Series: Care Protection Expression Part 4 – Spiritual

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.

This is a NON-PARTISAN post about FAITH and BELIEF

Let me start with this: I ACCEPT ALL RELIGIOUS AND SPIRITUAL PRACTICES THAT EXIST. Each one is valid. Each one is similar and different to the others. No one is better than or less than the other.

Growing up, I was lucky to be exposed to multiple religious and spiritual practices at a young age. It didn’t feel lucky back then because I didn’t fit in anywhere. I didn’t belong to a congregation or publicly affiliate myself with any specific religion. I didn’t know all the songs or prayers everyone else memorized and sang in class. With a few exceptions, most of my blood family believed in something, but kept it to themselves.

In my other life, I was trained to be a good Mormon girl until my owner and his people discovered my gifts and labeled me a monster. Useful, but still a monster. They brought in people of different spiritual backgrounds and abilities to test me, train me, and dole out appropriate punishments. I learned to be wary of psychics, witches, shamans, and healers from them.

More, though, I learned to hate myself and my gifts for making me different. And I learned how to hide/deny/not use my gifts on command. Well, after they taught me how to use them on command – and only to hurt others.

That’s when the self harm started. Yet, every time I made progress to “disappear” or “sleep forever” or “leave”, beings came into my dreams and stopped me. Then guided me towards a safe person, place, or object. And sparked my curiosity to bring me back to the present.

Questions…so many questions. And Faith

So when beings started to visit me in my dreams (or when I dissociated), I had no one to talk to or ask questions. My family and peers thought I was crazy because I kept hearing voices and seeing things they couldn’t see. Nor did they accept any of that as real or valid in spite of being Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Jehovah’s witness, or Mormon. Those were the active religions in my community back then. Not sure what still exists these days.

And I honestly could not believe in a mean, vengeful, God who hated and punished women, children, animals, and other living beings He created because they were inferior.

I just couldn’t.

But I got mad at that version of God instead. And stopped listening or believing for a long time.

What about those beings from my dreams?
Yeah, they never went away. Never left me. They brought light and love, kindness and compassion, fun and laughter into my life whenever I felt lost, alone, and ready to end it all.

And they continued sparking my curiosity about faith, spirituality, religion, etc. so I kept exploring…learning about different practices through books, video, and audio documentaries.

Building Blocks of my Invisible Armor aka Spiritual Self Protection

In this section I’ll explain a little about how I learned to create my Spiritual Self Protection or Invisible Armor.

The Building Blogs of my invisible armor

In college, I found myself drawn to Daoism and Buddhism; learned as much as I could from English translations of their spiritual texts and tried putting some tenets into practice. There were temples I could visit, but that felt (and still feels) too scary. Instead, I discovered the Spirituality and Religion section of popular bookstores and spent a lot of time there.

Then I got more involved in the solitary practice aspect of Buddhism through my first mental health counselor. One of the greatest lessons she taught me (before it ended so badly) was to have faith in something or someone greater than myself since I didn’t have any faith in myself.

It could be religion or spiritual practice. But had to be a higher power of some kind. But that kind of faith will help me as I travel down the path of recovery. If I wanted to learn more about Buddhism, she would share her knowledge, experiences, and resources. I did. She did. Together, we started re-building the foundation that made me me.

Fast foward 15 years, and here I am today. Not affilated with any specific religious or spiritual practice. Buddhism did not fit any more or less than the others I tried. But definitely a spiritual person with a strong faith in higher power. A faith based on my personal code of values; values I live by and use to help me stay safe and secure in my authentic self instead of fear and hate.

I often use”universe” to describe this power, but also call it: Goddess, God, Grandmother Spider, Spirit, Guides, Guardians, Holy Spirits, Angels, Archangels, Wise Beings, Ascended Masters, or specific names of other deities from other pantheons.

It honestly depends on who visits me during meditation and dreams unless one of those “beings ” from my past appears.

Who are those mysterious beings she keeps referring to?

