Archives for the month of: November, 2015

sleep-is-the-golden-chain-quote

INTRODUCTION

Sometimes I run full speed ahead with life because I can’t make myself stop and sleep.  I rest as often as possible, relax at home, use sleep hygiene routines and coping strategies, and so on.  But the memories and triggers haunt me from day to night and back again.

PAST

It used to be that I did this on purpose.  I would go and go and go without proper self care (nutrition, rest, cleanliness, exercise, socializing, etc.) until I passed out into sleep out of pure exhaustion – aka crashing.  I never knew how long I would last for; that depended on too many variables.  But every crash seemed to placate the donors into leaving me/us alone for a while.  So it was a good strategy while living at home.

NOW

These days, all of us have learned the value of sleep: deep, solid, restful sleep that leaves us wide awake and full of energy in the mornings.  And most of this weekend was spent sleeping.  Thursday passed with happiness in hour hearts.  Friday was calm and peaceful with some small successes.  All interspersed with naps throughout the day.  And, between yesterday and today, we probably spent about 15 hours awake in total.  Most of that time was spent accomplishing tasks, cooking, and eating.

CONCLUSION

Sometimes it’s ok to crash.  Our bodies know when we need to sleep.  And our minds understand how important sleep is.  And no matter what our past or present tells us about the evils of sleep, our bodies and brains know the truth.  They will override the mind and protect us if we let them.  And for the first time in many years, spent a whole holiday weekend without nightmares.

Someday, I hope you will too.

 

In the United States, today is Thanksgiving.  Tomorrow is the infamous Black Friday.

The last few years, my alters and I have worked to substitute difficult memories of this holiday with better ones.  Create new experiences and new emotions to link with this time of year.

To that end, we have re-framed what Thanksgiving means to us.  Here are the highlights of then and now:

  1. It’s ok to spend this holiday alone instead of among “friends and family”.
    1. If you have DID like us, then maybe you aren’t really spending it alone.  We are spending Thanksgiving with our favorite loved ones in a safe space and creating memories together.
  2. It’s ok to NOT stuff yourself full of food or cook a big fancy meal with traditional dishes
    1. We made rice congee and bought ingredients to make linguine with clam sauce tomorrow.
  3. It’s ok to NOT watch the Macy’s Day parade or sports of any kind.
    1. I watched the latest episodes of my favorite TV shows online and some Scooby Doo cartoons with my alters
  4. It’s okay to be active instead of lazy.  We had some work to do to meet deadlines.  And some plans to keep us busy and distracted.
    1. Work brings pleasure, feelings of success and confidence, and grounding in the present time
    2. The other activities remind us that we are in control of our choices
  5. When the memories get bad, it’s ok to stop and rest
    1. I used to think sleeping through the holiday was bad.
    2. Many of us used to think that not remembering what we did was worse than sleeping
    3. This year, we made the conscious choice to take naps when the emotional overload hit instead of trying to power through it.
    4. Those naps revitalized us and helped us feel accomplished because we remembered to practice good self care on a stressful and scary day
  6. It’s ok not to go out and interact with others when we feel out of sorts.
    1. This one is self-explanatory

We are thankful to be alive, thriving instead of surviving, and able to help others  in many small ways.

We are thankful for our support network, our job, and this blogging community too.

Most important, we wish for our readers to enjoy some measure of peace and safety during the anniversaries.

If I have not published or responded to your comments, my apologies.  I just recently realized that the Spam filter collected a few comments.  Some were obviously spam.  Others not.

To err on the side of caution, I deleted comments that were not recognizable as comments for site pages or blog posts.  Please feel free to comment again and put in a note that you are NOT spam.  I am happy to publish and respond to any comments that follow the site and blog commenting rules (same for both places).

This commenting and moderation part of running a blog is new to me, so please bear with my mistakes and learning curve.

Sincerely,

AlterXpressions

Introduction

My current favorite coping strategy is grounding with my senses.  Touch, taste, smell, sound, sight.  This technique uses personal symbols of comfort and power to help individuals come back to the present moment in times of difficulty.

Tactile sensation, also known as physical contact, textures, or “safe touch”, helps survivors come back to the or stay present by interrupting symptoms through skin-to-object touch.   “Safe touch” came from my uncle and maternal grandfather.  Once they died, I lost that source of comfort.  Then came clothing, stuffed animals, jewelry, etc.  The objects changed with time and circumstance, but the symbols behind them did not.

