Quotes & Affirmations: Louise Hay & Boundaries

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I don’t know about you but boundaries keep me and everyone around me safe.

For me, the some of the scariest words I hear in conversations are “I don’t have any boundaries.”  Followed by, “I’m easy-going.  It’s really hard to offend me.”

The quote above has a lot of meaning for me.  My boundaries didn’t exist until I started therapy.  Soon after therapy (I was a quick study), I started losing friends.  Family members started getting angry with me more often.  And I earned more respect from people at work for saying “no” and setting limits on my time to ensure high quality work and deadlines were met early or on time.

The same boundaries that had me losing friends also kept the narcissists and users away while bringing positive and supportive people into my life.

When the quote popped up on my Facebook stream, I immediately saved it to share here.

Maybe this quote will help you create and maintain healthy boundaries to stay safe too.

Thanks for reading!

Series: 2017 Reflections Part 1

The many voices of me

This year, my guests got to know the many voices of me in a way different from years past.  They read well-written, articulate posts with few grammatical errors.  They read off-the-cuff first drafts written by single or groups of alters.  Some shared affirmations or quotes; reviews about resources; stories about themselves; and a variety of interests or revelations that changed how coping techniques and strategies were utilized.  The voices of children, adolescents, and adults colored every post.

That made reading or following a lot of what’s been on here difficult for some guests, scary for others, triggering for many (us included), and frustrating for all of us.  Several times this year, each one of us got writer’s block or simply didn’t know what to write here.  It’s supposed to be about resources, but no one has had a lot of time to follow up on that since moving and working through a variety of difficult situations in our new home.

Plus, no one was sure if anyone wanted to read about how different alters coped with the same situation or different situations at the same time.  We were scared to put our voices out there and change the tone of this website and blog.

Gratitude

But we’re happy we did.  In sharing our voices here, more of us have been able to share in the outside world too.  So thanks for giving us a safe space to share ourselves and express out feelings or opinions or thoughts and explore.

Over the years, different alters have instituted their own personal gratitude practices as coping strategies.  This year, all 88 of us agreed to use a morning and evening gratitude practice every day to see how reminders of the positives in life helped us stay grounded.  Sometimes we all meditated together.  Other times we practiced alone or in groups.

We might hear everyone communicating or no one – sometimes our thoughts and wishes occurred on a sub-conscious level.  Either way, each of us expressed gratitude for something before going to bed each evening and after waking up each morning.  We also asked for guidance, protection, and to meet others who can teach us how to help ourselves continue to move forward.

Communication

This year’s big goal was about practicing and improving our interpersonal skills – especially the voice and face-to-face kind – for better communication and relationships.  The focus was for work mostly because a lack of verbal skills means trouble for my reviews.

In terms of personal relationships, I wanted to be able to engage in conversations and understand the cues without feeling upset, shamed, frustrated, or confused every time one ended.  I also wanted to be able to remember conversations even if there was switching or dissociation ASAP instead of hours/days/weeks/months/years later.

It’s hard to participate in a conversation when you are not always present or able to follow what the other person(s) is saying whether in a personal or professional setting.

But if I can accept my limitations and turn them into strengths, then maybe, just maybe I will also be able to face my family again without fear choking me.

Family vs Loved Ones

Family are the people whose blood I share.  Loved ones are the people in the family we created together with bonds of friendship, acceptance, respect, love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and trust.  I love my family, but do not trust/am not friends with all of them.  Some of my family are included in the group of Loved Ones; we share blood as well as the other bonds.

This year felt so scary because I reconnected with 5 more members of my family.  Each one offered acceptance, love, and respect – all things I hoped for, but did not expect.  As some loved ones reminded me – keep expectations low and hopes high.  Meeting with them either over email/text or in person felt like parts of my heart mended together again.  The hole is shrinking or maybe being emptied of toxic emotional wounds and healing with a balm of love and acceptance.

