Coping Challenges: When will I stop punishing myself?

*CAVEAT: This post is based on my personal experience and reflects my opinions, thoughts, and feelings about the topic discussed below. No one else’s opinion or information is shared here.*

I didn’t have time to read and respond to comments this weekend. Life got busy. And I feel uncomfortable responding to comments when my mind is such a mess.

Also, no photo for this week’s post. That kind of creativity is a trigger for anger – like journaling, coloring, and drawing – when I already feel overwhelmed with past stuff coming up and interfering with life.

*Yes I will write more on this topic again*

Back to the question

I’ve written about self-harm and self-punishment in the past. It’s an on-going theme in the story of my recovery and self-healing and one of the biggest obstacles I face now. The more joy I feel, the more intense the backlash becomes. As the backlash moves out of my mind and into my body, I feel helpless and less able to cope than normal.

Hence my body shutting down so often.

It hit home hard this week as I struggled with positive successes and backlash that put me to sleep/meditation for a couple days this week. Luckily, my day job was not so busy with billable work; writing projects require thinking and processing time – not something I need to be in front of a computer to do.

While my body and parts of my mind worked on processing triggers and flashbacks, the rest of my mind mapped out new sections for a first draft.

Friday felt better, but not great. Picked up billable work at my day job, so busy until late in the day. A schedule change for me. Flexible hours changed my personal plans and triggered circular thinking about self care, deadlines, and sacrifice.

Because changing my plans felt like sacrificing my personal time and projects for a job I like, but don’t love or want to take over all my time. That feeling triggered flashbacks to anorexia, being an empath who is also a walking lie detector, food fears, etc.

Explain about the lie detector please?

If you have met me or know me and wonder why I know things about you that you never talked about or can catch you in a lie, that’s why. I don’t purposely look into people’s minds or feelings. I don’t purposely absorb other people’s energy/feelings/thoughts. All that comes to me of its own free will as people and other living beings unconsciously project outwards.

To me, energy and emotions are a sensory experience. I feel them as sensations in my body or vibrations against my skin; I hear them as sound vibrations moving through me; I smell them and taste them in the air sometimes; and I see them in rainbow colors when I close my eyes.

Overwhelming, yes. Uncomfortable, yes. Combined with hyper-vigilance and other increased anxiety or symptoms…well what do you think about the phrase “HOT MESS”?

Reinventing the Wheel…Or Not

Instead of re-writing thoughts about punishment and self-harm, here is a short list of past posts.

Read or not.

If you want the full list, please use the search bar called “look around” to the right.

Short Reference List

Often, I prefer to give you the choice to learn more through the search bar instead of putting links here. It’s counter-intutiive to promoting my site and building a larger readership, but feels right to my authentic self.

Allowing my guests to choose when and how they learn more here means more  to me than getting more followers, etc.

This is one time when I feel comfortable sharing some links to past posts here.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Strategy: Self-Aware = Self Empowered

Coping Strategy: Recognize, Identify, Separate my (feelings, beliefs...) from others' (feelings, beliefs)...

Self Aware = Self Empowered

Today’s Photo

This week I’ve experienced symptoms that have not occurred in 3-5 years, maybe longer.

It felt scary on many levels because I couldn’t remember what strategies and techniques I used to cope with these symptoms in the past. Plus my current tools did not help or offer much relief.

Or…the coping strategies and techniques I did remember are not ones I wanted to use in the present.

This mean many phone calls to the BARCC hotline – one of my bridge strategies – and conversations with volunteers who talk me through my mental blocks  to remember/discover/find other strategies and techniques hidden in the maze that is  my mind.

One recurring theme came up in each of the many (7?) conversations this past week: being self-aware helps me get perspective and understand when I need to reach out for help.

aka empowers me to recognize I have a problem or am struggling and ask for outside help to get through the moment

Self Awareness – like compassion, empathy, perspective, resilience, and other topics I’ve written about in the past – whether directed at the self or others is difficult to learn and apply to one’s own life.

After 15 years in counseling and therapy…that is 15 years into my recovery and healing journey…I still struggle to learn the lessons and apply them in all aspects of my life. I probably will struggle with  this strategy or concept for the rest of my life because I am human and not perfect.

