Alter Post: A story about anger, pain, and suicide – beware of triggers

Beginning of September always brings back memories and flashbacks because it’s the time when school starts.  Summer was easy.  I was me or some version of me all the time.  Bud during school, I was one person in public society (elementary school, activities, etc.) and someone else in the private society that occupied the rest of my time.

I didn’t have friends in the public society world.  Everyone there looked down on me, bullied me, and pretended I didn’t exist.  I helped by being rude, annoying, and quiet as possible to avoid attracting attention.  But it didn’t make school easier.  I thought school would make life easier because it took me out of the other world.

But it turns out, I enjoyed being in the other world more.  The other world – the world of pedophiles, traffickers, dug dealers, predators, and other monsters – is where I made friends and learned life skills.  It’s where I found family, a soul mate, and a purpose for surviving/living.

Those life skills and experiences may have turned me into a monster not fit for “regular” society in the legitimate world.  But they gave me a secure and valued position in the criminal world and the gray world between legal and illegal.  After I was freed – no longer belonging to the cult or human traffickers as a slave – I spent a good part of my life in  the gray world while trying to forge a life in the legitimate world too.

Part of me didn’t want to give up the gray world.  I had friends and family there.  I had a purpose and helped many people.  My job was exciting and fulfilling even if it was dangerous and involved lots of violence.  Most important though, the people in that gray world accepted me as I was.  I could be my real self with alter personalities, a quirky sense of humor, a bad temper and so on.

But in the legitimate world with my corporate job, I couldn’t be my whole self.  My connections to the gray world and the criminal world put it in jeopardy.  And as that personality, I didn’t recognize or have access to my friends and support network in the gray world.  I couldn’t remember that other life without causing migraines and intense body pain.

But then my soul mate made a choice to leave on his terms.  Other friends died or moved on.  Instead of being free, keeping those friendships and connections made starting over more difficult.  The criminals who remembered me kept harassing me and trying to recruit me.  Kids I taught or helped before tracked me down and asked me to help again. My body gave out on me; I was in so much pain all the time.

Work wasn’t fun anymore.  I tried to retire.  I referred these people to the organizations I worked and volunteered for instead.  And I focused on keeping the promises to my soul mate.  To use my second chance at life wisely; be happy and free; and start fresh as my authentic self someplace else without the anger and pain holding me back.

I met my soul mate in a punishment cage when we were 3 or 4 years old.  His family was rich enough that his parents  traveled or worked a lot and paid people to take care of him.  His parents trusted the friend who referred the caretakers not knowing or realizing where their son was all the time.  Sort of like my parents  trusting references from my pediatrician and taking advantage of free babysitting from local organizations.

It was my third day in training, and I was back in the punishment cage for talking back or not following the rules.  I can’t remember exactly.  Anyways, he came up and started talking to me.  That became our pattern.  I got punished (a lot).  He came to talk with me. Then his trainers took him away.  If he got punished (rarely at that time), I would walk over and talk with him.

Our friendship bloomed from there.  Both of us were prostituted and raped, so our relationship never involved sex.  We cared about each other too much to want to be involved that way after our shared experiences with human trafficking and cults.

Unfortunately for him, though, he didn’t share my  problems with chemicals and other substances.  Nor could he continue to separate his mind like I did to survive  living two lives.  The medicine, dugs, and alcohol did work on him.  He got addicted and tried so many times to clean up.

But the memories, the shame, the anger, the pain were all too much for him.  He couldn’t cope with our shared past.  And he didn’t want me be stuck in that gray world forever even though that kept both of us safe.  We made plans to get legitimate jobs in the real world and fulfill our dreams after college.  We laughed and pulled each other out of trouble, but more often it was me finding and taking him home after a night of drugs and booze.

Sometime in our software year, we had a spring break that matched up – same weeks off – and decided to hang out together.  But spring break has always been hard for both of us.  My other family found him at a party with a bunch of people from the old gang – kids and adults who did jobs for the traffickers and the cult hoping to move up the ranks one day.  He was still sober, but had the needle in his hand.

We talked.  The others interfered.  There was a fight.  One that finally convinced those people wasn’t involved anymore; that I didn’t want to be involved and would stay out of their way as long as they didn’t target my loved ones.  After the fight, my soul mate handed me the full syringe and asked me to help him get through the rest of the day and evening.

