Coping Challenges: Buzzwords, Triggers & Thanksgiving

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 Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

United States Thanksgiving Holiday is this Thursday. Then the holiday shopping weekend begins with Black Friday, continues with Small Business Saturday, and ends with Cyber Monday.

Small Business Saturday is my favorite shopping day because I try to support local small businesses as much as possible. Small businesses are one of the few ways ex-cons, veterans, and people with different educational backgrounds can be independent and successful with stable incomes to support themselves and their loved ones. There are lots of other reasons to shop local and shop small, but those are my two personal favorites.

If you’ve read past posts, then you might remember how challenging Thanksgiving can be. I never look forward to this holiday or the whole “holiday season” that starts in November and ends sometime in January. But this year, I am looking towards my 5 day vacation and doing some fun activities from the comfort of my home.

Buzzwords, Challenge Authenticity and Meaning of

That is part of the coping strategy and part of the coping challenge.

What do I mean? Well, words and phrases that become popular in social conversation sometimes lose their impact, authenticity, and specific meaning over time. The can get misused or become misunderstood, categorized, and labeled a certain way or associated with certain groups.

So when these words come up in conversation, people often make assumptions or jump to conclusions thinking they know what I am talking about and get offended, defensive, insulted, etc. when our meaning of the words differ.

One example that stands out came 5 years ago when I was living in an apartment building in Boston, MA. This woman and I were talking about experiencing anxiety and PTSD. She told me “Oh yes, I have a touch of PTSD too.” in a serious tone and proceeded to explain how stressed out she was from work and the recent loss of a pet and some other personal problems.

When she asked me, I explained about my symptoms. She told me that was not PTSD and that I needed serious help. Then proceeded to avoid me as often as possible. When she couldn’t avoid me, she treated me with condescension and wariness.

My struggle right now has to do with other phrases and words with specific meaning in my life:

  • Self Care
  • Resilience
  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Reflection
  • Acceptance

These words have become popular as social change supports and encourages people to take better care of themselves, learn how to reduce stress, and live healthier lifestyles.

On the one hand, that’s great because more people have access to knowledge and resources that can teach them how to help themselves make these positive and neutral changes in their lives. They can learn with skepticism and make their own choices (mistakes and successes) with confidence to move forward with their goals.

On the other hand, it gives other people opportunities to manipulate vulnerable populations by twisting the meaning of these words and teaching small bits and pieces of these concepts out of context. People proclaim themselves leaders and experts with self-help guides and quick-fix programs to follow. Maybe they help some people, but what about the ones they fail?

And so I have to ask myself: am I using buzzwords because they’re popular and make me seem “cool” to others? Or am I using words and phrases with a specific intention that helps me achieve my health and wellness goals?

Is it a coping strategy, a coping technique, or a coping challenge?

The answer is unknown at this time. I’m still working through it all.

Is it a trigger?

yes. This kind of thinking feels like walking in circles with pauses to bang my head against a brick wall to escape.

Triggers

Which brings me to triggers.

Well, they still manifest in ways that are new to me. They often surprise and distract me at inconvenient times.

  • My pain levels stay around 5 out of 10…with 10 being the worst. It’s better than years past when my pain level stayed steady at 7.5-9 all the time.
  • This time of year, my triggers are environmental, sensory, and emotional:
  • Flashbacks and body memories cause dissociation and increase in anxiety/hyper-vigilance/agoraphobia
  • Physical pain plays games with my balance and movement – disturbs sleep and distracts from work
  • People moving in and out, city life, cold temperatures, and holiday stress contribute to environmental and sensory stress
  • And of course, my upstairs neighbors continue to be inventive in how they try to annoy me (and our neighbors).

In a way, the triggers haven’t changed. They exist no matter what.

How I cope with the triggers; my reactions to the triggers have changed in positive ways. Most of it is based on the work I’ve done in the past building on itself. Some is new.

Here are the main strategies that help:

Exposure therapy: I express gratitude to my annoying neighbors because they’ve helped me with triggers that used to overwhelm me, cause panic attacks, and make me pass out or not be able to sleep.

Aromatherapy & Herbalism classes: I’ve been learning how to use essential oil blends for pain management, cold and flue, emotional support, and panic attacks through aromatherapy classes. In herbalism classes, I’ve learned how about specific plants (alone or combined) can support different organ systems and overall health.