And like those other topics I mentioned above, Self Awareness is an herb that adds spice to the recipe of my life. Sometimes sweet, sometimes bitter, yet always beneficial when looking back on my life experiences.

But, like I said at the beginning, this is not easy to learn and apply to life…especially for people with a trauma history.

*If you decide to try incorporating Self-Awareness into your life, please be careful and make sure you have safety plans, coping strategies in your tool box, safety nets and a support network in place for when the triggers and symptoms visit*

because the triggers and symptoms will visit

May Anniversaries

Today is Mother’s Day. This past week and into next week, my family is celebrating about 5 birthdays…maybe more or less?

For the first time in many years, I sent out Mother’s Day and birthday cards.

Why? When I might not get acknowledgement for sending them?

3 reasons:

  1. Intuition supported my feeling of wanting to acknowledge family special days to create positive memories that replace negative ones
  2. I send cards and gifts to people because I like giving gifts to people I care about – nothing is expected in return
  3. It’s part of this year’s gratitude practice to open myself up to giving, receiving, and letting go all that the universe has to offer (positive, neutral, and negative) with an open heart, mind, and spirit

To all fate mom’s who visit here:
I WISH YOU HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY FILLED WIH JOY AND LAUGHTER

 

sheep-family-in-winter-2-picjumbo-com
Family togetherness (sheep) from picjumbo.com

Thanks for reading

Life Quirks: Curiosity Inspires Self-Learning

Curiosity inspires thinking, learning, living outside the box
Stock photos courtesy of Victor at http://www.picjumbo.com

This week, all of us in the system have been reflecting on the word “Curiosity”.

It’s come up in a lot of conversations and flashbacks.

And it is the one-word answer to many of the recent guest comments or questions.

So what does this photo collage mean?

I am insatiably curious about everything even if that curiosity does not show in my facial expression or body language. Answers are useful, but not always good at satisfying my curiosity.

You know the expression “curiosity killed the cat”? This got me so scared I stopped letting my curiosity lead me on adventures for many years. I felt like the cat with a mark on her back. Soon as I let my curiosity out, I’d be “killed” in some way – i.e. brushed off, stopped, blocked – and unable to learn.

I prefer the expression “curiosity sparked my imagination” and “imagination flew me out of the box”. The final part? “Discovery led me to my joy”

Yup. That’s it. That is what the photo collage means –

 

be curious.

be inspired.

live, think, and learn as you discover different avenues to love, peace, and joy.

Curiosity and Writing

Curiosity keeps me at the blank screen or notebook, typing out words and writing down phrases or sketching doodles until my imagination takes over. The first draft never looks like the finished one. Out of 1000 words, I make keep 3 or 4 words/phrases and start again until it feels right. By the third draft, most of the content is there to be polished (aka editing and proofreading).

My routine is not consistent though. As much as I love structure, I also require flexibility in my routines. So I have time blocked off every week to write drafts and generate ideas for this blog and my aromatherapy work. Sometimes I write or type. Other times I sketch or listen so music while reading about related topics. When I can’t sleep, it’s often because different alters are busy writing drafts in my head.

That is true – for me not all of my writing is done in the physical world because not all of my alters can use our physical body for writing.

But…And this is a BIG BUT…I also write as part of my day job and send email or text to keep in touch with friends and family. That requires writing too.

No matter what anyone says, any and all writing you do counts as learning. The more you write, the more you improve. The more you read/watch/listen to learn about topics of interest, the more inspiration you have for writing.

If you are like me, then writing is a pleasure and a tool to help me share what I learn with others. If not, writing fulfills another purpose in your life. Whatever writing does for you, I hope it also brings you joy.

And why is the text not in a logical order?

Right…logical order. I am illogical at the best of times. Honest. If I ever had to share my learning process with you, I’d confuse even myself.

Way back in elementary school, I had trouble following instructions. Straight lines became slanted and wiggly even using rulers. I liked to do my class assignments and take tests backwards – I mean start at the end and work my way to the beginning of the test. Once in a while, I’d start with the questions in the middle instead. 

