Recovery: Re-Defining the Past

Dental work update

My dental surgery (officially called dental rehabilitation) went well.  Mouth and lips are still swollen and a little sore, but nothing terrible.  I’ve only had to take 2 pain pills between Monday and Tuesday.  The most important thing is taking my antibiotics and following the mouth cleaning instructions.

I’m really happy this happened in May.  Too many of my past medical and dental traumatic experiences occurred between March and May.  The body memories and flashbacks increase and everything goes haywire.  If you visit often, you might have noticed this.

By June, I’m back in crisis care mode – trying to come out of the black hole and “fix” the damage from the last few months.  One thing that always flares up is my book addiction.

Yes, I admit it.  I am addicted to reading and purchasing books.  If I could, I’d have a whole room in my house dedicated to my collection.  As it happens, I recently switched to an electronic book library because of all the moves.  Hopefully, my next one will be the last for a while.  Then I can bring my paper books home where they belong.

So what does all of this have to do with re-defining the past?

Simple.

The goal is to substitute negative experiences with positive ones.  This dental surgery went really well.  All of us in the system cooperated.  No one woke up in the middle of the surgery.  No one has gotten really sick or nauseous from the medication.  Other than the swollen lips and jaw, I look relatively normal and feel pretty good.

The landscape inside my mouth has changed.  It feels good and right to have the bits and pieces (i.e. teeth) that were causing trouble finally gone.  And maybe, just maybe, all of us will be able to “start fresh” with dental hygiene.  No more loss of teeth.  No more cavities.  Actually have a healthy mouth and be able to brush/floss/rinse with mouth wash without flashbacks and body memories.

That’s the goal.

And the care routine the dentist has me on brings me one step closer to creating a routine that doesn’t feel like an addiction or a habit.  Instead, it becomes part of my self care regimen.

Yes, I’m playing with semantics (word meaning) here, but sometimes the minor differences mean a lot.  “Regimen” has positive associations for me.  “Routine” or “habit” have negative associations.

So how else do I cope with the body memories and flashbacks?  Especially when I refuse to self-harm anymore and nothing else is working?

I book binge.

Buy books.  Purge books from personal collection.  Borrow books from library.

And read.

Read lots of books whenever I have a moment of free time.  Spend weekends reading – eating, drinking, sleeping optional – and reading.

I speed read certain types of books.  Others take more time until I learn the author’s rhythm.  Or the professional/academic writing style.  Then I can read it faster.

How is Book Binge different from Reading?

Reading for pleasure and education as a hobby is great.  It’s relaxing and distracting and fun.  I get caught up in the world building and the characters, but I can stop at a reasonable time and sleep.

Reading as an obsession or compulsion to relieve anxiety – not so great.  I worry about buying/borrowing the book.  I worry about starting the book.  I can’t wait to finish and skip to the end; then go back and read the rest of the book (sometimes).  I can’t stop reading even when I’m tired and have to work.

Buying books from favorite authors to re-read when I have the money – great use of my discretionary funds.

Buying books from a variety of authors I like, but don’t love, and may never read again to relieve anxiety – not so great and puts me in debt I can’t afford or crowds an overcrowded apartment.

Conclusion

I’m hoping this dental procedure helps re-define a really bad month of flashbacks and body memories by giving me something good to think about and work with when the darkness feels overwhelming.

And maybe by working on this routine, I will feel less compelled to hide inside books.  I will be able to do something besides immerse myself in fantasy worlds created by amazing authors.

And when nothing in my library or the public library holds my attention (I’ve read or re-read the books too many times in the recent past), I can find something else to do besides buy books and finish them in the same day.  Luckily, Amazon.com has an excellent return policy.

How do you re-define your past so it doesn’t affect the present so much?

Thanks for reading

Anniversaries: Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

I love you.  I hate you.  I feel sorry for you, for me, and for all we didn’t have as a mother and daughter.  Sometimes I think I miss you.  Other times I feel shame that I don’t miss you.

But I’m happy we are not in each other’s lives anymore.  I needed to find myself.  And you needed to do the same.  Me in your life just brought back stuff you didn’t want to deal with.  You in my life kept me from finding my confidence and truly living.

But you also did something I didn’t fully appreciate until after I moved out of state and started remembering my childhood.  You left me with monsters – pedophiles, rapists, cults, drug traffickers and dealers – when you didn’t want me around.  The monsters paid you and compensated you with other perks that made you happy once in a while.

But those monsters also raised me into the woman I am now.  They taught me life skills and survival skills.  They taught me how to protect myself and identify lies as they are told to me.  Most important, they taught me how to survive anything with intelligence, patience, and resilience.