Safe or Not Safe?

Are all textures and objects safe to use?  I honestly don’t know.

Dolphins are considered symbols of hope, compassion, safety, intelligence, etc. to most people.  They scare my child parts and give them nightmares, so there are no dolphins in any of our safe spaces.

Most people think turtles are smelly and gross.  All of my parts love turtles.  We have small statues with different textures and photos of turtles in the safe spaces.

Jewelry is beautiful; can be expensive or cheap; offers many different textures and colors to ground the senses; and is hard to wear while maintaining invisibility.  Tattoos are similar that way.

Personal Symbols

Counselors, therapists, and personal experience shows me that the best grounding techniques use are an individual’s personal symbols of comfort, safety, confidence, or hope.  Or personal symbols of power.  aka reminders of success and other positive experiences.

Some of my personal symbols include:

  • turtles, frogs, pheonix, dragon, dogs, cats, otters, snakes
  • wisdom knots, buddha, karma, qi
  • natural fiber textiles and clothing with interesting patterns and textures; or synthetic fibers that are soft, silky and perfect for cuddling
  • vibrant colors – orange, yellow, red, purple and brown in all shades

Secret or Obvious?

How a person uses grounding techniques in daily life depends on the individual’s needs and circumstances.  Growing up, I kept most of mine secret and not too interesting so that the abusers and perpetrators let me keep them.  Anything like jewelry or expensive clothes or luxurious blankets were taken away.

Other times, the hanging jewelry like necklaces and earrings, were used to hold me in place or cause pain when I tried to run or escape.  Bracelets became handcuffs.  Statues of my favorite animals were used to cause bruises or broken in front of me as punishment.

As I got older, I kept these personal symbols in my mind.  My alters used the memories to comfort them and me at night or when we dissociated.  It wasn’t until I separated from my family that I started to wear and display my personal symbols of comfort and safety and hope outside of my mind.

Then and Now

Sometimes the past is so strong and intrusive that seemingly obvious grounding options are invisible until someone from the outside suggests it again.  This came in the form of a question from someone in a personal style private Facebook group.  We were discussing types of fabrics and textures – how they made us feel and why we chose to wear or not wear them – when she asked me if I considered “playing with jewelry” to help with anxiety.

It was something I hadn’t thought about in a long time.  The reasons why I chose not to wear jewelry came in bits and pieces throughout the year.  Thanks to this group and the style challenges that introduced me to them, I started wearing jewelry again this year.

And the feel of metal in my ears or bracelets on my wrist is grounding because wearing them now means I am safe to express myself.  My parts and I all worked together to make us safe.  And wearing fun jewelry, playing with rings on fingers, etc. is another symbol of personal power that comes in a variety of colors, textures, sizes, and shapes.

Conclusion

Personal symbols of power offer many paths for successful grounding techniques, coping strategies and self care plans inside and outside of the house.  I am grateful to be rediscovering ones that I had discarded as “not safe” or “out of my league”.  The objects and textures can be expensive or cheap; stuff already in your house or things you buy; found pieces or gifts with special meaning attached.  The safer I feel, the more I am compelled to move forward with my plans and goals with confidence.

What are your personal symbols of power?  How do you keep them in your life?  Would you use them for grounding as a coping strategy?  How?  I hope you find some and keep them close.

 

Introduction

I used to think that my symptoms were linear and straightforward.  Simple cause and effect.  Or action and Reaction.

Trigger happens > My mind and body react > Parts of me counter with coping strategies > reaction slows down or goes away

It was logical and made sense.  So every time I got triggered or had an increase in symptoms, I’d go through my tool box and try out coping strategies until something worked.  And kept using the same strategies for specific symptoms and triggers until they did not work anymore.

OVERLOADED

The last few weeks, I got sick with a cold and had an increase in symptoms.  Then came Veteran’s Day; a holiday I completely forgot about except in the peripheral sense.  My cold did not get better; it kept lingering.  Possibly because I stopped sleeping and started having more nightmares.  Possibly because the headaches and neck pain came back.  Possibly because of the radical temperature changes in my part of the US.

Either way, I got sick.  The headaches and nightmares got worse.  The body pain increased.  The switching at night got worse.  By Monday, I knew I had to do something or risk not being able to work.  So I took half of a Tylenol (the mild version of a knockout pill) and slept through the night in spite of nightmares.  Woke up the next morning feeling rested even though I was crying and curled in a ball…and seeing giant spiders and frogs all around me.  My hearing was dulled too; like hearing everything through static.

