Life Quirks: Coping Challenges, Confusion, and Check-ins

*Trigger Warning – all opinions and information shared here are mine and mine alone; will be discussing certain topics in detail…read at your pace*

*Caveat 1 – This is a journal-entry style post so it looks like a first draft with errors, etc. *

*Caveat 2 – Feeling triggered so no photos or affirmations*

Coping Challenges – Self Harm.

Last week, I posted about self-harm and how it happens less often, but is still prominent in my life in spite of 15 years in recovery. Then I shared links related to past posts about this topic. It seemed like a better option and re-inventing the wheel with background, followed by (maybe) repeating myself again.

What is new or changed enough to make me re-visit this challenge?

For every positive feeling, success, or accomplishment in my life, I experience backlash.
Backlash is the need to punish oneself for positive feelings, thoughts, or actions because the individual feels undeserving of joy in her or his life. For me, the backlash is always triggered by feelings and thoughts of shame – shame reminds me how undeserving and unworthy I am to be alive, let alone thriving and happy – underscored by past lessons learned at the hands of my abusers.

Now, in the present time, I find myself experiencing triggers and flashbacks from 20 and 30 years ago. Sensations in my body connect to emotions I can’t identify, but scare me because I have not experienced them without dissociation or worse before. My existing coping strategies take the edge off the worst impulses, but the thoughts and memories about how self-harm works really well to make those sensations go away are insidious. They quietly burrow into my mind, from subconscious to conscious, as intrusive thoughts I can’t hear until after I’ve said or done something out of character with who I am now.

That is what I realized two weeks ago. And why I wrote the post last week. The percent of success-to-backlash is till high (80-90% success to 20-10% backlash for each experience). But ideas and thoughts about self-harm coping strategies occupy a lot of that 10-20%.

Our current goal: figure out strategies that discourage self-harm and can be substituted for self-harm behaviors that will work in the present.

Coping Challenges – My Gifts (empath)

Last week, I wrote more about my gifts. I even gave myself a label “empath” and described what energy and emotions (others and mine) feel like to me. For about 15 years, I hid, rejected, and denied my empathic abilities. And maybe I would have continued to do that if something inside me hadn’t broken in my late 20s. That break allowed me to start experiencing my own feelings/emotions/energy, not just other peoples’ feelings, etc. in my physical body and emotional mind. Spirituality wasn’t a big part of my life back then, so no mention here.

Why is this a coping challenge then?

First, I don’t know anything about being an empath and am still looking for mentors and reliable resources to teach me about the unique combination of gifts that make me an empath.

Second, many of the current flashbacks and triggers I am experiencing (yes the ones related to self-harm) have to to with my empathic gifts and how they were used by my owner and other abusers to hurt other people. Maybe, if I can learn more about my gifts and how to embrace them, the triggers and anxiety-related symptoms will ease up enough for me to take a breath…or two…without fear.

Finally, there is a connection between my body memories and empathic gifts. As acupuncture and TCM help reduce and relieve the pain, my body memories become regular memories connected to my mind and emotions. The charge of pain/fear/guilt/shame/responsibility goes away, and it shows. The strange puffiness around the back of my head and ears, the “fat” around my back and abdomen, the rashes on my skin are all going away as the body memories leave.

Confusion

As with most types of self-learning or self-study, I feel confused right now. My mind is full of facts, opinions, and information from books and sessions with medical professionals, audio webinars about highly sensitive people/intutives/empaths, and videos about shame (Brene Brown on Netflix). Nothing makes sense or seems to relate to one another.

And yet I can’t stop learning more, asking questions, and trying to connect the dots between the (maybe) random sources.

The worst part? Confusion turns the rest of my mind into a maze. I get stuck in the maze and cannot find my way to my goal: the tool box(es) full of coping techniques and strategies we (all 88 alters) have put together for situations like this.

Lucky for me, my alters also created emergency kits and scattered them throughout the maze. Each emergency kit has 3-5 coping strategies and techniques designed to help me (or us) out of the maze.

Check-Ins

The main coping strategy in my emergency kit.