He wanted to spend one last day with me sober and clear headed because we needed to talk.  I took the syringe and tossed it aside.  It wouldn’t go to waste in that room.  Then we left for my other family’s house.

He and I, we spent the afternoon talking and cooking our favorite snack food.  That’s when he told me about his choice to leave on his terms.  He wasn’t as strong as me, strong enough to live without the haze of drugs to take the edge off of his memories.  But he didn’t want me to be stuck in our shady life or to see him spiral down into addiction.  He wanted me to fulfill our dreams and keep my promises to live every moment with joy.

My soul mate wanted  to leave in a dream where all of our wishes and ideals came true.  I chose to support his choice.  After all of his struggles, he deserved peace.  The only promise I asked of him was that he wait until after college graduation to leave.  We graduated college in 2004.  He overdosed and died a year later.

I never saw him again after that spring break sophomore year in college.  But I knew he kept tabs on me.  And after my failed suicide attempt in 2004, he sent me a message reminding me of my promise to get help if I survived.  I got help.  Graduated.  Started seeing a mental health professional and putting my life back together.

So you see, I can’t condemn suicide or people who want to commit suicide.  In my mind, in my world, suicide is a legitimate choice – a fail safe option when nothing else feels right or good or safe – for people who’ve tried everything and anything and lost hope.

But I can’t support suicide – not the way it’s discussed these days – either.  My soul mate lost hope.  He didn’t want to drag me or the others in our circle down either when we still had chances to change.  He made his choice after hours of talking (not just that day) with me and our circle, months/years of rehab and counseling, and working out issues with his family.

I couldn’t go through with any of my suicide attempts, but I never stopped looking at suicide as a fail-safe option until about 5 years ago when I decided to change my name and implement hazy plans to move across the country based on a recurring dream I couldn’t quite recall.

More than 10 years later, in the first two weeks of September when school starts and training started, I finally remember my soul mate and our friendship.  So I guess the last two weeks of sleep deprivation, flashbacks, panic attacks, and pain were worth it.  This story (with some details omitted), came to me between Friday and this morning.

We met 33 years ago and became secret best friends for over 20 years.  I like to believe and have complete faith that my soul mate moved on to a better place where he can work on his plans for the next life.

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.

Quotes & Affirmations: Love as currency or something else?

The Quote

“Love you can spend like currency isn’t really love.”

From The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

So what is love?

Not just romantic love, but LOVE in all of its forms.

I don’t know how to describe the feeling.  But I do know that real love is:

  • Unconditional
  • Universal
  • Freely given
  • Freely received

Anything else is a parody, or worse a lie.

Why share the quote?

It’s a good reminder (for me at least) that love and approval are different.

Love can exist without respect and trust, but not without acceptance or compassion.

Yesterday this quote helped me maintain perspective when flashbacks of my family and former friends hit hard.  Maybe it will help you too.

Thanks for reading.

Series: 2017 Reflections Part 2

Facing Past Fears

This year, I spent 3 months living in emotionally and verbally abusive situation beyond my control.  3 months because that’s how long it took to acknowledge the truth of my situation, go through the proper steps, and find the courage to get out of the situation using legal and banking resources.  The two individuals involved in this situation acted and treated me like the female figures in my past – maternal, care-taking, educational, authoritative, peers, and bullies.

Before this, in spite of all the work I’ve done to heal and trust outsiders, I’ve never really shaken the belief that I don’t deserve help from legal services, government, financial services, etc. or that asking for such help is a viable option.

The deal is done.  I spoke with the attorney.  He listened to my story; reviewed the documentation, and agreed to help me.  Within 1 day, the letter was written, lease broken, and freedom on the horizon.  The financial situation is not asa good as I want, but a bank loan will help with that.  Fingers crossed that the loan goes through in time, so I can make the necessary payments.

2018 Resolutions & Goals

This year’s resolution is simple.  It’s five words:

Gratitude

Compassion

Acceptance

Love

Forgiveness

What this means…

Live, laugh, prosper in safety and good health.
Not just for me, but for my loved ones, my enemies, and others in this world.