The spiders and frogs (8-12 feet tall) were transparent.  I knew I was hallucinating.  And I felt pretty good; so I decided to go to work.  The hallucinations stayed.  Sometimes I saw cartoons.  Once I mistook my supervisor for someone else because I didn’t recognize his footsteps and didn’t see him.  But every  time I tried to use a strategy to make the hallucinations ease up, I got a headache.  Or the neck pain got worse.  Or I started feeling like a panic attack was coming on.

Choices

Wednesday, I switched days and saw my therapist.  It had been almost a week of disturbed or interrupted sleep; no idea what the alters were doing while I rested at night.  She listened as I explained the situation with the hallucinations and the physical pain.  We agreed that I had to make a choice.  Keep hallucinating or endure the physical pain medicine can’t make go away.

The hallucinations were not affecting my work performance or daily routine except to be disorienting and confusing (auditory ones mostly) sometimes.  And I kind of liked seeing cartoons and landscapes appear as an overlay while I was out and about.  The spiders, flies, frogs, and other creatures not so much.  And as long as they didn’t get worse or become so real I couldn’t tell the difference anymore, why not let them stay?

Conclusion

It’s been about 2 weeks since the hallucinations started, maybe longer.  About 8 days without the physical pain.  My cold is gone.  The anxiety and panic feelings are lessened.  And I still see animals, insects, cartoons, and landscapes overlaid like a transparency over the real world.  Neither of us knows when it will stop.  And right now, I am not going to worry.  Instead, I’m going to enjoy the funny stuff my brain and my alters come up with and share as they appear.

Sorry for the short notice.  Time got away from me this week.  Been busy with self care; forgot about some anniversaries; having hallucinations, etc..  Will try for a weekend post.

Take care everyone.

AlterXpressions.

CAVEAT

This is maybe the first time I am going into the beginning of what many call “the holiday season” with acute awareness of my mood changes and sleep deprivation as the symptoms start.  That said, I am not sure how to format this post.  Using a a Q/A interview format this time.

QUESTIONS

When does my holiday season start?

The week before Halloween

When does it end?

Maybe the first week in January

How do the holidays affect your mood?

Holiday seasons bring back a lot of memories in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional escalation that cause panic attacks.  Sometimes body memories get involved, but not always.  Adults feel a lot of stress.  The young alters get scared all the time and always on alert for monsters in human disguise.  The adolescents are stressed out and angry and upset.  This shows in how we are not as talkative or friendly sometimes.  Have to be internal more than external to maintain calm.  And our trigger buttons are pushed much easier.

When does the sleep deprivation start?  How do you stop it?

The sleep deprivation starts with the nightmares.  Alters wake up at night and stay awake to make sure they don’t come back.  Sometimes body and mind are not in sync so brain sleeps while alters get active in the evenings.  It means not much real sleep even though the hosts do not know what’s happening until someone tells them.  Other times, sleep gets interrupted by constant switching among alters who are asleep and awake.  There is no way for us to stop it.  We cope as best we can using the tools discussed in earlier posts and others that come our way.

Does it happen every year?

Yes.

What happened before?

Dissociation and traumatic amnesia for months at a time.

Does life get easier after the holidays?

Not. really.  January to May is another season of bad memories related to school, holidays, vacations, and birthdays.  By holidays I mean Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc.

What is the best part about this season?

I am going to remember what happens this year.  So will my alters.

Do you celebrate?

We celebrate the spirit of the holidays rather than the holidays themselves in blissful solitude.

This time of year, I tend to get depressed and sad.  The memories are mixed so I am not as angry.  My parts feel anger because they don’t want to listen to and observe people discussing the “holiday season” activities.  We all feel anxiety because this time of year brings a rise in stress and aggression throughout the community – party planning, gift buying, weather changes, etc.

Our way of coping is re-reading our favorite books about people who’ve been through traumatic experiences and still found ways to thrive – in our case paranormal romance novels.  The following quotes are from Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series (books 1-4).  I hope they inspire hope, understanding, and compassion in you the same way they do me.