I find that talking to someone who understands my situation (in relative terms) and works with me in a compassionate and accepting way to work through the confusion in my mind helps a lot.

First choice is always my mental health counselor. But that individual is not always available. Nor do I want to rely only on a counselor. That is not healthy for either of us.

Second choice is a crisis hotline or text line. There are many options out there with volunteers dedicated to helping people in crisis. I’ve tried a few different hotlines and always come back to BARCC’s 24 hour rape crisis hotline. I’ve been using BARCC’s services on an off for more than 15 years and always have good experiences with them.

Third choice is to talk to myself out loud or try to journal about what is creating the maze. This has a 50/50 chance of working. The other 50% of the time? I get triggered into angry feelings and thoughts.

Last resort choice is to talk to a friend or family member or loved one. Why last resort? This often has an 80% failure rate for me. I end up comforting and soothing and helping the person I’m talking to cope with what I shared. Or I get angry, frustrated, and upset because the person I’m talking to is not able or prepared to help me in this situation.

No blame or shame on them or me. Many people try to solve my problem for me or tell me to stop thinking about it or think positive thoughts to make the situation go away. Because it’s over and in the past right? Or (worse) these people deny my feelings, get triggered on their own, and try to blame/shame/guilt me into recanting my story – aka say I lied.

But when it works that 20% of the time, boy does it work well. The individual and I deepen our positive relationship by being authentic, respectful, supportive, and caring with each other and ourselves. The call ends with both of us feeling better.

Thanks for reading.

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.

Survival Mode: When everything just feels wrong

Yesterday was the first day all week that I left my apartment and the building.

Sometimes life is too overwhelming.  Thoughts stick in my head; refuse to leave.  Everything tastes funny.  My body feels off, but I”m not sure how or why.  My mind is foggy.  So tired, yet unable to sleep.  Everything feels wrong.

But then, it is March.  My mind tells me I”m supposed to feel sick and lethargic.  My body is trying to recapture those sensations through body memories.  Runny nose, allergies, blocked sinuses, colds, infections, and a swollen face are my spring norm.

Instead, the opposite is happening.  The herbs are working; all of the clogged up spaces around my eyes, nose, ears, and jaw are opening up.  Sure, it feels like a major head cold.  The sensations of stuff moving inside surprise and distract me sometimes, but they don’t hurt like in the past.

For the first time since childhood (maybe), the red, puffy, stuffy, tender places around my nose and cheeks are normal colored, smooth, and comfortable to touch.  As those areas drain and heal, so do other parts of my body – including the muscles that usually tighten and prevent me from being active.

Why does that feel so wrong?

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From Google search of “Feels Wrong” images

Probably because I shouldn’t be feeling this healthy, happy, and good, not according to the rules the monsters drummed into my head.  I’m supposed to feel miserable and sick.  To gross out my peers and teachers with my constantly runny, dripping nose and sneezing.  To have to stay inside because of my colds.

How did I get that way?  Still can’t remember.  But the dreams share fragments of stories.

Between this and what I learned among family, my mind has been blown.  Literally.

Survival Mode

Next week, I go back to therapy and counseling.  IT can’t get here soon enough.

Until then, I’m coping as best as possible with the conflicting feelings and sensations inside me.

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If you’ve read past posts, you’ve seen this quote before.  But it’s a good reminder for me right now.

Do as much as I can.  Remember to feel everything and let go of what doesn’t belong.  Keep on moving; there is an end even if I can’t see it.  Finally, backlash is OKAY; it mean’s I’m doing something right.  I survived backlash before.  I’ll survive it again.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenge: Self Soothing is Positive instead of Negative

Background

I struggle with self soothing.  My alters, especially my child and adolescent ones, struggle with self soothing.  We all had questions about what that term meant.  Some of us still have questions like:

  • What is self soothing?
  • How is it different from self care?
  • Why is self-soothing a positive coping strategy?
  • How does it work?
  • Can you provide examples?

My adult self tried to apply answers from a variety of sources, but the suggestions triggered anger, fear, shame, and grief.  Then panic attacks.  So I avoided thinking about self soothing until recently.