Those “beings” are my personal Spirit Guides or Guardian Angels who’ve been with me for as long as I can remember. I don’t see them with my regular vision; only with my “other” vision when eyes are closed. You can read more about that in the second post of this series.

The religions and spiritual practices I’ve been honored to learn about often discuss special beings who support, guide, communicate with, and connect them to their “higher power”. So I believe in angels, archangels, guardians, guides, and holy spitrits whatever form they take.

My four guardians are: Archangel Michael, Archangel Raphael, Archangel Gabriel (also known as saints in some religions) and Grandmother Spider from the Native American religious practice of certain tribes.

But I didn’t learn their names or how to actively communicate with/listen to them without the barriers of my past getting in the way until the last 3 years living in a new city on the other side of the country from where I was born. In this new city, I found a place with knowledgable practitioners. They offered workshops and private sessions – like counseling, but not – to help people on a spiritual quest. Talking with these people and interacting with others with similar interests showed me that I while I may be a monster, I wasn’t evil. And most people there didn’t consider me or anyone else with gifts monsters.

Short Stories of My spiritual Journey before working with Empathic Healing

I visited 4 people regularly for almost 2 years and still keep in touch with them today. Three people kindly gave me permission to share some of our experiences together and link to their sites if you want to learn more about them.

Spiritual Mentor

I’ve mentioned my spiritual mentor in quite a few posts since we started working together on a regular basis last year. Her name is Jo Garceau, a Spiritual Mentor & Soul Coach with a background in Shamanic Astrology and politics. Jo uses a combination of astrology, storytelling, and symbols to help me understand the “crazy-making” experiences occurring as I took big steps in my recovery.

She taught me about working with energy aka kundalini aka vital force and not to be afraid of how my mind/body/spirit experiences and moves in/around/through/with me all the time. What I remember most is sharing with her how I meditated at least 2x a day to help me sleep and wake up. During every meditation (closed eyes), I “saw” colors, shapes, symbols, figures trying to communicate with me through stories and senses. She asked me if I believe in deities, shamans, guardians, and guides. I said yes. Then Jo shared some of her experiences communicating with deities and spirits from other religious and spiritual practices during meditation. She shared knowledge about Spirit Guides and protection too.

That is how I learned about Grandmother Spider and how she blessed me with the gift of being able to communicate with spiders using sound vibrations. Plants and other non-verbal, sentient beings too sometimes. Working with Jo taught me self acceptance and how to embrace my gifts instead of feeling ashamed or afraid of them.

Healers, Mediums, and Ghosts

Jane de Forest of Jane’s Inspiration is a multi-faceted, compassionate, and kind spiritual practitioner who uses her gifts as an artist, medium, animal communicator, and author to help individuals find clarity about personal, professional, or other life experiences. I worked with her about 4x in private sessions and attended 2 of her events about intuition and gifts.

My questions had to do with work/vocation and family struggles. I shared with her the same stories I share here with you, but also with questions about how to cope with or find solutions for struggles that still bothered me on a spiritual level. Jane accepted me and my past, listened with compassion, and shared information she received through her medium and intuitive gifts as personal artwork that I have displayed on the wall above my living room altar.

Thanks to Jane, I found the courage to re-connect with my parents, visit all of them face-to-face for Christmas last year, and continue with this blog while studying aromatherapy, herbalism, and how to build a sustainable business. All this as I re-discovered the reasons why I love my day job and ways to make it interesting again by using as many of my skills as possible to align that work with my personal values.

Mentoring, Guidance, and Energy Healing

Terry McGill said he is: “In my own words: Beginner Mind; Listener; and willing to share my gifts with anyone who desires – to the extent they desire.” Thanks to him, I learned that the Tao is much more than a spiritual or religious practice. It is also a healing practice based on energy, love, integration of Self, and lifestyle medicine – those are my words. Some day I hope to feel safe and secure enough to go back to his weekly Tuesday group sessions to learn and explore the lineage and path Terry shares with his students. This one is a bit longer because I have two stories to share.

