Anniversaries: A Different Kind of Birthday

My birthday was last weekend.

I turned 35.  Oddly, I felt a lot of anxiety along with the usual joy and gratitude that comes from being alive one more year.  Why this year instead of past years?  Honestly no one in our system can answer that.

35 just feels like a big year.  A turning point.  A crossroads perhaps.  So much good is happening that the memories are flooding in fast & furious.  Body memories connecting with emotional or cognitive memory fragments create complete memories of past experiences.  Those memories come in dreams and immense pain from my neck down.

In spite of all that, waking up to birthday wishes from friends and family made me feel blessed.  The warm messages brightened my morning and had me excited to start the day.  And it was an amazing day in spite of the pain.

I did not do anything special.  It was a day for self care and exploring spent in blissful solitude broken up with visits to appointments and interesting people in different stores. Time did not manage me that day.  After my appointments, I took my time enjoying the beautiful day as I headed back home.

For the first time that I can remember, my birthday was spent in an enjoyable way with full awareness of everything that occurred.  Not one of us (the alters or myself) dissociated, split, switched, or forgot anything that happened.  We laughed and played and watched movies or read books or knitted while relaxing and waiting for the stew to finish.

The pain did not stop any of us from enjoying the day.  We simply adjusted to the physical limitations of neck/shoulder pain by carrying the shoulder bag on the other arm and using both hands to cook.  Took a lot of breaks in between our travels.  And remembered to eat or drink fluids throughout the day.

And maybe that is what made us all feel so anxious.  A birthday without expectations or obligations to anyone.    Pure joy.  Simple fun.  Interesting, kind people.  Yummy food.  A good night’s rest.

The joy and peaceful feelings continue even now.  A different set of Chinese herbs are helping with triggers, sleep, and pain issues.  I did not expect help with the pain, but it’s been helping.  The herbs have made everyone sleep a lot, but that’s okay.  We needed the rest.  And something has changed inside too because the adults finally managed to do laundry!

Plus, the colder temperatures are not bringing up scary feelings or memories for the children as much this week.  It helps that many of the shopping packages were delivered over  the last few days.  But really, the herbs are working with our body and mind this time instead of trying to manipulate changes.  And that feels really good.

Maybe even good enough that mornings will stop being scary too someday.  And maybe good enough that bathrooms and small dark spaces like under sink cabinets will also feel safer too.

Thanks for reading.

Admin Post: Self-Care Weekend; see you Wednesday

Hi All,

We’re taking a break from posting.  Not sure what exactly is going to happen or why, but everyone in the system agrees that a Self-Care weekend is necessary.

Among other things, tomorrow is an anniversary…a remembrance of joy and loss.

Plus it was multiple events in August 2010 that informed the “no contact” with family choice of 2011/2012 and beyond.

Finally, I’ve read some excellent posts by guests and the WordPress Reader about Narcissism, Narcissistic Abuse, being highly sensitive in an insensitive world, and what friendships really mean.  We all need some time to process, digest, reflect & integrate everything into our framework.

So, We in the system wish you all a healthy, safe, relaxing, and (hopefully) happy next few days.

Thanks for reading.

Back to Basics: Working through nightmares

Nightmares are terrible experiences to work through at any time.  When you have alter personalities and switch in your sleep, the lack of awareness can cause problems.  By lack of awareness I mean not realizing when I am: shouting, screaming, crying, talking, kicking, punching, thumping, and so on while I am paralyzed (locked inside my body).  Usually my noise happens when I’m having a dream that involves anger and fighting.  All that means the neighbors get annoyed.  They start making noise.  And no one in the system is sure who or when or how the issue was resolved.

And yes, I’m having nightmares.  Or maybe reliving experiences as I sleep?  Or maybe I’m asleep and my alters are awake having flashbacks?  So confusing, yet so real.

As I told the admissions council during my second interview, some part of me is always awake.  I never truly sleep.  But I do get lots of rest.  And lately, my wireless headphones have been a blessing.  I can block out the construction, the neighbors, the cars, the wind when windows are open and get some rest.

