Archives for the month of: April, 2016

Introduction

I love music.  My alters love music.  But for the longest time none of us could listen to music without getting triggered.  Most of my CDs and music choices were taken away from me, made fun of, used or broken by people in my life who didn’t want me to enjoy music or got tired of me listening to the same songs all the time (college dorms and visiting family members).  At home, nothing belonged to me so my parents “borrowed” my music whenever they wanted and kept what they liked for themselves.  And my brother loved music too so he didn’t want me to be interested in music at all.  Because anything I was interested in became evil, boring, etc.

But music is everywhere.  And it’s hard to stop songs from being heard when people like listening to the radio in the car, at the stores, and so on.

The life changing moment

Back in high school, a lot of traumatic events took place.  Some I’ve written about here.  Others are waiting to be told.  But I felt trapped and hopeless until I heard a song called “To the Moon and Back” by a semi-popular pop band called Savage Garden.  The lyrics resonated so well with my life at the time, I thought the artists had been flies on the walls of my life.  Hearing this song was y first real experience with empathy and not feeling alone – like I was the only person in the universe experiencing these problems and feelings.

Here is the YouTube link if you are interested in checking out the song.  Maybe it will inspire you to keep going; maybe not.

Either way, happy Friday and wishes for a relaxing weekend.

 

Recap

I gave background in Part 1.  The tattoos are healing nicely and a great reminder of the positive, happy experiences happening in the present.  They are symbols of the positive direction my life is taking now.  And looking at them, touching them reminds me of happy past memories too.  They are a great grounding strategy to use anytime.

The Challenge

All of the positive feelings are overwhelming and anxiety provoking.  I am not used to feeling them and experiencing the sensations they create inside me.  I do not want to tone them down.  I do not want to bring them down to calmer or less reactive levels.  Nor do I want to bring them down to neutral.  I want to ride the waves of feeling and sensation until they go away on their own.

All of my coping strategies are designed to help me dial down overwhelming feelings or anxiety.  They bring me back to the present; distract me with something so that I can step back and be objective about the sensations instead of panicking; and give me an outlet for excessive energy when my adrenaline gets tapped.  The relaxing and calming strategies help me learn to sit with uncomfortable sensations and feelings so that I am not distracted by them or triggered into flashbacks as often.

But positive feelings were so few and far between in my past as to be nonexistent.  Now I’m not sure what to do or how to react to them.

The Goals

  • Learn to experience the positive feelings without getting overwhelmed and feeling anxious.
  • Let the positive feelings flow through me until they go away on their own.
  • Remember that I won’t get hurt for feeling happy.
  • Remember that I deserve to be happy.

Conclusion for Part 2

If only I could figure out my options.  I feel like I’m being twisted into pieces with the happy present and scary past coexisting inside me … sometimes fighting for the dominant position in my mind/body/self.

Background:

Since I was thirteen, I dreamed about getting a tattoo.  When I was sixteen, I got my first henna tattoo at a fair in Canada (high school field trip).  It caused an uproar within my family – not in a good way.  But that was my rebellious year   the year after the forced abortion – when I acted out and got into all kinds of trouble.  A few months later (summer), my younger brother convinced his friends to help him get a real tattoo (something he lorded over me for years and used to make fun of me when I got other henna tattoos).

In college, I learned discovered a severe nickel allergy through a bacterial infection (nickel plated earrings) and a rash (metal-framed glasses and buttons on denim jeans).  Some research told me that people with nickel allergies couldn’t get tattoos because a) most of the inks had traces of nickel in them; and b) the stainless steel needles had high levels of nickel in them.  That was between 2000 and 2004.  Between then and now, various cosmetic permanent makeup artists and tattoo artists refused to talk to me about either option because of my nickel allergy.

On the good side, there had been improvements to inks and needles so that people with minor to moderate nickel allergies could get tattoos as long as they didn’t mind the increased risk of allergic reaction and infection.  That was about 3 years ago.  And yes obsessing about getting a tattoo helped keep me sane when life got really bad.  I even tried contacting Native American and other cultural societies that had different ways of tattooing (not using metal needles/inks, etc.) without success.