For now, I will share some of my experiences working with Terry. The first time I met Terry, I was looking for a crystal wand to help disperse clogged energy in my body – something one of the TCM interns I worked with suggested since I had an affinity with crystals and he had much more experience working with crystals. As I tested out different wands in the display case, he came up to me and asked if he could offer a suggestion.

Before this, we had never met. But something about his presence felt right. So I agreed and we discussed the merits of obsidian vs amethyst vs clear quartz wands. Terry suggested the obsidian wand (one I kept going back to, but wasn’t sure why). He said my energy aligns with the energy in the obsidian wand and then demonstrated how it could be used on his own body. I was impressed and bought that wand. To this day, I use it on certain areas of my body that feel energetically or spiritually blocked (usually around my tail bone, but sometimes my throat and belly button too).

Later on in the year (2018), I visited him once or twice for private sessions and also attended one workshop “meetup” as a guest. In between those sessions, we stayed in touch via email because I was interested ,but not able to attend sessions. Terry thought a healing practice called Tao calligraphy might help with my “energy” problems. I wasn’t ready in 2018…too worried about the big family stuff coming up later in the year. But I was ready in 2019. Specifically in March of 2019 when I had my tubal ligation procedure. For the month of March, Terry wrote daily Tao calligraphy blessings for me and transmitted the healing energy via Source or Spirit. I went into that month (usually one where all my symptoms increase) calm, present, and zero panic attacks going into the procedure. For the rest of the month, I managed to cope with everything feeling calm, present, loved, and supported no matter what happened.

Pulling It Together

In the main photo, I listed the foundational values that make up my invisible armor. Then I shared stories about my past and present to illustrate (I hope) how those values came to exist and why.

I was raised in a culture of fear, negativity, opposition to change, and scarcity in many ways. Few unique individuals showed me a different path to love, prosperity, kindness, neutrality or positivity, and acceptance. The hate, fear, and negativity won many battles for my soul. But the core of me never gave up and never gave in. It remembered, hid, and nurtured hope.

College was my first cultural shock. Then came counseling. Followed by work. And finally a place where I blended in and my values were met with acceptance instead of disgust. Where it’s okay to have guardian angels and work with energy in ways not proven by scientific literature.

It didn’t matter what they believed, approved of, or accepted about me. What mattered (and still matters) is what I believe, approve of, accept, and am willing to change about me. All parts of me. In accepting this part of myself – something I denied, rejected, and hid for more than 10 years – I was able to create invisible armor that helped me feel safe and secure interacting with all kinds of people in a variety of places.

An invisible armor that can be fine-tuned using emotional protection strategies, reinforced through physical protection strategies, and applied in any environment at any time.

My gifts are not your gifts. Your gifts are not mine. Maybe some are similar. Maybe none of this works for you. But

  • if you notice things that fall outside of our traditional 5 senses and scientific evidence
  • if maybe embracing this part of yourself instead of fearing it
  • if maybe learning how to use these gifts feels right to you

Why not learn, experiment, explore, or indulge your curiosity?

If not, think of this as a knowledge exercise to create new tools for your coping tool kit.

Thanks for reading.

ADMIN: Blog Rules Update – Comment & Link Restriction removed

Dear Guests,

Last year, I had some issues with spammers leaving marketing and sales links in the comments.  At first, I felt guilty that these people didn’t get a chance to share info – especially since this is supposed to be a safe and inclusive place.  But allowing sales and marketing promotion links in comments felt like I violated my own Blog Rules

My first response was to un-spam and approve some of the links; then remove them after awhile.  It was  time consuming and frustrating because my values were in conflict. On one hand, I wanted help people who did visit.  On the other hand, I also wanted this space to be safe from ads, even in comments.

Hence my second, and more permanent response, of a new blog rule restricting comments and links to your sites or blogs in them.  But that felt wrong.