Either way, having family again feels really good.  The situation is still complex.  The ties between them and my parents or the others from my past still exist.  And finding a solution for reconnecting and staying safe is in the beginner stages.  We have hope though.  Hope and a lot of people willing to work on it.

Feelings

My alters and I learned we had feelings at 27 years of age.  That was 8 years ago.  Since then, it’s been a BIG learning curve to acknowledge, understand, express, and accept our feelings.  That was what the partial programs and non-trauma specialist counselors taught us the first time around.  What they shared and taught us helped a lot in many ways.

But it didn’t help any of us understand how to express or cope with those feelings when one or many or all of us felt overwhelmed.  Nor did it help us understand what to do with those feelings once they were expressed or coped with.  Observing many other people and how they coped with or expressed their feelings taught us that many people struggle with this too.

A lot of the self help books and books about anxiety or PTSD or healing, etc. skim over this too.  Not on purpose.  But the immediate issue is often learning how to calm down, relax, ground oneself, etc.  What do do after that is not as important in the moment.  And maybe other people don’t struggle the way we in our system have with what to do with the energy and feelings that still exist after coping, grounding, expressing etc.

This year taught all of us how to let go of those feelings once they’ve been acknowledged/expressed/accepted (any of these or other words work too) and we’re grounded or calm again.  Letting go is like learning not to hold grudges.  But the lesson applies to all feelings, especially the neutral and positive ones.  Feelings are supposed to come and go.  They are meant to be expressed and let out not held in.

Holding in feelings is like holding in toxic secrets.  They eat you and hurt you from the inside out.  Personal experience – my anorexia was all about self-hate and self- harm.  I couldn’t kill myself – some alter part of me refused to let it happen – so I held in all of those feelings and destroyed my body from the inside out.

Now, letting go of those feelings allows space for the body memories to surface and be expressed.  Then those memories are acknowledged, the feelings expressed, experiences accepted and let go.  Each time this happens, our pain lessens.  Our confidence and feelings of safety/security increase.  Our foundation strengthens.  And living in the past & present during trigger periods is less scary.

Thanks for reading

Alter Post: Illness, Bullies, Harassment & Triggers

Sick

I don’t know about you, but bullying and harassment are big triggers for my child parts.  Being sick with a cold, then the flu, then a cold during the bullying period didn’t help.  Any kind of physical illness scares all of my alters because it makes us vulnerable and brings flashbacks to life.

My child alters started crying.  My teen alters got mad.  My adult alters were busy trying to keep our body warm, work, and survive.  None of us could really address the triggers that turned into intrusive voices, negative self-talk, flashbacks, and really awful cold chills that went bone-deep.

First attempt at conflict resolution

Maybe the tenant above tried to talk to us while we were sick.  Maybe not.  I know my alters did try to talk to the tenant above, but that only escalated the problem.  Seems that the tenant took my visit as a personal success, so increased the noise, etc.  With everything scattered from feeling sick and not wanting to take a sick day, we all agreed to try ignoring the individual’s bullying and harassment.

What did the individual do?

  • Walk heavily or stomp around upstairs.
  • Jump around; hit furniture, drop things onto the floor
  • Play with the heat so that my apartment and the other apartment got cold
  • Open and close dresser/closet doors, etc.
  • All day and all evening long for about 1.5 weeks

At first, I wasn’t sure this was deliberate.  But then I noticed the noise only happening at certain times: when all of my lights were out because I went to bed early (I didn’t have blackout curtains on every window then); when I opened the vents more to get rid of the chill in my apartment; after the noise from my climbing up to my loft bed stopped.

Now what?

So what to do when someone is doing this and none of the neighbors want to get involved?  When this individual will not talk to you directly and the last time you tried ended an escalation in negative behavior?

You know the owner of the building will not believe you because the situation is already tense from other stuff?

And all you want to do is sleep and stay warm because you’re sick with a fever, coughing, and vomiting?

When All the Alters Make a Plan…

This time, the child and adolescent alters solved the problem.  They went back and confronted the flashbacks these people brought up.  Observed how the bullies from our past treated us.  Observed what got them to stop.  Decided on a plan of action.  Cried a lot.  Hid under the covers a lot.  And executed a plan.

