Coping Strategy: A new pillow, Knitting & walking

Spring triggers

End of April brings out my “allergies” and many head colds.  My sleeping patterns and eating habits change too.  Beginning of May equals many family birthdays and Mother’s Day combined with Memorial Day and end of spring semester in college.  Dissociation is common.  Nightmares get worse.  The usual stuff.

Here, though, the sun rises around 7:00 AM and sets around 8:00 PM.  I can sleep late on weekends and still have plenty of time to go out for a walk in the sun.  Taking the trash and recycling out feels like less of a chore and more of a task on my to-do list.  With the weather in the high 40s or 50s (Fahrenheit), my big window can stay open while my loft remains warm and cozy.  Love fresh air.

A new pillow

Pillows have been a burden for many years.  Between chemical sensitivities and night sweats, I have yet to find a pillow that lasts more than a year or two.  Even the wool-filled ones from the last few years flattened out and stopped being supportive.  It’s hard to get comfortable and stay asleep, especially when the night sweats manifest.

But this weekend I found a new alternative.  There’s a local store that specializes in chemical free, natural & home furniture and bedding.   Last night, I slept easier and longer than I have in a while.  Not exactly nightmare free, but also not a night filled with bad dreams and sweat waking me up.  I hope investing in a new pillow continues to help with my sleep hygiene.

Knitting

Knitting is something I and my alters enjoy, but can also be triggering.  It’s also physically intensive and can be calming with repetitive action.  But this weekend, I feel happy, calm, proud, and accomplished.  My first infinity scarf is almost finished.  My arms and shoulders got some decent exercise, and no triggering this time.  It was a great distraction from my other discomfort and worry because still not feeling hungry or eating like I’m supposed to.

Walking – exercise & moving meditation

After some self massage and lying down meditation this morning, I felt good enough to do some apartment cleaning.  Picked up trash, collected recycling, and did some vacuuming.  Still have some laundry sorting to do, but that can wait a bit longer.  By treating these tasks as a moving meditation, I calmed down enough to go outside for a short walk and get a real meal at the grocery store.

That gave me a chance to check out new store products, eat outside, and enjoy the fresh air while thinking about what kinds of food and drinks to put together this week.  Being outside felt good and helped me feel better about myself.  Getting out the door isn’t easy this time of year, so any advantage to help me leave the building is welcome.

Conclusion

Sometimes changing seasons can affect mood and triggers.  Many people ask me if lack of sunlight or changing seasons increases my chance of depression.  The short answer is no.  The long answer is, not depression but my anxiety and hyper-vigilance get triggered.  I start to fear going outside and interacting with the world while also feeling angry with myself because I want to be outside enjoying the spring weather.

These coping strategies are hit or miss, but ones I love to put into practice as often as possible.  My young alter personalities enjoy the knitting as much as the teens and adults.  The moving meditation helps all of us relax and connect mind/body/spirit while also getting chores done.  Replaces scary or negative experiences with positive ones.  Finally, anything that helps us all sleep better is worth saving up the money to purchase and use.

I and my alters hope these examples might help you find a way to cope with unexpected triggers or seasonal changes too.

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