Living with you, taking care of you from childhood into adulthood taught me other important skills.  Not all of them good or bad, but extremely useful in dealing with the bullies, pushy relatives, and generally mean people.  If you hadn’t been so abusive and neglectful, if you hadn’t told lies that convinced others to treat me like a lying pariah for most of my life, and if you hadn’t tried to control me by destroying my sense of self, I might not have learned how to be independent and self-reliant.

So maybe I am a suspicious and skeptical person when it comes to trusting people.  Maybe I keep most everyone at a distance and only let in so many people at a time.  And maybe I lack confidence in socializing and communicating because I spent so much of my life quiet and silent.

But I am the woman I am today because of you.  I am smart, strong, resilient, caring, empathetic, creative, confident, sometimes rebellious, assertive, respectful of others, and able to stick to my values.  You taught me to fight for what I believe in and speak up even when I’m going to get in trouble.  Sometimes honesty and persistence turn people away.  And plain speaking can make other people uncomfortable.

All of that is okay as long as I stick to being me instead of pretending to be something or someone I’m not.  In trying to make me your creation, you taught me how to preserve my sense of self even when times were darkest.  In turning everyone against me, you taught me that I didn’t need other people (or their approval) to be happy and fulfilled.

So thanks for being the mom you were.  I love you sometimes.  I hate you other times.  And I wish you can find the happiness you’ve been searching for someday.

Love,

Your daughter

Anger: Health & Feelings a new category of posts

This is NOT a series of part 1, etc. in order.  Like other categories I will share posts as they come to me.

DISCLAIMER: What you read here is my personal experience – as an individual, as a system of alter personalities, and as separate alter personalities.  There are my and my alters’ thoughts, impressions, and experiences about how anger affects our mind, spirit and body.  This IS NOT from a perspective of a therapist, counselor, or other professional who has helped in the past.   Any information I share here is based on what I learned from them, but the words, thoughts, feelings, etc. ARE MY PERSPECTIVE AND OPINION.

Besides shame, anger has been a major force in my life.  It causes me to go into rages sometimes.  Rages where I don’t remember anything that happened until my mind clears and I am grounded in my body again.  Rags where people (including me) get hurt.

It’s one of the main reasons I fear physical contact and normal social interactions with others.  Before therapy, and not even until the last 2-3 years, I thought I was a monster who abused other people when they made me angry – it was like my evil twin broke free once my mind overloaded.

But only 2 emotions trigger this kind of rage: fear and protectiveness (aka survival instinct)

As an adult whose been in therapy for more than 10 years, I can cope with and express anger in safe and healthy ways.  So can the adult alters who participated in this journey with me.

But the others can’t, not yet.  This is what happens in order

  • Issue number 1: any feelings of present anger trigger past anger.
  • Issue number 2: past anger can overwhelm, trigger, and throw me into a flashback so that I am not reacting to the present anymore
  • Issue number 3: I can’t always tell when Issue number 2 occurs
  • Issue number 4: If the anger is strong enough, it sets off my survival instincts or fear response – freeze/flight/fight/faint
  • Issue number 5: Once issue number 4 happens: I dissociate and whoever is best able to handle the threat takes over
  • Issue number 6: I still struggle with finding a healthy way to express anger so that the other issues don’t happen.

These are the consequences of my denial and repression over t he years:

  • physical illness – the digestive issues, the sinus pressure, the pain in my body, the tiredness from having to cope with so much going on inside
  • Emotional Stress – anger denied layers feelings of fear, shame, guilt, rage, and confusion over the memories, distorting them and making the recovery slower
  • Emotional Stress – anger repressed comes out as resentment, envy, frustration, jealousy, depression, and the urge to self-harm
  • Spiritual Stress – questioning myself as a good person, questioning my values, questioning my purpose in life, questioning whether or not I deserve to be alive
  • Physical Stress – my immune system suffers, my mobility suffers, my stamina suffers so  that useful activities can’t be accomplished

My alters and I are learning how to let go of and ride the feelings of anger as they come.  But even that learning curve is exhausting.  One alter thought maybe our guests could relate, so we are sharing some of our experiences, trials, and errors here with the hope that the information helps someone else too.

Thanks for reading

Quote & Affirmations: Change

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Wednesday passed in a blur.  I felt so tired that I fell asleep early.  And most of the day was full of distractions.  I didn’t have time to look for a quote or affirmation that suited this post until today.  That’s what happens with a major schedule change.

Many people have negative beliefs about change.  They think change is too hard to accomplish or not worth doing.  Or maybe people can’t change.

Another common belief is that others need to change, but not the individual asking others to change.  Or that people can change other people.

