Shame: When You/I/We always fear “when will the other shoe drop?”

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

The one constant in life is change. Some of us flow with change. Maybe work with change. Or embrace change.

Others fear change. Reject or ignore or resist change. Maybe fight change.

Still more people try to control change. Or influence and manipulate it for their benefit.

No matter what though, change happens.

And how you or I or we or he or she or it copes with the change – the choices we all make – decides whether or not the change helps us or hurts us.

For most of my life, anything good always precedes something bad. Positive paves the way for something negative to happen to me, around me, through me as an instrument to hurt others. And so I spent most of my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. Always fearing positive successful situations and experiences because they never lasted or were remembered. The achievements were overshadowed by my mistakes and failures – all gleefully pointed out in the most shaming and humiliating ways in public and in private.

Not until I went to college did I realize the truth: good things were NOT always followed by something negative.

It was a lesson I learned and believed in for others, but not myself. In my mind and the mind of relatives, friends, etc. nothing good would ever happen to me because I didn’t deserve it. But I was intrigued by the concept that people did not have to live in fear of something bad happening all the time. Curious too. And so I observed these people who always seemed positive that good things will happen, do happen, in spite of their negative experiences.

Therapy and counseling in college was my first taste of supportive people. They saw something in me and encouraged me to continue making appointments no matter how much I resisted. And I did resist. Until something happened in my senior year that made me choose to get help.

I don’t remember much about what was discussed in those sessions. Not even sure I remember going to all of them. But some part of me went. And other parts of me chatted with different college counselors in the mental health department of the student center. It’s when I realized that most people around me were interested in being around me because they pitied and/or felt superior to me. These people could say “Oh I am so glad not to be her. I am much better than she is” and get a confidence boost without having to confront their own insecurities.

That pattern continued for a while even after college. sometime in my mid-twenties, that changed because I changed on the inside. And the people who used to invite me to go places stopped. Instead, they were more open in their rudeness and gossip and insults. They made others who I was genuinely friendly with choose between me and them.

I made the choice easy by walking away from it all. Depression is never fun. but coming out of a depressive mode tends to put a lot in perspective. Especially when you have a supportive counselor on your side willing to challenge your perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors through careful, thoughtful, and respectful conflict (i.e. conversations and questions).

Many people don’t like conflict. Believe it’s negative “a dirty word” and problematic. But conflict is like change. Neutral until applied a certain way based on choices. Then conflict becomes positive or negative; good or bad or evil; constructive or destructive. You get the idea.

Personally, I’ve alternately avoided and run face first into conflict. It’s not in my nature to stand passively and let life happen around me. But I’ve learned to be sneaky about how and when I challenge people, organizations, systems, groups, etc. Not subtle or discreet or controlling or manipulative. Sneaky.

The only times I avoided conflict were when my anxiety and triggers got in the way. Then fear took over, survival instincts kicked in, and I walked away to stay safe. From the outside looking in, many people took that survival mode skill as being passive and easy to manipulate; afraid and lacking courage; and unable to handle conflict or stand up for herself.

I used to believe that too until my parts (alter personalities) shared the truth with me. They shared memories and emotions and experiences from their perspective. Because of that and their commitment to not ever go to jail, we avoided a lot of fistfights and verbal augments that could have turned violent and/or lost me my job in many situations.

Still, there is always a price for winning a challenge, being successful, or achieving a goal. Some people will call that price a REWARD. Others will call it PUNISHMENT. Me/We personally call it “Consequences of Choice” – neutral until someone puts a subjective value on the results.

To me, the consequences of my choices – be they winning, losing, or something else – are “the other shoe falling”. Many parts of me still struggle with the idea that these consequences can be positive and useful, even supportive and constructive in some ways, instead of dangerous, evil, negative, etc.

