Action: Smell essential oil blend in the aromatherapy inhaler when I felt triggered, overwhelmed, or distracted at work.
Intention: Use the essential oil blend to bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered or stressed out.
Reflection: Some people call it a “power pause”. Others call it “mindfulness”. I personally call it a sensory grounding strategy that provides emotional support + cold/flu/allergy prevention by engaging my senses – smell and vision.
*Caveat 1 – This is a journal-entry style post so it looks like a first draft with errors, etc. *
*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*
*Warning: this is a long post with lots of information. Take your time reading through everything. Come back and re-read as needed*
It’s been 3-5 weeks since the first post about this topic. I shared my current challenges with punishment, self-harm and explained what it means for me to be an empath. Then I explained why coping with these triggers feels hopeless sometimes and frustrating most of the time.
And yes, these triggers still feel like new territory. My mind and body are not reacting to the triggers or responding to the coping strategies in familiar ways. The panic attacks are more frequent and worse than they have been in a long time. Plus they manifest differently than before (more info later). The frequency means less recovery time between panic attacks, so I am constantly on edge.
All parts of me have been scrambling to find coping strategies that work long enough for us to recover from the panic attacks and find internal balance again. Along with explaining the coping challenges, I/we will also share some of the coping strategies that are helping right now.
This is why we all agreed to wait until now to write a follow up post. The learning curve takes time, and none of us wants to share something before we are certain of its effects on our systems.
Dear Guests, I’ve been receiving some wonderful comments on the “About” and “Home” pages. Thank you for sharing thoughts, compliments, feedback, etc. The purpose of this “Sticky” post is to address some of the frequently asked questions aka FAQs in an easily accessible place. It will evolve and change as the blog does. If the… Read more
Action: Smell essential oil blend in the aromatherapy inhaler when I felt triggered, overwhelmed, or distracted at work. Intention: Use the essential oil blend to bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered or stressed out. Reflection: Some people call it a “power pause”. Others call it “mindfulness”. I personally call it… Read more
Reflecting on a Different Perspective Last week I shared a post about counseling as a tool and coping technique on Scent Reflections, but did not go into details about personal use. That kind of story is more suite to this safe space. Either way, the inspiring post got me thinking about how and why I… Read more
“Good Enough” isn’t really good for me. What about you?
Settling for “good enough” is so much easier. Sometimes necessary, but often less scary, anxiety-provoking, triggering, etc. at the beginning. Over time, however, it’s scarier, more triggering, and extra anxiety-provoking
But for now, my alters and I will share some insights we’ve learned about triggering environments.
Growing up, people used to tell me I wouldn’t succeed in life and should settle for “good enough” since that was…maybe…the best I could achieve. Even if my work was better laid out, more creative, etc., teachers, parents, and other people told me my efforts were “ok” or “not as good as so-and-so” or “(insert name)’s work is better; work harder”.
Scent Reflections – helping others re-define success There are many people like me out in the world. We are successful and independent, hiding in plain sight to avoid the negative reactions associated with mental illness. Not everyone ends up an addict or homeless or a criminal or something else as bad. Not everyone struggling with… Read more
Gratitude First, thanks to all my guests for continuing to visit Untangled Connections in spite of challenges that made posting regularly difficult. I appreciate all of you and your contributions towards keeping this website and blog safe for any guests who visit anonymously. And thank you for keeping my identity safe too as I shared… Read more
There’s so much going on in this post, we all agreed that headings and subheadings are useful to us and our guests. Feel free to skip around and read whatever interests you.
Empathic gift challenges and labels
I wrote a post explaining my position on labels, so will keep this short. I prefer not to label myself or others on purpose. We are multi-dimensional, unique individuals with many parts coming together to create a whole person. However, sometimes a label is useful in conversations or posts to help the reader relate to the topic.
The label gives the reader a frame of reference or starting point that makes sense so she or he can follow the rest of the conversation. It DOES NOT identify or categorize or group people with similar characteristics into a stereotype. So when I talk about being an empath, it’s only so that my guests have a starting point if they ever want to learn more about the topic.
What does this have to do with empathic gift challenges? Well, one thing I’ve been encountering more often is being stereotyped and harassed on the street or in stores because of my physical appearance and choice to go places alone all the time. Or, conversely, to not go out often at all. While I don’t consciously pay attention to the people around me when I go out, my hyper-vigilance and senses are always sensitive to the environment.