So the new Blog Rules update goes like this:

THE COMMENT RESTRICTION RULE HAS BEEN REMOVED.

INSTEAD…
I am going to trust YOU ALL to self-monitor and only share your blog or website or relevant links that uphold or relate to the purpose of this one if you choose to comment.  And if you do choose to leave a link, please explain why you are leaving it.

Thank you for reading.

DID Posts: Multi-level triggers

What happens when different alters in a system get triggered and start having flashbacks at the same time?

For other people, I don’t know.  Not everyone communicates with all of their alters the way I do.

For me, usually the different triggers happen by age group, time of year, type of anniversaries, and past experiences.

My adult and non-human (aka symbolic) alters tend to get triggered by environmental factors and sensory information most often.  Grounding, DBT, and CBT along with meditation and breathing exercises help them a lot.  So do distractions like cooking, reading, and music/TV/Videos.

My teens get triggered by interpersonal communication and human interaction – harassment/bullies, family, community members, educators.  Movement, meditation, breathing, DBT, affirmations, and distractions help them feel grounded and safe.  So do sensory or cognitive grounding techniques.

My child alters get triggered by life situations that remind them of feeling powerless, unsafe, in an uncertain environment, potential deprivation, and sensory memories (often tactile in our physical body).  Cartoons, cuddling with a stuffed animal, coming out to experience the world in the present, and music are often necessary but not sufficient coping strategies.  They help sometimes, but not enough.

The challenges

All of us struggle with helping our child parts feel safe and grounded when they get triggered.  They don’t always tell the rest of the system when a trigger affects one or more in the system because they’re trying to protect the rest of us.  Or because of shame, fear, lack of trust in the present safe spaces, etc. prevent them from asking for help.

When one or more alters in our system gets triggered, others can get triggered too.  The more alters that get triggered, the more confusing and difficult calming down and utilizing coping strategies becomes.  The internal noise/sensory activity levels rise as more and more alters start to experience flashbacks and heightened anxiety or other emotions.  Distinguishing past from present also becomes difficult.  And increased physical pain distorts everything.

Trusting ourselves, our perspectives, our opinions, etc. when feeling emotional and confused is extremely difficult for all alters, but especially our child alters.  Trying to parent ourselves and comfort/soothe the child and teen alters while also trying to choose and use coping strategies is a big challenge.

Our Solution

Calling a trusted resource and talking through the situation with an objective, compassionate, empathetic third party who can also offer potential coping strategies or solutions through validation of feelings and acceptance.

Friends & family are not good options for us.  For one thing, our family tries to understand but their triggers and personal stuff get in the way.  Plus they can’t always accept or relate to our internal struggle.  It just doesn’t make sense to them because they never experienced what we experienced or have a hard time accepting our experiences as valid and real.  So friends & family are not objective enough to help in this situation.

Our therapist would be able to help, but only in session or in the case of an emergency that made an off-hours call necessary.  But this type of trigger often happens outside of sessions and is not problematic enough to be considered an emergency.  Besides, an emergency situation means a visit to the ER could happen.  We all try to avoid ER visits.

Next on the list is a phone or text crisis line.  I like and often use the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC) 24-hour hotline.  It’s anonymous and reliable with a variety of volunteers who offer support in a variety of ways.  They are NOT licensed therapists and do not offer therapy or that kind of advice.  Nor do they offer easy solutions.  What they do offer is validation, compassionate, objective, active listening, and feedback with coping strategies and techniques to help get through the tense moments.

My child and teen alters trust the volunteers to be objective and will accept the reassurance they offer along with coping strategies and help creating safety plans to get through triggering moments.  As they calm down, the sensory overwhelm and confusion in our minds calm down.  Then we all can work together to figure out triggers & grounding or coping strategies to come back to the present.  From there we all can calm down.

