Physical Self Protection...How will you express it?

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 2 – Physical

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.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

What is considered Physical Self Protection? And why does it matter?

Physical Self Protection means more than self-defense, an alarm system, and weapons. It includes:

  • Feeling safe inside your physical body wherever you are
  • Making healthy lifestyle choices for nutrition and movement or exercise
  • Meeting essential needs of food, shelter, warmth, and clothing in ways that suit your life and budget in the present moment while also giving a sense of joy and satisfaction because you CAN take care of yourself in the most basic ways
  • Personal finance education to learn how to make good spending and investing choices

My process started about 7 or 8 years ago when I decided to break from my family. At the time, I had very little money and less interest in doing more than survive my “new independence”. Rent, medical bills, utility bills, food, and transportation ate most, if not all, of my budget back then. But I also couldn’t afford to get sick or end up in the hospital either. That put my job and independence at risk.

And I was tired of hiding behind ugly, ill-fitting clothes and a meek persona. Invisibility was safe and protected me as long as I didn’t mind observing instead of participating in life. Up until I got a full time position at work and left my family, invisibility felt inevitable for someone lacking confidence and not wanting to be noticed.

While I didn’t much like my physical self (body, face, etc.) at the time, I was learning to love, respect, value, and feel confident in the rest of my self. And I was ready to start making that change from invisible to acknowledged. Nutrition and physical health improvements were already part of my care routine, but I didn’t know anything about style and clothes. Nor did I know where to start looking for something besides fashion that focused on body types and colors. And my “friends” at the time were not exactly helpful either.

So I started a new project: positive self image through personal style. There had to be a way to make my insides and outsides match just like I was doing with nutrition and physical activity. But also within my limited budget.

Fostering a neutral/positive self image through personal style

When I feel confident and safe, I look and act confident and safe. People are less likely to target me.

But what happens if I feel confident and safe, but don’t appear confident or safe to others? People are likely to continue treating me as they always have.

If I feel good on the inside, I want to show that on the outside too.

Does that resonate with you? Because it’s how I started on the personal style journey and found Inside Out Style Blog and Imogen Lamport (creator). She discussed personal style as an expression of our authentic personality and how body/face shape, color palette, etc. are all small parts of the whole package. While primarily an image consultant for women, she has consulted with experts in men’s style and shared those tips on her site too.

I wrote about this journey in some past posts and added information about this blog to the Resources page too. You can read about the results and see some photos in “My Style Manifesto”.

However, looking and feeling stylish WAS NOT the most important lesson I learned as part of that learning group. Here are some lessons:

  • I can share who I am (sometimes how I feel) with others without talking at all through my physical appearance.
  • When I make time to put together thoughtful outfits that feel good against my skin, fit well, and express something about myself, I feel safe, secure, confident, and able to interact with others outside of my safe spaces
  • Every one of us in the 7 Steps to Style Program was on a “recovery journey” of our own to find, express, and feel confident in our authentic selves as women no matter our age, sexual orientation, race, country of origin, marital status, personal experience, or financial status.
  • As we completed the 7 Steps, many of us used our newfound skills and experiences to create new business and job opportunities in alignment with our values.
    • One of these people is Liz Klebba of Closet Play Image based in the US. She created an image consulting and personal style business to help empower women to enjoy expressing themselves through personal style while still blending in and feeling appropriate in different environments. You can learn more about this by checking out her post called “Why Trends Matter“.

How can you protect yourself with an expression of your style that fits within your budget?

Creating ways to add movement into your daily routine (physical fitness)

As I’ve mentioned before, I do not have a typical exercise routine or participate in sports these days. In fact, I have not done any of that on a regular basis since college. Not because I didn’t want to participate, but because the pain in my body combined with panic attacks and flashbacks made such activities impossible without also experiencing shame and embarrassment.

So I started by incorporating more movement into my daily routine slowly. Grocery shopping meant walking to and from the store with totes and portable shopping carts that navigated stairs. Walk to and from the public transportation stations and work. Plus house cleaning and laundry require lots of movement + energy + time.

And I move a lot when preparing food and cooking. My pantry and dishes are all in shelves under the sink or counters. My utensils hang from hooks above my head. Reusable containers live on top of the refrigerator/freezer.

What are some ways you can change your routines and environment to include more movement?