Because of that, I always know when people are being rude to me – obviously like with the harassment; or not so obviously through their energy – wherever I go.
Have you ever walked into a room or store and suddenly felt uncomfortable or out of place or judged?
Unfortunately, I notice that without even meaning to do so. And there are a lot of insecure, unhappy, resentful people in the world happy to blame others to make themselves feel better. I’ve been getting this from females more than males lately, but also from males too because of my choice to be single and friendly instead of flirtatious.
Why a challenge? It triggers shame from my past and makes me think “I suck” and “why am I doing all this again?”
My panic attacks have changed. Instead of the typical process:
anxiety feelings + headaches/dizziness + chest tightness or physical pain + hot flashes + cold shakes = pass out from tiredness and sensory overload (aka overwhelming feelings)
pass out = shut down until my whole self recovers
I get this process:
anxiety feelings + headaches/dizziness = pass out from tiredness and sensory overload (aka overwhelming feelings)
pass out = shut down until my whole self recovers
The worst part: I never know when the panic attacks will manifest. Or how to cope with them/stop them once they start. Or how to effectively recover balance once the panic attack is over.
How do I feel now? Cranky. Tired. Grumpy in my digestive system. Frustrated. Hungry and thirsty, but not always able to feel it in my body and remember to eat/drink regularly.
My sense of smell is not as acute as my hearing. In fact, I’ve had a lot of problems with nasal congestion and allergies and head colds that clogged up my nose on a regular basis since childhood. Sometimes I wonder if this was/is a coping strategy my body put in place to block out the stinky basement smells from my past.
But these days, scents are among my most common and destructive triggers. I live in a no smoking building on purpose. Maybe I’ve explained my postition about smoking in the past, but it bears repeating again:
I believe in an individual’s right to choose what he or she does – that includes smoking, using drugs, drinking – as long as it doesn’t harm or negatively affect other people.
That said, I don’t care if my neighbors smoke cigarettes or pot or whatever. They smoke outside and the smell comes in the window, that’s okay. I shut my window or turn a fan on to blow it back out. If I smell cigarettes in the building, I won’t say or do anything even if they are breaking the rules. At some point, someone will complain or report the issue.
But when people smoke pot in the building and the smoke gets into my apartment, that is a problem. I get immediately triggered and start the spiral into a panic attack. It’s happened the last two nights in my building and made recovery from the panic attacks that much harder. I am sleep-deprived, anxious, hyper-vigilant, grumpy, distracted, and unable to complete all of my weekend tasks because of the constant state of panic. Not anxiety because I can cope with general anxiety every day. Panic.
So yeah I didn’t get to read any guest comments today. I will try to do that next week. Appreciate your understanding 😉
Like I said before, my usual strategies are not working. Lately, I spend a lot of time curled up in a seated position or lying down trying to relax/sleep as my muscles contract and stiffen up because I haven’t moved enough. I just can’t get comfortable or feel comfortable in my own skin right now. And leaving for a while is not an option.
So here are some strategies that have been helping take the edge off my panic symptoms.
Aromatherapy diffuser blends for sleep
A couple weeks ago, I hit my sleep deprivation limit. Meditation and relaxation did not help with my sleep debt. The flashbacks, negative self-talk, and disturbing dreams kept interfering with everything whenever I did manage to sleep. And I smelled pot in my apartment for the first time in months – most of the tenants who smoked in the past left – just as I was starting my sleep hygiene routine.
That disrupted me so much that I couldn’t calm down even after a hotline check-in. Plus I was feeling paranoid about insects in my apartment. So I decided to clean the diffuser and try using essential oils proven to help with insomnia/sleep issues, anxiety, and insects. My particular diffuser is water-based, comes with specific water-to-eseential oil ratio use instructions, and has an automatic turn-off setting.
My mind and body tends to react to essential oils, herbs, and so on in unexpected ways. I try to only use these strategies when I can focus with a mostly clear mind so that the risk (getting oil on my skin, mixing a blend incorrectly, burning myself when I make a tea or soup) is minimal. But I was desperate that night.