Cooking, Making Tea, and Creating Aromatherapy Blends: This appeals to me on many levels: saves me money; allows me to be creative; something all parts of me can do together; work in a safe space at home; have fun

*If you choose to try aromatherapy or herbalism, I ask/suggest/recommend you talk to your doctors and work with a certified practitioner or take classes to learn about the subjects before you try it at home*

Laughter: My perspective changes constantly. Back in the past, I had to hide my sense of humor and stay quiet if I wanted to move through the world unnoticed. My voice is unique and memorable. And humor – well, it’s quirky and eccentric and not always easy to understand. These days I choose to find humor and fun in seeming negative or stressful experiences as often as possible.

What kind of challenges and strategies are you utilizing?

Thanks for reading

I choose to thrive in a world filled with kindness, unconditional love, and acceptance

Life Changing Moments: A little of this, a little of that, quotes, and affirmations too

Dear Guests,

Autumn (or fall) is here. It’s the end of September, and I honestly don’t know where to start. Life took many unexpected turns this year. Some of which I can’t discuss because the stories are not mine to share. Other experiences are related, but not, to what I write here. But I am not sure of their relevance.

That brings me to the first part of the title: this, that, and what else? Work is going well; so many new challenges that it takes a lot of my brain power. I’m still dealing with a difficult living situation, but we’re making slow progress there. Plus 5 months left of living here! And some of those experiences I don’t feel comfortable sharing here, they have to do with the positive evolving relationship between my parents and me.

Yup, I said it. Postive. Evolving. Relationship. Parents. Me.

In fact, they’re coming to visit me next week and will be staying (in a hotel) for a little more than 1 week. Yes, I am excited and happy. Nervous too. But mostly excited.

The other news? I’ve decided to stop allowing comments through a feedback form until I can put in something safe and reliable.

You can comment on posts if you want. But I’m getting so much spam that it’s hard to distinguish guests from trolls. Apologies for that…

And, I will be writing less the rest of this year, as I consider what different direction to take Untangled Connections so it stays relevant to its main purpose. As my recovery changes, my life changes and coping strategies change.

There is so much new information about trauma, recovery, PTSD, and more out there that I can’t keep up and still pursue other interests. That means the topics here will change. The tone will change. And the types of resources/information will change too.

What I’ve written about these last 4 years has to do with Survival Mode and the first years after getting out of the dangerous situation.

Now, I am in a different phase with different challenges. And if you are willing to read about them, I will share that here too.

Here are the FAQs; skip the next section for Affirmations and Quotes 🙂

Q7: How can I write to you? Will you write back to me? What about comments?

7A: At this time, you can comment on blog posts. Most go to SPAM, so there is a chance that your comment does not get a response if I think it is SPAM and does not follow blog rules.

I  tried to offer a comment form, but all comments went directly to the SPAM filter. Since those messages go to my e-mail inbox, I decided that it’s too risky to address those messages because of increased problems with phishing, viruses, malware, etc.

Q8: Where are you? Will you be writing more?

8A: I am taking a writing break. There is a lot going on in my personal life right now, and I’m working on a new direction for Untangled Connections now that my recovery has changed trajectory and the challenges are not the same as before.

365 Days of Affirmations Follow Up

A few times in the past, I shared a personal coping strategy project called “365 Days of Affirmations”.

The point of this project was to change my thinking processes, attitude, and behavior from negative/unhappy/angry all the time to neutral/postive/content/loving instead and apply that to all parts of my life.

The difficult part was figuring out what “positive” meant to me. Because, while I believe in the power of positive thinking, I also believe in potential harm of positive thinking. And have experienced the blowback when positive thinking fails. That is part of why this update took so long.

While I did compose an affirmation every day for 365 days, I failed at writing down each affirmation once a day for 365 days. Some times I forgot to write down an affirmation for one month or longer. Then had to go back and write them all when I did remember to record the affirmations and quotes.

On the other hand, I learned that creating an affirmation for the day did help me change my thinking processes, attitude, and behavior.

I learned how to reframe sentences and opinions to be either neutral or positive, kind, and encouraging, without feeling over-the-top or unattainable. For Example:

Today is not bad out – cloudy and gray, but smells like autumn and not raining.

vs

Today is bright, cool and gray with some clouds. The air smells like autumn rain.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be in order to manifest my goals and dreams

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenges: When People Avoid You because…

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.

Life is awkward on the best of days. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding oneself in unknown situations. Other times there is something going on, and people who care avoid you for their own reasons. Or you avoid them. No one communicates. Or everyone communicates without really saying anything aka addressing the cause(s).

That ends up with: confusion, hurt feelings, breaking of relationships, etc.

In my case, I learned a long time ago that people are transient guests in my life. The more they learn about me, the less they want to be around me. On rare occasions, I do meet people and build long term relationships outside of professional ones.