What I’ve learned:

  • Change happens.
  • Change is hard – the realization; the acceptance; the choices; the consequences
  • People can’t change other people, not permanently and not without causing serious harm.
  • People can and do change themselves.  They have to want to change in order for the changes to stick.
  • Influence, persuasion, and coercion are not the same as change.
  • If someone mentions dogs, horses, or trained circus animals,  I will tell you this: dogs change, follow and obey because they want to please their humans; horses are the same; trained circus animals in the past changed or obeyed to avoid pain and punishment.  It’s a choice – change for a positive or negative reason
  • Change is inevitable – sometimes people recognize it, but most times no one really notices until some experience forces awareness.
  • I’d rather be in control of my life, it’s changes, and the direction I choose to follow
  • Recovery is all about change – internal and external for the individual on the path

Surviving at any cost means changing and adapting to the circumstances of life.  It means making choices and following through on them; then living with the consequences later.  The consequences can be what triggers a mental health issue.  Like when I think of all of the mean, negative things I had to say and do to other people, people I cared about, as a child/teen/young adult I feel incredible shame and guilt.

But then I step back and ask myself if I would change anything.  Or if being kind and nice and positive then would have helped me survive?  And the answer is: no, I wouldn’t change my past words and actions.  Being positive or kind or nice back then wouldn’t have helped me or anyone else around me.

People who hate change or won’t/can’t accept it will cause people who are changing a lot of trouble.  Relationships will get stronger, may crumble, or something else?  Many of mine crumbled and died.  Others got stronger.  And new relationships were forged.  I found a family and real friends – not something I could ever have or cherish if I had stayed on the other path.

How do you feel about change?  Do you fight it?  Do you accept it?  Do you struggle in a different way?

All I know is that recovery and resilience get easier if you can embrace, not just accept, change and make change work for you instead of against you.

Thanks for reading.

 

Life Changing Moments: Remembering can be empowering

Have you ever been triggered so badly that the feelings overwhelmed and broke through internal barriers?

That happened about 2 weeks ago.  

I lay down to sleep one night and flashed back to 1998.  The flashback lasted for hours.  It covered many years between 1998 and 2012.

And each memory was of a fight – a physical fight between my younger self and one or more other people.  Then I started to remember names and places.  And suddenly even living on the other side of the country didn’t feel safe.  I felt scared and out of control.

The experiences got distorted by feelings and body pain.  What feelings?  What pain?

The feelings: anger, shame, fear, confusion, grief

The pain: head, face, neck, abdomen, low back, hips

I felt so angry for days.  It built and built inside me.  Nothing I tried, nothing my alters tried, none of the typical and atypical strategies helped.  So I followed the plan my counselor and I put together in session.  I called the hotline first.  Then texted her with updates.  She called me; we talked.

The goal: focus on feelings first; then process the memories & thoughts.

One week ago:

The memories came back as dreams and nightmares.  I probably annoyed my neighbors by talking in my sleep and yelling/screaming/thumping the walls – explains why I avoid them right now.  It’s why I prefer not to have close neighbors, but that’s impossible in this apartment.

I started to realize the anger combined with body pain (treatments have been working to address chronic sinus, digestion, etc. issues) opened up a gate for the memories to get through.  The physical pain got worse and kind of triggering.  I kept getting confused about past and present.

But I also had to go out and take care of errands.  It helped that people I’m friendly with were on the route.

The feelings: numb, hurt, sad, shame, confusion, then numb again

The body pain: moved from head to back to abdomen to private areas to back again

The goal: get through one more week while counselor is away

This week:

My counselor is back; we had our session on Saturday.  Easter was Sunday.  The numbness wore off, and I realized that the back pain was masking something else.  My body was experiencing mild versions of panic attack symptoms.  The nausea was back.  And I lost my appetite between Thursday and Sunday.

The feelings: relief, happiness, empowered, anger, shame, grief

The body pain: sinuses, eyes, ears, scalp, back of the head, neck.

The goal: minimize the face pain, cope with the body memories around my legs/hips/abdomen, accept and embrace the inner monster that is not a monster.

What is the empowering part?

My inner monster is not a monster.

She is the part of me trained in martial arts and other forms of hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting, etc.

He is the part of me who learned acrobatics and submissions in order to take down grown people high or drunk or better armed and much stronger with an adolescent girl’s body.

They are the plant parts who processed the drugs and alcohol so fast through a child’s and adolescent’s body that she got sick instead of addicted.

They are my alter personalities – the parts of me who kept the secrets; learned how to read people; taught themselves to lie; pretended to be a fly on the wall; created vaults for the secret life experiences to hide in; protected classmates, cousins, and others close in age from being sucked in; and used physical force to protect the self from monsters and bullies.