They decided that the tenant above was a covert bully whose actions needed to be brought into the open.  Otherwise nothing would get resolved.

Step 1: Ignore the tenant’s activity upstairs and try to stay warm.

Since everyone was sick, they focused on helping the rest of the system with work and self care until our weekly doctor appointment.  That also meant we could hang out in a warm, safe place with a public restroom for a while and then start to feel healthy again.  Feeling healthy meant everyone integrating once more and some mental clarity.

Step 2: Laughter is the best medicine

With the mental clarity came the realization that none of us really cared what the tenant upstairs was doing.  The noise didn’t bother or annoy us anymore because we were feeling so much better.  Plus we were able to use our sleep headphones and enjoy music again.  So the next time the tenant’s musical started, we laughed and listened to our own music as we fell asleep.

Results: step 1 and step 2 worked – the tenant’s negative behavior escalated to the point where others were getting disturbed.  They asked the tenant to stop more than once.  The tenant stopped temporarily, but continued to escalate at different times during the day instead.

Step 3: Play the game until the tenant is forced to stop

This was now six days into the harassment.  I felt great.  My alters felt great.  But we all worried about next steps if this didn’t stop.  By now, the upstairs tenant was getting very violent with temper every time I changed my heat settings or the other upstairs tenant changed heat settings.  The violence wasn’t to another individual, but to objects in the tenant’s apartment.  And the resulting noise was loud enough to bother the tenant’s neighbors.  Plus the third floor tenant wasn’t getting any heat; something I felt bad about but couldn’t do anything to resolve at the time.

A Mediator Steps in

Eventually, with the heat vents completely open on my and the upstairs tenant’s floor because otherwise no heat at all came into my apartment, another tenant got involved as mediator.  I agreed to keep my vent 1/4 open and mostly covered on two conditions: 1) the second floor tenant stopped with the noise and playing with the heat; 2) both of them also kept their vents 1/4 open and mostly covered too.  The third floor tenant agreed with one caveat: if I did go to the owner with a complaint, I kept all other neighbors out of it.  I agreed as long as the second floor tenant stopped with the bullying and harassment.

Step 4: Cover my ass even if it means being on the owner’s bad side for a while

I already knew the owner wasn’t going to do anything about the problem.  For one thing, the tenants in this building are very much the I-don’t-want-to-get-involved types.  They also try to go for the easiest solution with the least conflict.  But I wanted insurance and a record in case something happened that required me to contact legal services.  So the same evening as the mediator event, the upstairs tenant started up with the noise again around midnight.  In turn, each alter who was awakened sent an email to the owner recording the type of noise and heat changes.

Then Angora who is usually the most level headed and Shea who is a fierce protector of our child parts got pissed.  They had just finished reviewing everything the others did over the past few weeks to cope with the bully – self care, affirmations, gratitude prayers, grounding exercises, safe spaces – and were so proud of the strategy they came up with all on their own.  At the same time, we all felt angry  that our parts had to cope with that on their own.

So they broke the rules and texted the owner in the middle of the night.  That woke  the owner up, so none of us got much sleep going in to the next day.  The owner reacted as expected and wrote an email basically telling us that we were liars and to stop complaining because no one wants to hear it.  I wrote back a respectful and polite thank you with a promise not to cross any more boundaries.

Step 5 (final): If the bullying and harassment doesn’t stop, call the tenants association and get the law involved.

Luckily I live in a state with a lot of tenant rights.  And if this continues, I will reach out to those organizations and work with a pro-bono attorney to get this situation fixed.  But only if the issues continue or something else happens to make us break the lease early.

Since I have not broken any laws or terms of the lease, the owner can’t retaliate with a rent increase or eviction.  But we are stuck in a 1 year lease.  And I’m not sure what will happen at the end of it.

