Life Changing Moments: Home for the Holidays

Dear Guests,

This time next week, I will be back in my home state (the one where I was born) getting ready to celebrate Christmas with my parents, brother, and father’s side of  the family for the first time in 7 years. Maybe longer. All of us will get together at an aunt’s house on the morning of Christmas Day to open gifts, hang out, and (later) eat a holiday dinner together. Dinner as in lunch…not the evening meal (aka supper).

I admit to feeling many conflicting emotions. Fear, excitement, guilt, joy, anxiety are a few of them. In terms of my immediate family, I’m excited to see my dad. We’ve been talking (FaceTime) and emailing regularly since August. He’s excited to see me too and has been keeping me updated about the rest of the family. I have mixed feelings about seeing my mom and brother (and his wife) again. We didn’t part on good terms, and my child parts are upset about being close to them again. But the adult parts of me are happy to see them again.

For my Dad’s side of the family, I’m excited and anxious to see them again. We don’t relate very well for a lot of reasons, so sometimes sharing space can be difficult. It’s part of why I choose to stay in a hotel or AirBnB during visits home. We love each other, but live completely different lives. And a lot of my life is not something many of my relatives on either side can acknowledge, approve, or accept. Other than some social topics or basic questions and answers, we don’t have much to talk about.

For my Mom’s side, the timing worked to visit with one group of cousins the day before I leave. As I’m only staying for 4 days, I’m grateful for that much and excited to see them. Yes I’m also nervous, but that’s mostly because it’s a new relationship with all of us being adults now. Luckily, we are all foodies and can spend a few hours chatting and enjoying good food.

Have you noticed the food theme? A lot of my family gatherings revolve around food – it was how different generations came together to prepare food, set tables, cook, share stories, and enjoy conversations while eating – as a party or event was often how my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents brought us together.

Why do  this?

The simple answer is closure.
I’m in a positive, healing place that allows me to open up and face some of the scariest parts of my past so that moving forward is less stressful. Plus, I do miss my family. I love them and want the best for them – best as in what works for and with their current goals and lifestyles. Closure allows my heart wounds to finally drain and start to heal.

The complicated answer is more nuanced.
I am going to visit my grandmother. She hasn’t been doing well since her accident back in January. If I can give her anything, it’s one holiday with all of us together like before. We can spend some time together, and I can reassure her that I’m happy, healthy, and safe even if I live all the way across the country.

I’m going for my father. Seeing him in person, giving and receiving a real hug is a gift in itself. We don’t have a lot in common, but we are interested in each other’s lives and actively listen, accept and respect each others choices. Besides that, my Dad is really funny and always finds a way to share his fatherly wisdom with humor.

I’m going for myself, to prove that I can spend time with them as an adult whose triggers don’t get in the way and cause problems. We can be ourselves, share space together, and enjoy the holiday time with less tension and negativity. I don’t have to hide parts of myself and can accept that different relatives will and do hide behind masks – but the hiding is not personal. And I won’t get in trouble for being me. Or cause problems by being me.

In doing this, I can

try to resolve my conflicting feelings about letting any family into my life and being part of their lives.

Conflict part 1: I am happy as I am now being connected again, was happy before reconnecting with any family at all, and am not sure how much I want to be connected with any of them. If I want to be connected at all.

Conflict part 2: I love my family and am happy to be peripherally connected to some of them. But I’ve left behind the dreams of being close with them or having a strong connection where we keep in touch regularly, etc.

In other words, I’m facing some of my biggest fears in less than a week. Wish me luck?

And luck to any and all of you who might be in similar situations with the holiday season.

Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments: Changing self perception

I struggle with being body positive and having a positive self-image.

  • Part of that is because of past experiences.
  • Part of it is because my body shape, size, and appearance do not fit any “ideal” standards, so shopping and feeling good about how I look isn’t always easy.
  • The rest has to do with looking like either parent or following “appearance expectations” – my rebellion against this

This struggle shattered my self-confidence, built up on existing shame, and gave me many reasons to “hide” from the world.