Conclusion

Before these memories came back, I thought I was an out-of-control monster who physically hurt others for no reason.  I thought my temper and rage took over and were unjustified.  And I backed away from everyone – to the point of avoiding all physical contact with living beings – so ensure my safety and the safety of everyone around me.

Now, I know that I’m not a monster.  That those fragmented nightmare/dream stories of me fighting gang members, women, men, teen bullies, my sibling, my parents, and so many others were real.  That all of those seeming impossible take downs, submissions, and movie-like fight scenes in my head really did happen.  We did that with our body up until the year before moving.

And then those parts of me faded back inside to safety bringing the memories with them and leaving me feeling out of control again.

Now, I hope these parts will continue to share those memories and realize they are accepted, respected, cherished members of our system.  They belong in the present with the rest of us.  They deserve to heal and make choices with us and feel proud of their accomplishments too.  Most important, I hope they stop feeling ashamed of the things they said and did to protect and help everyone survive.

With their permission, I will be sharing more about self-defense, martial arts, and fighting for protection as healthy forms of exercise, self-esteem building, etc.

Thanks for reading

Recovery: the internal litmus test

Background

How do you feel on the inside?

That question is what my therapist asks me whenever I question a choice, action, or reaction to a triggering event/experience.  She calls it my internal litmus test.

The first time she asked me this question, I was so shocked that my voice dried up.  My brain stopped.  Everything blanked out, and she had to bring me back with grounding questions and comments.  Then she explained how the test worked: if I feel happy and positive about my choice on the inside, it was the right one; if I feel unsure or uncomfortable, the choice could be a mistake and something to learn from; if I feel bad, angry, negative, guilty, etc., it was not the correct choice.

I felt awful about my choice the first time she asked me that question.  As we discussed the whys in session, I started to understand what felt wrong and how to fix the mistake.  No matter my answer, though, the test always works.

The Good

This test helped me work on the following topics:

  • Stop and Think objectively
  • Get perspective
  • Trust my instincts
  • Learn from my mistakes
  • Make alternative plans to correct mistakes
  • Feel compassion for myself
  • Learn to be gentle with myself
  • Listen to my alters as they communicate
  • My alters listen to me as I communicate with them
  • Cooperation

The Difficult

  • This test challenged me:
  • To work with my backlash instead of against it
  • Recognize and ask for help in coping feelings of shame and guilt
  • Discover new ways to use my existing coping skills with backlash instead of falling back on self harm
  • To work with my alters as a team to face  our fears and recovered memories
  • Build my alters’ confidence in communication and switching so they stopped feeling shame every time they came out and defended us from perpetrators, bullies, and people from the past
  • Be assertive and set boundaries for internal and external living to promote a healthy self
  • Let go of toxic relationships without shame and guilt
  • Remove toxic people from our life
  • Not get into relationships with toxic people
  • Be open to reconnecting with family members who are willing to respect my boundaries and build a relationship based on acceptance and respect of who we are now
  • To test present reality against the thoughts and feelings overwhelming my inner self

Conclusion

The internal litmus test is scary and full of potential pitfalls.  It requires honesty and persistence and resilience in shattering the denial and lies that prevents me from moving forward with recovery.  Every time I or one of the alters uses this test, we know that the results are honest and true.  Finally, the test offers us a safe way to experiment with challenging our triggers and monsters within a supportive framework (counselor, coping strategies, respective).

Thanks for reading

Coping Strategy: Reflection Weekend

henrydavidthoreau1

Henry David Thoreau is one of my favorite authors from school.  He inspired me to keep going in high school and college.  Somehow, his essays and books always made their way into course curriculum or research for papers whenever the stress threatened to overwhelm me.

This weekend, except for some promises to keep, I am staying inside and focusing on reflection.  Too much has been revealed  in the past few weeks.  Not enough sleep.  Not enough rest.  Wanting some procrastination, I decided to take advantage of the long weekend and stay inside.

Tomorrow is back to normal and some chores…

And maybe, just maybe my equilibrium will come back.

Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments: Emotional/Physical Disconnect Part 1

LYING

I am an excellent liar.  I can freeze my body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions in neutral  or gullible obliviousness.  People lying to me think I believe them.  People listening to me believe what I’m telling them.  The usual “clues” do not apply when I decide to start lying.  I can project any emotion and feeling on my physical self when I feel nothing, something different, or the opposite emotion internally. But people looking at me believe what they see.

EMOTIONAL/PHYSICAL DISCONNECT

On the other hand, I can’t match genuine feelings with their appropriate physical expressions.  My facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice do not betray my real feelings unless I consciously work hard to portray the correct expressions.   That leaves many people skeptical of when I reveal truths about my background – I can/have/do talk about trauma with an expression and tone of voice matching someone conversing about the weather.

