Archives for the month of: July, 2016

This is not properly formatted…using the app annoys me so I avoid using it as often as possible…sorry if it’s confusing or difficult to follow
This month, I pared down my apartment to less than the basics.  Most of my stuff has been given away or put in the dumpster.  What I kept has been boxed and shipped to the new apartment.  

My clothes are in suitcases. I got rid of my cooking utensils and stopped cooking a little over a week ago.  And because of the “not cooking” part I have had to confront many of my food fears, body anxiety, and personal biases about skinny versus fat in terms of health and my body.

Many people in my circle think I am a healthy eater and lucky not to be addicted to junk food or fat and overweight like they are.  I am a little less than my ideal weight right now because of stress, but not terribly so.  And sure, I prefer eating real food with lofs of nutrients.  But I also love chocolate and cheese; eat way too much chocolate; and get lots of discomfort from eating cheese.

But the easiest kinds of food to prepare without pots, pans, and a microwave are the same foods that being back bad memories and trigger fear.  Even typical snacks do that to me.  But I wanted this time to be different.  I wanted to stay healthy and grounded and present for this entire move.

So I started wondering why eating or even thinking about eating sandwiches, canned/spreadable meats on crackers, salads, wraps, granola and energy bars or drinks, chips, dip, jerky, deli meat and so on made me feel sick and lose my apetite.  Also certain kinds of trail mix, bagels, english muffins, and spreads like hummus can be added to the list.

Sadly, my avoidance of these foods stems from childhood.

I spent a lot of time at home with my mom for a variety of reasons.  I was “her little helper” from a young age and spent most of my days cleaning, doing laundry, and playing by myself.  Mom was sick a lot; she slept often and forgot to cook or prepare food.  And waking her up was impossible sometimes. If I did wake her up, I got smacked and punished.

So I learned to feed myself with what was available in the cabinets I could reach.  The refrigerator was too heavy to open, so a lot of what I ate came from boxes, cans, and bags.  I still can’t eat cereal with milk or toasted bread without feeling queasy.

And often, mom would wake up and find me eating “her” snacks or pastries because that’s what I could reach.  My punishment for stealing: no dinner or lunch, etc.  If I showed a preference for certain food, they never reappeared in the house.  So I started sneaking in food and snacks when no one paid attention.  Plus: I never gained much weight.  Minus: I never had enough nutrients to grow and get strong either.

And then I would hit growth spurts that made me “hungry all the tine” my mom complained.  And I “ate like a bird” and was “too picky” about my food.  Oh, and I was getting fat from eating to much even though I was “on the go” all the time between school, activities, and being “mom’s helper”.  “Mom’s helper” included letting the babysitters and other people picking me up, take me away for hours, and bring me home again. During those times as “mom’s helper”, the people gave me lots of sweets and soda and other stuff filled with drugs and alcohol to make me compliant.  Eventually, though, that stuff made me sick instead.  Then the people couldn’t use me or make money off of me.

I guess that makes me lucky in one way because I never got addicted to the illegal drugs they forced into me.  Between my mom putting me on diets to keep her company or because I was getting fat and my worry that whatever food I ate was going to make me sick, I started restricting myself to only eating foods I knew were safe and only other foods in relatively safe places.

Fast forward to now.  My body hates any kind of chemical and synthetic foodlike substances.  I can smell and taste the chemicals long before the food reaches my plate.  All that time spent eating those foods and watching my parents/sibling get sicker and sicker from those habits scarred me.  Made me think all fat people are evil and unhealthy and not safe for a long time.  But then seeing skinny people or average people or muscle bound fit people did the same.  My perpetrators came in all shapes and sizes, both genders, and a variety of religions and sexual orientations.  All they had in common were pedophilia, sadism, and a love of mind-altering substances.

And eating many of these foods makes my body hurt later.  Sometimes to the point where I don’t realize the food brought back body memories.  And then I wonder why massage and other coping strategies aren’t working or how I got triggered.  