You can imagine how surprised I was when it worked. I slept deeply for 12 hours and woke up feeling refreshed with that first blend and used it 3 nights in a row. Then I decided to try a different blend; that one worked okay, but not as well as the first one. Next, I gave myself a break to see if I could sleep (or at least relax) without using aromatherapy. It worked okay, but not great. I woke up tired and grumpy. The last one I tried before this post worked really well and had the benefit of reducing the pot smell.
Here is recipe 1:
3 drops of Melissa essential oil
1 drop of Bergamot* essential oil
3 drops of Siberian Fir** essential oil
8 ounces of water (filtered preferred, but I use tap)
1 electric diffuser with an automatic turn-off setting***
*Bergamot oil is extremely phototoxic to skin (human and animal). Phototoxic means that the oil will cause a rash or burns on your skin when exposed to sunlight. If you want to use this blend during the day, please omit the Bergamot essential oil
**Siberian Fir essential oil may cause lung irritation or respiratory discomfort for people with asthma, allergies, or other related issues. A sniff test (sniffing the bottle cap or bottle first) is advised before using the oil around people with respiratory problems.
***All diffusers have different settings with instructions. Electric and gas diffusers use a heating element to turn the water into steam for diffusing. Purchasing a diffuser with an automatic timer and/or turn-off setting is recommended for safe use during naps or sleep periods.
Make sure the diffuser is clean and working properly. Add water to the diffuser’s container.
Add the essential oils one drop at a time. Use the diffuser guidelines for adding essential oils. Some oils come out faster than others, so be as accurate as possible, but don’t worry too much if you add too much. Accuracy takes practice.
Cover the diffuser and turn it on for a set period of time or until the water has evaporated (auto-turn off setting).
Sit back or lie down and relax as the blend diffuses through your room.
This recipe is a guideline only. Please follow the instructions that come with your diffuser and adjust the oil amounts accordingly.
I called the hotline for a check in almost every day the last few weeks. The negative self-talk and intrusive thoughts have a strong hold on my mind and keep the spiral of body trigger + emotional trigger = panic going. Once it starts, I can’t make it stop on my own with known coping strategies.
In the past, I called the hotline for help remembering grounding strategies or practicing different kinds of meditation/relaxation techniques with a partner. Sometimes to help me make a plan of 3-5 coping strategies to use after the call ended. That always helped because I live in the maze all the time these days. To be honest, I’ve never actually found an exit from the maze. Instead, I find sanctuaries within the maze of my mind that offers a break from the trauma and allows me to feel grounded enough to live in the outside world. But that’s something for another post.
These days, I don’t ask for grounding strategies. I ask the volunteer if she or he is willing to talk with me about the situation and help me process the triggers. We talk about what set me off and the strategies I’ve already used. The volunteer listens and helps me understand if what I am feeling is “normal” or extreme in one way or another; in other words validation.
Then explains why and how so that I understand the emotions and sensations in my body too. From there, I can relax a little and fend off the negative self-talk because I understand it’s okay for me to feel the way I do; and for my body to experience these sensations. Eventually, they will not feel so intense and go away.
Funny and Silly movies
Laughter is still some of my favorite medicine. I have a Netflix account and use Amazon Prime until my membership expires in a few months to find funny children’s movies or teen movies…sometimes even adult movies. They can have a “happy ever after” ending or not.
The goal is to find movies that warm my heart, bring out positive feelings (even if I cry a little), and make me laugh. For people who can’t access movies, radio shows and podcasts, TV or cable, or YouTube probably have similar shows too.
My current favorite movies are a children’s series about golden retriever puppies going on adventures (starts with Air Buddies).
Changing my schedule/staying in (agoraphobia)
I’ve discussed my agoraphobia in past posts, so not going to dwell on it here.
Summer makes me want to go out more often and enjoy the nice weather. Longer days means more sunshine and safe times to go out after work. People spend time outside. Children play and laugh in the city’s public water features on hot days. So much to enjoy outdoors.
But my panic attacks keep me inside. I never know when they will hit or how long I have to get to a safe place before I fall asleep. Or how long I will sleep once it hits. Work has been a bit of a challenge, but not as bad as when I had to work in an office for regular hours. One home office perk is being able to work flexible hours.