No matter what I did or how I tried, something about me always attracted attention.  Something always gave others an excuse or rationale to be mean/rude, etc.  And I believed them when they told me it was my fault for making them act that way.

I still believed that, deep down in a secret part of me, until last week.

WHAT HAPPENED?

An unexpected award at work gave me the push I needed to stop procrastinating about getting professional photos for business/school, etc.  Here’s the short version:

The company I work for in my day job has over 1,000 employees worldwide and a commitment to encourage continuous learning.  They promote this internally by giving employees free accounts to LinkedIn Learning and internal classes.  At every half-year, the people in “people teams” use some metric or formula to find out who took the most classes, etc. and gives them a small award using an internal award system.

I get a lot of down time between projects and hate being bored, so the online classes through LinkedIn were ways to me to feel like I wasn’t getting paid for doing nothing.  The award was unexpected, yet much appreciated.  But it wasn’t until after I answered the survey questions, that someone from “people teams” reached out with a request.  The company liked my answers and wanted to use them as part of a promotional campaign.  Would I allow this and also send a photo to go with the answers?

At first, I freaked out and said “absolutely not” on the inside.  But then I paused.  This was an opportunity, a big one to help me reach the next step of “not hiding” and achieving outside goals.  If I said no, I’d be going backwards.  If I said yes, I’d have to face a whole lot of fears, including putting my face out on the Internet.

I said yes and asked for some time to get them a decent photo.  We agreed on a date, and I booked my first photo shoot in 14 years (since college graduation photos).

WHY IS THIS A LIFE CHANGING MOMENT?

My style group friends have been cheering me along on my journey to self-discovery and being my authentic self always, but especially in how I present myself to the outside world.  With their help, I chose an outfit and makeup that felt 100%, authentically me.  Surprisingly, I didn’t see

  • a little girl playing dress-up in the mirror
  • A woman dressing to look “like a lady” according to parental expectations
  • My mother, father, aunts, cousins, or grandparents looking back at me
  • A clown or over made-up woman trying to be something she’s not

I saw myself – all parts of myself expressed as a single, adult woman wearing a dress & blazer with fun accessories and subtle makeup – as I got ready for the photo session.

The photographer was amazing.  She helped me feel completely at ease and comfortable posing outside.  The whole experience felt like chatting with an old friend and taking photos for fun.  Never before had I felt so relaxed with a stranger taking photos of me.  Part of it was location – we took photos in a beautiful park – and part of it was the overall feeling of rightness that stayed with me throughout the day.

I got to see myself through the photographer’s eyes and camera lens that afternoon.  She accepted my quirks and even appreciated some of them.  Before her, I’d not met many people who also talked to ladybugs or openly expressed a reverence for nature.  We connected over a mutual love and respect for trees; some of my favorite “fun” shots are of me sitting on exposed roots or posing against trees.

Together, we narrowed down to 3 photos that fit the main purpose of this photo shoot: business headshots for work & professional networking profiles.

But I also chose one for school and “fun” profiles too.  My current day job is segregated from my other hobbies and work choices on purpose.  They do not play well together, and I am very private.  Not many businesses want someone with my kind of mental health issues working for them, no matter how good I am at my job.  So 3 photos:

  • One for internal work/business (like email, profiles, messaging, etc.) that showed me and my “professional” personality with hints of non-work life
  • One for business and networking or job hunting profiles that expressed my business professionalism, creativity, and unique personality
  • One for school and personal profiles (personal email, WordPress account, Facebook, etc.) that showed me in a happy, confident, relaxed, open way.

WHAT CHANGED?

My self-perception, self-image whatever you want to call it.

When I look in a mirror, I finally see me.  A beautiful (inside out kind), confident, secure-in-herself woman.  An authentic, person with many alternate personalities who thrives in her chosen life style with family of choice, a support network, and a fulfilling life in spite of many challenges.

