Coping Strategy: Internal Family Systems explained by Psychology Today

Internal Family Systems Therapy – From Psychology Today magazine.

Recovery is cyclical.

Trauma never goes away, but the patterns and symptoms it leaves inside ebb and flow depending on context, experience, and life.

For a while, our system was stable.  We were in a good place and able to work on other coping challenges that required attention.   Challenges that interfered with living in the outside world.

Now, a lot of these challenges have changed into coping strategies, techniques or learning paths for future references – i.e. resources.  The others are tangled with issues not ready to be addressed yet, so have moved to the background for now.

And it’s time to focus back on adapting our family system.  My alters and I, we, are ready to start working on integration, self-awareness, and creating ways to live in both worlds. That means trying new coping techniques with our counselor and revisiting past ones too.

Why Internal Family Systems therapy? – it coincides nicely with the whole/parts theory of personality and is what our first trauma counselor used to help us get sorted.  Plus, it’s great for helping people learn to cope with feelings/thoughts/opinions that seem overwhelming or conflicting without shame or guilt or anxiety.

Maybe it will help you too.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Strategy: Medication for alcohol addiction too?

Extra post because April is Alcohol Awareness Month…

Article Link – Medication for Alcohol addiction?

Some Background

One of the scariest things I ever did was start networking on LinkedIn.  It meant taking pride in my professional self and celebrating success in the outside world – extremely scary considering my fears around success.

BUT…learning to use LinkedIn, and especially the different groups, connected me to resources I never imagined possible outside of a paid journal subscription.  One group I belong to now is called “Mental Health”, and professionals from all aspects of the Mental Health world along with other businesses write about how emotional health affects employees, employers, and careers.

Benefits of Medication for Addiction and Trauma?

One topic that interests me, but is hard to learn about, has to do with the benefits of medication as part of addiction treatment programs.  Many people have issues with addiction and trauma, so deserve to learn about all available resources. And maybe this information will help a guest find a successful path to her or his goals.

I read this article a few days ago, but didn’t have time to share it until now.  It’s written by the CEO of the company that manufactures one medication used to help with alcohol addiction (article’s words).  He discusses the potential benefits of adding medication by comparing statists to the opiate medication treatment programs and reflects on why this option is not as widespread or openly discussed in the recovery/treatment community.

The article DOES NOT promote its drug as a cure or something to buy.  And I DO NOT endorse or support the purchase or use of this manufacturer or other manufacturer’s medications for treatment.   However, why not explore options directly from the source?

My Reasons for Sharing now

While not something mentioned often here, I have personal experience with loved ones whose lives were changed by alcohol addiction and abuse of over-the-counter drugs.  And lots of experience watching classmates I started elementary school with drop out of high school, die, end up in jail, or commit suicide because of drug and alcohol related problems.  Besides that, April is a month of loss and grieving for me.  One I wasn’t able to mourn in the past, but can mourn now.

My memories of past drug and alcohol use are coming back, have been coming back a lot this April.  Like why I can’t stand the smell of pot smoke in my personal space, but cigarette smoke leaves a neutral impression.  Or dreams of being forced to ingest/inject/inhale/absorb through my skin whatever combinations my owner and his people gave us before training.  Then their anger and disgust when I passed out or vomited and then passed out because my body rejected the substances.

As you might guess, substance use and abuse is a sensitive topic for me.  I feel inadequate to write about the topic, so hope that you check out the article for yourself and make your own choices.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Mental Health info and resources for firefighters and first responders

About Firefighters and mental health resources

This was written by a firefighter and has some potentially valuable information.

I AM NOT endorsing the last section of the article – it is a request for votes in the authors community – that asks for support and donations for a campaign election.

But the resource link connects to the IAFF Recovery Center  If you are a firefighter, member of IAFF or know someone who is a firefighter and can benefit, please share the link however you choose.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Crisis Text Line Review

A couple of triggering events happened today.  One was related to my past sexual trauma.  The other was more recent – the living situation.  They combined to make a big soupy mess inside me.

The first call to the regular hotline helped me realize I needed to do something else to release the pressure.  Thankfully, my aunt was available to talk.  The immediate issue was express my anger so I could accomplish the rest of my errands.  Talking with her and making a plan did that.

Accomplishing the other tasks and some self care (groceries, aromatherapy diffuser, walking meditation), I finally made it home.  Instead of being able to relax, though, everything started to feel more intense.  But I wasn’t sure what was causing the problem – the living situation or the past anniversaries.

So I called the Crisis Text Line instead.  You can learn more about the history on Wikipedia here.  You can go to the actual website and read how the text line works before trying it here.  The Crisis Text Line is a non-profit organization and free.

PROCESS

Texted the phone number with a request.  Receive an automated response

Shared some information; received an automated response and took their questionnaire.

Received a text from a trained volunteer.  Text chatted with the volunteer for about an hour.  The volunteer helped me feel less alone and made some good suggestions.  I tried the suggestions.  They helped a little.  Offered some suggestions and reasons for those suggestions.  The reasons made sense, so I tried knitting again – even knowing it might be triggering.

Then I texted STOP to end the session.

REVIEW

For people who prefer to send text messages and have a service plan with either a lot of minutes or unlimited minutes, this is a great option.  The first response time is quick – within 4-5 minutes – unless you send a message during busy times.