And so, every time any part of me embarks on something new, then completes the challenge or makes the choice or finishes the project, we all wait together for the other shoe to drop. Anxiety and fear turn our mind to mush, and time becomes fluid. Sometimes I/we can get ourselves out of that space without help. More often, though, one or some or all of us require outside assistance to move back into the timeline.

Not the present or the past or the future per se. Because all of us are grounded and aware of being present in the “now”. But mindfulness works best when time follow a clock and moves in one direction – forward. When time becomes fluid, it moves any direct it feels like. And so while most or all of us alters are in the present moment, we feel like we are also in the past and the future and some other place at the same time.

That’s how I lose time and memories.

Maybe you’ve experienced that too. Maybe not. There are ways to cope with that – Mindfulness being one of the best options – but many of the most effective coping strategies and techniques are best learned under the supervision of a trained professional who can help you cope with unexpected memories or feelings that may appear as you practice.

I tried learning some without supervision and ended up down the hole again in relapse mode for a while. The lapses were less troublesome and harmful when I worked on the techniques and strategies with supervision – the people I trusted were my safety net so to speak and helped me cope with the aftermath of learning, failure, mistakes, trying again, and (eventually) success.

So what are those other strategies and techniques you ask?

  • Grounding Techniques
    • Sensory
    • Intellectual/cognitive
    • Perception challenges
    • Remembering facts (birth date, day of the week, time of day, etc.)
    • Mindfulness & Deep Breathing
  • Meditation
    • Visualization
    • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    • Body/Spirit/Energy awareness
    • Reflection
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Spiritual Practice and Rituals
  • Group Therapy – many varieties
  • Support Groups & sponsors
  • EMDR
  • Action Commitment Therapy
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Self Care
  • Self Soothing

I’ve discussed many (or all?) of these in different posts on the blog – so many that I can’t actually share links here. For more info, please use the search tool and category menus to find other posts.

So what do I do now when I feel like the other shoe is dropping? Depends because every situation is different. Last night I used grounding strategies, a diffuser, and a call to the hotline. This morning I used meditation and body awareness breathing techniques while in bed and a diffuser while writing this post.

How you help yourself and cope with the fear is your choice. I can’t and won’t (don’t want to) tell you what to do or promise something will work.

The choice is yours, and I/we are here to support you and your choices.

Thanks for reading.

Be Well Message

Dear Guests,

I hope you all are doing well and staying safe with the coronavirus scare. In times like this, it’s not easy to stay healthy, be positive, and find moments of laughter or joy to balance the fear, frustration, or other negative sensations that may rise.

For people who enjoy being active outside and/or interacting with others face-to-face, this is an especially challenging time. Being confined alone or with others for extended periods of time can bring out the best and the worst in relationships or highlight things we’ve all tried to ignore or deny about ourselves and each other. Tempers get roused easily. People react and act to stuff they normally wouldn’t. Maybe out of fear. Maybe out of frustration. Maybe the stressful times are their version of an excuse for behaving in such ways?

Please remember that we still have choices.

We can choose react from a position of fear-based choices.

We can to argue and fight and lose our tempers. Be angry at the world and socialize and continue with our routines like nothing is going on (denial). We can ignore government mandates and health authority warnings. We can let prejudice rule our opinions and influence our interactions with others. We can choose to feel and express anger in ways that hurt ourselves and the people around us.

Or we can choose to to react from a position of love-based choices.

We can use effective communication and compromise strategies. Use Active Listening skills to to ourselves and each other. Check in from a position of love and acceptance. Be kind to ourselves and each other no matter how scared or stressed out we feel. And most important, express our fear, anger, shame, or other negative emotions in healthy ways that support us and the others around us instead of hurting ourselves and those other people.

Sometimes we might not have choices in how we act or react. Instinct and learned behavior (i.e. survival skills) override everything else when we feel overwhelmed or pushed too far.

In situations like that, when “the damage is done” we till have choices to make. We can pretend nothing happened. We can continue to escalate the negativity and cause more damage to an existing relationship until nothing is left. We can acknowledge the situation and try to make reparation and/or amends or listen with compassion to the other party and work out a solution. We can acknowledge our part in what happened, reflect on the situation, and work out ways to prepare for future ones. Maybe preventative actions or a coping strategy?