MY HOPE

For all people, with and without mental health or trauma issues, to experience a positive change in self-perception too.  I share this story with the hope that someone can relate to the experience, realize he or she is not alone, and have the courage to make positive steps too.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Fear of…

REJECTION…SHARING MY OPINIONS….SUCCESS

An extra post today just because…

A while back, I made a comment about reading through many posts and blogs, but not always sharing or commenting on them.

It was unintentionally offensive for many reasons.  The bloggers I read have a wealth of knowledge and do a great job getting followers, staying true to their messages, etc.  If I don’t share many posts here or comment on their blogs, it’s because of my personal fears.

Fears that come and go like ocean waves.  Sometimes stronger and more obvious.  Other times weaker and distant, almost invisible for a time.

SHARING MY OPINIONS

I am afraid of commenting on blogs and review sites.  It stems from being made fun of, bullied, shamed, and criticized whenever I spoke up in the past.  Because of this, it takes a long time for me to believe my opinions have value and be brave enough to risk commenting in spite of potentially attracting the attention of trolls.

Related to that, I find lots of wonderful information, but am never sure

  1. How to relate it to the purpose of this website and blog
  2. If sharing someone else’s post is okay or not – permissions, plagiarism, pirating, etc.
  3. Whether or not my website and blog has enough value to be worthy of sharing the author’s content

In short, I question the value and worth of my opinions often, especially when my goal is to share useful information.

REJECTION

Making a comment, sharing someone else’s content, reviewing a book/video/presentation, is equal to putting myself in the spotlight.  That makes me vulnerable to both positive and negative reactions, heckling, feedback, etc. from anyone who visits here.   It also makes anyone who visits, comments, or likes what I write vulnerable rejection too.

So, if I don’t share a lot from other bloggers or make comments, it’s because I fear rejection.  I fear others reading my comments and a) ignoring; b) responding with something mean or hateful or shaming; or c) backtracking to harass and bully not just me on my blog, but any of the guests who might or might not comment here too.

SUCCESS

This blog came about as a rejected book idea, an unsuccessful business venture, and many missed opportunities.  I only went through with it because I didn’t think the blog would work, and I was afraid of trying to find success as a published writer in traditional venues.  I never thought the website or the blog would be successful in any way.  Or that so many people would support this site and welcome me into the blogging community with acceptance, respect, and compassion.

Every  time someone liked a post or commented or started following the website and/or blog, I got scared.  Then I started pressuring myself to be more successful in traditional blogging terms – write better content, add more photos and videos, get more followers – and started feeling anxious about writing and sharing here.  Suddenly, I didn’t want to write posts anymore.  And when I did, writer’s block came to visit.

I literally did almost close down everything last December.  It felt like giving up and giving in to my fear because I wasn’t good enough to continue making this a success.  Not if it meant adding features and trying to get more and more followers, likes, comments…

That wasn’t how I measured success.  It still isn’t.

SO WHAT CHANGED?

I did.  My alters did.

We re-defined what success meant to us.  And then we decided that this website and blog started slow, really slow.  And it will progress just as slowly.  Rushing never got us anywhere we wanted in the past.

WORKING WITH MY FEAR

When I started this website and blog, I did not expect to have anyone visit, let alone comment or follow my work.  The website was meant to exist and be a safe place to visit once in a while.  If it helped even one person find hope in the darkness, the website did it’s job.

The blog was meant to be a place where I and my alters could freely share resources, information, and stories about ourselves and our fears.  Sure, some of the writing would be polished, professional, and great.  But other posts would not be any of those things.  They’d reflect the personality, thoughts, and feelings of the alter or alters who wrote the post.

GRATITUDE

I am thankful for the many guests who visit and follow my blog.  Thankful to the people who check out the different website pages beyond the blog.  Thankful for the people who share this site with others.

But most of all….

Thankful for the many people who may or may not have figured out who I am, who might now each other outside of the Internet, and still maintain safety and anonymity that is the cornerstone of this community within a community.