Moderating the intensity of my tone is also difficult.  In spite of acute and sensitive hearing, I have a hard time discerning when my voice rises/lowers and so on.  As my emotional state increases, my sensitivity to such changes decreases.  And my facial expressions change like a movie on fast forward.  People who see me in a state of high anxiety or a panic attack back off fast because I appear crazy in that context.

WHY?

As a child, I learned how to project whatever feelings/emotions/thoughts would keep me from getting abused.  It was survival.  It was necessary.  It taught me how not to have feelings.  Expressing joy got me punished.  Expressing anger got me a beating or inappropriate touching as punishment.  Expressing fear, sadness, anxiety, or worry got me the silent treatment.  Talking out of turn (i.e. telling the truth of what happened or anything different from my parent’s version of the truth) got me accused of lying, exaggerating, causing problems, etc.

So I denied having feelings.  I buried them deep and forgot about them.  But I had random explosions of tears and rage growing up.  There were temper tantrums.  There was fighting back.  There were instances of “rebellion”.  There were times my mind clouded, and I disappeared.  When I came back to myself, everyone was mad at me.  Hurt feelings, I was accused of being mean and exploding with anger for no reason.  And everyone from my parents to my younger brother to my so called friends used this to shame me, manipulate me, take advantage of e, and set me up as a “crazy, unstable, lying” person to the rest of my community.

No one wanted to be friends with a rude, annoying, crazy, raging, unstable, liar who otherwise had no personality.

This was my life for 27 years.  I did not have a personality, was not an interesting person, was looked down upon by everyone around me.  I did not have feelings except for facsimiles to appease other people.  Problems like this made developing friendships difficult.  It made getting jobs and keeping jobs hard too.  At least in my community or any community where my classmates and family had connections.  All of which I was interested in working at the time – healthcare, non-profits, colleges, newspapers, magazines, and other jobs related of my degree.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

Not until I started my first “real” job in an office that valued my skills and opinions did I realize there was something “wrong” with my responses to other people.  I had just started therapy with my second counselor and was feeling very stressed out about all of the changes over the past few months: new job, new apartment, new neighbors, new commute, leaving school, new doctors, new therapist.

She helped me for 3 years; we worked on my anorexia, anxiety, low self-esteem, and OCD.  When the trauma issues started taking over, I had an emotional breakdown.  Crying, nausea, pain, sleeplessness…you name it, I experienced it all in a flood.  It was like everything I held in for 27 years came flooding out in 2 days.  Only, I didn’t know these were feelings.  Or that I was physically reacting to all of these feelings.

She sent me for a crisis evaluation.  When we first started, the therapist told me outright that she did not work with trauma.  I told her that was okay because the trauma was not the main problem  then.  My anorexia and anxiety disorders (according to the previous people) were.  As soon as she realized the trauma had taken over our sessions, she sent e for additional help and slowly transitioned me to another therapist.

During the transition, I went for my first partial in-patient program.  There, I learned about what feelings were, that I had feelings, and that the physical/mental problems I had were because of those feelings.  After about 6 weeks there, I was in a much better place with a rudimentary understanding of feelings, aka emotions, and how they made my symptoms worse when allowed to take over and control me.

DBT (Dialiectical Behavioral Therapy) taught me how to recognize, control, and balance my feelings so that I could make choices about how to handle situations instead of just reacting to them.  CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) taught me how to follow the trails left behind by my feelings to understand triggers that led to thoughts and behaviors.  Grounding taught me how to come back to the present when feelings overwhelmed my senses.

But none of this really taught me how to get my face, voice, and body to align with my actual feelings or thoughts.

Or how to manage the pain that continually discourages me from trying to integrate my mental/emotional self and physical self so that the feelings and expressions/body language match.

As for the lying…the only time I purposely lie is for survival.  Any other time, I am scrupulously honest.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenge: Agoraphobia

Introduction

During certain times of the year, the pain gets worse and the memories overwhelm my logical thinking abilities.  I start to feel vulnerable outside of my apartment.  Too vulnerable and my brain automatically starts sending out “not safe” signals to the rest of my parts.  So I stop leaving my apartment building.  And then I stop leaving my apartment except when absolutely necessary.

Description

And even the “absolutely necessary” going out causes a problem sometimes.  But then I go outside and feel confused.  Being out of my apartment feels good at first.  I enjoy the scents and sounds from trees, restaurants, people, and dogs.  But the further I get from my building, the more vulnerable I feel.  What if the pain escalates?  What if I can’t get home?  What if I embarrass myself by having a panic attack in front of these strangers?

The questions, the fears crowd my mind and stiffen my body.  My hips start to ache.  My spine curves.  And I focus one step at a time to the counselor’s office.  Potential treat: a hot chocolate (regular or peppermint) from Starbucks before the appointment.  Potential treat: brunch/lunch on the way home.