Adding sensory grounding strategies and tools (physical objects) to your every day life style (aka magic bag)

I touched on this a little in the last two sections, but there are so many ways to include physical objects or touch stones in our every day lives to help us feel grounded and safe in the present moment. Here are more details based on the examples above.

In the personal style section, I mentioned putting together outfits with clothing and accessories. Wearing clothing and accessories can be a confidence-boosting, joyful sensory experience if we allow it.

  • Clothing has a texture and evokes a tactile sensation as it rests on and moves with the skin on our bodies.
  • Accessories also have a texture and evoke sensations as they move with, enclose, or rest on our skin/hair, etc.
  • The colors and patterns or prints engage our visual senses and bring out different emotions – not always consciously.
  • And let’s be honest here, our shoes, jewelry, even clothing sometimes, make sounds as they move with us – thus engaging our auditory senses.

Why not choose fabrics and textures that feel good agains our skin? Choose prints, patterns, and colors that flatter our coloring and remind us of positive emotions? Include accessories that remind us of positive experiences and express our genuine interests?

In addition, there are other portable items we can take with us and use discreetly wherever we are.

Healthy snacks and drinks engage our sense of smell and taste. Sometimes even our visual and tactile senses too. If sustainability is a personal value, reusable containers add in another element of self care. Plus bringing your own food instead of buying take out can be budget friendly and give an excuse to get creative too.

Aromatherapy and herbs come in many portable forms these days. You can carry them in pockets, backpacks, and handbags. Take them out and use when you need a moment to yourself without disturbing others or making a mess. Then put away for use in the future.

Then there are less obvious physical grounding objects we can take with us. Some are more portable than others. Here are some examples:

What are some items you can take with you to feel safe and grounded as you navigate the outside world?

Incorporating physical protection or grounding objects throughout your living environment

Plants and sunlight are the two most important grounding objects in my apartment right now. I often feel like I’m still living in the cage when I can’t leave my apartment. Plus I worry about privacy since some of my neighbors and I can see in each others’ windows. So being able to grow plants and keep my windows unblocked bring the outside world in when I can’t go out.

After that, I’ve worked hard to save money and purchase home goods like bed linens and towels made with different fabrics and textures that feel good against my skin and help me with some of the PTSD symptoms and side effects.

Bed first, the rest comes later 🙂

Two examples here:

  1. Bed linens. I experience night sweats and intense nightmares that soak/stain my sheets, pillows, blankets to the point where I had to get up and sleep somewhere else multiple times a night. Can’t tell you how many polyester pillows and acrylic sheets I ruined with the constant washing and sweating. Or how often I ended up with unexplainable rashes and acne or contact dermatits because of the fabric rubbing against and getting into my skin.
    1. Solution: purchase pillows, bed linens, blankets, etc. in fabrics with natural antibacterial and cooling properties – i.e. linen, wool, and percale cotton (organic if possible)
    2. Problem: cost and expense of replacing everything at once
    3. Solution: prioritize self care and move 3/4 of money from “fun” to “home goods” until I replaced all of the items on my list.
    4. Reward: purchase a book, see a movie, or something equally fun, budget friendly and frivolous after I buy 3 items.
  2. Cleaning and laundry products. In college, I learned that my body and nose were extremely sensitive to conventional cleaning, bath, and body care products. The smell made me physically ill or caused breathing problems. And the chemicals gave me rashes, acne, eczema, etc. That included: cosmetics; cleaning products; bath & body; perfume; and laundry products.
    1. Solution: research how to make my own cleaning products or find non-bleach and petroleum based cleaners, detergents, and soaps. Or stop using cosmetics, etc. I did both for a while.
    2. Problem: back then, the sustainability and “green” movements were grassroots and not well known. Not many products available on the market.
    3. Solution: compromise. Use a combination of aromatherapy and recipes from diy housecleaning websites/books/blogs to keep things clean at home.
    4. Reward: fun experiments with essential oils, mixing cleaning solutions. Find a learning path that led to this blog and other job opportunities. Apply my personal finance education to be “thrifty” and meet goals.

Crystals, stuffed animals, books, and figurines on my alter spaces and walls come in second. In my living room and bedroom, I have what I call “alter space” or “sacred space” for objects of meaning and spiritual or emotional power. They are combinations of objects arranged a certain way on corner shelves and remind me of my past and present. Before, my living spaces were bare because I used them as a place for sleep and storage. Now, I have a real home that reflects who I am and how I choose to live.

