Coping Challenges: When will I stop punishing myself?

*CAVEAT: This post is based on my personal experience and reflects my opinions, thoughts, and feelings about the topic discussed below. No one else’s opinion or information is shared here.*

I didn’t have time to read and respond to comments this weekend. Life got busy. And I feel uncomfortable responding to comments when my mind is such a mess.

Also, no photo for this week’s post. That kind of creativity is a trigger for anger – like journaling, coloring, and drawing – when I already feel overwhelmed with past stuff coming up and interfering with life.

*Yes I will write more on this topic again*

Back to the question

I’ve written about self-harm and self-punishment in the past. It’s an on-going theme in the story of my recovery and self-healing and one of the biggest obstacles I face now. The more joy I feel, the more intense the backlash becomes. As the backlash moves out of my mind and into my body, I feel helpless and less able to cope than normal.

Hence my body shutting down so often.

It hit home hard this week as I struggled with positive successes and backlash that put me to sleep/meditation for a couple days this week. Luckily, my day job was not so busy with billable work; writing projects require thinking and processing time – not something I need to be in front of a computer to do.

While my body and parts of my mind worked on processing triggers and flashbacks, the rest of my mind mapped out new sections for a first draft.

Friday felt better, but not great. Picked up billable work at my day job, so busy until late in the day. A schedule change for me. Flexible hours changed my personal plans and triggered circular thinking about self care, deadlines, and sacrifice.

Because changing my plans felt like sacrificing my personal time and projects for a job I like, but don’t love or want to take over all my time. That feeling triggered flashbacks to anorexia, being an empath who is also a walking lie detector, food fears, etc.

Explain about the lie detector please?

If you have met me or know me and wonder why I know things about you that you never talked about or can catch you in a lie, that’s why. I don’t purposely look into people’s minds or feelings. I don’t purposely absorb other people’s energy/feelings/thoughts. All that comes to me of its own free will as people and other living beings unconsciously project outwards.

To me, energy and emotions are a sensory experience. I feel them as sensations in my body or vibrations against my skin; I hear them as sound vibrations moving through me; I smell them and taste them in the air sometimes; and I see them in rainbow colors when I close my eyes.

Overwhelming, yes. Uncomfortable, yes. Combined with hyper-vigilance and other increased anxiety or symptoms…well what do you think about the phrase “HOT MESS”?

Reinventing the Wheel…Or Not

Instead of re-writing thoughts about punishment and self-harm, here is a short list of past posts.

Read or not.

If you want the full list, please use the search bar called “look around” to the right.

Short Reference List

Often, I prefer to give you the choice to learn more through the search bar instead of putting links here. It’s counter-intutiive to promoting my site and building a larger readership, but feels right to my authentic self.

Allowing my guests to choose when and how they learn more here means more  to me than getting more followers, etc.

This is one time when I feel comfortable sharing some links to past posts here.

Thanks for reading.

DID Posts: Seasonal memory loss started again…

I haven’t written a post about DID in a while. It’s so much a part of me and my chosen lifestyle that I forget how much of a struggle it was to get here sometimes.

Every year something unique happens in my life. It can start any time between the first day of school and Halloween.  It ends some time between March and May the next year. Average length of time is six months.

During this time period, my symptoms increase to an overwhelming level; my body memories activate and never stop or slow down; and all of my  typical patterns (sleep, exercise, eating/hydrating habits, work) change.

It starts with a feeling of sadness that permeates all parts of my consciousness. The sadness is followed by hyper-vigilance, paranoia, and lethargy.  I stop sleeping. I dissociate more often.  My hunger decreases, and I’m tired all the time. Everything feels like a challenge.  Nothing brings joy. Staying at home feels safe.

Time slows down or speeds up without my realizing it. I feel like I am moving through a fog. Fear makes fun activities like cooking and going out too scary to contemplate. Lack of appetite = weight loss = more body memories and body-related symptoms.

Worst of all, I start forgetting every day things and not recognizing my surroundings.

How do I know this happens? Why can I describe it so well?

The awareness started after I got a real job that required me to remember routines and processes, so probably 2006/2007. Shortly after I walked away from my family, I experimented with self-training a service animal to help with the PTSD. While that story is for another post (maybe), the whole experience brought the lost time issue into present reality.

It started in August with meeting, hiring, and learning basic dog care and dog information from a professional dog trainer. By October, I had a puppy and was working with him and  the trainer through a 4-level dog training program. One Saturday in February, I woke up and couldn’t remember any of the training exercises and activities we had been working on since October.

Luckily, I did remember having a dog and how to take care of him. Reflecting on that experience, though, showed me a similar pattern of remembering and forgetting that spanned decades. My counselor at the time was not surprised when I shared this with her in session. She explained to me that many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) have such experiences.