Downside is that I can’t exactly hear when my neighbors bang on the door or the wall to get me to quiet down with the headphones on.  And when the neighbors do bang and shout, I’m not sure it’s me or someone else they want to quiet down.  Or if the new neighbors are moving furniture/drunk and walking into things, etc.

But I also have new neighbors.  They happen to be younger and louder than the others.  Also chattier and with chatty guests who visit at all hours.  And some like to smoke in the building even though that’s against the rules.  So any or all of this could be happening while I’m trying to sleep.

And whoever’s in charge at the time will take care of these issues.  So far, no complaints from the property manager about noise or other issues.  But the banging and music do startle awake and make some alters tense up.  To be honest, I’m not sure if any of us actually get out of bed to talk with the neighbors at night or just stay in bed hoping it will stop.  And I am kind of afraid of what could happen if one of us does try to chat with the loud neighbor.

As for basic coping strategies, here is this week’s list:

  • Airing out the apartment – warm enough to keep windows open a few days last week
  • Feeling comfortable (not to cold or hot) in bed
  • Gratitude affirmations
  • Deep breathing and meditation
  • Self massage and use of acupressure points
  • Letting the memories flow – aka alters share memories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings with everyone else
  • Listening to music
  • Listening to favorite nature sounds
  • Re-reading old favorites and some new books
  • Staying inside
  • Sleeping when I can; resting when I can’t; eating when I feel hungry
  • Letting myself be

It’s the downside to apartment living, especially micro-apartment living.  Small spaces crowded next to each other; soundproof that isn’t truly soundproof; and a basic lack of privacy from having neighbors so close.  Too bad I can’t afford my own house on a quiet street with very few neighbors and lots of beautiful trees.

But now that my secret life isn’t so secret anymore and we aren’t expending so much energy living two lives, maybe this lack of energy and need for solitude will lessen.  I’ve actually spent more time outside my apartment and interacting with people in the last two weeks than I did for the last 3 months.  And as much as I liked it (all parts in the system really enjoyed it), spending time chatting with people and in crowds really drained my energy.  So now we’re all back to figuring out how to refill the well.

Thanks for reading

 

Back to Basics: Sleep heals many wounds

An odd thing happened earlier this week.

I was late meeting the Uber and ended up in the wrong car.  My lateness triggered a panic attack that increased when I realized I was in the wrong car.  The driver couldn’t wait to get me out even though he was polite and courteous.  The panic attack led me to being late for my acupuncture appointment.

Lucky for me, my practitioner and the people in reception knew me well and helped calm the attack.  Our treatment focused on easing the anxiety through grounding and balancing my chi.  We didn’t have time for the bodywork and massage, but I left feeling calmer and more clearheaded.  This time, I got the right Uber and home on time.

One thing I always have to remember is that these treatments take a lot out of my body.  In stimulating my chi and forcing stagnant blockages to move, the acupuncture and bodywork promote internal healing of my organs too.  That means more sleep, more liquids, more food and more movement are needed to replenish what’s being used.  Sometimes meditation can be substituted for sleep.  Sometimes not.

But this week especially, I realized something was different.  When I lay down at night, my body buzzed on the inside from toes to head.  I wasn’t shaking or trembling.  My external self (skin, arms, legs, torso, head, neck, toes, fingers) wasn’t moving.  But I was trembling on the inside.  I could feel my blood circulating, my chi moving along the veins and through muscle.

It scared me.  And it made calming into a sleep state feel wrong.  But I was so tired.  Reading books didn’t help.  My eyes and head were tired.  Music was too stimulating.  Audio books came to my rescue.  I listened to them as I fell asleep.  Thank technology for wireless headphones.

Audio books also drowned out the trauma memory voices telling me to hurt and punish myself.  They distracted my alters and my body from reliving those experiences through backlash and shame until all of us were ready to cope with the new set of memories unleashed by the slow balancing of my chi.

I mentioned a lot of needles on my abdomen; needles also went into my legs, neck, and head to help clear stagnant chi from my mind, spirit and digestive system.  By forcing those blocked up places to move and clear out, the pain in my back and along my spine eased too.  And the swelling/water retention around my abdominal/lower back areas lessened too.  Nausea faded.  And other issues related to that improved.