Do you have certain objects at home or work that act as protection to help you cope with stress or flashbacks?

Pulling it together

I protect myself and feel confident moving through the outside world because I’ve learned how to use every day objects in creative ways as armor or shields – aka grounding objects. The learning process was and continues to be difficult with lots of mistakes and challenges from expected and unexpected sources.

For example, I used to be afraid of anything related to my senses because I thought “sensual” was another word for “sexual”.

As I learned that sensation, sensual appreciation, and sensuality DID NOT EQUAL sexuality or sexual anything, my whole world expanded.

Self Protection = Self-Care
Protection is a confident expression of our Authentic Selves
Is a vital aspect of Self-Care
Provides Techniques to be assertive in how we choose to ensure our safety
  • Sensuality and Sexuality are different.
  • A person can be sensual and indulge in sensual experiences without falling into addiction or having to engage in sexual experiences.
  • Pleasure can equal joy and peace.
  • Grounding strategies teach people how to uses their physical, emotional, and spiritual senses to feel safe in and focused on the present moment wherever and whenever they are.
  • Confidence and security in oneself are the best kinds of protection and can be expressed in physical ways. Some are visible to everyone while others are more personal and customized to individuals.

These days, sensory grounding is an essential tool in my toolbox of coping techniques and strategies. I use it all the time.

Finally, physical protection provides a strong foundation to become emotionally, spiritually, and energetically protected too.

Thanks for reading.

Series: Care, Protection, and Expression of Self Part 1

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.

Photo by Rahul Yadav on Pexels.com

Hi and welcome.

I have not written a series in quite a while and wasn’t sure if this one would work out. But after the last two posts, I decided the topic of self-protection couldn’t be put off any longer.

My goal is to share a part of this series every week starting today. I/we all hope this information helps you feel safer, more secure, and more confident living in the outside world too.

What is Self Protection?

Some people call protection “armor” or “shields” or “barricades” or “Weapons”. Others use words like “wall” or “boundary” or “barrier”.

No matter the terms or labels used, protection means keeping oneself safe, feeling safe, and staying safe wherever we are in the world. Sometimes that means physical safety. Other times it means emotional safety. Maybe spiritual or environmental safety is required to feel safe and connected to the present. Many people consider the obvious choices for self-protection and often forget that protection can be anything as long as it keeps us safe.

Self Protection in and of itself is neutral. Intention matters and can change what seems like a negative or destructive act of protection into something positive and healthy. The reverse is also true.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Examples: comfort food, exercise, video/computer games, and sleep.

That said, protection can be aggressive (guns, knives, shouting, bullying) or defensive (walking away, wearing body armor, or installing an alarm system); visible (medical alert bracelet) or invisible (mantra or positive affirmation); constructive (positive, safe, helpful, useful) or destructive (harmful, mean, dangerous, negative).

Sometimes the obvious kinds of self-protection are not as effective as we want or hope at helping us feel safe. That is where creativity and self expression come in to play because all parts of me believe this:

There are as many ways to protect and express ourselves as there are living beings in this universe.

AlterXpressions

How does it connect with Self Expression and Self-Care?

Self-Care includes being able to protect ourselves from danger. How we protect ourselves and what kind of danger we need protection from depends on the individual. We are unique beings with our own learning styles and ways of self-expression. Each of us has different fears and requires different kinds of options to protect ourselves. What works for me might not work for you. What works for you might not work for me.

But what does work for all of us is learning the tools and skills that enable us to protect ourselves. The first step in that is understanding the different types of self-protection available to us. Then comes the hard part:

  • Learn the tools and skills (self-study and exploration, apprenticeship and mentoring, or educational classes – they all work)
  • Practice and apply that knowledge in our own lives (requires persistence, self-confidence, resilience, and making mistakes)
  • Use creativity and imagination to customize the the tools and skills to fit our needs (fosters positive self-image/body image, self-expression, and thinking outside the box)

In doing this, we all learn to safely express ourselves, feel more confident and secure in who we are as individuals, foster positive self-image, and empower ourselves to be independent.