Why?

Back then, all I could tell my teachers is “this feels right to me” or “it just makes sense”.

Now, though, I can tell you  that starting in the middle or at  the end eased my fear and anxiety of the unknown. I could focus on finishing the assignment, quiz, or test on time because I knew how many questions there were and could estimate how long I needed to finish on time.

Plus, I was curious about all the other questions. It didn’t make sense (to me at least) to leave the questions I read unanswered and start from the beginning after I just spent time reading through it all. 

As I got older, frustration settled deep inside me. I asked questions and was told the standard answers. But the standard answers didn’t satisfy my curiosity. So I did what the teachers told me to do…think outside the box. The answers I came up with didn’t make sense or were not what they wanted to hear…so back inside the box I went. Again.

And again.

Until I was old enough to learn, explore, get answers and remember not to share them with anyone else…I mean who wants to constantly be made fun of, insulted, or told they are wrong because the answers contradict or open up avenues outside the standard and “correct” paths we’re taught to follow?

To Sum It Up

I’ve been getting a lot of questions and comments about where I get my information, how I learn all of this, if I have tips for aspiring or beginner writers, etc. or survivors starting their journeys.

And as much as I want to give you something concrete:

a) I hate giving advice and will not do so unless backed into a corner

b) All I can and will do is share stories about what inspires me or others I consider role models to keep moving forward to live and thrive on our own terms

Curiosity is what makes the wheels in my mind churn. It connects Spirit with Mind and Body in unexpected ways.

My counselors teach me how to help myself by sharing knowledge, tools, and resources. Then I follow up on my own through self-study or self-learning and hands-on experience (i.e. mistakes, experiences).

You don’t have to be book smart or street smart; a genius or savant; talented or special in any way to learn, explore or live like this.

You do have to be curious, inspired, willing to change, open to discovery, and able to cope with the challenges blocking your path outside the box.

No matter what you choose or how you go about it, please remember I am silently cheering you on wherever we are.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

DID Post: Sometimes it’s okay to be an uptight (insert word) clinging to structure

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Background

This week, especially, had all parts of me reflecting on the so-called rigidity and busyness of my life right now. Starting something new often brings up boatloads (and I mean cruise ship or air carrier sized) triggers and flashbacks. Enough that I used to get discouraged from trying something new or beginning a project outside of my comfort zone.

Uptight, Rigid, or Something Else?

Something I am often accused of (in my personal life more than professional these days) is being a rigid, uptight, type-A personality, stick-in-the-mud whose life is too regimented to ever be fun. 

My face often lacks the appropriate facial expressions to show others I am enjoying myself, etc. Body language is the same way.

What these people don’t (or maybe can’t/refuse to) understand is that I relax when I feel safe and comfortable. 

The less safe or comfortable I feel, the more tense and rigid my exterior self appears to people.

Structure, DID, and Meeting Basic Needs (aka functioning)

During the years when I would lose time or forget as part of my traumatic amnesia, an ingrained routine was all that kept me functioning moment to moment and day to day.

I might not wake up knowing where I was. Lunch time could turn into an adventure that left me on the other side of town in an unknown to me neighborhood and no public transportation. After work, I might get on the same commuter train as always (time and berth are correct) and end up in another city all together. Mirrors used to piss me off because I never recognized the face or body reflected back at me.

And those are some of the big items that get attention. Smaller stuff like walking into walls and furniture, forgetting a process for work, not being able to learn a dance routine or martial arts technique, were less obvious items affected by DID and traumatic amnesia while also more embarrassing. Adults often chastised me for being inattentive, forgetful, etc. because I was so “book smart” and yet so uncoordinated within my body. Peers used that as yet another excuse to bully and make fun of me when I lived as a “normal” little girl in public school or among blood family.

But that same structure allowed me to live both lives without mixing them up often. Punishment for mixing up my two lives included a lot of pain and sensory overload. When those triggers visit, all I remember is unbearable noise followed by feeling sensations of extreme pain throughout my head and body.