Be vulnerable and my authentic self as often as possible
No matter how much it hurts.  No matter what challenges I face.  Because in finding and expressing my authentic self at all times, all parts of me integrate and work together as on whole person no matter the stress or triggers or whatever that comes my way.

Work towards improving my physical health
untangle the connection that confuse pain with any other sensation I feel when moving or active.  Then maybe start biking and feel more physically confident to travel and do things.  Accept and view my body in a positive way instead of a neutral way.  To not automatically connect my physical body and appearance with my past and instead connect it with my present.

Feel more comfortable with being an adult female and accepting aspects of my personality related to the trauma aka sexuality
I’ve abstained from sexual contact for almost 18 years and have no desire to try it again any time soon.  But I’d like to be able to acknowledge and accept my sexuality without being triggered or automatically connecting sexuality to abuse.  I’d like to feel comfortable in my own body/skin, accept my appearance in a way that is body positive instead of body neutral.

What are your resolutions and goals for 2018?

Thanks for reading

Resources: Aromatherapy & essential oils

Full disclosure: The individual mentioned in this post is a friend of mine.  While I try to stay unbiased in all of my reviews, this one might not be as objective.

Background

I have been interested in essential oils and aromatherapy since 2007/2008 when some serious skin conditions convinced me to switch from conventional cleaning products to green cleaning products.  From conventional body care to plant and essential oil based products.  I read some books, did internet and database research, and listened to interviews about the wonders of “natural” products.

Some of the interviews mentioned local practitioners knowledgeable in aromatherapy.  The practitioners shared information about essential oils, but did not put much value in aromatherapy.  Then authors started publishing recipes for home made cleaners and diffusers using essential oils.

So I experimented with these recipes and stopped investigating aromatherapy for other purposes.  But I kept my ears open for more information and educational opportunities.

Why?

I was still interested, but did not have the time or opportunity to explore at the time.

Fast Forward 10 years

Quite a few different practitioners mentioned aromatherapy to me once they discovered my sensitivity to chemicals and petroleum based products.  Then a friend of mine (Corey H.) mentioned she was finishing her certification to become an aromatherapist and was looking for case study volunteers.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to try using essential oils and aromatherapy with minimal risk.

She sent me some intake questionnaires and instructions for sending the information back.  We corresponded a few times for clarification and decision making about what symptoms to address.  Then she sent me a special blend of massage oil for topical pain/anxiety/PTSD symptom management.  That was in October.

The massage oil arrived around the time my body hurt a lot and I got sick with a cold.  I used it on my head and neck at first.  Then tried it on my arms and shoulders.  My back, hips, thighs, and knees were next.  The ideal time for me was after a shower or just before bed unless there was acute pain during the work day.

The scent helped me stay grounded when I felt myself slipping into dissociation.  The oil itself helped my muscles relax and activate again.  It was scary at first because I didn’t recognize the sensations in those parts of my body; they had been numb for a long time.  But then I noticed my feet changing position and my balance improving.  My knees hurt less, and my inner thigh muscles started flexing and relaxing – something that hasn’t happened in over 15 years.  When I used it on my abdominal area, my digestion and breathing improved.  And some of the bloating/swelling from muscle pain and body memories went away.

As  this trend continued, I started to use the massage oil less.  Not because it was less effective, but because I started to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the new sensations in my body and needed a break.  The positive changes have continued and still help me move better, experience less pain, and manage the body memories better.

Another Case Study

As part of her final coursework, Corey is doing a case study about how aromatherapy helps survivors of trauma and is looking for more volunteers.  If you are interested in learning more about how aromatherapy can help with trauma or mental health, check out Corey’s website: www.coreyhalls.myoilsite.com .  She has information about her practice goals and current case study.  Or contact her through this email address: Corey.halls@gmail.com

But please, only contact her if you are seriously interested in aromatherapy or in participating in her case study.

Final Words

Even if Corey wasn’t my friend, I’d still recommend her as an aromatherapist and aromatherapy as a coping technique for mental health symptoms.  She has been professional, compassionate, respectful, thoughtful, and supportive throughout the entire process.

So if you are interested, here is Corey’s information again:

Thanks for reading