Two years ago, I moved to my new apartment in a small city/town southwest of where I grew up.  On my first visit to look at the building, I got lost.  Instead of apartments, I found a 1950’s diner inspired storefront that looked interesting.  It turned out to be a tattoo studio.  Then, the realtor found me and helped me to the apartment building.  Not perfect, but it had everything I was looking for at the time.  After 2 weeks of consideration, I signed a lease.  And kept thinking about tattoos in a diner.  Eventually, I looked up the tattoo studio.  The owner had 30 plus years of experience and only did tattoos – old school style.  We exchanged emails; I met him face-to-face once.

But I had a downswing in finances and physical health just as I got ready to make the appointment.

Event 1

Last Saturday, I finally got my two tattoos in black/gray ink: a turtle and a Tibetan Endless Knot aka Chinese Wisdom Knot.  Turtle on left inner forearm near elbow.  Endless Knot on opposite position.  My dream finally came true.  Since then, I’ve been so happy that I managed to sleep every night – real sleep through most of the night.

Event 2

Then I went to work today and shared my tattoos with friends and close co-workers who know my story.  They were happy for me; full of acceptance, joy, respect even though some did not like tattoos (especially on females).  Some asked me what they meant and listened with appreciation as I described the meaning.   The head of our division even told me to wear my tattoos with pride in the office too.  i.e. I won’t get in trouble for leaving my arms uncovered at work.

The Dilemma

I was and am overwhelmed.  I feel happy, sad, anxious, guilty, shamed, unworthy, joyous, content, safe and unsure how to cope with the happy feelings inside of me (hence the negative feelings worming in).  I know how to cope with negative, neutral, and mildly positive feelings.  I don’t know how to cope with this, and it’s making me feel edgy.  Especially with an extra heavy workload and other big things coming up.

Thanks for reading

I had to work this weekend and might me working more over time to meet deadlines the next few weeks.  Posts will go up when I have time to write and put them up on the blog.
Take care.

AlterXpressions

Not much to say except this week we are all fighting.  

The anxiety is strong.  So many triggers with new people invading our space at work.  So many ways to give in amd not go to work this week.  So many reasons to get up and fight another day – deadlines, seeing friends, accomplishing goals, not wanting to give in to the fear.

Sometimes one of us will signal break time.  Then we go out and walk for a bit.  Or go to the restroom for quiet.  Maybe walk down to the lobby and talk with the guard on duty.  And then get back to work.

Once in a while I feel like running, but can’t leave the desk.  Food, juice or sour drink, chocolate, music, games, or a book help there.  But no one can help us feel the anxiety that comes from tok many people and too much movement and too much noise.

Yeah, I am nof the best writer.  And I don’t proofread either.  But mo one else wanted to post anything using the phone app.  Our personal computer got donated.  The work one is at the office.  And will stay until we bring it home tomorrow – incentive for going into the office.

Thanks for reading.

 My recovered memories come back in fragments and feelings with some kind of physical sensation attached.  The reality of those memories are different from my concepts of the past; often they contradict each other.  The contradictions confuse me (alters included) and bring feelings of anxiety that trigger obsessions, compulsions, and automatic coping strategies.

This weekend I realized that leaving my family was less stressful than the fear of their reprisal for walking away.  They systematically shunned me for months that turned into years as I became more successful amd whole (recovery).  By the time I left, almost everybody was rude and ignored me  except to shame or insult me whenever we saw each other.  

And the one time I did go back and try letting them back into my life led me to taking a one month leave of absence from work to sort out my feelings.  I went back because an uncle by marriage died after fighting cancer for many years.  Going back was selfish in that I needed the closure – to see for myself that he was really, truly dead.  The rest was to see what reactions I would get from different family members and if their opinions of me changed.

Some were happy to see me.  Others were resentful and ignored me.  Most were curious about how I was doing.  They all expected me to come back to the fold and treated me as if I never left.  Except for one aunt who ignored me as pumishment for standing up to her before the blow up.

But 3 months of being back around them confirmed that I needed them out of my life.  And so, every year between January and May, I get angry and depressed.  My body experiences extreme pain.  Amd I relive all of the interactions that had me contemplating suicide so many times.

