Archives for the month of: February, 2016

Unedited post tonight…

Sometimes nothing works or works well enough to offer relief.  Every strategy, every technique, different variations cause frustration and sometimes resentment.  That was me yesterday and Friday.

I woke up Friday morning feeling suffocated, in pain, and unable to focus.  Three hours of different coping made the feelings come back worse each time, so I had to call in sick.  I slept most of the day, but it was disturbed sleep that made me feel more hypervigilant.

Saturday, I felt better and had to go out.  Taxes, work, appointments and so on were pushed off from Friday to Saturday.  Accomplishing the chores helped a lot to reduce some anxiety, but I still hurt and felt extreme hypervigilance.  Meditation and deep breathing did not work because I couldn’t allow myself to relax.  And the alters would not let me even if I did try.

We all felt wound up and overloaded.  Sleep and staying home were the most helpful if we could sleep and relax at home.  The hotline counselor took me (alters chimed in once in a while) through everything. Twice.  Finally she suggested a sedatice or sleep aid.

I explained about medication and side effects.  We discussed the pros and cons.  I decided to risk taking a regular dose of Tylenol.  It put me to sleep for 10 hours straight.  Then again for 4 hours at a time; only waking up for nutrition and bathroom breaks.

On the plus side, I got a few hours of restorative sleep.  On the minus side, I feel kind of hung over and disoriented.  Also sore and anxious now that the meds have worn off.

Took have a dose of regular strength Tylenol just now.  Hopefully, it gets me through the night.  I am lucky to work from home most of the week, so can catch up on missed time spent taking care of myself and still get work done.  

This is not the first time I had to use a last resort coping technique. It probably won’t be the last one either.  All I can say is that some relief is better than none.  And I would rather be mostly functional and independent in a limited capacity than taken put by my symptoms and stuck someplace dependent on others for my care because the drugs they gave me make my brain stop functioning.

Other people may feel differently.  That is fine as long as whatever choices the survivor makes end up helping in the long term too.  Going back to sleep now.

Dear Guests,

As I wrote today’s post and previewed it in the editor, I noticed that WordPress has started putting advertisements at the bottom of some posts for readers to see without my consent.  In order to make this go away, I would have to pay for an upgrade.

That is not possible at this time, so my apologies for any ads you may see on my website and blog.  I am not putting the ads up and am not making any profit from the ads.  Please ignore any that appear on screen.

Thanks for understanding.

AlterXpressions

Like many survivors, I survived using my 5 senses.  My alters learned to trust some senses more than others.  This impacted our development in many ways; some senses became more acute while others stayed normal or became dulled or not trusted to provide accurate, reliable information.

WARNING…what comes next may be triggering for some readers.  Please continue if you feel like you can read the rest of the story

 

 

 

 

 

 

That said, I have a hard time remembering faces and landmarks.  All buildings and towns and cities look alike to me.  Faces and details get blurred under stress.  Trees become blobs, etc.  I can see colors, shapes, symbols, words, and movements fine.  Part of me says this is a survival skill developed to prevent me from being able to identify my perpetrators when questioned by authorities.  Part of me says this is a survival skill developed so that I could function at school and other activities among victims and perpetrators without revealing secrets.  Part of me says that I can’t share what I don’t know.

My hearing is acute.  I can hear sounds that most people would not notice or realize existed around them.  For example: buzzing sounds from mechanical equipment in office ceilings; mice running in the walls, under the floors, between the ceiling and the floor; neighbors playing music inside their house across the street; conversations in meetings behind closed doors on the opposite side of the floor from my cubicle; horns blowing outside on the street from inside my apartment with the windows closed.

The perpetrators used to blindfold me before saying or doing anything.  Sometimes they blocked my ears too.  Then put stuff on my lips and tongue or force me to eat and drink their “snacks” to keep me calm.  I learned how to scent different chemicals and what they tasted like too by eating and drinking these foods.  That is how I manage to avoid many of them now.  Just smelling or tasting certain textures and flavors causes anxiety and fear bordering on panic.  Textures against my skin and sounds have the same effect sometimes.

On the plus side, I now have the skills to read non-verbal language with frightening (to me) accuracy; can tell when unsafe people are around me; know when people are lying; identify sounds and smells that warn me of potential danger in advance; and find creative solutions to work/home problems that sometimes work better than standard ones that confound me.

I wonder what other survival skills came from changes in sensory perception.  Something to think about when my mind needs to work on something…

Read the rest of this entry »

I feel overwhelmed and sleep a lot.  My dreams become nightmares.  My nightmares become dreams.  My body remembers and feels pain all over.  My mind feels emotions and sensations.  My spirit is filled to overflowing.  The internal dams break.  And parts of me left for dead tingle with life again.