Present Day

Physical pain requires other types of coping strategies.  Strategies that trigger me and cause fear or anger to manifest into panic attacks or worse – self-harm.  Unfortunately for me, those same strategies are tried and true for body memories.  These strategies include:

  • Trauma sensitive yoga
  • Sensorimotor psychotherapy
  • Self-soothing
  • Movement or exercise therapy

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

sensorimotor psychotherapy does work and can be useful, but requires a lot of trust between the client & counselor.  It also requires the client to be at a certain level of recovery with support in place for any increased symptoms.  Deirdre Fay is one of the foremost practitioners.  Her work is great; I tried one of her online workshops, but wasn’t ready for it yet.  Maybe you will be.  I recommend doing your own research and talking with a professional before trying any of her programs.

Trauma Sensitive Yoga

Trauma sensitive yoga is something I recently started once a month.  Our first session was great.  I learned a lot and am hopeful this will help with my physical symptoms in  a variety of ways.  But more on  this later, after I’ve had another session and more time to try the practice at home too.

Exercise & Movement Therapy

Bessel Van Der Kolk promotes yoga as his number one form of movement therapy.  But drama, dance, martial arts, tai chi, or any form of gentle, meditative movement can produce similar results.  What matters most with this type of therapy is A) doing something the victim/survivor/partner/loved one enjoys; and B) choosing an instructor or group that feels safe, supportive, inclusive, and positive.  A strong support system to help out when symptoms increase or triggers start to overwhelm is important too.

Self-Soothing Coping Technique

Self Soothing has been a struggle to define and understand up until the past month or so.  My current counselor/therapist helped me understand that my child and adolescent alters define self-soothing as hurting others or being destructive/aggressive to feel better.  That is what they learned from their providers and caretakers.  And a volunteer on the hotline defined self soothing as: a conscious act of choosing self care and comfort instead of destruction, aggression, blaming, or self-harm.

What do you think of the

The Challenge

Re-learning that Self Soothing is positive and means comforting myself instead of hurting myself or others.

Helping my child and adolescent alters understand and accept this so that they can use the self soothing too.

Discovering all of the ways self soothing can help with muscle pain, body memories, and physical discomfort in order to build a tool box of useful strategies for present and future use.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes the strategies that can help us most are the scariest and most challenging to learn.  I am not afraid to admit that I am afraid of my body.  I am afraid of my appearance.  I am afraid of the sound of my voice.  I am afraid of showing my face on this blog or any social media.

That fear gets in the way of doing most positive actions or tasks to help me feel better.  Instead of moving, everything freezes.  I freeze.  They freeze.  We all freeze into paralysis.  Can’t move our body.

But if you’ve learned anything about our system, you might remember how stubborn and persistent we are.  And so all parts of us are talking with our current counselor/therapist to work on this.  In another week or two, maybe we will share the results of our new practice.

What scares you?  How helpful or harmful would it be?

May all of you who read this find ways to choose self care and support instead of self-harm or harm to others when triggered.

Thanks for reading

 

Alter Post: Scared myself into almost shutting down

The Stream of Consciousness aka processing Tuesday’s fear

I’m still thinking about it.  We are still wondering what happened.

Maybe the pressure has been building up for a while.  A lot has happened in less than two years.

Not since 2010/2011 have all parts of me unanimously wanted to run and hide.  To disappear or sleep and never come back or wake up.  That was the year before I wrote a manifesto and walked away from my family.  In 2012, it became permanent.  In 2015/2016, I started talking with some family again.  In 2016, I moved across the country and started a different life.

Now, it’s 2017, and I have a real home.  I have neighbors and friends.  A life full of interesting and frustrating and fun and sad and happy and scary moments.  A life in transition.

Something big is going to happen.  Something inside is pushing me to make changes.  Something else is pushing me to stop and hide, go backwards.  And yet, for all of these feelings inside, the rest of me is lacking direction.

The need to DO SOMETHING is so strong it feels reckless.  It also feels scary and triggering.  So many parts of me are crying right now.  The rest are reliving some of their worst nightmares on purpose.

All because we want our body to get better.  We want to get rid of the last remnants of toxicity (stuff carried forward from before) in our lives.  It keeps sneaking up in the most unexpected places.