A full switch (my term, not  the professional one) between alter personalities means a full consciousness switch – as in one personality leaves or goes dormant while the other takes over completely – and whoever is in charge retains the memories of those experiences. Alter personalities in a non-integrated system often are not aware of each other and do not communicate or share memories if  they are aware of each other.

close up of pictures
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

My counselor reassured me that the memories weren’t lost or stolen. Instead, they were stored someplace in my mind that the present me (or me in charge) couldn’t access.  If and when I did need that information, it would become available. By this time, we had been working together for almost two years. She was familiar with my patterns of increased and decreased symptoms, triggers, etc. more than I was.

When my counselor realized how much  this bothered me, she offered to help me create a plan to minimize the negative effects of my seasonal memory loss. The first (and most effective to me) was focusing on Internal Family Systems therapy to foster communication within my alter personality system.

The coping strategies and techniques I have discussed in the past are all part of this plans so I’m not going to describe them again here.

Who is in charge? And what will I remember next May?

Back then, it was me or Pip or a combination of our four dominant personalities in charge unless something triggered one of the others into taking over. I  didn’t know about my two simultaneous lives, so couldn’t factor that into the equation. But that mattered less because the memories still disappeared and often didn’t come back again for years.

These days, we all work together and are all “in charge”.  Sounds weird, but that is the truth. Each personality or part of me has a specific set of tasks to do in order to keep our system running smoothly. We have others trained to perform multiple tasks or act as back up if someone isn’t feeling well or needs extra help, but all of us are needed if we want to be at our best.

So what will I remember? I honestly don’t know. And at this point in my life, I am not sure if I would want to know. One of the best lessons therapy taught me was that I don’t have to remember everything that happened. And I will remember what I do need to remember at the exact time that information is required to help us:

  • achieve a goal
  • maintain safety
  • not make the same mistake again
  • something else I can’t describe with words

Conclusion

While memory loss is scary and often feels uncomfortable, I can now accept it as another part of my life. Sure, I miss being able to remember everything and sometimes mourn the loss of those memories. But at the same time, I trust all parts of me to find and share memories, skills, and experiences as we want or need them to thrive in our present life.

Thanks for reading

Anger: sitting with sensations in my body

Catching Up Slowly

The short version is that I spent a lot of time sitting with the new feelings and sensations inside my body.  By that I mean all of the feelings buried underneath the anger revealed themselves and started moving in my body.

It felt like going through puberty again, although without the hormones to make everything feel more confusion.  Those feelings and sensations include: sexuality, sensuality, physical attraction, femininity, and masculinity.

I still experienced anger and frustration, but not in the same way or with the same overwhelming intensity as before.  In fact, the anger didn’t feel like anger until I started paying attention to the sensations in my body every time I felt angry.  The sensations flared up at the peak of my anger and drained away as I acknowledged and sat with them.

What sensations for anger?

Tensing of my jaw and neck muscles.  My eye lids tightening around the corners.  Increased heartbeat.  Stabbing pain in my mid back.  Sudden discomfort, bloating, and lack of appetite around my abdominal/middle back area.  A surge of adrenaline that made me want to MOVE, but not hurt anyone.  And a feeling that something sludgy was moving around inside me trying to get out.

“Doing” versus “Sitting with”

For someone who hasn’t lived in her body for about 30 years, all of these sensations and feelings felt new and scary.  I didn’t know how to cope with them. What could I do?  How do I keep from getting distracted?

Talking with my counselor validated my decision to not try to “do” anything to the feelings and sensations.

By “do” I mean use coping strategies to contain or balance or change them in some way.

Instead, we agreed that I would “sit” with these feelings and sensations to learn about and from them.  Sitting with uncomfortable feelings is not new to me.  I developed a process for doing this around 2010 to help dial down the intensity of physical panic attacks and created the acronym AEVAR and mantras to chant with the acronym words.

  • AEVAR
  • Acknowledge – I acknowledge all of the feelings and sensations in my body, mind, and spirit
  • Experience – I experience all of the feelings and sensations moving in, around, through, and out of my mind, body, and spirit with friendliness, love, and compassion
  • Validate – Each sensation and feeling is valid, real, deserving of respect, and a valued source of information
  • Accept – I accept all of the feelings and sensations as valid, real, and useful in sharing information with me
  • Release – I let go of all the feelings and sensations with love and acceptance knowing that they will come and go like waves in the ocean
  • The chanting helps all parts of me feel grounded and safe enough to be patient until the intense feelings and sensations release themselves.

Chanting the words (and believing in them) is a mantra in itself.  You can add others that fit your circumstances or not use a mantra at all.

What does this have to do with the break and spiritual quest?