Conclusion

With alter personalities, triggers come in many forms and are experienced on many levels.  Our struggle comes from the sensory overload that creates “noise” and confusion to block access to our tool box of coping strategies & techniques.  One trigger with multiple options in the tool box is one situation.  Multiple triggers within the same alter or group of similar alters is another situation.  One trigger for alters of different age groups or experiences creates its own unique situation.  Same for multiple triggers for alters of different age groups or experiences.

How can a system be objective and use both emotion and logic (DBT’s WISE MIND) with so many different “voices” speaking out at the same time?

It’s something we’re working on.  And maybe someday we won’t need an outside party to help find the path that calms everyone down enough to identify triggers and utilize coping strategies.

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: Trusting the inner self

A thoughtful, discussion type post today.  Everything is inter-related so no subtitles.

Sometimes I get caught up in the stories my mind creates.  The emotional stress from fear or anxiety combine to drown out what my instincts or inner self is trying to say, especially when they are on opposite sides.  If I only listened to the feelings generated by the nightmares and flashbacks, would I have the courage to keep getting involved in life?  Or to develop healthy relationships?  Or accept that some “negative symptoms” or “coping strategies” are healthy, natural inclinations instead?

Do you, guests, also question whether or not your habits are healthy or unhealthy?  Positive or negative?  Useful or interfering?  If so, you are not alone.  Many survivors and others who are not survivors tend to question/challenge everything at one point or another.  It’s part of growing and adapting to both change – life, recovery, personality, work, inner/outer self – in order to become closer to our authentic selves.  I say closer because becoming one’s authentic self is a lifelong journey.

At this point in my journey, I am remembering more and more of the past in order to take the next step to trusting guidance from my inner voice instead of letting reality or perspective get distorted when my instincts trigger “danger” signals.  My inner voice is different from my instincts in the same way that emotions are different from intuition.

  • Instincts are based on sensory information – sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, proprioception
  • Inner voice is based on an interpretation of what my senses are telling me based on knowledge, experience, and perception of the present situation

e.g. my instincts tell me that a certain set of sounds could mean danger.
My inner voice(s) look in the direction of the sound, take in the surroundings as a group of boisterous people enjoying outdoor music and drinks, and decide it’s wise to be cautious when going past them.
My trigger reacts like this: flashback to the past and tell me to defend myself and/or avoid the sounds because I’m in danger from the sound maker(s).

Right now, the trigger is louder than the inner voice and hijacks control over all reactions.

The goal is to build more trust in the inner voice and allow that to guide reactions and actions to my/our instincts.

Another way to look at this is through coping strategies & habits.  Some of my questionable coping strategies & habits include:

  • preference for solitude & quiet
  • need for privacy & limited social relationships
  • Urge to “reset” my sleep cycles every few months by staying up 24+ hours or not sleeping much for days/weeks at a time until I crash for as many hours as needed to recuperate
  • Compulsion to use a “resting meditation” technique that allows all alters to be active at the same time and communicate to work through large amounts of memories/feelings/flashbacks/stress in an 8+ hour period of time throughout the year.

The solitude is questionable because almost every self-help guide, program, and counselor I’ve talked to or worked with has warned about the dangers of isolation and loneliness.  They’ve also talked about the importance of making connections with people, having a support system, emotion regulation/tolerance, and importance of interpersonal communication in recovery.  But no one has discussed how some people, whether more towards introversion or extraversion, are more naturally inclined towards solitude than others.

These people may or may not be highly sensitive, but they have found other ways of creating meaningful connections and relationships with people, animals, plants, etc. that don’t necessarily require a lot of social interaction.  Not exactly hermits, but not interested in an expansive social life either.  That’s me, and something I am learning to accept instead of question or worry about.

As for privacy & trust, well I didn’t have a lot of that growing up.  And while I am good at making it appear to others that I am an open book by sharing some information about myself, in reality those people only see/know/understand what I allow them to see.  Less than 5 people in the world know all parts of me, and I’m perfectly happy with that.  Many 20 or less people know most parts of me.  Everyone else gets to meet the “survivor”, “insecure”, “grumpy”, “social”, “professional”, or “ambivert” me; maybe a combination of them too.