At least now I know that food fearscan trigger   body memories and panic attacks.  And that I can survive on triggering foods without getting sick or fat or turning into my mom.  My weight has mostly stabilized now that the end is close.
And next week I hope to start posting 2x a week again.

Thanks for reading.

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Introduction

I was talking with a friend of mine over dinner earlier this week, and she mentioned not wanting to take meds for depression.  Another male friend of mine said the same thing a few months ago.  Both said that the medicine makes them foggy and feel numb, so preferred not taking the psychiatric prescriptions.  And during my final visit with my dietitian yesterday, depression and stress related food issues came up.

So I thought this would be a good time to share some facts I’ve learned about depression and anorexia as related to (symptoms of) my PTSD.  You see, the complex posttraumatic stress disorder sometimes includes symptoms and side effects that can also be standalone diagnoses.  Depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, self-harm, phobias, Dissociative Identity Disorder, and dissociation to name a few.

Depression

I struggle with depression often.  It comes and goes in waves depending on a schedule of personal holidays and anniversaries embedded in my mind and body.  For a long time, psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses tried to give me all kinds of pills.  Sometimes they gave me the same ones my mother was on; this made sense to them as our supposed symptoms of anxiety and depression were similar.

Then they started giving me other pills to help with the psychotic symptoms: hearing voices; hallucinations, sleep issues, and so on.  The pills were supposed to make the symptoms go away – i.e. I wouldn’t hear voices or hallucinate anymore.  The nightmares would disappear.  And I’d sleep through the night.

Well I did start sleeping a lot.  And for a few months at a time, my mind would be quiet.  But, I felt numb and spent most of my time living in a fog.  Nothing penetrated the fog.  And my coordination problems got worse.  Concentration became difficult.  I started to get sick often.

So I stopped taking medicine and tried to find other coping strategies.  But I kept wondering what was wrong with me that the medicine couldn’t fix a biological/chemical problem like depression the way it did for others.  If I had depression, then it was a chemical imbalance.  Medicine fixed chemical imbalances.  Right?

Not exactly…my last psychiatrist explained to me that people who have experienced severe trauma do have problems with depression.  But their depression is not biological or chemical based.  It comes from having been traumatized; only therapy modalities that focus on healing from trauma can help with that kind of depression.

He said that about anxiety too; the symptoms of anxiety can be masked by medicine, but the cause of the anxiety cannot.  So when the medicine wears off, I will experience all of the symptoms of anxiety and/or depression that were masked.  Sometimes, the symptoms will be worse because they were repressed (backlash).  It’s a risk I would take every time I took one of the pills.

These days, the only time I take one of those pills is if I haven’t slept for more than 24 hours and need to knock myself out.  Hence the nickname “knockout pills”.

Final Thoughts

Find a mental health provider who understands trauma (trauma-informed or trauma trained).  Not all of them understand trauma or how it affects mental health.  Then discuss symptoms and past experiences with medication with this person and see if medication is the right path.  If it’s not, ask for other suggestions and options.  If medicine does seem like a good path, keep a journal of the different symptoms and side effects that occur or not occur when on and off the pills.

I am not opposed to taking medicine or pills.  I am opposed to having my mental clarity and independence compromised.  So if ever there comes out an FDA approved pill that can help with my symptoms without making me foggy or so tired I sleep 20 hours a day for weeks or sick to my stomach, I will try it.  Until then, I am better off without the pills.

Thanks for reading

Beware: THIS IS A RANT

Introduction

Chinese culture does not believe in or talk about emotional health or mental health problems.  People with emotional and mental issues are considered “lazy” and “stupid” or “weak” or “sick”.    In terms of physical appearance, a woman is supposed to look like a well-groomed woman with a delicate, petite, slender body, perfect makeup, and hair.  Anyone who does not meet the standard gets “helpful” criticism about diets, clothing choices, skin care, and exercise regimens from family members.  Also reminders and reprimands for shaming the family pride by not meeting the family standards and embarrassing the family in public with a not perfect physical image.  And other Asian or Chinese people who see a bald Chinese woman walking down the street will stare in fear and horror before walking across the street to avoid her, whisper about her ugliness and shameful behavior, and shun her for fear of being contaminated by her presence.

