walls of my life.  Hearing this song was y first real experience with empathy and not feeling alone – like I was the only person in the universe experiencing these problems and feelings.

Here is the YouTube link if you are interested in checking out the song.  Maybe it will inspire you to keep going; maybe not.

Either way, happy Friday and wishes for a relaxing weekend.

 

Recovery: Body Neutral or Body Positive? Rethinking Cultural Body Image and Sexual Attractiveness Ideals

Background Perspective

Society and culture has an enormous influence on perceptions of ideal body shapes and beauty – for males and females.  The focus used to be more on female shapes and standards, but now even males are under more obvious pressure to conform to magazine image standards.  For persons raised in multi-cultural or non-western family systems, the ideal standards of physical health and beauty can and do come in conflict the Western ideals displayed all over the media.

I lost interest in physical attractiveness and beauty standards back in childhood.  This comes from the variety of perpetrators who influenced my body image.  Male or female; young or old; beautiful, pretty, handsome, plain, attractive, or ugly; perpetrators come from all ends of the spectrum.  And all of them in some way or other will blame the victim and/or  (at least in my case) blame the victim’s appearance as the main reason for committing acts of emotional, physical and sexual violence.

A plain face and skinny body is just as threatening as an ugly face and fat body or attractive face and perfect body when that individual can overpower and control you.

Body Neutral

This is where I and my alters are now.  Body neutral, for us, means that we all acknowledge the unique beauty and health of our body as it works to help us live a happy life.  Some body parts are more interesting or attractive than others.  The whole package is perfect for us because everything works and is in good health.

Flaws are positive instead of negative because they are the parts of our body unique to us.  Being physically attractive and having body parts that can attract more attention than others are acknowledged as part of our self image instead of ignored out of shame.  Accepting that it’s ok to look good and interesting without shame and hate is body neutral.

Fat is only a problem when it negatively affects personal health.  I love my small belly; it took me a long time to accept it, but having that small rounded part where my female organs rest reminds me that I am not too skinny anymore and have enough fat to properly regulate my hormonal system without medication.  Some of the people whom I most admire are not slim – the women are curvy and round; the men are more rectangle or square or oval and rounded but strong and muscular and healthy.

Practicing good self care and eating for pleasure are body neutral and body positive actions.  Eating nutritious and junk foods in balance with the body’s needs is body neutral.  This is an important part for me because I’ve always been under weight.  Gaining weight is difficult and made recovery from anorexia more challenging.  But relearning how to enjoy food and to eat a variety of nutrient dense (mostly healthy) food has helped a lot.  Being adventurous, flexible about the definition of healthy and nutritious, and willing to experiment or break rules also helps find the fun in eating again.

Body Positive

I am working on this part – it will be a work in progress for the rest of my life.

Beliveing and internalizing that it’s ok to look good and interesting without shame and hate is body positive.

Wearing clothes that fit, accessories that are comfortable and express personality, and looking like the best version of ourselves is a step towards body positive.  Learning to love each and every part of our body along with the whole package is a step towards body positive.  Looking in a mirror and loving the body/face reflected back at me is body positive.

Defining my personal style; learning to dress according to my unique shape and personality; putting time and effort into my appearance for my own confidence and pleasure – these are all steps towards being body positive that I am working on.  As a female, I have more resources for female style and positive image than for male style and positive image.

Therefore the links I post in the conclusion are not about male positive body image, but have valuable information that relates to positive body image in general.  i.e. the posts and information comes from a female perspective, but the knowledge can be applied to males too.

If anyone has resources to share (especially for males), feel free to post links in the responses below.  I will share them in a future post with acknowledgements.

Conclusion

I don’t hate my body or myself anymore.  My alters do not hate themselves or this body anymore.  My body does not fit the ideals for Western or Asian physical beauty.  And that is ok.  I have a personal style now thanks to the program I joined last year and am not invisible anymore.  That personal style is still evolving as I learn what I like and dislike and replace wardrobe pieces to suit who I am now instead of who I was before.

Body neutral is a good place to be.  Body positive is where I land at some point every day for a few moments.  Body negative is where I go when I get triggered or feel overwhelmed with internal stressors.

Somewhere in the back of my mind is the fear that I will relapse and get so stressed out that I start skipping meals again.  But in the front of my mind is the knowledge that I am not alone and can reach out to ask for help.  I hope someday others can feel this way too.

Thanks for reading.

 

Survival Mode: A different kind of survival part 1 – PTSD

Introduction

I’m late with this week’s post.  The last few days have been difficult with high anxiety, hyper-vigilance, and an adrenaline high that wouldn’t stop; my reactions to recovered memories involving physical violence combined with seasonal body memory pain.  It’s a different kind of survival mode for me and one that I struggle with a lot.  Instead of typical essay format, I’m using a Q&A interview style for this series

Questions and Answers

Q: What is an adrenaline high?