4 Types of Self Protection Discussed Here

Physical Self Protection

More than self-defense, an alarm system, and weapons. It includes things like:

  • Fostering a neutral/positive self image through personal style
  • Creating ways to add movement into your daily routine (physical fitness)
  • Adding sensory grounding strategies and tools (physical objects) to your every day life style (aka magic bag)

Emotional/mental self protection

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy skills
  • Sleep Hygiene routines
  • Awareness strategies (self, other, emotional intelligence)
  • Self-Reflection, solitude, or alone time

Spiritual Protection

  • Spiritual practice rooted in unconditional love and acceptance
  • Meditation and breathing exercises
  • Energetic shields around my self & home
  • Meaningful, positive connection with self and others (aka support network)

Environmental Protection

  • Physical safe place(s) – home & a few other places
  • Mental safe space(s) – alternative to dissociation
  • Spiritual safe space(s) – aka nature, religious building, sanctuary as defined by you
  • Home decorating with feng shui & energy clearing practices

Final Words

Whether you are a trauma survivor or not, self-care is vital to our overall health and wellness. Self protection is one small part of self care that can teach and empower us to feel secure, safe, and confident in ourselves. It’s a process that takes a lifetime to learn and apply. But in the end helps in obvious and unexpected ways.

My goal with this series is to:

Show you learning paths that empower you to feel secure and safe in who you are so that you can go out in the world, be your authentic selves, and achieve your goals without feeling the need to hide or be held back by your past experiences.

Thanks for reading

Alter Post: School of Hard Knocks – and what it taught me about knowledge

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.

Hey All,

All of us in the AlterXpressions system (i or we) decided to share some more about our personal story as a follow up to last week’s post.

A winding path through trees...destination unknown
Destination unknown

First because our journey to where we are now has been filled with directional changes.

Second because many guests have been asking about how we got to where we are now.

Finally, because all of us are here to emphasize that this place is about sharing knowledge and resources – not telling people what to do or how to live their lives.

Being smart doesn’t get a person anywhere unless the individual knows how to use and apply those smarts. Same with education and experience.

It takes courage, resilience, compassion, love, acceptance and an open mind to pick up the pieces of life after trauma and figure out how to live again. We mean how to have the

  • Courage to believe in, love, and accept ourselves as we are in that moment knowing we are different and will never be who we were again
  • Resilience to learn how to roll with the changes that life throws at us as we learn our new “normal”
  • Compassion for ourselves and the people around us as mistakes happen, hurt triggers all kinds of emotions and sensations, and we fall
    • Because everyone falls, makes mistakes, hurts self/others, and gets hurt
  • Open mind to ask for/accept help, learn the tools we need to be who we want to be, and thrive as our authentic selves – happy, loving, loved, safe, – in alignment with our personal values

All parts of me agree to share this with you, so please don’t be surprised by shifts in language or writing style. We tend to interrupt, talk over, or repeat each other writing like this.

College did not exactly prepare me for “real world” work. But it did give me insight into how much I didn’t know about life and people because of how I was raised. The classes and instructors provided lots of book learning, but living on campus taught me about hope and made “happy ever after” seem possible. It was a break from the reality of my other life – almost like a bubble – until my past caught up with me there too.

7 geese in a meadow. One is not like the others...pairs of 2x2x2...then one?
One of these geese is not like the others. Two by two by two…

That”s when I realized college life didn’t fit me in the same way high school didn’t fit because my life experience taught me to value different life goals/career objectives. I was in survival mode and didn’t realize it.

Graduate school taught me that I wasn’t meant to spend my life in a rigid classroom. It also gave me the opportunity to explore skills that I disregarded as useless in high school or college. It also highlighted areas where I was completely lacking in knowledge and experience. Like interpersonal communication and time management; saying “no” and setting boundaries.

University buildings, a parking lot, food trucks...typical academic setting
Typical academic setting

Still, graduate school helped me find a temporary job that turned into a 13-year long career with the same company and allowed me to start this website/blog. I learned foundational skills in architecture and design from graduate school. Combined that knowledge with my writing and organizational skills to land a job helping a project manager create deliverables for a client.

My hard work, eagerness to learn and apply knowledge, and commitment to meeting deadlines caught the attention of other managers and people in the department. They mentored me and taught me more than I can ever express. In that organization, I got to be myself. Acceptance and respect was based on my actions and reactions instead of rumors and assumptions.