More stuff than I can put words to happens inside on a daily basis.  That takes up more than 50% of my energy (mental, physical, spiritual) right now.  The other 50% is used to go to work, do chores, cope with external symptoms, and enjoy life.  Sometimes, I get overstimulated into an adrenaline state that makes sleep difficult to impossible – it’s a combination of flashbacks & nightmares with body memories and fear responses working their way through all parts of me.

Other times, my energy gets used up too fast, and I can’t replenish in time; not just food energy, but mental and spiritual too.  “Being normal” or focusing on life outside of my inner worlds becomes too much.  I need to take a break and let my inner world settle down after all of the changes.  That means more or less sleep and lying down meditation to allow everyone a chance be involved in the coping strategy.

The sleep & meditation used to cause untold amounts of shame and self-hate because that’s what mom did to escape the world.  She slept for hours or days at a time with the excuse of being sick.  Then there was the family shame of “being lazy” by sleeping too much.  Or the label “just like your mom” because I didn’t do enough (from outsiders point of view) to help my parents and brother.

Now, getting enough sleep & practicing meditation is part of my self-care routine.  I feel less shame and guilt about taking care of myself because self-care means I can do more with life and stay healthy.  I feel more empowered to resist the negative voices and keep going in spite of the flashbacks, fear, anxiety, body memories, pain, or nightmares that trigger panic attacks.  Sure, I may need an extra hour or two in the morning or have to take a break and work later, but at least I don’t have to take the whole day off and sleep through the anxiety anymore.

Why?
Because now I and all of my parts can hear, trust, and listen to the inner voice interpreting our instincts with a balance of emotion and logic that is based in the present reality instead of the past one.

Is it easy?  Medium?  Difficult?
Yes and no.  Like any challenge, some parts are easier than others.  It depends on the individual and her or his perspective on life, willingness to change, reactions to stress, resilience, courage, and persistence.

Wait, what if I don’t have an inner voice?
Everyone has an inner voice and instincts.  Not everyone chooses to believe in or listen to the inner voice or instincts.  And some people who do might decide that the inner voice and instincts are wrong because the short term outcome is unexpected or unwanted so choose not to listen.  As with hindsight being 20/20, so is listening to one’s inner voice.  Learning how to interpret what the inner voice is communicating takes time, practice, and mistakes.

Is this like a conscience or a moral compass?
Maybe.  For some people, their inner voices and instincts align with their values and moral compass or ethics.  For others, the conscience could be separate.  For me, they are separate.  My instincts and inner voice are non-judgemental and neutral.  They share information and guidance that I can accept or refuse or interpret in different ways.

Either way, whether you (guests) choose to explore your inner voice or instincts, I hope you all find a path to self-acceptance through recovery.  Self-acceptance makes living and enjoying life that much more interesting.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenges: Disabling Automatic Defense Mechanisms

I learned more about one automatic defense mechanism that needs to be addressed or disabled during my vacation.

Switching and sounding like I am talking about myself all the time when all of us in the system feel anxious and safe with a person or group.

And the accompanying feelings of shame, anxiety, panic, guilt, and loss of reality that comes with it.

Two main challenges have previously gotten in the way of disabling this mechanism:

not being able to share about having Dissociative Identity disorder

Alters unwilling to identify themselves when talking to outsiders.

Lack of awareness when this happens so that I can reflect, process in therapy, and use known coping techniques and strategies to change the behavior.

Frustration when people give advice without understanding that I know what the problem is and amnstruggling with how to resolve it.  Behavior modification or change for trauma survivors requires a different approach than for “the average person”.

The first one is less of an issue now that I moved and live in a more open culture.

The second one is not so easy to figure out.

And the third one I try to address carefully, but sometimes fall back to negative strategies that work and avoid future communications.

But at least now I have words to describe to my therapist what challenge I want to work on for the present and near future.

thanks for reading.