How do I know this?  Because I and the other alters in my system have experienced this first hand over and over by family members and community members and people in the street who are visitors to the United States.  In fact it happened a couple hours ago while I was walking back to work from getting lunch.  Two young women saw me stop next to them as I waited for the light to change and decided to step around and risk crossing the street instead of waiting next to me.  They were both between 18 and 30, Asian background, with long dark hair and perfect makeup, and backpacks that signaled their student status.  It hit hard today since I was already feeling anxious about some other negative encounters on the train and at a library that left me feeling frustrated and wondering when people will stop harassing me because of my past.

In essence, I get treated poorly because I am female, Chinese, a survivor of trauma and domestic violence with a “mental illness”, bald, and a well dressed nerd.  This comes from people of all ages, races, cultures, etc. because I am breaking taboos and ignoring biases.  Most of the time, I am okay with that.  I’ve learned to pick my battles and find like-minded people to spend time with instead of other types.  I don’t take it personally when people cross the street or don’t acknowledge me when they see me walking towards them (since I didn’t choose to avoid them) because a lot of times I do the same thing to people around me.  My walking time is part of my solitude regimen and a time for me to spend with my alters before having to engage with people.  The anxiety and triggers come when people’s body language signals that they are engaging or avoiding me for other reasons besides politeness or avoidance.

Choosing Different

My parents marked me as different and shamed me for being myself from the time I was born.  My mother’s family did the same.  I was compared to my cousins and sibling and found lacking.  My elementary school teachers, peers, and neighbors found me lacking and bullied me because my parents approved of it by not interfering or defending me.  So I decided to be different.  And embraced my differences.

But choosing different is not easy.

Sometimes the secret shame and sense of worthlessness comes back to haunt me.  It happens a lot in summer when everyone is wearing less and spending lots of time outside.  And it’s more than body image or low self-esteem.  It’s about a sense of self and the values that self is based on.  My sense of self was battered and broken and torn apart until the shreds gathered together and hid deep inside where only the non-verbal alters could reach.  Seven years of therapy and self-reflection brought those values back out and repaired the foundation of that core sense.

These days I am secure in my sense of self because all of us alternate personalities agree with the core values that we live by.  That sense of self makes itself known to others subconsciously in how we choose to treat ourselves and others around us.  It makes others nervous to be around us sometimes.  And other times it sparks other feelings too.  But that core sense of self has helped me help my alter partners and the system in general survive and become the woman we are today.

A lot of the time, it’s easy to remember that most people’s reactions are about them and their internal conflicts than about me or one of the alters or the system as represented by our body.  And it’s easy to ignore those people and move on.

Other times, like today, I wonder what it would be like if I wore a wig and dressed dowdy or slutty or ultra feminine and then passed them on the street.  Would they treat me differently?  Or would they treat me the same?  And how would I feel about it?  People used to treat me worse when I had hair than they do now.  But also, I was in a different situation then.  And surrounded by people who supported my abusers.

But then I think to myself, I like how I look bald.  I like talking about my coping strategies and my challenges – sharing information with others to help them get through rough times too.  And I like being me.

The Dilemma

How do I still be myself, stick to my values, achieve my goals and work with administrators and others with biases who have influence over my ability to get into school, pass classes, learn, and so on?

EXAMPLE: But if I want to work in traditional Chinese medicine field and go to graduate school, I will have to deal with people who are biased against my appearance, attitude, and mental health.  The administrators at a school  I tried to apply to earlier this year blocked my application and didn’t tell me until I reached out with an inquiry.  Then they told me it was a “miscommunication” and that I was all set to apply next year.

I followed up 3 days ago with another email addressing that “miscommunication” and some other hypothetical questions from earlier conversations.  I also pointed out my upset about how the miscommunication was handled and that the experience will influence how I interact with them and others at the school in the future.  Yes, it was aggressive, and they will probably take it to mean I am holding a grudge even though I said I am not.