My typical response is dissociation followed by ammesia and many negative coping straegies like picking my skin and scabs, pulling out hang nails in ways that cause bleeding, pain, and possible infection (usually goes away when I reopen the scab and clean with iodine before using antibiotic ointment), acting reckless, etc.

I also would lose enough weight to trigger relapse symptoms in my body and get sick.  And all of his stress opened up space for the obsessions and compulsions to take over my life…until the pain eased and I could think clearly again.

My challenges are many:

  • Finding successful alternitve coping strategies that are healthy and positive
  • Finding ways to counter the obsessions and compulsions
  • Learning to accept my depression instead of fighting it
  • Letting myself feel all emotions so I can sleep
  • Being ok with the need to get rid of stuff by throwing it in the garbage instead of finding a more sustainable solution that aligns with my values
  • Accepting that my beliefs are contradictory to my recovered memories for good reasons
  • Learning to accept that my memories are real and balid and more true than the beliefs drummed into my head for decades
  • Accepting that some of my habits will take as many years to undo as took to settle in
  • Fearing habits and rituals becuase they can become obsessions and compulsions

My strategies are many; and I learn more all the time.  But nothing is ever perfect.  Mistakes happen. Life goes on one moment at a time.  I am safe.  My alters are safe.  That is enough for now.

Thanks for reading.

This post is mot proofread or edited.  Any misspellings and bad grammar are mine and mine alone.  The topic was not planned in advance, but wanted to come out today :/

The Beginning

Back in 2008 or 2009, the company that delivered office supplies to my company started sending different people to deliver the boxes.  It did not mean much to me at the time because I was not involved with that part of our business.  I tried to be friendly to most of the people who came and went, but did not go out of my way to make friends.

One day, I was working when someone came to deliver supplies. I had not seen the delivery people much except in passsing because my hours were irregular as a contractor.  But this time, he stared af the back of my head until I turned around.  And when I did, I got scared and triggered.  He looked familiar, but I did not recognize him.  So I turned back without acknowledging him.

It was not to be rude or mean.  It was fear, plain and simple.  This was before I started working with a trauma specialist; before I learned about the amnesia and the DID.  Besides most people from my past usually ignored me and pretended they did not know me when I approached them.  How did I know this would be any different?

Well, he did recognize me.  And my name on the name plate near my station confrmed it.  His co-workers, the new delivery crew, recognized me too.  And most of them did not like me.  They liked to talk about me to the receptionist on the second floor; she was supposed to be my friend.

I didn’t know they were talking and gossiping about me then.  Hindsight is twenty-twenty as many will tell you.  But it explains a lot about how and why we started drifting apart.  And she never bothered to ask me about what they told her.  But I guess that makes sense if she was pretending to be friends and really felt otherwise instead.

Soon after the new person started making deliveries, I started having more anxiety attacks about being in the office.  And small, seemingly unconnected issues started to pop up.  Problems with supply orders and deliveries when the usual person was on vacation.  Problems with mail not being sent or delivered.  Problems with people changing attitude towards me.

That continued for until I left for a month on short term disability (partial in patient program) in 2012 and came back to find out our third team member retired while I was gone.  And with her retirement, the company decided to change office supply companies.

I did not have to deal with those jerks anymore unless I happened to be passing them by as I walked in the neighborhood.  And they had no reason to bother me either.

Why share this now?

It was a first step for me in realizing that my past would continue to hurt me unless and until I did something.  It was a reality check that denial couldn’t explain away.  The pieces from my memories refused to sfay separated.  The truth about my family and life before I joined this company was crystal clear.  The reasons for increased family pressure to change jobs made sense.

They had inside knowledge into how successful I was there and could not stand it.  My parents constantly told me that I needed a job with benefits, instead of being a contractor.  My aunts and uncles harped on the long hours and over time without proper compensation and benefits.  They all kept sayong hap my job was not professional or prestigious and put it downw often.  And likely I would not be keeping my job with because of te recession so I needed to find a proper job in a resodcted field that let me use my degree.  