As my body heals, the memories held there reveal themselves in fragments.  The fragments travel to my subconscious self and appear in dreams.  Dreams come in sleep and in meditation.  Alters switch during the sleep state, but not waking anyone up unless absolutely necessary.  I’m lucky they feel secure and safe enough here to wake up get things (like showering, getting a drink, etc.) done and then go back to sleep without disturbing anyone else.

It’s too bad that all the switching and dreaming makes for less than restful sleep.  Instead, whoever is involved spends the time processing, categorizing, and storing the fragments in bubbles until the rest appear.  The focus seems to be on what happened between ages 10 and 17; relationships, ownership, possession, secret friendships, survival, feelings vs. numbness, and loss.

So I spent most of my time not working in a state of rest.  Either sleeping or eating or doing something relaxing/meditative while drinking as much fluids and massaging my abdomen and back as much as possible to stimulate movement.  Last weekend’s panic attack taught me (and everyone else too) that massaging the abdominal area, sides, and lower back promotes movement, detoxifying, cleansing, and ease of pain.

I’m not sure what is in my future.  I’m not sure if I will ever rebuild relationships with family and people from my past into something meaningful.  I’m not sure (even if my new counselor is) whether or not my body will catch up to my mind in terms of recovery/healing health.

But I’m going to stay open to the possibilities.

I am going to stay positive.

I am going to do everything I can to promote wellness and integration for my mind/body/spirit.

How do you promote a slow detoxification of memories and illness from your self?

Thanks for reading

Resources: books and movies that explore aspects of PTSD,DID, and alter personalities

Due to some technical difficulties, I am writing this post on my smart phone and cannot link to previous posts.  Feel free to use the search box at the bottom or the menu box at the top to explore related posts.

It’s been a while since I wrote a resource post.  Other than reading books, rediscovering a love of jazz music, and watching superhero movies/tv shows (Marvel and DC), I do not have much new info to share.

As I have written before, I am an avid reader and a bookworm.  These days I mostly read commercial fiction.  Science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, romance, or any book that offers character growth, challenges, strong female and male characters, and a happy ending that suits the typ of people these characters become.

If you ever wondered: how does she learn so much about people and how to use the tools in her toolbox?

The answer is: by reading books with complex characters whose journeys drive the plot.

so on to my list:

Movies:

  • Inside Out – have not seen this yet, but many people including my mental health providers have recommended it.  I am waiting for it to be available for rental through Amazon
  • Angry Birds the movie – I found this on Netflix and almost skipped it because of an unreasonable dislike of the game.  But this movie explores the problems with denying angry feelings; and the positive results from acknowledging, feeling, and expressing anger.  In this case, Red Bird and his friends used their anger and the energy from those feelings to save their community.
  • Marvels The Avenger series movies – the first one especially has a place in my heart because Dr. Bruce Banner shares the “secret” to living with the Hulk: always feeling – i.e. Not repressing or denying feelings.  But all of these movies have characters with pasts that could make or break them.  And yet they still find ways to laugh, enjoy company, love, and live with the consequences of their choices.

Fiction books last:

  • Anne Bishop’s Ephemera series – book two is about a young woman struggling with two distinct personalities and trying to find a balance that integrates both sides to become whole again.
  • Anne Bishop’s Ephemera series – Book 3 has a main character who is 3 people sharing one body and trying to survive in a world where her kind are hunted, killed, or shunned whenever they are discovered.
  • The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey – a coming of age story about a young woman who survives a mudslide as a baby and develops an alter personality in childhood.
  • The Coelura by Anne McCaffrey – not about alter personalities so much as coping with difficult family relationships
  • J. D. Robb’s In Death series – the main character is a survivor or childhood trauma who becomes a police officer.  Throughout the series, readers see an isolated, closed off young woman fall in love, open up to friendships, create a family, and start living a full life instead of being trapped by the nightmares of her past
  • Kim Harrison’s the Hollows series – family relationships, loss/grief, and growing up
  • Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series – I have already written about these books in different posts, so not repeating here.

These books helped me in my teens and twenties as I struggled to understand what was happening in my life.  They also gave me hope that I, too, could change my life around for the better like the characters did.  Maybe they can help you too.

Thanks for reading