But no matter what, we humans are a resilient species. And we can survive this. We will survive and learn to thrive in the changed and changing world.

I believe in you. Please believe in yourselves too. 

Sincerely,

AlterXpressions

Sensory Movement Challenge Day 7: Dance Like No One's Watching; Sing Like No One's Listening; Laugh Like You Mean It; Stay Safe Wherever You Are

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

This is the last day of the challenge. Tomorrow, I will be on Facebook live at 1PM pacific time as promised to do a sensory movement/healing meditation. You can also ask me questions if you feel like dropping in.

Dance like no one is watching

I’ve been dancing just for fun. In my chair. In the living room. Around the kitchen and hall. Unfortunately, my bedroom doesn’t have enough space for dancing; tried it and have the bruises too. But the best times are when I dance in the living room/garden area with my plants.

Yea, I’m not graceful anymore. And I’m definitely not coordinated. At home wearing leggings, a plaid shirt, and a vest, barefoot on the carpet with the blinds up – not the most interesting picture for anyone outside to want to watch. And for anyone looking in? They can always look away.

But they will not take away the fun of dancing. Not this time.

And as I danced, I listened to the music, felt the carpet move under my feet and the air swirl around me, smelled the mint and other herbs, and watched the leaves and stems perk up as the music changed. We all laughed for the sheer joy of dancing together.

Sing Like No One’s Listening

Once in a while, especially when listening to my favorite songs, I sing out loud. My voice isn’t terrible or great. It’s not loud. And I’ve gotten lots of grief over singing in public (by accident) or at home, etc. in the past. So I didn’t sing often.

But I learned to enjoy singing just because I feel like it. And not always songs. Sometimes I sing nonsense words and sounds just because I like the way they rhyme or make rhythm in my head and want to hear it out loud.

Another reason to sing out loud like no one’s listening? It annoys and confuses the crap out of people who might be watching or casing you when you are walking home alone at night. Especially if you walk confident, don’t wear headphones or earbuds, and pay attention to your surroundings when you walk.

I used to do that often when I walked home from the train station. It was one mile through down town and the police station and often quiet. Less often in the daylight because I didn’t want to risk running into someone by accident. Though most people in the neighborhood knew my route and left me alone.

When and where would you sing like no one is listening?

Laugh Like You Mean It

Laughter is not always polite or quiet or (insert word here). Sometimes it’s honest, loud, scratchy, giggly, high- or low-pitched, quiet, annoying, cheerful, sad, fake, authentic, infectious, and accompanied with tears or physical movement.

How do you laugh when no one is listening? Have you ever considered it might be different?

Mine is loud. Giggly sometimes. High-pitched other times. If my alters are laughing, low-pitched and deep. Manic when laced with anxiety. Gross when mixed with sneezes. (and for the record, I’m laughing and sneezing as I write this). I haven’t had to fake laughter in a while, so I can’t remember if it sounds different or not.

But laughter is “the best medicine” and movement. Think about it – chest, lungs, shoulders, breathing, mouth opening and closing, smiles, eyes crinkling, maybe bent forward? – and consider how your body moves, what you feel, smell, see/or not, taste (tears for me sometimes), as you laugh. When I laugh in the rain, I taste and smell rain drops. Same with snow.

So maybe that explains why laughter can be so healing when inspired by joy or peace or humor?

Stay Safe Wherever You Are

Here’s the thing. Times like this make life difficult for everyone. Fear can bring out the best or the worst in people.

Compassion, love, and hope.

Prejudice, racism, and reckless bravado.

And more that I can’t name, did not think of in the moment, or never experienced.

But the COVID-19 threat is real. And people are scared. Some people go to extremes. Others rebel believing it won’t happen to them.