FEAR

In conclusion, yes I am afraid of many things.  I am afraid to leave my apartment, be in crowds, participate in conversations, and talk in public among other things.

But I’m also ready to face those fears and start commenting more on other blogs while also sharing information from those blogs here.

Thanks for reading.

Admin Post: Taking a 2 Month Break

Hello Guests,

A late post because of work and life changing up schedules.

Writing posts here has been an amazing journey of self-discovery through helping others.

No Regrets at all about what has been shared.

Lots of hope that some of this information helped others in difficult situations or with difficult experiences.

But right now, I/we all of us need a break.  Time to focus on improving our living situation and get that sorted.  Time to focus on work and keep that going.  Time to put new years goals into practice.

Not a goodbye.  Instead a “see you soon”

Thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions

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!

Life Changing Moments: Sleep, Food, Shower, Meditation ;) – an Empath’s POV

Survival Mode

All parts of me still feel drained and off center right now.  Some unexpected challenges and expenditures for my new apartment combined with scheduling appointments around work and the owner’s schedule made this week rather interesting.

Home

general spaces:
I love the energy in this building.  In spite of the old windows that stick and have a hard time opening, quirky sliding doors, and electrical outlets that are not always grounded or placed in ideal locations, this studio apartment really does feel like home.  My neighbors are friendly, respectful, and quiet.  The owner and her management team are respectful, responsible, and responsive too.

Unexpected challenges

  • Changing home decorating and budget plans
  • Multiple panic attacks because I am changing my budget plans
  • Learning more about myself and my unique (but unacknowledged) skills
  • Understanding why strategies that worked before are not so helpful this time

The Coping Strategies for Self Care

After a session with my intern Chinese medicine/acupuncture practitioner this week, I decided to try and learn more about empaths and empathy.  She physically felt some of the problems I was experiencing during treatment and shared that information with me with calm acceptance.

It was the first time anyone had ever acknowledged and used extrasensory skills in a professional setting around me.  And it brought me back to face some facts about myself. I am an empath too.  What kind, I’m not sure exactly.  I don’t always or often experience physical symptoms of other people in my own body.  But I can and do experience energy changes, emotions, and other information about people and living beings through my senses.

All of this led me to a psychiatrist and self-proclaimed empath named Judith Orloff.  I’ve been listening to her book called The Empath’s Survival Guide and learning about my extrasensory skills.  This includes coping strategies and skills like – sleep, meditation, water, and food.

While I don’t subscribe to everything she’s talked about so far, her unique perspective helped me understand why these four strategies are always part of my “Back to Basics” plan.

Sleep
Before reading this book, I knew that sleep was essential – my body would knock me out if I overextended myself – but didn’t understand how or why it was so much more effective than taking a pill or using an energy drink to recalibrate like everyone else.  Now I understand that sleep is a time for reconnecting with all parts of myself and allowing those parts to relax and replenish energy levels while also healing themselves.

Food
Anorexia and almost a decade of severe food allergies/sensitivities taught me to be mindful of what I eat, how much I consume, and when I eat (frequency of meals) to stay healthy, energetic, and balanced.  While following these personal guidelines helped me maintain a healthy weight and feel strong, they sometimes frustrated me too.  After reading about how physical sensitivities are part of being an empath and why, I am practicing more self-acceptance and less shame about my unique eating habits & dietary needs.

Showers – aka baths, water, etc. (swimming not so much)
I love water.  I love being near water, smelling water in the air, drinking water, taking warm/hot baths & showers, and surrounding myself with the colors of water.  Swimming – not so much.  Being in the ocean, a river, or a pool – not so much.  Being on the water in a boat – absolutely fine.  But I’m also ashamed of this love for water.  The why is still unclear, but it exists.  The book offers an explanation about why I (as an empath) love water so much.  I am skeptical and keeping an open mind.  Some experimentation is required.  But I always feel amazing after a warm/hot shower with my favorite soap.