Some examples:

  • Knitting needles and yarn bought pre-move make completing a project almost impossible.  But new needles and yarns bought in the last two weeks have rekindled the joy and relaxation feelings again.
  • My emergency savings account has money earned or gifted to me from lingering past experiences.  Every time I try to add more and save, something happens and all that’s left is what I started with when I came here.  What to do?  Use the money to pay off debts in advance and zero out the account.  Then start refunding it with money earned in the present.
  • Need a new phone because the existing one is over 4 years old and the battery is starting to die.  Yet the idea of getting a new phone (and paying full price for it) fills me with anxiety.  All parts of me.  It’s like saying goodbye to a phase in life.
  • My bedding doesn’t fit the new bed.  My blankets don’t either.  They are warm and comforting, but bring on memories too.

Other Fears & Blocks to progress

  • I’ve almost completely swapped out all of my clothes and shoes so that none of the lingering memories trigger flashbacks.  But I still fear putting clothes away, doing laundry in the basement, and transitioning from season to season.  What do I fear?  That my clothes will disappear or get ruined if they are not always in my sight.
  • I want to put up organizational hooks, but fear putting things on the walls.  What do I fear?  Shaming, punishment, humiliation, making mistakes.
  • I want to write to my parents and other family members – ones that are no-contact – and tell them goodbye forever.  But another part of me says don’t because what if forever isn’t forever?  I want to be able to accept gifts from relatives, yet have trouble because of the invisible strings attached (imagined or real – they exist in my mind and make me want to avoid using what they give me).
  • My inner voice is telling me big things will happen.  My body is humming all the time as it gets balance out and heals from the inside.  The blockages, the muscle cramps, the body memories are connecting with feelings and spirit.
  • The cold weather here triggers feelings of abandonment and fear.  Wind blowing against my skin doesn’t feel safe.  Waking up in the dark after hearing noises at night or my neighbors unexpectedly, feels like waking up in the compound again.  Most of me knows I am safe.  But a small part of me is waiting for all of this to be taken away.
  • Using my credit card reward points to fly out of state and see a different cousin for the first time in 7 years is also scary.  But it feels like the right thing to do.  And I’m only staying for a few hours.  But it will help with the letter-writing decision.  And with the closure too.
  • And exploring my interests in New Age ideas feels scary as well.  But my love of crystals and plants, my curiosity about life & living won’t allow me to ignore that part anymore.  So I spend money on new experiences there too.  And surprisingly, all of the information from these sessions is remarkably consistent.

So here I am at midnight writing a post.  I still have to work in the morning.  I still have counseling after work.  I still have chores to do and food to cook.  Lucky for me, I had people to talk to when the paralysis hit.

They helped me get perspective.  They helped me move out of the paralysis and not give in to the “run & hide” urge.  3 errands, an unexpected snuggle with a dog, two phone calls, a text conversation with my counselor, dinner out, and 2 Netflix movies later combined with some knitting and finance stuff have helped a little.

It almost feels like a circle is closing.  One chapter ends, and another begins?  Or maybe I’m feeling anxious about turning 35?  Thirty had me doing mental cartwheels.  Every year after that brought the same kind of joy.  Until this year.

Many of my girls (female alters) have been healing so well, I am happy for them.  My boys (male alters) struggle so much more right now.  They are more connected to Pip’s world and our physical body that these current changes affect them more.

And the dreams are changing again.  Still vivid and sometimes scary, but not nightmares.  The Chinese medicine practitioners want to give me herbs to help with all that.  But all of us are reluctant to give up the dreams right now.  Dreams are one way we communicate and process the past together.

But sleep is important too.  And what happened Tuesday is serious enough that the herbs might be necessary.  If I can’t sleep tonight, then probably go tomorrow and get the herbs.  Thursday at the latest.

Did I mention the urge still exists?  It’s not as strong, but wanting to hide & run?  The feelings still exist.  So now it’s time for all of us to dig deep and figure out why.  Because, it doesn’t make sense.  Now is different from then.  Still scary and full of change, but different.

Thanks for reading.