I’ve experienced the prejudice of people giving me dirty looks and moving away from me because I am Asian and walking around without a face mask or gloves. This happened at pubic transit platforms, in restaurants, and walking in my building.

I experienced the same kind of fear and prejudice yesterday afternoon when I left my apartment wearing gloves because I wanted to take out trash and recycling before going down to the lobby to get mail and packages. A group of 20-somethings and a few others were walking in as I picked up my mail and saw the gloves on my hands. What happened next was awkward with the group of people in a huddle trying to avoid me and not look while talking to the two people who came in alone.

Unfortunately we all wanted to go to the same place – elevator banks (them) and package pickup lockers (me) across from the elevators. Being me, I stared them down; then walked away and stayed around the corner until they went up the elevator. The other two people were not as rude, but they were uncomfortable. So I stayed out of the way until only one person was left.

Too bad it was another young person, and he was standing in the way of the keypad. We had some awkward exchanges as he pretended to type or read on his phone while also keeping an eye on me.

What was I doing? Making a show of taking off my gloves and using the exterior to key in the passcode. Then open the door and grab my package. He scooted around trying to stay away from me, but still within sight of the elevators until I spoke to him. Told him he was fine, and I’m just being careful – not sick.

Then I grabbed my package and used the stairs to get to my apartment.

Normally, I don’t go out during busy times of the day. Between being an empath and already struggling with triggers, going during the quiet hours makes more sense and causes less trouble all around. But I decided to listen to my intuition and Spirit’s (yes I use that personally even though I try to be more politically correct here) messages from the healing circle and went during a busy time.

The purpose? To show some of these people that the threat is real, and they may want to be more cautious. Or to be blunt – try to scare some sense into them by seeing an asian person in their building wearing gloves to get mail. Bonus that the girl who walked in with a group of people knew of me from somewhere and was already scared of me. No, I don’t remember the details. Yes, she and her friends have made my life uneasy a few times since I moved in here. That’s why I did what I did. No conversations. NO interaction. They saw me. I saw them. They watched me. I ignored them.

The point being: be careful. Take this seriously. Old people and people with existing conditions are not the only ones at risk. And even if you don’t get sick, you may be a carrier and spreading the virus without even realizing it.

So, as hard as it is, please be careful. Not everyone can or will stay inside. Not everyone has to stay inside.

But if you go out, please use logic and intuition + common sense and take precautions. Maybe you are not at risk, but what about your family or loved ones?

And if you stay home, remember to be cautious there too. The virus can travel in many ways. There are constant updates that provide tips and resources to stay safe wherever you are.

I’m lucky in that my family sends me emails and texts with the latest updates. Same with my friends and loved ones.

Remember to that there are many ways to socialize and connect with people even if we can’t physically be near each other. Technology and I have a love/hate relationship, but I feel grateful it exists to help people at times like this.

Finally:

It’s okay to feel a variety of emotions at the same time. It’s okay to express these emotions and react to what’s happening now. We get to choose how to act and react, how to respond to this new world. I choose, unconditional love, resilience, acceptance, compassion, and kindness. What do you choose?

Thanks for reading.

Sensory Movement Challenge Day 2 – Social Distancing, work, and stairs — Scent Reflections LLC

Social Distancing, COVID-19 – Why do a challenge at all with all the stress? I get it. Everyone is worried about staying healthy and staying inside. Probably not the best time to do a challenge or invite others to join in. That’s okay. You do what’s best for you always. And if you have time to visit here, please do. For me, though, this challenge is my way of distracting myself, staying busy, and working on my business within my comfort zone. That’s the why. As for social distancing – very difficult for me since I spend most time at home and away from direct contact with people. The most contact I get is from grocery and package deliveries unless I deliberately seek people out. But it’s harder for more social people who are used to lots of interaction. I can empathize and offer acceptance even if I can’t relate.

Sensory Movement Challenge Day 2 – Social Distancing, work, and stairs — Scent Reflections LLC