To me holding a grudge means treating these people poorly and maintaining anger; lashing out at them and finding ways to make their lives harder if I do become a student there.  That is not what I mean.  Remembering what happened and being wary of trusting them again; being more diligent about clear communication and wary of trusting them at face value when we talk – that is what I mean.

Yes, picking battles is important.  Remembering that this has more to do with them and their internal monologues than me is important too.  But still, spending time with people who act like that goes against our core values.  So the conflict remains…

I am determined to succeed.

My path so far has taken me on many adventures and introduced me to wonderful people and experiences.  Something good will happen.  And this will work out, maybe not on the timetable I want, but it will happen.

thanks for reading my rant 🙂

Gratitude & Helping Others

During the last few weeks, I’ve been cleaning out my apartment and arranging for my utilities to be transferred.  It seems odd, but giving away items to people who’ve been good neighbors feels satisfying in a way that makes the shame go away.  By the end of the month, I’ll be leaving with a suitcase, a carry on, and a backpack/purse.  On the way to my apartment will be 4 boxes with what’s left of my old life.

Every morning when I leave my apartment and see the items gone, I feel an upwelling of gratitude that someone has taken what I am not using anymore and giving the items a new purpose.  Whether to keep and use, resell, or gift to others, these loved pieces of my life are not going to the dump or being discarded as worthless.  That means a lot as I’ve invested many good memories into each piece and hate to put anything into a landfill.

Lastly, I feel grateful to have safe family members back in my life again.  The process has been slow, but some aunts, an uncle, one grandparent, and maybe some cousins will be back in my life again.  And I will be part of theirs.  They spoil me and want to give me so much.  But I have a hard time with material gifts and am not sure what to give back to them either.

These family members are the people I missed most when I left everyone else.  They were positive influences in my childhood and didn’t intentionally or actively participate in what happened before.  Now, they believe in me and keep my secrets.  I believe in them too and go to them for advice and help and corny jokes during struggles or confusing moments.  The decision to bring people back into my life was hard.  But I love them so much that not having these people around hurt more and would have been cause for regret in the future.

So yes, this month gratitude and prayers for help have been a coping strategy mainstay.

Massage

After the time of not remembering, comes the time of not sleeping and severe pain.  This scares me a lot since I’m not able to work from home the next two weeks.  But I’ve found that self massage and tapping sore areas helps relieve the pain.  Nothing too formal as I’m not trained in anything particular.  Just finding sore spots on my body and trying to increase circulation or drainage (depending on where).

Body: I use a tennis ball since it’s what I have at home now.  A foam roller works too.  So do Lacrosse balls.  A personal trainer taught me this during a session.  Roll the ball slowly over the sore muscles.  Pause and put gentle pressure on painful spots before continuing on.  I do this for shoulders, neck, arms, and back.  A roller works better for back and legs, but I already donated that.

Face: I found this on Facebook, but a chiropractor made a video of how to reduce sinus infections, allergies, and head colds by tapping on lymph nodes inside the collar bone and massaging along the jaw, around the ears, and at sinus pressure points on the face.  The goal is to remove blockages and remind the fluids of the correct drainage path (stroke down to the lymph nodes in the collar bone) from face to throat to stomach.  There are lymph nodes around the earlobes (front, back, and under the lobe) that get blocked sometimes.

I started using this and have received a lot of help with muscle pain around my face and neck.  Then I started stroking out and down, gently massaging my temples and sinus cavities too.  And pausing once in a while to clear my throat by tapping on the lymph nodes there.  It’s helped with migraines, tension headaches, and ear pain.  I do this most evenings before bed and can relax enough to sleep.

It’s not for everyone, but I am comfortable using what works as long as the side effects are minimal.

Final Thoughts

These strategies are not for everyone.  If any of you would like to try them, feel free to look up the information on YouTube or another place.  I wish I could provide references, but time is limited.  Definitely, I will follow up on these strategies in the future.  Happy July.

Thanks for reading.