My parents tried to ruin my chances at the company woth rumors and sabotage.  They tried to convince me to find a ndw job and almost succeeded.  I went on job interviews and started designing a website and marketing materials to expand my contractor business.  Instead, I became a full time employee and kept inproving my reputation and experience there.

Then I left my family and spent the next two years disappearing from their lives.

The memory of how I treated that man haunts me and brings back feelings of shame and self hate grounded in my past trauma.  In my heart and mind, I know I did not do anything wrong.  My behavior made sense because I did not recognize him.  And yes I was afraid too.  Afraid of putting myself out there and apologizing for the snub.  Afraid of making a mistake and getting verbally attacked.  Not arrogance or snobbish attitude on my part wven though that probably makes from his point of view.  

And when I did try to talk to him about the deliveries and supplies in rhe boxes when mt co-worker was gone, he ignored me and acted like I did not exist.  That brought more feelsibg of shame and had me questioning myself.

Until now.  The shame and anger still exist when the memory pops up.  And feelings are intense too; blinding and able to send me into a flashback to be honest.  And I wonder why memories like that come back to me so randomly.

How is this a life changing moment?

The one I mentioned last, about how he ignored me as I tried to talk to him about an order and delivery that was over one week late?  Well, another person intervened and helped me get perspective about the situation.  From then on, I stopped getting involved in the ordering process unless absolutely necessary.  And then I realized that I couldn’t get away from the toxic people without leaving.  That meant family and jobs.  But then, I was offered a chance to become full time and have job security.

In spite of what he did, of the mindf#%k my family tried to give me, the people where I worked believed in me.  They knew the real me and did not believe the rumors or nasty gossip from other departments and other people.  And all of this happened because of the way I chose to treat others in spite of how they treated me.

If I could, I would go up to that man and thank him for helping me realize I was not the same person anymore.  And while I still get hit with the feelings of anger and hate and shame, I know it’s because my alters are remembering their experiences in high school (or earlier) and college; getting triggered and overhwelmed by the memories and feelings still.

He is the past, not the present.  But thinking about or recoveirng memories related to relationshipss brings it all back.  And brings him back too.  I never did learn his name.  And I hope to never encounter him again.

My past is past.  Anyone who believes the rumors and stories is not who I want in my present.  Anyone who would treat me different without getting to know me first is better off in someone else’s life.

And those are the lessons I learned from remembeing this:

  • I can’t change the past or the feelings it brings out in me.
  • I don’t want to change the past because then I would not be who I am today
  • Someday I will remember him and all of the others without feeling the blinding shame and self-hate
  • And when I stop feeling the shame and self-hate for circumstances beyond my control, I might finally be ready to stop hating that part of my life

Background Perspective

Society and culture has an enormous influence on perceptions of ideal body shapes and beauty – for males and females.  The focus used to be more on female shapes and standards, but now even males are under more obvious pressure to conform to magazine image standards.  For persons raised in multi-cultural or non-western family systems, the ideal standards of physical health and beauty can and do come in conflict the Western ideals displayed all over the media.

I lost interest in physical attractiveness and beauty standards back in childhood.  This comes from the variety of perpetrators who influenced my body image.  Male or female; young or old; beautiful, pretty, handsome, plain, attractive, or ugly; perpetrators come from all ends of the spectrum.  And all of them in some way or other will blame the victim and/or  (at least in my case) blame the victim’s appearance as the main reason for committing acts of emotional, physical and sexual violence.

A plain face and skinny body is just as threatening as an ugly face and fat body or attractive face and perfect body when that individual can overpower and control you.

Body Neutral

This is where I and my alters are now.  Body neutral, for us, means that we all acknowledge the unique beauty and health of our body as it works to help us live a happy life.  Some body parts are more interesting or attractive than others.  The whole package is perfect for us because everything works and is in good health.

Flaws are positive instead of negative because they are the parts of our body unique to us.  Being physically attractive and having body parts that can attract more attention than others are acknowledged as part of our self image instead of ignored out of shame.  Accepting that it’s ok to look good and interesting without shame and hate is body neutral.