So until this panic attack phase eases up, I stay inside more often and work my sleep in around the triggers. My plans often change depending on how tired I am or if the panic feelings stop me from accomplishing tasks I planned for the day. That allows me to work my 40 hours a week, meet deadlines, do homework, keep house, pay bills, and write blog posts. Everything else happens when it happens.
The more I heal, the more in tune or integrated all parts of me become. I can listen to my body and understand what types of food and drink makes it feel healthy and full or sick and uncomfortable. I can listen to my mind and understand how certain foods look/smell/taste/feel affect how my body feels after consumption and digestion.
Sounds like food triggers, but not the same.
Food triggers have a trauma-experience aspect that causes flashbacks or panic sensations throughout my self.
This type of sensory information tells me how the food and drink affect my physiology. Like with dairy intolerance or gluten intolerance. Eating nutritious food that heals and feeds the organisms keeping me healthy makes more sense than doing the opposite.
So I’ve been experimenting with my diet and different cravings that come up. Lately, I’ve been craving fennel, leafy greens, fatty fish, sausage, and carbs. Dairy too, but I think I’m going to try eliminating dairy for a few weeks to see how it affects my digestion and elimination issues. And maybe help with the low energy feelings
What can you do to help your mind and body feel better?
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This weekend was tough because of the pot triggers and lack of sleep. Plus some digestion issues that came up unexpectedly. So I am behind on my homework goals for this weekend and have to start that next.
If you wonder at the lack of tags or polish on the post, that’s why. Thanks for keeping me company on the long post.
Well, life likes to kick my ass on a regular basis. It’s a good way of reminding me to stay present, be kind to myself, and stay open minded about what might come up as life changes.
My body does not often experience a physical panic attack bad enough that all of me is out of commission for any period of time these days. A rough estimate is 2-3 times a year for the last 3-4 years. Compared to once a month or once every few months before that, this is a big improvement.
So why did it happen? Well, something triggered a seriously scary and painful set of body memories that became flashbacks. The flashbacks literally had different parts of me reliving and re-experiencing the past all over again. No, I am not going into detail. Yes I will tell you it all goes back to my childhood/adolescence and life in the cult. And yes, I will confirm it does have to do with being female, puberty, and menstruation.
Beyond that, no I will not share anything else. Every individual experience puberty differently. What happened to me and continues to happen in my body is unique; just as yours is unique to you. Whether male or female, the changes are sometimes obvious; other times not so obvious. But we all go through it. And it affects our experience of life in the present and future.
The gassy, bloating sensations and cramps trigger negative thoughts and experiences for me. From there, it’s like dominoes. One knocks down the other until the entire chain falls. In response, the rest of my physical body tightens and prepares for “attack”. It doesn’t rest until the “threat” or “trigger” (in this case the flashback or series of flashbacks) ends.
On the good side, this one didn’t last as long as the others or cause exhaustion; I was able to work and go on with life as usual the rest of the week.
Wednesday, I had my fallopian tubes removed. The procedure itself did not hurt much at all. And my recovery is going well. I’m late posting because I’ve been sleeping a lot the last 2.5 days. The bruising is going away, and the incisions are healing fast – itchy but not painful.
The hardest parts of all this are a) recovery from anesthesia and other medications and b) having limited wardrobe options in cooler weather.
What? you ask. Well, here’s the short version.
A) Medications and I do not mix. My body has a strong sense of self-protection. While all parts of me felt safe and comfortable in the hospital and around the nursing staff, they/we did not trust them enough to put in the IV. After 5 pokes with the needles, two nurses, and 3 injections of numbing agent, the anesthesiologist managed to get an IV needle into a vein in my right hand. Once the IV worked, I fell asleep and woke up in recovery not knowing anything happened.
But, coming out of the anesthesia was awkward. I experienced flashbacks and panic attacks (like Sunday’s panic attack) as my mind and body struggled to wake up. The nurse offered me extra pain meds, and I accepted not realizing the pain came from flashbacks at the time.
Upside, the pain meds helped with abdominal pain from the procedure.
Downside, I had my usual reaction to pain meds and passed out for a while as the flashbacks and panic attack pain continued to move through my body. No, the pain meds did not help. My body fought the meds like it fought the imaginary intruders in the flashbacks while I was asleep.