Since I love food and hardly ever eat breakfast before my morning appointments, the reward sometimes helps me get from A to B.  Hot chocolate that I don’t have to make also helps.  Other days, visiting some stores to window shop works better.

But sometimes not even a reward for going out or meeting needs like laundry or grocery shopping can get me out of the apartment.

Challenge

Eventually, the agoraphobia passes.

While I experience the agoraphobia, I also feel frustration and shame.  Frustration because I want to be outside.  Shame because my fear and vulnerability prevent me from doing what I want.  Triggers occur.  Panic takes over.  And the only safe place feels like home.

Nothing I’ve tried helps.  Nothing makes the agoraphobia go away.

The trigger causing agoraphobia hasn’t revealed itself.  The trigger to make it go away hasn’t revealed itself either.

Conclusion

I wait out the periods of agoraphobia and hope that this one ends sooner instead of later.  But I still hate it.  I still struggle.

I still persist.

Remembering and pain will not stop me anymore now than it has before.

Thanks for reading.

 

Recovery: When the secret life is not so secret anymore

Yesterday was difficult.  I had to work hard to concentrate on finishing work and projects for the week while my mind swirled with memories and feelings.

Today was difficult because I talked with my cousin about future plans.  Plans that recalled memories and experiences that were hidden for a long time.  Memories and experiences I would have thought were hallucinations or nightmares or deja vu before I started therapy with a trauma specialist.

Now, I’m trying to reconcile that secret life with my other life, the one I lived in broad daylight, and my current life.  The nerd, the warrior, the woman who is both.  The “good girl”, the “rebel”, the woman who defies labels.  The fighter/the runner.  The raging monster who hurts people/the defender who can’t stand to see herself or others crushed under the pain of being put down all the time.

A good girl doesn’t do drugs, smoke, drink while underage, have sex without a commitment, listen to certain kinds of music, steal, etc.  I don’t and never have stolen anything.  As for the rest, it wasn’t voluntary.  But I did all of those things before I hit puberty.  Does that make me a bad girl?  Or a rebel?  And does choosing not to smoke or use drugs or have sex anymore once I could make my own choices make me a born-again virgin or good girl?  Does being able to fight make me tough?  Does being a pacifist make me a coward?  Does having a temper make me a monster?  Does not having control over my body make me weak?  Am I crazy because I feel so conflicted?

I want my body back.  My body wants me back.  All parts of me want to be physically active again.  We want to be able to fight in the daylight and use our nerd skills in the shadows.  And combine everything to combat the darkness threatening to pull us under.  I want to stop using food to hurt myself.  I want to stop using people to hurt myself.  I want to start exploring my true likes and dislikes.  I want to finish my projects so that my obligations are fulfilled and I can move on.

More than anything else, I want my secret life to shine in the light, unhidden and acknowledged with pride instead of shame.  My parts and I, we did what was necessary to survive.  We accomplished incredible feats together.  And those parts of me deserve the acceptance, respect, honor, compassion, trust, and welcoming that was refused to them before.  What they did kept us alive; taught us skills we needed to get through high school and college; helped us stay on track when the depression and suicidal thoughts tried to get us killed; and cut through the bullshit of family pressure and denial to keep us safe as adults.

And now that I’ve reconciled with one side of my family, the other side is hopeful that I might reconcile with them too.  But the relationships between me and each side of my family is different.  My experiences with them are different.  I am still so mad at some of my aunts, uncles, and cousins that I honestly don’t think I can speak with them again without letting the hurt loose on them.  I forgave those people when I forgave myself years ago.  I understand why they said and did what they said and did back then.  But I don’t want that in my life now either.

And there’s no guarantee that walking back into the fire will  have a different outcome.  That those family members have changed their opinions of me and will treat me differently.  Or that they are trustworthy to keep my secrets.

And that is the origin of my trust issues.  I am suspicious of everyone except the few people who have proven themselves to me.  Letting people in is difficult.  Balancing my need for solitude and privacy with socializing and valuing connections with people gives me a headache too.

So I am conflicted.  I am confused.  I am grieving.  And I feel so much that sometimes I go numb.  And when the dam bursts, my feelings explode.  And there are consequences to that too.

What happens next is anyone’s guess.  Thanks for your patience and for reading my post.

Dissociation: Emotion Regulation during Dissociation

One of the hardest parts about living and interacting with the outside world is being able to regulate my emotions when I dissociate.  Many times, anger triggers dissociation and switching.  Then an alter comes out to deal with the situation.  Once over, that alter retreats, and I or one of the other “in-charge” alters comes back with no clue what just happened.