Fat is only a problem when it negatively affects personal health.  I love my small belly; it took me a long time to accept it, but having that small rounded part where my female organs rest reminds me that I am not too skinny anymore and have enough fat to properly regulate my hormonal system without medication.  Some of the people whom I most admire are not slim – the women are curvy and round; the men are more rectangle or square or oval and rounded but strong and muscular and healthy.

Practicing good self care and eating for pleasure are body neutral and body positive actions.  Eating nutritious and junk foods in balance with the body’s needs is body neutral.  This is an important part for me because I’ve always been under weight.  Gaining weight is difficult and made recovery from anorexia more challenging.  But relearning how to enjoy food and to eat a variety of nutrient dense (mostly healthy) food has helped a lot.  Being adventurous, flexible about the definition of healthy and nutritious, and willing to experiment or break rules also helps find the fun in eating again.

Body Positive

I am working on this part – it will be a work in progress for the rest of my life.

Beliveing and internalizing that it’s ok to look good and interesting without shame and hate is body positive.

Wearing clothes that fit, accessories that are comfortable and express personality, and looking like the best version of ourselves is a step towards body positive.  Learning to love each and every part of our body along with the whole package is a step towards body positive.  Looking in a mirror and loving the body/face reflected back at me is body positive.

Defining my personal style; learning to dress according to my unique shape and personality; putting time and effort into my appearance for my own confidence and pleasure – these are all steps towards being body positive that I am working on.  As a female, I have more resources for female style and positive image than for male style and positive image.

Therefore the links I post in the conclusion are not about male positive body image, but have valuable information that relates to positive body image in general.  i.e. the posts and information comes from a female perspective, but the knowledge can be applied to males too.

If anyone has resources to share (especially for males), feel free to post links in the responses below.  I will share them in a future post with acknowledgements.

Conclusion

I don’t hate my body or myself anymore.  My alters do not hate themselves or this body anymore.  My body does not fit the ideals for Western or Asian physical beauty.  And that is ok.  I have a personal style now thanks to the program I joined last year and am not invisible anymore.  That personal style is still evolving as I learn what I like and dislike and replace wardrobe pieces to suit who I am now instead of who I was before.

Body neutral is a good place to be.  Body positive is where I land at some point every day for a few moments.  Body negative is where I go when I get triggered or feel overwhelmed with internal stressors.

Somewhere in the back of my mind is the fear that I will relapse and get so stressed out that I start skipping meals again.  But in the front of my mind is the knowledge that I am not alone and can reach out to ask for help.  I hope someday others can feel this way too.

Thanks for reading.

 

Introduction

This time of year I think about (read obsess over) my body and its “flaws” as told to me by others.  My body is in pain – joints, muscle, skin, sinuses, bone, etc. – and prevents me from enjoying the fresh air that comes with warmer weather.  March and April are months when people first noticed my body start changing with puberty 20 plus years ago.  It is when the body shaming started.  And the body violence increased.

Between 7-15, the perpetrators who liked to use me sexually started being physically violent too.  The violence got worse as my body matured and clients needed to find other ways to “get it up” or “get in the mood” depending on gender.  With the sex and violence came shaming phrases: you want (fill in) because of the way you look; you’re asking for (fill in) with your body language and clothes; I wouldn’t have to (fill in) if you looked like you did before (child body); you are a slut; if you stopped fighting, I wouldn’t have to hurt you so bad…

Epithets like: thunder thighs, big butt, fat belly, flat as a board, big boobs/small boobs, bad skin/nails, hairy legs, vain child, arrogant, self-centered and so on dogged me as I tried to understand the changes happening inside me.  Comparisons to my female cousins made me feel small and worthless and nerdy – invisible and shamed for taking attention away from them – when compared to their popularity and style and social skills.

Being told I was dumber, uglier, quieter, and less adept at anything than my parents and brother with words and actions by everyone reinforced my body and self shame.  In every possible way, I was taught that my body was inferior, unhealthy, ugly, worthless, and not mine.  Basically, I should be dead.  I don’t deserve a healthy, slim body with womanly curves when the rest of my more worthy female relatives are less blessed in those areas.