And so, even when I lose a weekend or wake up not remembering what happened for weeks at a time, the structured survival routine embedded in my muscle memory ensures that I and my alter personalities remember to meet our basic needs until awareness and memory comes back. Even for small things like:

  • staring at a computer at work, getting triggered into a dissociative or alter personality switch for seconds or minutes, and coming back not remembering what happened in all that time. But the screen looks different and a quality check of my work shows errors I wouldn’t normally make…

And as I experience the pain again, I think to myself “well yes it hurts, but I’m still here. Alive, present, happy, busy doing what I enjoy.”

Conclusion

My life is not “typical” in any way, but it works for me. I get 99% of my work and personal stuff accomplished from within the relative safety of my apartment. Work is balanced with “fun-to-me” activities and hobbies. Communication with the outside world is often limited to email and phone or video chat, but that feels safe and comfortable.

I don’t feel busy, but people who hear about what’s going on right now often tell me I am exactly that. But maybe it doesn’t feel busy or negatively stressful because I chose each activity and feel joy working on each task?

And these activities are not substitutes for a “more active social life” either. They are how I like to fill my time and enjoy life. Socializing, for me, is a big trigger. When I need person-to-person contact, I check mail at the UPS store, go for a walk outside, get on public transit, or visit a store full of people. Maybe a restaurant or a park instead.

You might be wondering about these “activities”, so here is a short list not in any specific order:

  • my day job with opportunities to learn new skills and utilize my existing ones in creative ways (aka job 1)
  • aromatherapy, herbalism, incense, etc. certification or continuing education classes to develop a new business venture (aka job 2)
  • this website and blog (aka job 3)
  • my plants – talking to them, dancing with them, learning to enjoy having roommates again
  • cooking – my memories are finally coming back so I feel more comfortable and confident here
  • reading books, listening to music, or watching a funny movie
  • bath time – never again will I compromise on renting an apartment without a bath tub. A good soak with epsom salt or essential oil based soap works wonders for self care and relaxing

So my questions to you are:

  • how does structure (or lack of it) impact your life?
  • what activities, work, or hobbies bring you joy and fulfillment?
  • if you had a choice, would you include more joyful activities even though they will or could cause pain from triggers and flashbacks?

Thanks for reading

Resources: Aromatherapy for Anxiety Class

Aromahead Institute. www.aromahead.com
borrowed from the Aromahead Institute’s home page on 24March2019

Disclosure 1: I am a happy, engaged, biased student at the Aromahead Institute and have completed 5 different aromatherapy courses there so far. 

Disclosure 2: I am not getting paid to share this information or promote the class described below.

Background

As you’ve read in past posts, I am taking classes to become a certified aromatherapist. All of my classes are online at the Aromahead Institute School of Essential Oil Studies. Essential oils and aromatherapy has helped me a lot with my anxiety and related pain management issues, so I wanted to share this learning opportunity with you too.

Webinar Class Details

Andrea Butje is the head instructor and will be teaching a live webinar about how certain essential oils are scientifically proven to help reduce anxiety and stress on March 28, 2019 for $30.

The webinar is on Thursday, March 28th at 1 PM Eastern USA, and is $30.

On the webinar, I’ll teach you about three essential oil components that have been researched and proven to calm the nervous system.

I’ll also teach you about three essential oils that contain these components.

And three recipes for using these essential oils to keep your heart, mind, and nervous system calm.

That’s 3 components, 3 essential oils, and 3 recipes.

These recipes are simple to make, and convenient to use throughout your day.

I will also include some bonus lessons for you—a FOURTH essential oil that can inspire real peace in your heart, and an easy method for making your own vanilla-infused jojoba.

~from the March 20, 2019 email newsletter by Andrea Butje

Andrea gave me permission to share  this newsletter information and link with you. If you are interested in learning more about aromatherapy and can’t afford this class, you can always try the free class here instead. This class served as my introduction and convinced me to continue learning through the school.

Unfortunately for me, I won’t be able to attend this seminar. Life is too busy with work, recovery, and case studies for my certification class right now. But I intend to take this webinar class  the next time it’s offered.

Happy blending and hope you get some relief if you take the class.

Thanks for  reading.