My volunteer responded within 3 minutes after I finished the questionnaire.  Her responses, while slow in coming, were empathetic and respectful while also professional.  I explained the situation.  She offered empathy and suggestions.  I explained how and what I felt.  She reminded me I am not alone, and it’s okay to feel what I feel.

I explained about what strategies I have tried and why I felt frustrated.  She helped me get some perspective and try something I normally wouldn’t try.  Not because I don’t want to, but because physical tasks are usually not on my list when I am in pain.

The pauses between my responses and hers felt too long and anxiety provoking for me.  The generality of the suggestions and brainstorming did not feel as comfortable as when I talk to someone on the phone.

But then I didn’t share everything  that was causing the anxiety.  So that part also contributed to the anxiety.  My past experiences get in the way here.  For me, the act of calling and speaking to someone, verbalizing my feelings and experiences, is integral to the coping strategy of asking for help.

But the volunteer did help me refocus on the present and accomplish a small task.  One that did feel good and was distracting enough to help me reflect on what really disturbed me once I got home.

RECOMMEND?

Yes, I do recommend this Crisis Text Line as a resource.  I would use it again in similar situations or ones where talking didn’t feel comfortable.

Plus, the Crisis Text Line website has a wonderful and carefully curated list of referral/resource organizations for anyone looking for more or something else.

I also recommend this for anyone who might feel uncomfortable reaching out or asking for help in more traditional ways.  Or is using a coping strategy/technique like this for the first time.

Making that first call or text is the hardest step.

If your experience has been different from mine, please comment and share.

Thanks for reading.

Self Care: Appreciating Our Special Gifts

An Extra Post This week.  **Potential Triggers or Skepticism as New Age, Psychic, Extrasensory thoughts are included – feel free to disagree and skip**

(My opinion – one shared by my specialists)
Trauma forces victims to get creative in order to survive and cope with the experience(s).

quotation-erich-fromm-creativity-requires-the-courage-to-let-go-of-certainties-10-33-76

What kind of trauma?
Any kind – natural disaster, surgery, accident, victim of crime, victim of abuse or assault, difficult pregnancy/birth, bullying, racism, prejudice, etc.

That creativity forces victims/survivors to use parts of the brain that usually stay dormant in other people.  Those parts of the brain can:

  • make our senses more acute
  • enable us to tell when people are lying just by observing and listening
  • allow our intuition to warn us of possible danger or dangerous people ahead of time
  • improve our reflexes so that we can move to stay safe
  • Be sensitive to our environment and other peoples emotions in order to protect ourselves
  • “Know” things about people, places, animals, plants, objects or environments without understanding how or why (intuition?  empathy?  ESP?)
  • Develop talent for logical thinking, communication, biology, math, history, visual arts, etc.

Why call them gifts instead of curses?
Because all of the above have helped me on my path to recovery in some way.  My perception of the world is influenced by my past.

I learned to use the environment and my senses/perception to protect myself without knowing or understanding that in the past.  Therapy helped me understand how my hyper-vigilance worked, what triggered it, and why my senses reacted in ways that didn’t make sense according to “typical” developmental processes.

Rejecting Labels, Moving Past Bias, Embracing Gifts
Once school started, I started rejecting my gifts.  Considered them curses and ignored what they were telling me.  I was already being abused and bullied and rejected by my family, peers, and community.  Having unique talents, extrasensory or psychic gifts, or being interested in New Age philosophy only made me more of a target back then.

Labels:
Here on this blog (and throughout the website) I openly reject labels and aim for inclusivity instead.

Inclusive = radical acceptance, open mind/heart/spirit, 100% compassion, respect, and validation of all perspectives

Doesn’t matter what you want to call them.  They can embraced and turned into useful, productive life skills.

Moving Past Bias
It took me a long time to start accepting this part of myself again.  In fact, I didn’t start opening up to it until after moving to a place that discussed the paranormal at Starbucks and grocery stores.  It gave me courage to start talking about it in therapy and how these perceptions affected my coping strategies.

Embracing Gifts
My therapists and medical practitioners encouraged me to pursue these interests and learn more about how these abilities worked.  By doing that, my triggers became less intense and more manageable.

Why Talk About Gifts Now?
Conversations with my loved ones back home convinced me that many of us have unique abilities we hide from, reject, or deny because they are outside of the norm.  Two of them have affinities with crystals both similar and different to mine.  We shared knowledge and enjoyed learning how crystals have helped out in unique ways.  Then they accepted my gifts: crystals from my collection tuned to them.  And one friend told me the crystals are helping with certain activities.

Conclusion

Each of us is born with innate gifts.  Some of them get developed over time; others don’t.  Some don’t ever come out.  Others are activated by life experiences. Without context, they can be scary and feel crazy-making.

 

My gifts are not yours.  And your gifts are not mine.  But you DO have gifts.  And maybe some of the weird, scary stuff happening to you is coming from those gifts – they’r’e trying to get your attention.  Or maybe not.  The possibilities are endless.

What happens next is up to each one of us and how we choose to approach recovery.

But I hope you can keep an open mind and maybe start to reconsider your perceptions of coping challenges.  They could be gifts in hiding.

Thanks for reading