The Meat of It

I spent high school and college avoiding relationships as often as possible and hiding my body with clothes that did not flatter or suit me.  I spent time around people who hated and made fun of me under the guise of being friends.  I wore hand-me downs and clothes that were decades out of fashion (given to me by my aunts and mother).  Any clothes I bought for myself had to be approved by my parents – I couldn’t shop alone for fear of what I might by.  Grooming wasn’t allowed; not the way most teenagers are allowed to experiment and spend hours in the bathroom or alone in the bedroom trying out makeup and hygiene products.

And I was always on a diet.  Because my parents thought I was fat.  I wasn’t fat – in fact I was dangerously underweight at less than  or equal 90 lbs. for most of high school – but I had curves that both my parents hated and wanted to not see.  Basically, they tried to stop me from going through puberty.  It didn’t work though.  I eventually made 100 lbs and stayed close to that the last two years of college unless I was in a downward spiral.  In college, I gained the freshman 15.  That summer, I dropped down to less than 90 lbs. again.

Senior year in college, many concerned people (none who were friends, just good people who cared enough to help out troubled peers) stepped in and convinced me I needed help.  Free counseling got me through graduation, but didn’t prevent the weight loss or attempted suicide.  Professional counseling after graduation started me on the path to be kinder to myself by getting healthy and rebuilding my sense of self to start.

Conclusion

Being skinny and weak kept me safe.  Being strong and healthy made me a target.  Looking like a woman made me less valuable to the cult (only wanted and paid for child-like bodies) and worthless to my parents.  My father hated my body and made me cover up all the time.  My mother was jealous of my body and liked to criticize my body for her own amusement.  She also liked to hurt me under the guise of “checking for wounds” or “helping me clean hard to reach areas”.

My only thoughts from that time until about 12 years ago were to hurt, punish, hide, destroy my body and feminine parts.

Then I decided that I wanted to stop feeling ashamed of my body.  And I wanted to be healthy.  Every time I tried to do something positive, family stepped in with the shaming.  Then the voices in my head triggered shaming thoughts and compulsions driven by an obsession to look a certain way or not look a certain way.  In all honesty, I thought I was 170 lbs with rolls of fat hanging down everywhere and that I had secretly had breast augmentation surgery because how else could I have large breasts when everyone else had small ones unless they were overweight/obese?

And even some overweight family members (mother included) still didn’t have large breasts to go with the extra weight.  And that was extra shame.  Because I never, ever wanted to have that kind of surgery.  An overtly feminine body would get me unwanted attention and keep me from being invisible.  But every year, I’d be obsessed with thoughts of breast implants, butt implants, feminine curves, padding, etc. and compelled to find information about it.  And I’d look down at my body or in a mirror and see rolls of fat, jiggly body parts, and stretch marks.  Then I’d feel shame and hate.

Until one of my early therapists started questioning me about my thoughts and compulsions.  Together we reality tested each of my beliefs.  Not really assumptions because these were my “set in stone truths” as taught by life.  Little by little, she forced me to look at each body part and decide how much “fat” really existed.

Then came nutrition therapy and the concept of loving kindness towards myself.

And every time I heard a “body shaming” thought, I had to stop and rephrase that thought to something “body neutral”.  Then rephrase the thought to “body positive” after a time.

And every time I felt the urge to hurt my body, I taught myself  to stop and understand where the compulsion came from.  Then remind myself that I like/love my body and don’t want to hurt it.  Hurting my body hurts me too.

Eventually, I started reminding myself that it’s ok to make mistakes and relapse sometimes.  That’s my mind telling me some part is in trouble; time to step back and think before moving on.

These days, being kind to myself means the following:

  • Stop criticizing myself when I experience backlash and shame for using “last resort coping strategies”
  • Remind myself that I am doing the best that I can; it’s ok to give in to the compulsions and obsessions sometimes
  • To feel gratitude that I am coping with the shame and making positive changes to my body image
  • To remind myself of the positive steps I am taking to be body positive – and how much fun it is
  • Making sure I take care of myself no matter how crazy work gets or how depressed I feel when the pain and memories overwhelm me.
  • And to not feel bad when I have to post before or after Wednesday and Sunday because of work and personal deadlines.

Thanks for reading.