B) Because the incisions are on my belly button and abdomen, I can’t wear pants or skirts or keep anything like waistbands on the area for too long. March is still cool/cold out in the Pacific Northwest, so I still need to wear something under and over my dresses. It’s made getting dressed/staying comfortable at home and going out a bit difficult. Plus, I can’t bend over or do much heavy lifting even at home. That requires some creativity to get things accomplished and easy meal options. Luckily, my relatives sent care packages that made cooking easier the past few days. But I’m kind of tired of all that and itching to try something else for a change.
Slow & Steady Healing
This Wednesday marks 1 week since the procedure. Everything is healing well even if the rest of my body is protesting with physical pain. The most painful areas are unexpected to be quite honest. I am often aware that the sides of my body and mid/lower back around the bottom of my rib cage and shoulder blades experience sore muscles and pain. Same with my hip joints and the base of my skull.
But I have not experienced actual pain in those areas for some time. They would feel tight like a rubber ball when poked. The pain appeared in my face or along my spine. Confusing, yes? Lately, though, I have been some experiencing physical pain (kind of like when you exercise too hard and your muscles protest a day or two later) in those areas. Not enough to limit my movement, but enough to trigger anxiety and flashbacks.
And this is where the aromatherapy classes and exercises come in to play. In each lesson we are given category of essential oils to learn about and “blending” exercises to complete. That means I use the class knowledge about essential oils, essential oil chemistry, blending, carrier oils, and therapeutic properties to create my own oils, lotions, bath salts, body butters, etc. My first blends were geared towards muscle pain relief, decongesting my sinuses, and improving circulation in my body (not just blood, but lymphatic system too).
They worked really well, so I felt hopeful about the next group of blending exercises. Many of the oils in these three categories helped with pain relief, stress, anxiety, and wound healing. So I chose to create a bath salt, a healing lotion for minor cuts and bruises, and an oil-based ointment that worked like Neosporin for short term use.
Since the incisions are too new and delicate, I can’t use any of these blends directly on those areas. But I used the bath salts the night before my procedure because 2 of the 3 oils have antibacterial properties and I can’t use over-the-counter antibacterial soaps. The third oil has general anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
And the lotion works really well for my entire body and head/face. I’ve been using it 1-2x a day on specific body areas every other day to test it out. Last night, I tried it all over and experienced a really good sleep. For the rest of this blend’s use (until I finish), that will probably be my go-to choice. Put the lotion on all over before bed time and relax into sleep. But, the next time I make this, I will be using less oil overall because the ratio of oil to lotion is too high for long term use.
The third ointment has not got much use yet. It’s a powerful healing ointment made with Tamanu carrier oil and a mix of essential oils with wound healing therapeutic properties that works well on bruises, abrasions, rashes, or scabs/scars. I’ve been waiting for approval from the doctor and nurses to use around (not on) the bruised and tender areas near the incisions.
And no, I am not going to list the oils and blends at this time. One day, in a future post, I will share some of my recipes with you. For now, there are many safety concerns related to using essential oils, and I am not willing to give you half-assed information that includes a recipe, but not measurements, safety precautions, or reliable places to make purchases.
So the recipes will have to wait.
And posting new content might be erratic until I catch up with my day job and am more mobile. Recovery requires me to sleep more, rest more, and get up and move once every 1-2 hours while I am awake to keep up circulation. There’s a lot going on, and I want to be present for you when I share these posts.
It was not a good weekend for me. My lower half seized up that Friday morning, and I couldn’t get my hips/legs to work for a few hours after waking. I missed my morning acupuncture appointment, and then stumbled on shaky legs to my home office for the work day.
As my body started moving, the pain levels and flashbacks increased. Saturday and Sunday were “stay at home and relax the muscles” days. Between resting and massaging the back/hip/leg muscles, I didn’t do much besides eat and try to move around the apartment. Note that I didn’t mention “sleep”. Sleep happens, but is not restful.
In general, winter is not an easy season. My sleep patterns get disrupted, and my body memories activate more often than at any other time. Recovery time between episodes is too small to be effective. Plus, it’s the busy time of year for my day job. Over time, deadlines, presentations, meetings, and covering for people on vacation – it all happens this time of year.
Beyond that, life gets in the way too. Classes, hobbies, “me time” and plants require time and attention to thrive. How to juggle all that??