Slave to Sensation

  • “This morning, she’d woken to find herself curled up in bed, whimpering.  Normal Psy did not wimper, did not show any emotion, did not feel.  But Sascha had known since childhood that she wasn’t normal.  She’d successfully hidden her flaw…but now things were going wrong.”
  • “The result of exposure would be incarceration at the Center.”
  • Or she might even discover a way to fix the flaw that marked her.  ut the second she was admitted into the Center, her world would become darkness.  Endless, silent darkness.”

Visions of Heat

  • “Sometimes raged can be a god thing.  It keeps you going when nothing else matters.”

Caressed by Ice

  • “The backlash – the use of pain to coerce compliance – was called backlash.”
  • “Silence, at its simplest, was built on a foundation of reward and punishment.”
  • “Shock a child with pain every time he laughs and he’ll learn to never so much as smile.”
  • “”He made my body feel pleasure, messed with my mind until he controlled my responses and made me enjoy every humiliating, degrading thing he did.” Shame layered her whispered words.”  Brenna to Judd
  • “”The order is wrong.” He knew the logic, had been taught it as part of the conditioning process.  When he saw her frown, he decided to prove his point.  “If I told you I think you have the most beautiful body I’ve ever seen, would you feel pleasure?””  Judd to Brenna
  • “”Of course that would make me happy.””  Brenna to Judd
  • “”What if a stranger on a dark street said the same?”  “I’d get out of there as fast as my legs would carry me.””  Judd; then Brenna
  • “”The link must be present between a body and a free mind.  Without that link, it’s not pleasure but a facsimile so wrong it’s pain””  Judd to Brenna

Mine to Posssess

  • “”They want to put implants in children’s brains to ensure full implementation of Silence.  The chips will turn the PsyNet – currently composed of individuals – into a hive mind, with the Councilors the controlling entities.””
  • “”It’ll destroy innovation, bury brilliance for the sake of conformity.””

Childhood

I wanted to be a writer growing up.  I also wanted to be a doctor of some kind – specialize in herbs and the kind of folksy medicine that helped me through the worst of my injuries as a child.  Some parts wanted to be an ice skater or a gymnast or a dancer too.

We fell in love with science.  Words were an escape – reading and learning couldn’t be taken away from us – but science was like cooking and baking; full of questions, answers, and investigating.

But then all of these blocks got in the way.  Random people who were once friendly turned against me.  People I thought were friends humiliated me.  Instead of helping, teachers made everything more difficult.  Even when I excelled and did everything correct, I still “failed” and got punished.  When I made mistakes or gave up, I was told that it’s ok because I am a failure.  Trying again or trying harder wouldn’t change the outcome so giving up or giving in was good.  Better not to try at all.

Adolescence

And so my life went until I went to college.  There I found a different part of myself.  One that enjoyed challenges and classes, but not people and socializing.  The triggers in my head; the nightly phone calls home; the nightmares and ugly thoughts circling inside me; the lost time scared me.  Instead, I gave in to the pressure and finished at a local state college with high school “friends” to offer “support” and “help” when I needed it.  Relatives also lived close by and offered “escapes” too.  But the part that opened up refused to close again.

The alter voices and the monster voices fought inside my head and spoke through our mouth.  Everyone on campus thought I was crazy.  I encouraged this because I didn’t want friends.  Friends were people who might try to stop me from my (at the time) main purpose: do well; learn; live as much as possible on my terms until I died.

But I didn’t die.  Not sure, but maybe the counseling center had something to do with that.  And maybe someone inside (one or more alters) refused to let the monsters win.

Young Adulthood

Letters got lost in the mail.  Phone calls never received or returned; or answered by family.  Networking opportunities lost.  All because the organ donor and sperm donor and blood sibling (mom, dad, younger brother to those unaware of my classification system) would hack my cell phone and email to get my contacts and then proceed to trash me or harass potential clients/employers on my behalf.  And when that wasn’t enough, they enlisted their relatives and connections to assist them.  Or lie and block my ability to get resources that would allow me to take advantage of opportunities around me.

Twelve years later

I am still alive.  We are still alive.  Every year we live past 21, we celebrate with joy.  Because none of us were meant to live past 21.

I am a professional writer.  This blog is one avenue; everyone in the system helps make the blog and website work.  My day job is the other one.

The healers in me (alters who want to pursue a career in healing arts – not medicine) are working with a graduate school program for Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Either way, we did not stop.  We did not give in.  We did not give up.  We did not fail.  We stopped.  We changed our mind.  We went in a different direction for a time.  We stopped again.  We changed our mind again.  We pursued and achieved our goals.