Meditation
I’ve practiced different types of meditation since I was 6 years old.  Maybe even earlier than that as the martial arts some of my relatives practiced fascinated me.  Our relationship has been rocky at times, but meditation never failed me when I needed help.  Now meditation helps me sleep better and wake up grounded in the present instead of stuck between the present and the past.  On public transportation or in crowds, a simple mediation practice helps me breathe easier and cope until I am alone again.  Throughout the day, meditation sometimes replaces my need for a nap or helps me get some physical activity (mindful walk or mindful washing dishes).

Conclusion

The next steps on my healing journey are to explore, grow with, and accept my empathic abilities and how they are influencing my current recovery practices.  I don’t know a lot about being an empath or an intuitive; what skills one might have; how to use  the skills without draining myself; or how to protect myself from sensory overload.  Before now, I couldn’t even acknowledge that my mind, spirit, body self even had these skills.

My parts and I chalked it up to having great instincts.  And suffered the mood swings, outbursts, and energy drains from certain people in shamed silence.

Now, it’s time to step out of the closet and learn.  Knowledge is power.  Power offers protection, insight, and opportunities.  Plus, maybe this will help us all integrate and align ourselves better.  And we can move forward with our goal for a second career sooner instead of later.

Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments: Family Time

Another mobile post…please excuse the poor formatting.

I don’t write a lot of detail about my current family situation often out of respect for their privacy.  Some posts will contain coping challenges in general terms or about past experiences.  But often the tone and feelings are mixed.

This post comes from the perspective of being safe and loved by my father’s side of the family.

For the last ten days, I have spent a lot of time with my father’s side of the family.  Grandmother (100+), 3 aunts (seniors), and one uncle (senior) – they welcomed me into their lives, let me stay with them, spoiled me, and showed me through actions that I am safe and loved here.  In return, I tried to be a polite and respectful house guest and show them the same love.

I am not going to lie.  The adjustment was rough on all of us. It still is.  Most of their time is spent taking care of grandma; it’s stressful and difficult sometimes.   Whatever time is left, each one lives her or his own life too.

My biggest fears sort of came true. But others did not.  We walked on eggshells around each other and tried to be sensitive to the point of frustrating each other sometimes.  Other times, we fell back into old patterns without even realizing it.

Then something amazing happened.  Instead of holding grudges or getting angry, we were able to move past it and forgive or let go of the negativity.  When I got stressed and anxious into a flashback, they would help me calm down.  When one of them felt a certain way, I tried to help them.

And they all tried to get along with each other for my sake.  Something I greatly appreciate because of the strain it takes on all of them.  For my part, I tried to spend quality time with each relative one-on-one or in groups in the way that suited us both best.

In the past, we all wore masks and stayed “on” around each other.  This time, we acted like ourselves.  And got along better that way.

Communication is still iffy sometimes.  I tend to be more direct and open about my feelings. They are not.  Certain things can be said one-on-one, but are taboo in front of each other.  I screw that up a lot.

The most important part of this family visit was spending quality time with my grandma.  At 101, our time together is limited.  Instead of talking or going places, I sat with her and my relatives in her living room and occupied myself with activities while she watched game shows or slept.  Sometimes I talked with my relatives.  Mostly we did our own thing, and I tried to stay out of their way when they took care of grandma.

So while we struggle sometimes, we are doing okay.  My love of silence and solitude come naturally.  Best quiet times are when we sit together in the same room doing our own thing.  Sometimes we talk; sometimes we don’t.  Best active times are when I walked & shopped with different aunts.  Or when an aunt taught me how to hem my pants.

So I love my family.  And now I know that I am safe with them too.  So I will come back to visit when possible.  But I will not be staying with them.  Seeing me when I have to use certain coping strategies hurts them.  And they are not in a place where I can explain what they observe happening.

They accept all of it 100%, but seeing me like that reminds them what their brother/son did to me.  And their best coping strategies are denial and silence.  So it’s better to limit time with them next visit.  At least until we all can come to a place where talking about that stuff doesn’t stress them out.

thanks for reading.