But I can count on 1 hand the number of true friends and loved ones that I interact with more than 3x a month – whether by phone, email, or in person – who have earned my complete trust and respect.

More often than not, people read this blog out of general interest and then start avoiding me in real life. Or they make friends with people who dislike me for some reason and start avoiding me in favor of the “new” people. Or have some other reason to “ghost” me as younger people say these days.

That used to hurt a lot. I didn’t understand what about me made people react this way.

Then I realized the problem was not with me, but with the other people.

You see, something about them made interacting with me uncomfortable. Instead of acknowledging this and working with me to figure out a solution, they denied anything was wrong and avoided me or blamed me instead.

How did I figure this out?

Not on my own. Over the course of my recovery, in counseling sessions and self-improvement workshops, this lesson has been reinforced many times.

I am who I am. I change constantly because life is change. Most of the time I am willing to compromise and work with people. Other times, I flat out refuse to change in order to conform or fit in with cultural norms or peer pressure. But I always try to be respectful and accepting of people as they are even if they don’t return that courtesy.

And because I practice unconditional love and acceptance for all beings, I can accept and forgive people who act and react to life with avoidance, denial, blane, or rejection.

They are who they are and coping with life as best they can. When it happens, no hard feelings.

People come and people go. Feeling hurt or blaming myself only triggers shame and guilt for something that is not my responsibility. I asked questions. I tried to make it right. Did my best. Now it’s over and done with.

I wish those people well and move on.

Other people have told me that attitude is harsh and mean. Maybe it’s true. But trying to hold on to something that doesn’t exist anymore…how is that healthy, good, or (insert your word here)?

My only goal is to live my life full of unconditional love and acceptance. For me, that brings out the best qualities in life: joy, fun, prosperity, safety, resilience, strength

And allows me to weather the worst life sends my way.

I hope maybe this story will inspire you, my guests, to reflect on how you can take control of your choices by changing your attitude and intention towards yourself, life, and others.

It’s not easy. It’s a continuous work-in-progress, a life-long endeavor. But it can truly change your relationships for the better like it did (and coninues to do) mine.

Thanks for reading.

ADMIN: It comes in 3s; day late; dollar short; life gets busy

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Guests,

This post is coming one day late and one dollar short of my usual content. By the end of it, you will understand why I am taking a mini-vacation from blogging.

Usually, I work on this from my personal computer. Helps to keep my paid job separate from the rest of life. This post is coming to you from a different computer because my other one is at the Apple Service Center getting repaired.

But, as the title says, “bad stuff” often happens in 3s.

Bad stuff #1: I go to the ER on Monday for some peace and quiet to help put myself back together after 10+ days of scent triggers causing panic attacks at home. Yes, it’s still happening. No I don’t feel the need to visit ER again any time soon. Yes, my counselor and I put together a care plan that is working right now. No the neighbor has not stopped with causing triggers. Yes I am working on a permanent soluction

Bad stuff #2: My computer finally starts acting up to the point where Apple Phone support sends me to the store. At the store on Friday, my computer passes all the diagnostic tests, but the support person notices error messages in the logs and suggests a visit to the Repair Center. Repair Center will do more testing and repair any problems with my computer. It’s there now.

Bad stuff #3: In between all this, I keep screwing up my aromatherapy case study reports and have to redo them for a 3rd time. Between blogging and personal life stress, I think I have to take a blogging break.

If you don’t see me posting new content for a few weeks, it’s because I’m taking care of some stuff outside the Internet. But I will try to share different content on the weekends – maybe publish a list of posts from the beginning of the blog or favorites from different years/categories instead.

Thanks for understanding.

Always, thanks for reading.

AlterXpressions

Environmental Self Protection IMAGINATION + COPING STRATEGIES = SAFE SPACES Physical safe place(s) - physical locations in and out of home Mental safe space(s) - meditation, visualization, mindfulness Spiritual safe space(s) - aka altars or holy places or nature Home decorating with feng shui & energy clearing practices

Series: Care Protection Expression Part 5 – Environmental

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 a Safe Space? Is it the same as a Safe Place?

A safe space is any environment where you or I or anyone feels physically, emotionally, spiritually safe. Ideally we’d feel safe in all 3 areas. Personally, I am for 2 out of 3 at any given time.

Safe spaces integrate and utilize the coping strategies and techniques from the other types of self protection discussed in this series to create a safe, protected environment. aka safe space

Safe Places tend to be physical environments and can be safe spaces. BUT not all Safe Spaces are safe places.