That’s scary.  It feels out of control.  The memories of what happened don’t always come back right away.  Used to be those alters wouldn’t share what happened for weeks, months, years, even decades.  Now, they share within hours or days.  But the sharing comes as nightmares or daydreams out of context of when/where/how anything happened.  Like living in 2 realities.

The past few days, I’ve been working on an exercise to write down what I am doing, thinking, and feeling whenever I feel even a little anger.  Only problem is that I have not felt any anger this week.  I felt sad, scared, and upset.  I felt guilt and shame too.

Now I have to wonder if maybe one of these emotions is the real trigger.  And then everything else gets expressed as anger.

Maybe someday, this will stop.  And then I will feel more confident interacting and socializing with people.  I will remember what happens when my boundaries get crossed and why people are treating me a certain way.  I will remember why they feel the right to treat me that way and why I feel the need to be wary of them even though being polite is a must.

Finally, maybe this will help with some of the feelings of shame and guilt that come with the periods of not remembering.

Thanks for reading today’s ramble.

Life Changing Moments: Can’t have friends because everyone around me is a potential target

The more I live in the present and focus on working through recovery, the more I remember my past.  The memories are being unlocked as I learn to work through the pain in my body.

Less pain = more memories recovered

Less pain = more crying and grieving before the letting go process moves on

More pain = less memories and more confusion

More pain = less awareness of my feelings and instincts

Do I want less pain?  Yes.  Do I want to remember what is locked up in my body?  Not really.

Today, after about 3 weeks of acupuncture with the new student and 3 sessions with my new counselor in between sessions with the old one, I can finally put some of the pieces of my childhood and adolescence together.  The recurring dreams that turn into nightmares really did happen.  And those people I remember fighting, they were real friends who became targets for  the monsters controlling my life.  In protecting them, I lost their friendship too.

And other people who could have made decent friends, I had already mastered the art of pushing people away by then.  And it wasn’t safe either way.  No matter where I went, there was always someone who recognized me and spread the rumors behind my back.  Or told someone in my family what I was doing.  And then the harassment (not of me, but of the people who were kind to me) began.  They thought I knew.  But I didn’t.  And instead of talking to me about it, they kicked me out of their lives and avoided me.

Living a double life is not fun.  Being drugged into not remembering that other life completely sucks.  And when the truth hits, the sensation is overwhelming.  The tears fall until no one wants to cry any more.  The movie reels start.  And suddenly, I can see my friends and any family members involved as they were back when we were children.  I hear their voices.  And the memories come flooding back.

The big difference here is that no one tries to stop the flood.  We all sit back in our comfy chairs and watch the memories go by.  From our safe bubble, the memories surround us.  But they don’t hurt us anymore.  Our bubble can float to the surface, bounce from wave to wave, and coast along the flow of movement instead of being drowned.

And the memories tell me that I can’t trust anyone.  I can’t make friends because those friends might be targeted as employees(sex trafficking), members (of the cult), or clients (for drugs and other illegal stuff).  Or they and their families will have to suffer being harassed and stalked and manipulated by my parents and the other people who owned me.

So yea, I and my alters, we all feel kind of sad and depressed today.  People often wonder why I don’t pursue leadership jobs and more social activities.  How can I tell them why that kind of job doesn’t work for me?  That I am afraid to be noticed because the monsters will hurt me again?  Or hurt the people around me.  How can I tell them that I survived by staying below the radar instead of taking charge and being more independent?  How can I say that I am ashamed of my intelligence and skills so have a hard time displaying them in public and around strangers who might not actually be strangers?

Thanks for reading.

Alter Post: Fight or Flight or Play Dead?

Not much to say except this week we are all fighting.  

The anxiety is strong.  So many triggers with new people invading our space at work.  So many ways to give in amd not go to work this week.  So many reasons to get up and fight another day – deadlines, seeing friends, accomplishing goals, not wanting to give in to the fear.

Sometimes one of us will signal break time.  Then we go out and walk for a bit.  Or go to the restroom for quiet.  Maybe walk down to the lobby and talk with the guard on duty.  And then get back to work.

Once in a while I feel like running, but can’t leave the desk.  Food, juice or sour drink, chocolate, music, games, or a book help there.  But no one can help us feel the anxiety that comes from tok many people and too much movement and too much noise.

Yeah, I am nof the best writer.  And I don’t proofread either.  But mo one else wanted to post anything using the phone app.  Our personal computer got donated.  The work one is at the office.  And will stay until we bring it home tomorrow – incentive for going into the office.

Thanks for reading.