Such is the life of a person who wants to do more than her body can handle at the moment…
After about 3 weeks of rain, clouds, snow, and cold, this weekend was warmer and sunny! I mean blue skies, white clouds, and bright enough to hurt your eyes sunny. In the end of February. Hiding 30 degree (F) cold and wind. But still warm enough for a walk…
Instead of using the public transit, I decided to walk to the store yesterday morning. It was about 6 blocks or 20 minutes – not a problem for me usually – wearing layers and a warm coat. About half way to the store, my body decided it didn’t want to walk anymore. The sweats started. Followed by hip cramps. And panicky breathing. Oh, and don’t forget the strange stares from passersby as I hold conversations with imaginary friends (aka my alters) out loud while walking.
Being warm inside the store relieved some of the muscle pain and sweating. Odd right? But the sweating didn’t come from feeling warm; it came from anxiety about walking through an unknown neighborhood to a new place for the first time. Once that was over, the panic symptoms moved on too.
Warmth stops cramps. Cold makes the cramps worse.You’d think I would have learned my lesson from this, right?
No. My thrifty sense and stubborn need to be outside in the sun had me walking another few blocks to the next place on my errands list.
Did my pain yoyo with all the in-and-out? Yup.
Did the pain get worse? Not really. It concentrated in one location and had me limping after a few minutes outside.
Is this normal? Yes, unfortunately. I haven’t discussed a lot about my physical pain here, but it’s on my list for some day.
Like the post about my mother, some topics are not easy to share or write about as soon as they get mentioned here.
And so this brings me to the last topic for the post: Taxes
In the US, all taxes for the previous year are due on April 15 of the current year. Because of medical and work expenses, my taxes were complicated to work through so I tried to get them done as early as possible. And yes, I paid extra for professional help until the tax pros (as they call themselves) taught me enough to fill out the forms on my own.
But wait, wouldn’t the taxes be finished by now if you got them done ASAP?
Normally, yes. It prevents me from feeling extra stress.
This year, not so much. There was an issue with some of my tax forms because of circumstances beyond my control. Next, the new Tax Reform laws scared me enough to wait until after talking with a professional to decide next steps. That didn’t happen until last week. And the conversation left me still scratching my head.
But, the deadline draws closer. The next 7 work days will be extra busy during my day job. And I don’t want to do my taxes after the medical procedure. A) that’s way too close to the deadline for my comfort; and B) I want to do my taxes when clear=headed and as present as possible.
So this week, you get 2 posts. And maybe another one next week if I can swing it.
Last Sunday, I couldn’t post because all parts of me got hit with intense body memories and flashbacks.
Literally, the monsters in my mind tried to take over by staging a coup. The traumatized parts of my alters got triggered and sent mixed signals to my brain. It felt like getting sick with a cold and the flu at the same time all over again. Plus, I still had to work and finish tasks before my vacation last week.
Types of Change in My Life
There are times when change happens so fast, a person is left flailing around unable to keep up with it all.
There are times when change happens, and the individual has enough awareness to fight it, roll with it, or try something else. Either way, the change(s) does not overwhelm the individual.
Then comes the slow change that silently creeps up on a person, the kind that goes unnoticed until something happens to make it obvious. Kind of like an “I should have known that would happen” situation.
A Quick Detour to Explain Hallucinations vs Intuitive Communications
Option 3 is what happened to me two weeks ago. Unlike a lot of people I talk to about PTSD, I am completely aware of my hallucinations as they occur. I can tell the differences between them and reality in the present moment. My hallucinations are obvious to me because they are consistent in their appearance – hearing voices, seeing exaggerated and transparent forms of beings/cartoons/creatures (aka ghosts), and feeling certain body sensations – and different from the sensations and vibrations my plants use to communicate with me.
Sometimes I still get confused when my empathic senses or intuition tries to share information. But that is a case of “am I hallucinating or is my intuition talking to me?” Working with my spiritual mentor has helped me a lot with that question. I feel a lot more confidence sorting through the different sensations and information that triggers my hyper-vigilance and body memories.
Back to Last Weekend
It started on Wednesday when I woke up feeling sick and had to take a “sick day” from work. My nightmares were getting worse and bleeding into day dreams that distracted me from…well everything. I started wanting to be awake all night and sleep all day. While I was awake, the voices kept up a steady stream of shaming insults about anything and everything.