Is it any wonder that the stress from this causes a lack of appetite?  Amd the distress lowers my immune system to make me feel sick with a lingering cold?  Or that everything combined makes me so tired all I want to do is sleep?

If anyone else feels this way, you’re not alone.  And you might not be falling into a depression or something negative.  It took me a long to understand the diffefence.  The truth is that sleep allows me to sift through the overwhelming sensations and the pain in my body without the stress of additional information from my physical senses.  Eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin – the ones that keep me informed when I am awake.

So yes, I am sleeping more to help with sensory overload and the sleep dperivation.  Oddly enough, the more I sleep, the less often I experience confusing hallucinations – the kind that keep me home because I can’t tell reality from fiction.  But the more I sleep the less I eat and drink fluids.

One trick is to wake up and move around often enough to eat and hydrate in between the sleeping.    And keep nutritious, easy to make and eat, food/drinks available.    Maybe this time, when the numbness dissipates, I will be the same weight as when I started.  For my sake and the sake of my parts, I hope so.

How do you and others cope with numbness?

  
I saw this quote on my Facebook feed today.  It sparked hope and joy inside of me in spite of the overhwelming numbness that takes over when the nightmares and anxiety subside.

Most times, I am not fond of subscriptions.  The volume and content annoy me even though O want to be part of whatever I subscribed to.  Maybe it is triggering too.  Being part of something…even a club or professional group…is difficult.  But Web of Benefit is different. 

But this quote, it got me dreaming again.  I always wanted to fly.  And lately, my past has been bogging me down with fear and insecurity. Taking a risk or two seems less interesting than it did before.  And that is not me.

Yes, I like to be well informed and have backup strategies in place before I make a choice, but I still make the choice and do something.

So I hope this affirmation or quote or whatever you want to call it helps you fly too.

Introduction

I am spiritual, not religious.  I accept and respect all religions as valid and real and beneficial to those who believe in their religions.  I do not believe in organized religion and am not going to discuss it here.  I am going to discuss how cultivating gratitude helps me recover from spiritual aspects of trauma.  That said, here are my definitions of religion and spirituality.

My definition of Religion

Religion is a type faith based around an organized belief system with creation stories, redemption stories, sacrifice stories, and rituals to support, educate, inspire, and bring together its followers under a hierarchy of appointed leaders.  The organized religion has rules to obey and specific practices to learn.  Religion often cannot be practiced alone, but sometimes can.   Individuals and groups can be expelled for questioning or disobeying leaders too many times.

My definition of Spirituality

Spirituality is the belief in a higher power that offers connection, comfort, support, hope, education, respect, gratitude, compassion, and acceptance of the self and others.  The higher power can be God, Goddess, a panacean of spirits and gods/goddesses, nature, elements, individual spirits, a Greater Power, the universe, or anything else.  It stays on the inside and is always close by – like a soul.  Spirituality is based on faith in something that cannot be seen, heard, touched, tasted, or scented in typical ways.  But it exists.

Some background

I was born Christian: one parent was Protestant; the other Catholic.  I was raised Mormon from age 6 to 15 by the cult who “took care of” me for the parents.  Members of the Mormon sub-cult who practiced ritual abuse (sexual, physical, etc.) on children were not all Mormon.  But they were lapsed or angry with their original religion and came to the Mormons as seekers.

Taking with members of Christian, Protestant, Catholic, Hebrew, and Seventh Day Adventist religions in college helped me realize that I was not raised Christian after all.  Only parts of what I learned matched the New Testament and Bible.  Hardly any matched the Old Testament.  And not much at all matched Jewish traditions.  But there were enough similarities to scare me away from claiming any organized religion as my faith.

A literature class re-introduced me to the concepts of Buddhism, Taoism, and spirituality.  That brought back memories of my grandfather (an acknowledged Protestant who also continued to practice his original beliefs) and how he taught me that Chinese ideas of religion and spirituality were not like Western views.

In Buddhism, one can still acknowledge, accept, respect, and practice other faiths.  Taoism and spirituality have similar practices.  The lessons are more like homilies and questions or statements meant to provoke thought and inspire respectful, acceptance of life through self-reflection, compassion, and peace.

Why I Cultivate Gratitude

Shame has been a major factor in my trauma.  So has lack of respect and acceptance for anything outside of my family’s worldview.  My reality was appropriated, turned inside out, and violated with lies and deceit to keep me under their control.  I was taught that the only way to live properly was to treat people with condescension, manipulate them to get my own way, and be mean to them because that would bring joy into my life.