Lack of Shame Feelings

Normally, something like this would trigger lots of feelings of shame & guilt that send all or some of us into a backlash spiral.  In fact, that’s what we all expected.  Or at least anxiety because the tenant upstairs and the owner remind us so much of women in our biological family.

But no, that’s not the case.

In fact, ever one of us feels empowered, safe, and confident in our choices so far.  My child parts feel empowered and more confident because they faced a bully and won.  Plus we all supported the child parts and praised them for being thoughtful, respectful, and smart in their problem-solving.  My teen parts feel empowered because they also faced a bully and won.  Instead of getting in trouble for winning, they were supported and praised for working with the child parts and helping them implement the solution.  We adult parts are happy because our child and teen parts feel empowered, happy, confident, and safe instead of scared, angry, or ashamed for standing up for themselves.

Conclusion

In a very real way, these two individuals stood in for many of the female figures who bullied my child and adolescent parts in the past.  The child and adolescent parts faced some very real fears and triggers mostly on their own with everyone being sick.

The experience was not ideal.  And our approach wasn’t perfect or anything we would want to do again.  But it worked with minimal negative backlash to ourselves.  We learned a lot.  My child parts found ways to stay safe, speak out, and cope with past and present colliding.  My adolescent parts did the same.

And now they realize that we adults trust our child and adolescent parts to make good choices and participate as useful members of our system.  They are important and valued and necessary to our healthy functioning as a whole person.  And even though they can’t help with work, they can and do help with everything else.  Plus they can come out and communicate with the outside world too.

So I guess there was a silver lining to all of this.

Thanks for reading.

 

Shame: Fear of small talk & talking about my interests/ideas

Introduction

Lots of posts tonight.  I’ve been saving them up since most of my time is spent with grandma and other family or hanging with old friends

So in continuing the themes from the first and second posts of today, this post is about facing my conversational fears.

Fear of Sharing Ideas outside of work

I and my alters often feel shame about sharing our interests with outside people.  We also are not comfortable making small talk, although the adult host personalities are getting better with that in the home state.  We also have limited control over the automatic switching between alters who feel compelled to take over and speak without identifying themselves.

We also tend to be so focused on not offending or insulting someone else, that whoever is talking can end up offending & insulting the individual regardless.  Or the repeated apologies, I statements, questions to check in on the situation, and projected insecure behavior from all this stems from these fears:

  • rejection
  • humiliation
  • public speaking
  • socializing
  • making verbal mistakes – i.e. stuttering, switching and not knowing what comes out of my mouth, dissociating, being talked over and unable to express myself
  • anger/frustration/disappointment because I keep repeating myself trying to say something but can’t verbalize without being interrupted and losing my train of thought

The Shame connection

I have consistently been told that I am:

  • not smart
  • lacking social skills
  • not loud enough
  • too loud
  • full of stupid ideas & opinions
  • not worthy of being listened to
  • going to embarrass and humiliate myself when talking or sharing ideas out loud
  • talking funny/confusing/weird
  • a boring conversationalist
  • not supposed to talk because my opinions, interests, ideas, etc. are not interesting
  • not supposed to ask questions because the response will always be negative and/or demeaning or (worse) silent treatment
  • not allowed to talk because I always embarrass the people with me by opening my mouth
  • so scared about talking that I start switching alters and am unable to follow a conversation or control what’s coming out of my mouth
    • usually conflicting opinions and words, sometimes gibberish, sometimes stuttering or stumbling over my words

These lessons have been embedded in me since I started talking and then (either consciously or unconsciously) reinforced by life experiences as I grew up.  On the negative side, it means verbalizing anything is painful to an almost physical degree.  On the positive side, these experiences forced me to become a better listener (when I’m not switching) and a better writer.

But those coping strategies, while effective, did not and do not address the trigger being discussed here.  And my issue with switching personalities and sounding self-centered because of all of the talk about myself.