A Life Changing Moment in Time: Fiction & Truth

“No, it doesn’t.  This kind of secret hurts.  It crawls inside you and eats at you.  It makes you scared, and it makes you guilty.  The ones who want it to be secret use that – the guilt, the fear, the shame.  The only way you can fight back is to tell.  Tell me who raped you.” ~ Lieutenant Eve Dallas to a murder witness from Naked in Death by J. D. Robb.

In this book, the murderer is a powerful politician who also happens to be the first victim’s grandfather and the witness’s father.  It was first published in 1996, two years before I read it and the other four books available in the series at the time.  As I think back to 1999, I realize that a lot happened to change my perspective and my future choices between 1998 and 1999.

I had my first big rebellion that year.  My closest aunt died of cancer in spring of 1999.  One week later, I took my SATs.  The nightmares got worse.  I started having intense abdominal and knee pain that made me physically ill and miss a lot of school.  The rebellion ended, and I started taking driving lessons.

Then I read that book.  And my world turned upside down.  But I did not realize it at the time.  All I knew was that the rage and grief from my aunt’s death let out monsters in my mind.  And those monsters sometimes took over and used my body to rage against the world.  It was high school, though, so everyone blamed the mood swings and lightning changes to hormones from a 16 year old.

But those words haunted me.  I tried to find someone to talk to.  But the grief counselor didn’t help much.  And the donors did not like what she was bringing out in me.  As for everyone else, they wanted to hide me until I stopped blurting out whatever was on my mind when certain topics came up – topics that had a pat response to uphold and polish the family image – and embarrassing everyone.

The one thing I do remember my aunt telling me before she died had to do with security.  She told me that I had to do well in school instead of laughing it off.  Get a job that pays well and offers benefits and security so no one can take that away from me. She didn’t, got C’s and D’s and skated her way through college and grad school.  When her divorce was final, the only thing that kept her afloat and had the judge rule custody in her favor was her professional degree and years of working before she stopped to raise her kids.  She knew, even if she never admitted it out loud, what happened to me at home.

So I switched my concentration in high school from art and biology to chemistry and pharmacy.  Not that it did much good.  But the advice came in handy when I made my escape 13 years later.

Recovery: Matching my Inside and my Outside Part 3

Connecting it all

For me and the alters in our system, matching my insides and outsides means developing, strengthening, and expressing who I really am from the inner foundations to the outer physical representations the rest of the world uses to judge people.

I did not start to heal from past hurts until I was able to figure out who I was and what I valued.  The answers to those two questions became the foundation for who I am now.  Without them, I would not have had the courage to accept my alters; let alone leave my family and start fresh in another city.

Lies by themselves are neutral.  I truly believe that because words without context and emotions lack coherent meaning.  Even neutral though, lies can cause more damage than help.  Deception means hiding, causing misdirection on purpose and indicates a lack of trust in some part of the relationship.

“I don’t want to hurt his/her/your feelings” means I don’t trust you / me to respect or accept my honest feelings and opinions about the topic; answers to the question.  Or I am afraid you are going to be insulted  and mean to me if I am honest so I will tell you what you want to hear.  Or I don’t really care about you and am going to tell you something to hurt you and make me feel better because I pulled one over you.  Or I can’t let you feel good about anything because your happiness is a threat to me; you are competition and have to be put down so I feel powerful and stay in control of you.  You are not allowed to have confidence and your own opinions because I own you and am in control of you; you are not a person.  You are everything I hate about myself in another body.

That is how I was raised.  That is the story of my childhood, adolsecent, and young adult experiences with everyone in my world at the time.  It is how I believed everyone interacted with everyone else until I got to college.

And acting like that; telling those lies; being who I was expected to be instead of who I was made me ashamed of myself.  The self-hatred and anger were so strong that I started punishing myself in elementary school.  By middle school, I had full-blown anorexia nervous and had attempted suicide twice.  Once by starvation.  Once by suffocation.The last time I attempted suicide and almost succeeded was in college, just after I turned 21 and before I started sessions with the first therapist.

She helped me learn to like and respect myself by finding ways to allow me the freedom to live my values.  I stopped lying on purpose that year.  The only exception being for survival.  Even though I hated myself for lying to survive and punished myself afterwards, I still lied to stay alive.  

Eleven years later, I can honestly say that I love myself and all of my parts.  And I don’t punish myself for lying to survive as often.  Some day that will become “do not punish anymore”

Coping is difficult when the negativity and doubts being you down.  

Recovery feels impossible as long as you feel like you don’t deserve it.

But you do deserve recovery.  So do I.  So does every survivor of any kind of trauma. 

This is my idea of recovery:

To live a full life on my terms.  No one else’s.  To thrive and not let my past make present and future decisions for me.

That dream is what I want for all survivors too.  So I share my personal struggles with wanting to be a genuine person 100% of the time with every individual and still protect myself.

What about you?