And maybe if I actually believed that, I would have stayed with the family and become what they wanted.  But even as a child I knew that I was different.  That being mean and hurtful was wrong.  Having to act like that while in survival mode damaged me a lot.  I don’t regret it, but I do feel shame and guilt about about what I said and did during those years.  I also feel shame and guilt about not getting out sooner, not standing up for myself more, not being able to protect myself better, etc.

Example of Gratitude Practice

This is where cultivating gratitude comes in.  The ever-changing list reminds me of how far I’ve come and what my past has taught me.  Instead of feeling shame and guilt over the memories, I feel gratitude for the lessons that shaped who I am now.  The practice goes something like this:

  • I feel grateful for being alive
  • I feel grateful for being physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy
  • i feel grateful for being safe
  • I feel grateful for shelter to keep me warm in winer and cool in summer.
  • I feel grateful for the lessons my past taught me
  • I feel grateful for the acceptance of my friends and support network
  • I feel grateful for escaping toxic people
  • I feel grateful for learning compassion
  • I feel grateful for the gift of written communication skill

Some people prefer: “I am grateful for…” instead of “I feel grateful for…”.  I started out suing the first phrase, but it did not feel as right as I learned more about emotions and feelings.  And since I experience gratitude as a feeling, the word “feel” is more appropriate than “am” here.

Thank you for reading.

Introduction

Last week, I wrote a little about meditation and how it is different from dissociation.  One aspect of meditation that always astounds me is how easily I can communicate with my alters when I go into a meditative trance.  Visions, sensations, verbalization, body memories all pass through a rotating amphtheater with unusual clarity and consistency.  My alters and I are in the audience looking up as the sensory information reveals itself.

Sliding into that meditative trance is easy.  Why, no one is knows for sure.  Here are some possibilities: Being able to dissociate at an early age helped.  Early meditation training taught me focus and patience.  Practicing exercises and lessons from John Kabat-Zinn’s audio tapes reminded me to acknowledge whatever is going on inside instead of suppressing it.  Reading about Buddhist and Daoist meditation practices, watching qigong videos, and practicing yoga opened me to other kinds of meditation.

Variety helps because I never know when I will need to meditate or for how long.  Meditation is less scary and anxiety provoking than dissociation so my alters and I often try to meditate instead of dissociate during a flashback or panic attack.  And being able to meditate anywhere allows me more freedom to move around.

How does this connect to remembering?

Meditation allows me to step back and view memories as an observer (think amphitheater) alone or with my alters.  The meditative trance offers a safe space where the sensations and feelings are distant instead of acute.  And since meditation is controlled and focused, my breathing stays steady.  Steady breathing controls the nervous system and keeps my mind, body, spirit calm instead of stressed.

I can’t control when the memories come.  I can’t control how my body reacts if a flashback slides in and takes over everything.  I can do damage control and take steps to minimize the onset of a panic attack.  Or I can set alarms in place to alert me when I get triggered.  By “I” I mean everyone in the system.  Different alarms for different alters, etc.  It’s not perfect, but any little bit helps.

What about the moving on part?

Sometimes, a survivor can’t move on without remembering blocked memories.  They are important and necessary to provide a framework that allows the survivor to make informed choices in the present and future.  Problem is, many survivors with traumatic amnesia (myself included) don’t know they are missing vital information until they remember and can make the connections.

 

Recovering memories causes me to get physically ill and have panic attacks followed by painful body memories for days or weeks, sometimes months.  They come as flashbacks and nightmares over a period of time; bits and pieces from different alters and different times congregating in a part of the internal world reserved for memory puzzles.  The pieces stay there moving around, coming together, pulling apart, reforming themselves until something clicks and becomes a memory.

The Memory

Last week, I remembered while in the shower.  I was grumpy from cramps and PMS; the water and steam helped with relaxation.  My alters and I slid into a flashback without conscious realization.  Suddenly, it was a different bathroom in a different house with a different (younger) body.  And my alters were talking to me trying to bring me back to the present.  Their voices competed with the voices in the memory.

All I heard at first was muffled sound.  As usual, I was blind; coudln’t see anything.  My nose told me there were mold and stinky flowers somewhere close.  My body hurt.  I tasted chemicals in my mouth.  And the water was cold instead of hot.  My belly hurt.  Back hurt too.  Lower back and abdomen, not stomach area, hurt and moved funny.  Suddenly my alter’s past thoughts came back to me.  I cupped my hands around my abdomen and felt sadness.  That’s when I came back to the present.  That’s when I heard one of the adult alters talking to me; reassuring me that I was safe and that the memories my body shared were real.