The Break

Sitting with my feelings instead of employing a coping strategy takes a lot of time, focus, and energy.  It required changes to my daily routines in order to meet basic needs and maintain self-care.  More meditation and deep breathing.  More relaxation techniques to help me rest or sleep.  And more grounding/mindfulness exercises to help me stay focused on my job as work got busier and busier instead of slowing down like usual.

art boiling eruption fog
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After a while, though, doing this on my own brought out more questions and insecurities than answers.  I was working through major family breakthroughs at the time and experiencing intense hyper-vigilance that negatively impacted my relationship with neighbors in the building.  Everything felt sharper, more intense.  Energy or something was building up inside of me, and I didn’t know how to let it go without causing an explosion.

So I turned back to my spiritual practices.  During meditation, I asked God, guardians, guides, the universe, angels, and archangels for support and guidance.  I practiced listening to my intuition and using that knowledge to make choices.  And moved into the next step of my spiritual quest.

Spiritual Quest

Without the anger buffering me from all of the hidden feelings and sensations, all parts of me started having more flashbacks and intense dreams.  I felt fear differently and confusion all the time.  The outside world seemed more unfriendly and dangerous than before.  And all parts of me were feeling frustrated with a lack of resources about certain topics related to our past history of sexual and physical abuse in the Western Medicine canon.

We used the month off to explore other healing methodologies, spiritual practices, and ways of thinking that might offer information about the feelings and sensations of something moving through our physical body and spiritual self.  Astrology, a tarot reading, books about chakra systems (from spiritual and psychological perspectives) and life force energy (aka qi, kundalini, auras, magnetic fields, energy fields, etc.) from practitioners and healers were some of my resources.

All of these practitioners embodied love, compassion, and acceptance as part of their lifestyles.  It showed in their speech, body language, and interactions with others.  And all of them incorporated teachings from eastern religions, western religions, and mythology from around the world in their practices.  They shared information and wisdom with me, provided direction, and offered resources so that I could continue on my journey.

Today’s Featured Image

I found this quote on my Facebook feed – gratitude to the friend who shared it – and saved it to share here too.

Why put it with a post about anger?

This quote embodies the main lesson learned from each reading session with a practitioner of tarot, astrology, etc. during the past two months.

Love – universal, unconditional, compassionate, and accepting – really can manifest positive changes in oneself and in life.

Without letting down my guard and changing my beliefs about the outside world, and the universe in general, I would not have had the courage and faith to believe in this kind of love and let it protect all parts of me from the inside out.

That love and protection provided the support and tools to finally drain out the seeming bottomless pit of anger.

Without that love protecting and healing all parts of me on the inside, I would not have had the courage to keep sitting with the feelings and sensations until my intuition guided me to unexpected answers.

So I’m sharing that love with all of you.  It’s a gift freely given.  Yours to accept or not.

Thanks for reading.

 

Self Care: Appreciating Our Special Gifts

An Extra Post This week.  **Potential Triggers or Skepticism as New Age, Psychic, Extrasensory thoughts are included – feel free to disagree and skip**

(My opinion – one shared by my specialists)
Trauma forces victims to get creative in order to survive and cope with the experience(s).

quotation-erich-fromm-creativity-requires-the-courage-to-let-go-of-certainties-10-33-76

What kind of trauma?
Any kind – natural disaster, surgery, accident, victim of crime, victim of abuse or assault, difficult pregnancy/birth, bullying, racism, prejudice, etc.

That creativity forces victims/survivors to use parts of the brain that usually stay dormant in other people.  Those parts of the brain can:

  • make our senses more acute
  • enable us to tell when people are lying just by observing and listening
  • allow our intuition to warn us of possible danger or dangerous people ahead of time
  • improve our reflexes so that we can move to stay safe
  • Be sensitive to our environment and other peoples emotions in order to protect ourselves
  • “Know” things about people, places, animals, plants, objects or environments without understanding how or why (intuition?  empathy?  ESP?)
  • Develop talent for logical thinking, communication, biology, math, history, visual arts, etc.

Why call them gifts instead of curses?
Because all of the above have helped me on my path to recovery in some way.  My perception of the world is influenced by my past.

I learned to use the environment and my senses/perception to protect myself without knowing or understanding that in the past.  Therapy helped me understand how my hyper-vigilance worked, what triggered it, and why my senses reacted in ways that didn’t make sense according to “typical” developmental processes.

Rejecting Labels, Moving Past Bias, Embracing Gifts
Once school started, I started rejecting my gifts.  Considered them curses and ignored what they were telling me.  I was already being abused and bullied and rejected by my family, peers, and community.  Having unique talents, extrasensory or psychic gifts, or being interested in New Age philosophy only made me more of a target back then.

Labels:
Here on this blog (and throughout the website) I openly reject labels and aim for inclusivity instead.

Inclusive = radical acceptance, open mind/heart/spirit, 100% compassion, respect, and validation of all perspectives

Doesn’t matter what you want to call them.  They can embraced and turned into useful, productive life skills.