A: I get triggered into panic without having a panic attack.  Adrenaline surges through my system.  I suddenly have extra acute senses, strength, mental clarity, etc. in order to run, fight, or freeze until I can escape.  But once I realize the threat is over, the adrenaline keeps on flowing.  The hyper-vigilance stays and increases over time.  I am jumpy and anxious and unable to concentrate.  I can’t relax.  The adrenaline does not stop.

Q: Why doesn’t the adrenaline stop?  Isn’t there a physiological on/off switch built into our bodies/minds?

A:  My on/off switch was permanently disabled because of past experiences.  Yes most people have an on/off switch that automatically controls how, when, and for what length of time the adrenaline flows and then slows down without crashing too hard.  I have to find ways to manually turn the adrenaline off without causing harm to myself and (potentially) others.

Q: How does it relate to PTSD specifically?

A: Symptoms of PTSD get exacerbated.  Agitation, irritability, anger easily, frustration, lack of focus, increased anxiety, panic attacks, etc.  PTSD is considered an anxiety disorder.  For me that means all of my “natural” alertness and environmental sensitivity get put on steroids to make flashbacks, nightmares, and triggers both more likely to occur and more intense with each occurrence.  That sends more adrenaline into my system until I am flying on super high energy levels and awareness even as I start to crash from being physically and emotionally drained of energy from the last wave.  No matter how tired I am, no matter how much I want to relax, the adrenaline and hyper-vigilance won’t let me because my brain senses a threat that doesn’t exist anymore.  Once I identify the cause of this state (that I call Adrenaline High), I have to find ways to slow down the adrenaline until it stops.

Q: How do I know when my adrenaline starts/stays on/stops?

A:  My first signs are physiological.  As in my body reacts to the adrenaline first.  Sweating, chills, shaking/trembling limbs, chest tightness, muscle tension, headaches, face pain, joint pain, extra saliva in my mouth, skin feels itchy, flushed or pale skin/skin changes color.  Then comes acute senses: everything is more sensitive and reactive; I jump at noises, can smell or scent objects from longer distances, flavors increase or decrease – taste too much or nothing at all, etc.  And then comes the distraction, loss of vision (everything is blurry), and an increase in mental static/confusion caused by the “hearing voices” that are not my alters trying to convince me that the past is reality and present is a dumb fantasy that will get me (put your idea of a threat here).

Q: Do automatic defenses and coping strategies kick in during adrenaline?

A:  Yes.  I try everything in my arsenal first.  All of positive, healthy, healing coping strategies and techniques from therapy, programs, hotlines, books, etc. get used and reused until I get frustrated.  Then I try last resort strategies.  Hopefully they work.  And if not, there are the strategies I refuse to consciously use: my past automatic coping and defense mechanisms: chemical help (something stronger than Tylenol like prescription anti-anxiety meds); inducing a panic attack that causes me to pass out; self harm (emotional, verbal, physical, spiritual).  As I’ve mentioned before, self-harm comes in many forms and is not always noticeable.  Luckily for me, I have caring friends and co-workers who gently point out and remind me when this happens so that I know it happened and can be more careful next time.

Q: What are some ways to make the adrenaline stop?  Are they positive/neutral/negative?

A:  I don’t know.  This is where I am still experimenting and learning.  The only ways I know for me to successfully make the adrenaline stop are negative (see question above).  Some neutral ones suggested by others include: exercise; deep breathing; hobbies and activities that allow adrenaline-based energy to be released and do not require a lot of focus; listening to music or lullabies; distractions like favorite books, TV, and movies.  I call those neutral because they can be triggering to some and not to others.  As for positive, I am still working on that.

Q: Is there anything else you want to share?

A: Yes.  The backlash from using what’s necessary to come down from an adrenaline high can be worse than the adrenaline itself.  It can cause guilt and shame and more triggers or memories to resurface.

If you can ride it all out with minimal harm to self and others, you have won.  That is the attitude I have to take or else I’d be swimming in shame and guilt every time it happens.  Instead of healing, I’d be back in the downward spiral.  So, when nothing works, ask for help.  Reach out to supports if you can.  Help comes in many forms.  Sometimes I ask myself for help and support to get  through the next (time period varies).  Or I ask for spiritual help.

If you can’t reach out, do what you have to do to stay safe and protect yourself. 

And always remember: this is not going to last.  You got through it last time.  You will get through it again.

Coping Strategies: Internal Multitasking Part 2

Summary of Part 1

In Part 1, we provided examples of situations, conflicts, coping challenges, coping strategies, and possible solutions for addressing triggers and anxiety in the whole DID system.  Many of the strategies were combinations of coping techniques previously discussed on the blog.  Some were new and probably scary-sounding to readers.  Either way, it was a lot of information condensed into one post.

The main point of that post was: sometimes coping challenges require us to step outside of our comfort zones and be brave in order to find calm again.  That means observing the internal struggle like a third party and finding ways to address each trigger on its own.