I was tired, distracted, confused, and congested with a lingering head cold. All that increased my palpitations (side effect of high anxiety levels) and made breathing difficult. The high anxiety made tense head and neck muscles tighten even more. No matter what, I just couldn’t get comfortable. So I slept as best as possible and drank lots of tea. Distracted myself with podcasts about essential oils, aromatherapy, and herbalism. Focused on trying to figure out why the pain increased no matter what coping strategy I tried.
Then it hit me. Maybe one or two weeks before, while shopping for holiday gifts at my favorite store, I ran into a different spiritual teacher. We talked, and she suggested that maybe part of my anxiety came from holding on to the past without realizing it…that maybe I (or parts of me) was projecting my hopes and dreams onto others and forging connections the rest of me didn’t want. It could be that my alters were growing, changing, and afraid to let go of the familiar.
That made a lot of sense. Headaches and pain that won’t go away no matter what I try usually means some kind of internal conflict.
I haven’t used the phrase “monsters in my mind” in a while, so let me explain. I and every one of my alter personalities experienced severe trauma of some kind. We all hold the memories in different ways (mental/emotional/spiritual) and in different parts of our physical body. The memories are attached to the “other stuff” (emotions / thoughts / behaviors / actions / reactions) we experienced and couldn’t process back then.
Our memories are neutral. The “other stuff” is what creates the monsters in our mind – the voices telling us how awful we are and that we are worthless, etc. Essentially, I and my alters are fighting ourselves when this happens – hence the term internal conflict. Sometimes a call to the hotline helps; the volunteers listen objectively and can help sort through the confusion. Other times, though, only meditation can help.
By meditation, I mean lying down someplace warm and safe (usually my bed), closing my eyes, and letting all parts of me out to communicate at the same time. We do a roll call to make sure all 88 are present. if anyone is missing, we go looking for them. We protect each other from the monster traps and any other potential problems that come with high anxiety and flashbacks.
On the outside, our body looks like it’s sleeping. Sometimes sleep talking and sleep laughing occur too. Our body might move on the bed, roll around or change positions, but it does not get up and move around. That kind of vertical movement is too dangerous. On the inside, though, all of us are aware of the different body sensations moving through our physical form as we check our internal home and its safeguards.
The safeguards are boundaries that protect our inside home and its safe spaces from the monsters. This worked well in the past because many of the triggers that caused these kinds of panic attacks and flashbacks came from outside of our body/mind self. We could retreat inside and do what was necessary to keep the monsters from invading and taking over.
This time, though, our safeguards were intact. The monsters were inside the safeguards and causing havoc.
How did they get in? They were already inside. These monsters were the hallucinations body memories given form as we alters learned to cope with and let go of our past. And the monsters wanted to leave just as much as we wanted them to go. But no one knew how to get them out.
A meditation that combined 2-3 different practices.
LovingKindness or Compassion: all parts of me opened up our home and safe spaces to everyone – especially the “monsters” and “outcasts” – with open minds and open hearts – kindness, compassion, acceptance, and unconditional love
Mara – in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition: They could stay and be part of the community for as long as they wished as long as they followed our rules. If at any time they wanted to leave, the could do so knowing that leaving was permanent.
Visualization – The monsters liked to talk, so once one said “I want to leave” or something similar, a rainbow portal appeared – sometimes in front / side/ back, sometimes above, sometimes below the monster. Then the monster – who was decidedly not an alter personality – stepped through the one-way portal to go home.
Imagination and a love of fantasy combined with a belief in magic, miracles, and the paranormal helped all parts of me design this meditation.
Since all 88 alter personalities changed and had monsters ready to leave, the meditation took a long time. It started on Friday after work and continued through Sunday. There were times of actual rest and pause for food/drink, etc. throughout the weekend. But most of it was spent lying down in meditation.
One week has passed since that big self-care weekend, but I still get requests for portals.
And yes, if at any time one or more alter personalities decided to leave our system, I would open a portal for that personality. Before he/she/it left, I’d give a big hug and say good-bye. Then probably cry for a bit at losing part of myself. But I’d let that part go because trying force something to stay against its will goes against my values.
Yes, I am afraid that will happen some day. But if it does happen, there will be an excellent reason.
Until then, all parts of me continue to work on recovery together.