Moving Past Bias
It took me a long time to start accepting this part of myself again.  In fact, I didn’t start opening up to it until after moving to a place that discussed the paranormal at Starbucks and grocery stores.  It gave me courage to start talking about it in therapy and how these perceptions affected my coping strategies.

Embracing Gifts
My therapists and medical practitioners encouraged me to pursue these interests and learn more about how these abilities worked.  By doing that, my triggers became less intense and more manageable.

Why Talk About Gifts Now?
Conversations with my loved ones back home convinced me that many of us have unique abilities we hide from, reject, or deny because they are outside of the norm.  Two of them have affinities with crystals both similar and different to mine.  We shared knowledge and enjoyed learning how crystals have helped out in unique ways.  Then they accepted my gifts: crystals from my collection tuned to them.  And one friend told me the crystals are helping with certain activities.

Conclusion

Each of us is born with innate gifts.  Some of them get developed over time; others don’t.  Some don’t ever come out.  Others are activated by life experiences. Without context, they can be scary and feel crazy-making.

 

My gifts are not yours.  And your gifts are not mine.  But you DO have gifts.  And maybe some of the weird, scary stuff happening to you is coming from those gifts – they’r’e trying to get your attention.  Or maybe not.  The possibilities are endless.

What happens next is up to each one of us and how we choose to approach recovery.

But I hope you can keep an open mind and maybe start to reconsider your perceptions of coping challenges.  They could be gifts in hiding.

Thanks for reading

 

Life Changing Moments: Home, Holidays, and triggers

HAPPY HOLIDAY WEEKEND to everyone who celebrates a holiday this season.  Holiday season because so many people celebrate Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. during this time of year.  I am thankful for all of the many people who have passed through my life this year.  Thank you for being part of this blog.

HOLIDAYS

This year was a year of renewing connections.  Scary as it is and was, I’ve started to let more family back into my life.  Some have stayed, some have left again.  In the end, the ones who stayed truly want to be involved and work out a new relationship.  The others are happy to know I exist and go on with their lives.

Yesterday, I was in California visiting family for the day.  It was a great relief from the living situation issues occurring right now.  Except the owner interrupted our day because she couldn’t get in for the inspection; also my smoke alarm was beeping.  An inspection that she gave notice of the day before, so my evening was spent cleaning and documenting the apartment instead of relaxing before the visit.

And of course, when I left everything was quiet.  Coming home, the flight was delayed; I got home close to midnight.  The apartment cold because I turned off the heat for the day.  The neighbor complaining because I turned up the heat to warm it up; then turned it down once the apartment felt less cold.  And a smoke alarm chirping because the battery was dying.

But today, my goals changed.  I was so tired from traveling and other stuff that I slept until late afternoon today.  Then went out in the snow for a quick trip to the grocery store, lunch, and batteries.  Batteries to fix the beeping smoke alarm.  Lunch because I didn’t feel like cooking after I woke up.  Groceries to complete what I missed for Christmas dinner tomorrow.

The apartment is still freezing cold, but that’s not going to stop me from enjoying today and tomorrow.  Besides cooking will help warm up the place :).

HOME

The owner gave notice of an apartment inspection earlier this week and entered yesterday while I was out.  For safety measures, I took photos of the place after cleaning it up.  So here are a few photos of my first, official, decorated home.  Enjoy!

TRIGGERS

I am almost at my wit’s end with this living situation.  Dealing with the upstairs neighbor and the owner is so triggering that I am back in survival mode right now.  It’s snowing this Christmas.  Unusual for my new city home, but welcome too.  The cold has me shivering even inside, but extra layers help a lot.  And not having to play with the heat sort of, maybe reduces some triggers.

The neighbor reminds me of the bullies I encountered in school and how helpless I was to fight back and feel safe.  The owner reminds me of the emotionally abusive, shaming, manipulative female care-takers from childhood and adolescence.  They controlled everything about my living situation and never let me feel safe or secure wherever I happened to be.

Home doesn’t always feel safe with the intermittent noise and heat changes.  REM sleep is rare these days too.  Hallucinations have started up again.  If the visual hallucinations become auditory ones, I’ll be visiting the ER.  (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen).  Anxiety and hyper-vigilance are increasing.  Paranoia and feeling crazy are close companions.  In my present mind, I know that I’m not being paranoid and that I’m not crazy.  But that doesn’t stop the feelings.

POSITIVE NEWS

On the good side, there are only 4 days left until my meeting with the attorney.  Then there will be some progress and less feelings of frustration or helplessness.  Between now and then, all I have to do is keep my head down, enjoy vacation, and survive.  All of this designed to keep me out of the apartment and in a happy state of mind.

Thanks for reading!