When people say “multitasking isn’t possible; scientific research…”

We don’t know about you or anyone else who visits here, but the quote above is one of our most hated ones.  Too often, people would tell us to stop, slow down, do one at a time.  Multitasking makes things worse not better.  And how can we tell those educators or family members or co-workers, etc. that we are doing one at a time?  To someone with DID, multitasking is each part working on a single task.  We just happen to occupy one body and appear to be doing multiple tasks at the same time.

In that sense, finding a coping strategy to help each alter in the system when all of us are overwhelmed makes sense right?  And if this coping strategy requires mental and emotional energy (read imagination and feelings) instead of physical energy (body-related activities), then everyone has a chance to find their calm center while also allowing our physical and spiritual parts time to sleep, relax, energize, and find their calm centers too.

Please understand that we are not promoting permanent separation of alters in a system.  Nor are we devaluing the idea of integration at any level.  Instead, we are advocating for us alters to work within our current situation to promote cooperation, collaboration, and semi-integration so that our mind, body, and spirit help each other instead of working against each other during triggering situations.  It is not always possible.

In fact, sometimes we are our own worst enemies because none of us want to hurt or burden the others with our pain when it gets overwhelming.  Therapy and life are teaching us that sharing the pain and the burden with each other helps us more because we can stand together and support each other when one falls.

Ever heard of the quote “Different Strokes for different folks”?

Each of us is similar and different.  We are different ages, genders, and types of living beings.  And we have different needs at different times.  That is why self-care and self-soothing can be so difficult.  How to address the needs of many over a set period of time?  And this quote reminds us to be open-minded and allow for multiple options during a session of multiple coping strategies.

 

Coping Challenge: I Want to Disappear/Hide/Go Away

Background

A few months ago, I and the alters started writing about the challenges that come with the holiday season along with revelations that came from using effective coping strategies.  One of the challenges I mentioned had to do with hallucinations.  Others had to do with maintaining safety outside of the house; coping with triggering encounters at stores; switching and dissociation around people from the past; and backlash.  Very few had to do with sleeping, finding calmness, and effective ways to deal with the aftermath of such encounters.

Update

I am still hallucinating, but not as often.  The number encounters with people from my past has decreased.  I’ve ended two friendships with toxic people.  One is the woman whose holiday party I went to; I do not like being used to hurt other people no matter what they did to me in the past.  The other had to be resolved through work channels so not something to discuss here.  As for the rest, intentional switching to let the alter with the most experience and skill to handle the situation is the strategy that helped and also caused other triggers.  Finally, distractions and sleep got me through the big holidays.

Present Challenges

In the form of a list:

  • Not sleeping
  • Lingering cold/sinus infection from a run-down immune system
  • Flashbacks and remembering in my sleep
  • Dealing with racist/rude people at a local grocery store
  • Having to call the police because I witnessed a not sober individual come into said grocery store and cause a verbal altercation that lasted more than 15 minutes without de-escalating; and then being watched by said individual’s friends as I left to go home
  • Standing outside for an hour or more in the cold weather waiting for the public transit to arrive (delayed because of mechanical problems)
  • Having a snow day because I forgot my computer
  • Not taking any vacation time or giving myself down time to cope with the adrenaline crash that comes from dealing with all of the above situations in less than 3 weeks
  • Feeling hyper-vigilant and not-quite-safe in my home and work neighborhoods, but also not wanting to stay inside
  • Feeling depressed and angry and anxious because I want to get away, leave, and just give up because all of this came before my grandmother’s birthday (last weekend) followed by a school holiday (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) that also brought up a mix of feelings and memories

Conclusion

So, yes I am feeling stressed out, angry, depressed and alone when the emotions and sensations overwhelm me.  In my heart and wise mind (DBT), I know that I am not alone; there are many people in my support network for me to reach out and connect with.  But I also know that the nightmares and monsters in my head right now are not anything I would share with any of my close friends.

Instead, I share with my counselor; the volunteers on the hotline; and this blog.  And every day, I go through my list of coping strategies and techniques to help me get through the day:

  • Affirmations as I wake up in the morning
  • Mental reminders of promises and commitments that make up my daily to-do list get me dressed and on my way to the train station
  • A book; mahjong; music; a nap; or catching up on posts from my style group members on social media get me through the train ride into and out of the city
  • A variety of grounding techniques; deep breathing; affirmations; distractions; and self-care strategies help me stay calm and focused so I can work and do errands
  • Sleep hygiene; a call to thehotline; streamed TV or movies; knitting; maybe cooking or getting takeout; and other self-care and soothing strategies help me relax for bed

But most important right now are:

  1. Reminding myself and the alters that the stressful times will end.  It’s not the first time we’ve experienced overhwleming triggers and events.  It won’t be the last time either.  We got through them before and will get through them this time too.
  2. Remembering, acknowledging, and feeling good about the the positive events going on at the same time.

thanks for reading