  • Some safe spaces are physical spaces like houses, bedrooms, “home”, libraries, movie theaters, work, holy places, religious or spiritual buildings, hospitals.
  • Some safe spaces are visualizations that people can reach through dreams (day dreaming, sleep dreaming, meditation, dissociation, hypnosis)
  • Some safe spaces are a combination of physical and sensory areas that help people connect with a higher power, nature, or (your noun here)
  • Some safe spaces are sensory grounding objects people wear or carry with them as they go about their lives.

You (and I) never know what your safe space will be until you experiment and create one.

How many safe spaces can I have/make/use?

As many as you feel comfortable having

As many as your imagination can come up with

As many as you need or want

How many do you have/use?

I have a lot. One for each alter personality. At least one (maybe two) general spaces we all use together. Three for spiritual work. And five physical spaces not counting parks and green spaces where I live.

So 88 + 2 + 3 + 5 = 98 safe spaces approximately.

Most of those safe spaces are not physical. But they can become physical with help from physical protection techniques, i.e. touch stones & sensory grounding tools. I build my environmental protection using a combination of sensory grounding tools, emotional protection shields and spiritual invisible armor.

My favorite kinds of environmental self protection are the safe spaces limited only by my imagination because I can take them with me wherever I go.

Please be mindful of meeting your basic needs while creating safe spaces. All of this is part of self care and can be used no matter your budget or lifestyle.

Please do not limit yourself to only self protection coping strategies when you create your environmental self protection. Use whatever feels right to you.

What do Safe Spaces look like?

Environmental Self Protection equals safe spaces
Some safe spaces I’ve visited or only re-created in a visualization

So I am being vulnerable with this collage. Two of the images are from my current apartment. One image is from a vacation I took many years ago before my name change and move. It’s the same place where I found the banner photo for this blog. The final image is a stock photo that represents one of my visualization safe spaces – a location in my mind where all parts of me can get together and “hang out” so to speak. It’s much sharper than the faded memory of visiting Niagara Falls back in high school.

As you can tell, my apartment is colorful using many shades of earth tones to feel safe, calm and soothing.

Water: the smell, sound, look and (sometimes feel) always brings a smile to my face and peace to my mind. A bath cleanses my physical and energetic/emotoinal self by washing away dirt and negative energy. Flavored water (infusions) nourish my body, look pretty, smell and taste delicious.

Earth: Plants at home. Plants and parks all around my neighborhood and throughout the city. They remind me of joy, life, rebirth and laughter. All my plants are budding or having babies. It’s wonderful to watch and be part of the growing cycle. Or mourn when a plant ends its struggle to thrive and moves on to the next adventure (i.e. dies).

Either way, I’m connected to other living beings in a way that feels safe to me.

Fire: Sunlight in my apartment. Candles. Aromatherapy diffusers heating water to spread scents through the air in my apartment. Cooking food for nourishment. Cleaning and laundry. Fire reminds me to take care of my basic needs, so I can thrive and help others too.

Air/Wind: Wind reminds me to bend and be flexible. Nothing is ever exactly what it appears to be through my physical senses. Pause, reflect, use intuition and logic to make choices instead of reacting without thinking. Change the smell of my environment to remove triggers or bring me back to the present moment when I feel triggered.

Pulling it all together

Environmental self protection is all about creating safe spaces wherever we happen to be.

Safe spaces, like all the other coping strategies and techniques I discuss, are multi-dimensional and unique to each individual.

I can give guidelines like in this post and others, but no one can create your safe space except you. And once you create it, no one can take it away from you unless you let them take it away.

That is a lesson I learned the hard way. And am still learning today. Kind of like the concept of “home” and “perfect living spaces”. Because, in spite of making my apartment as comfy and safe feeling as possible, I still (in the very back of my mind, buried in the subconscious) live in that childhood cage. The more internal stress I feel, the more my apartment looks like a mess and a reflection of that cage.

And when I worked in an office, my desk used to reflect the cage too. It got me into trouble (i.e. a target for harassment and backstabbing comments) from people who didn’t like me at work. They never talked to me directly, but they would point, whisper, stare, and talk to people who cared about me. Then those people would say something to me out of real concern. But still triggering and painful.

It wasn’t until I learned how to combine these different aspects of self care and self protection that I learned how to cope with experiences like that in more positive ways. Music, diffusers, crystal grids, other kinds of sound healing, and feng shui helped me create physical safe spaces and apply similar concepts in creating “magic bags” of sensory grounding tools to take with me wherever I go.

Maybe these ideas will help you create your own version of environmental self protection. Maybe it won’t. But I hope they inspire you to play and have fun with coping strategies and self care.

Thanks for reading.