Then other alters, young and old, confirmed the memories in their own way.  And I had to face a truth I didn’t want to think about days before my favorite holiday.  The memory scared me.  It upset me and turned my world view upside down.  And the memory explained so much about my reluctance to pursue the next part of recovery: intimate relationships.  My therapist, after we discussed the memory and what triggered it, told me that maybe I had to remember this before I could move on to the next big change: moving out of state.

Conclusion

In another post, I wrote about not wanting to have children without knowing exactly why.  I’ve also touched on other fears related to intimacy and sexuality.  Now, I know why.  An unexpected teenage pregnancy followed by a painful, non-surgical abortion.  None of which was my choice.  And that lack of choice, that fear of not having control over my body, keeps me celibate.  I never want to go through that kind of experience again.  And if I want to experience an intimate relationship, I have to figure out a way to cope with this fear.  So meditation, moving on, remembering all comes together in one fell swoop.  And now I have all of this to work through too because moving out of state opens up a lot of avenues for me.

Today is Chinese New Year’s (aka Lunar New Year) eve and the beginning of celebrations for the Spring Festival.  In observance of the traditional values, I am going to share this quote from Maya Angelou:

maya-angelou-delights-her-heart-quote

Celebrating the Lunar New Year is about embracing the possibilities of a happy, healthy, prosperous beginning with family, friends, and community.

My family consists of the people who love, respect, and accept me as I am; and who allow me to love, respect, and accept them as they are.  Most do not share blood and probably do not think of me in that sense.  That is ok because family means something different to everyone.

My friends are people I enjoy spending time with; who accept me as I am; and support me no matter how much they may disagree or not understand my choices.  Friends know parts of me as I know parts of them; we share some of our lives with each other, but are not as close as family.

My community is the group of people I spend the most time with: family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, storekeepers, etc.  I have two communities: one in the neighborhood where I live; and one in the neighborhoods where I work.  A third community is slowly embracing me: Chinatown.

I am thankful for many changes that occurred over the past year because those changes enable me to embrace the opportunities opening up this year.  Opportunities like not being afraid of my heritage anymore; like going back to Chinatown and being part of the Chinese community again; like celebrating and enjoying my favorite holiday from beginning (tonight) until end (15 days from now).

Maya Angelou’s quote is one I plan on adding to my affirmations list.  It reminds me of how being supportive and honest helps me help others while also bring like-minded people into my life.  I hope it brings some positive energy to yours as well.

Gong Hay Fat Choy! (Happy New Year)

The Event

Tuesday morning, I woke up in the middle of a flashback thinking it was a nightmare with the paralysis and all.    But, it felt different.  I could feel the pain from blows against my body and hear distinctive voices.  The smell of concrete and subway station was real; the blood and sweat trickling in my mouth tasted real too.  Only my vision was blocked.  And even though my physical body was paralyzed in real life, my dream selves used the dream’s physical body to fight back.  And the dream selves won the fight; the dream body defended itself against the attackers with words too; and the attackers withdrew.

When I woke up, my body was trembling.  There was a tightness in my chest and ache in my head.  Sitting up made me dizzy.  But I felt clear-headed and ready to take on the day.  What to do next?  Would more meditation lead me back into dissociation and flashbacks?  Or would the outcome be different this time?  So many questions, so few reliable answers.

I decided to try some more meditation.  That helped until I got to work.  And the stressful atmosphere wound me up again.

The Article

But then I found this article on the CompassionWorks website.   And while I may not agree with everything, the author does a good job of explaining the differences between dissociation and meditation.

A Self-Analysis
I realized that meditation and dissociation come from the same place inside me even though they are brought on by different triggers. 
Dissociation is triggered by fear and negative stress to separate the mind and body.  

Meditation is triggered by intentional focus and separation between the mind and body for the purpose of relaxation or contemplation.

And I can move from one to the other depending on where my focus goes and how much emotional control I have over the information flowing through my mind and how many alters are participating in the exercise.
It is not perfect, but at least I am not afraid of meditation anymore.  

And lately, meditation is all that works to help me as I fall asleep and wake up. Meditation bridges the time when I begin to relax and fall into sleep.  And it bridges the transition from dreaming to waking where flashbacks and fear can prevent me from recognizing when I am.

This allows me to sleep at night and wake up in the mornings relatively calm.  Then I can go to work and move through challenges with better equilibrium.