My past didn’t matter to them when they learned about it. Instead of firing me or suspending me, they offered support and helped me find ways to keep working no matter how bad my symptoms got. As long as I was honest with them, they worked with me to create flexible schedules and go through the red tape so I got to keep my benefits and job.

Now, thirteen years later, I have job security and a role that allows me to continue doing what I started while also taking on new challenges that help my team and enjoy work again.

EPIPHANY

College education and graduate school classes gave me the foundation skills to understand the work I do, but the school of hard knocks provided me the important life lessons that helped me earn credibility, respect, and acceptance.

Without both parts of that equation, I would not be as valuable or useful in my day job or here on the blog.

Finally, I acknowledge that I am lucky and blessed to have found an organization that accepts me, values me, and allows me to continue on the winding path that is my career with them.

As always, 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.

Life Changing Moments: Home for the Holidays

Dear Guests,

This time next week, I will be back in my home state (the one where I was born) getting ready to celebrate Christmas with my parents, brother, and father’s side of  the family for the first time in 7 years. Maybe longer. All of us will get together at an aunt’s house on the morning of Christmas Day to open gifts, hang out, and (later) eat a holiday dinner together. Dinner as in lunch…not the evening meal (aka supper).

I admit to feeling many conflicting emotions. Fear, excitement, guilt, joy, anxiety are a few of them. In terms of my immediate family, I’m excited to see my dad. We’ve been talking (FaceTime) and emailing regularly since August. He’s excited to see me too and has been keeping me updated about the rest of the family. I have mixed feelings about seeing my mom and brother (and his wife) again. We didn’t part on good terms, and my child parts are upset about being close to them again. But the adult parts of me are happy to see them again.

For my Dad’s side of the family, I’m excited and anxious to see them again. We don’t relate very well for a lot of reasons, so sometimes sharing space can be difficult. It’s part of why I choose to stay in a hotel or AirBnB during visits home. We love each other, but live completely different lives. And a lot of my life is not something many of my relatives on either side can acknowledge, approve, or accept. Other than some social topics or basic questions and answers, we don’t have much to talk about.

For my Mom’s side, the timing worked to visit with one group of cousins the day before I leave. As I’m only staying for 4 days, I’m grateful for that much and excited to see them. Yes I’m also nervous, but that’s mostly because it’s a new relationship with all of us being adults now. Luckily, we are all foodies and can spend a few hours chatting and enjoying good food.

Have you noticed the food theme? A lot of my family gatherings revolve around food – it was how different generations came together to prepare food, set tables, cook, share stories, and enjoy conversations while eating – as a party or event was often how my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and parents brought us together.

Why do  this?

The simple answer is closure.
I’m in a positive, healing place that allows me to open up and face some of the scariest parts of my past so that moving forward is less stressful. Plus, I do miss my family. I love them and want the best for them – best as in what works for and with their current goals and lifestyles. Closure allows my heart wounds to finally drain and start to heal.

The complicated answer is more nuanced.
I am going to visit my grandmother. She hasn’t been doing well since her accident back in January. If I can give her anything, it’s one holiday with all of us together like before. We can spend some time together, and I can reassure her that I’m happy, healthy, and safe even if I live all the way across the country.

I’m going for my father. Seeing him in person, giving and receiving a real hug is a gift in itself. We don’t have a lot in common, but we are interested in each other’s lives and actively listen, accept and respect each others choices. Besides that, my Dad is really funny and always finds a way to share his fatherly wisdom with humor.

I’m going for myself, to prove that I can spend time with them as an adult whose triggers don’t get in the way and cause problems. We can be ourselves, share space together, and enjoy the holiday time with less tension and negativity. I don’t have to hide parts of myself and can accept that different relatives will and do hide behind masks – but the hiding is not personal. And I won’t get in trouble for being me. Or cause problems by being me.

In doing this, I can

try to resolve my conflicting feelings about letting any family into my life and being part of their lives.

Conflict part 1: I am happy as I am now being connected again, was happy before reconnecting with any family at all, and am not sure how much I want to be connected with any of them. If I want to be connected at all.

Conflict part 2: I love my family and am happy to be peripherally connected to some of them. But I’ve left behind the dreams of being close with them or having a strong connection where we keep in touch regularly, etc.

In other words, I’m facing some of my biggest fears in less than a week. Wish me luck?

And luck to any and all of you who might be in similar situations with the holiday season.

Thanks for reading.