And when I brought this up to my friend, she told me that I could:

  • talk about ideas
  • ask how the other person is doing
  • find something other than myself to talk about if I really wanted to or tried

Did you read the last bullet?  IF I REALLY WANTED TO AND TRIED TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE

What that friend doesn’t realize is:

  • I am aware of doing this to people for different reasons
    • Sometimes I do it on purpose as a coping strategy to drive people away when nothing else works – annoying/rude/off-putting/abrasive/self-centered
    • Sometimes I do it to test if an individual is listening to me or not
    • Most often I do it because the other person or persons have a habit of making assumptions and interrupting me without letting me finish so this becomes a conversation pattern that is difficult to disrupt
  • I am not always able to control or stop it from happening, especially in stressful or triggering situations
    • Awareness is key, and I am not often aware any switching occurred until too late
  • I am not always able to tell the individual I am talking to that my alters are the ones talking to them.
    • i.e. “Oh, hey, it might sound like I’m talking about myself a lot and acting self-centered, but I’m really not. My alter personalities like you and feel comfortable talking to you as individual alters so are using “I” for themselves.  Complicated, yes, but true.  Not all of the “I” statements  are about the “me” you know best.  They are from the other “me” personalities.”
  • Less often these days, I do this in conversations sometimes when I switch without awareness because talking is triggering

FROM Rude/Offensive Language TO the Socially Appropriate Language Process

And yes, this is a process – one I can’t do alone – that requires asking a counselor from the BARC Hotline, my therapist, or a trusted friend for assistance.

Although I am starting to realize that asking friends (even close, trusted, good friends) for help with this is NOT such a good idea.  But lessons learned and all that.

In order for me to verbalize my thoughts, I have to go through the DBT process for expressing my feelings to be able to verbalize what to say to anyone in a conversational tone.  So here are the steps:

  • Identify my feelings
  • Identify the cause of those feelings with words
  • Identify the goals or purposes of the future conversation
  • Use “I” statements in this phase to clarify my feelings and opinions and boundaries
  • Call the BARCC Hotline and ask the counselor for help:
    processing and reality testing the situation
    my experience of the situation
    and my potential verbal response to handling the situation
  • Work with the counselor to refine the goal and possible ways to approach the conversation without it sounding rehearsed or like a therapy session
  • Repeat as needed with another counselor or my therapist while in session

YES, it’s a long and clunky process, but this coping strategy has helped me improve many conversations and work through the backlash of having such conversations without rehearsal too.

BUT, I can’t use this process EVERY TIME with EVERY conversation I talk to in ANY situation.

Why is this fear & shame so important to clarify and work through right now?

  1. It’s the single biggest stumbling block to becoming more social & living a full life in the present moment
    1. Find a way for alter personalities to feel safe enough to reach out to each other in our system so that we can help and support each other – understand and find ways to cope together without blame/shame/guilt/frustration/anger/fear getting in the way
    2. Making & keeping friends
    3. Socializing without anxiety
    4. Feeling confident in myself and being able to portray that in my conversations
    5. Find a balance so that my alters stop automatically switching and talking during potentially stressful or triggering conversations
    6. Find a way for all parts of me to be able to converse and verbalize when they feel like it instead of interrupting or causing issues
    7. Dating and potentially being part of an intimate relationship
  2. It’s a major trigger I have to face in order to accomplish my professional goals in the future
    1. go back to graduate school
    2. get my degree in alternative medicine
    3. work as an alternative medicine practitioner
    4. make this website & blog a self-sustaining business so that I can continue to improve the website design and expand the Resources page
    5. make my existing job less stressful
    6. networking & future job hunting

How am I going to cope with this?

I don’t know.  We don’t know.  It would be different if we lived separate lives.  But we are “integrating” into one unified self.

By “integrating”, I mean we are becoming a balanced and unified personality without any alters disappearing.

Yes that defies the conventional meaning of Integration for Dissociative Identity Disorder.  But, none of us want any alters to poof out of existence.  We’ve lived together for 34 years and want to continue doing so – only now as a merged, single personality to the outside world.

This topic is something for all of us to discuss with our current therapist.

Thanks for reading