Archives for the month of: September, 2016

What does a person do when stuck in a car with a stranger and triggered?  How does one cope with the pain that comes from a panic attack waiting to happen while taking a Uber home?  When is the right time to call for assistance without having the driver listen in?  Where does the person go to feel safe and still be present enough to pay attention to the ride?

Since moving, I’ve taken advantage of Uber and its safe driver policy a lot.  Taking a Uber allows me to participate in activities across town that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.  The driver safely gets me to and from doctor’s offices and new-to-me neighborhoods with low levels of anxiety.  We sometimes have interesting chats during the drive.  Other times, we’re both quiet and focused on other things.

I’m still coping with my worst trigger yet.  A doctor’s appointment that didn’t happen and brought me back to my childhood.  In another post, I might analyze what automatic strategies kicked in and how I got home safely, but not today.

All I can tell you is that getting home safely without causing anyone harm during the coping to not have a panic attack or lash out at others is possible.  Maintaining safety after that is possible too.

For me, I put a safety plan into place – one that I never had to use before:

  • Acknowledge the feelings
  • If possible (aka feel safe with the driver), inform the driver that I am feeling upset and not to take my words/actions personally if I lash out by accident
  • Quietly focus on who can be contacted via email or text for a distraction (I texted two therapists and emailed another one)
  • Focus on maintaining internal calm so that the anxiety does not become a panic attack
  • Get home safely
  • Use any coping strategies that make sense and can be remembered

Thanks for reading

Advertisements

After 2 sessions with this person, I feel like she and I will work well together for the long term.  There is another person who I might try to see for specialized help, but not continued care.

This helps relieve some of my stress a lot.  I have someone to depend on and contact here on a regular basis.  That means weekly or bi-weekly check-ins, progress, and assistance in gettinf my tool box reorganized.

In other news, my acupuncture visits have been extremely helpful, espscially with the body memories.  They still appear and cause lots of emotional or physical discomfort, but not in the same way as before.  My energy is better, and I can sleep with more ease too.

Yesterday, when I described the source of the pain along my spine, the acupuncturist actually felt the tension and tightness in the muscles and skin along my spine.  The tightness and tension caused pain to radiate along my back and around to my shoulders, chest, abdomen, etc.

She tried a massage technique after the needling that helped a lot.  So much in fact that I slept extra today and was able to release some of the body memories.  With that release came other memories from childhood – some good and others not – that helped me and my child alters make sense of some confusing fragments.

Tai chi starts up next weekend.  And I hope for that to help with the muscle and joint problems cause by everything not being in proper alignment.  The exercise will also fill a need for activity in my life.

For the first time in weeks, I am feeling hopeful and in less pain. 

Thanks for reading

My focus is on safety, self-care, and comfort or self-soothing to help with the body memories and pain.

Many of the coping strategies I use for pain management are not available right now because the food options here are different from where I used to live.  There is not much of a Chinese community with authentic foods through restaurants.  What is available is hard to get to without a car and tends to be very salty.  Cooking has been interesting with community kitchens and lack of pantry space for utensils, etc.

And cooking or food is a major coping strategy for me: provides sensory and physical grounding, soothing smells, nourishment, a connection to loved ones who passed on years ago, etc.  A microwave is useful, but cooking grains and pasta or meat is trial and error right now.  Soon, I will have an electric kettle, rice cooker/steamer, and slow cooker to make cooking easier.  But they are low priority right now.

The same is t rue for real dishes, cooking utensils, silverware, etc.  I have chopsticks, plastic bowls, and soup spoons thanks to my aunt.  That plus a Chinese cleaver (like a butcher knife), a paring knife, and disposable utensils are all I want for now.  Buying dishes and silverware is personal, so I am willing to wait until I find exactly what I want – be they new or new to me via thrift stores.

I’ve been remembering again.  And the last few days have taught me that sometimes I have to relive the pain and scary sensations in my body in order to remember.  Then the pain will lessen instead of increase.  And the other symptoms will change too.  But remembering why my spine hurts so much in certain places and causes problems with alignment, joints, and muscles from head to toe is not easy.  Neither is remembering that my parents caused the pain as punishment and a way to keep me in place when other stuff was happening.

Yes, I am being vague.  I am still processing and putting together the memories.  Still working on what tools I have available that can help the most.  And working through the realization that many of the tools I depend on most are not accessible right now.  As I put the pieces together and experience less pain, I will write about why experiencing the physical symptoms of pain, shaking, headaches, etc. is a necessary part of retrieving my memories and then making sense of them.

Thanks for reading.

I had to work over time and also am struggling with recovered memories.  No post until Wednesday.

Thanks for understanding.  Leave you with this instead:

IMG_7594

IMG_7594

I met with another potential counselor yesterday.  The session went well, but we both have concerns about travel and consistency for continued care.  So I am thinking and still working with my other therapist over the phone.

Later, I met with people who run a non-profit tai chi organization.  Their building is across the street from this counselor’s current office.  The people were nice and welcoming.  The class was low-key; the cost for joining fit within my budget even with extra for transportation.  The organization’s values are consistent with my personal ones.

Everyone in the system wants to join.  And we all want to run away and pretend we never sat and observed, never drank tea and conversed with compassionate, caring people; never swayed and moved in the chair along with the practitioners; never remembered watching and following our uncle practice during childhood.  The shame of remembering joy and peace from practicing tai chi with my uncle and other people who practiced in Chinatown when I visited my grandparents almost made me cry in front of these people.

I want to sign up.  I want to practice again.  I want to learn and be part of this compassionate, caring community.  But I’m scared.  I feel like by doing this I am running back into the experiences that broke me the first time.  And the second.  And the third.  Can I separate the abuse from the act of practicing tai chi?

And earlier today, I had training at work.  One of the participants is the person who caused me so much trouble over the Christmas holiday.  He heard my name and got really silent.  The tension was palpable over the phone conference.  And then I heard him yelling in the background.  But after that, things calmed down and became professional again.

But I was left triggered, trying to pay attention and participate, then leave and go back to work without crying and passing out from the headache.  A short break and lunch helped.  So did playing mahjong on my tablet.

The fear and shame came back again when I answered a call from the dentist’s office.   I am afraid of dentists.  I hate my mouth, my teeth, and everything associated with them.  It’s one part of my body that I have not been able to separate from my trauma or care for consistently.  But I’m going to a dentist in 1 week for the first evaluation in almost 10 years.

Now, the headache is still with me.  I have tears in my eyes.  The shame is overwhelming.  The internal conflict makes me dizzy.  Do this or that?  Go this way or that way?  Use this strategy or that one?  Eat or not eat?

I wish I could be positive right now.  I wish I could tell you that my tools will work, and I will be ok.  But I am not sure if the tools will work.  And lying is not part of my lifestyle anymore.

I will tell you  that I am going to be ok.  Because I am.  And so are my alters.  We are resilient, flexible, patient, and strong.  And persistent or stubborn.  So yes, the depression and shame and sadness are overwhelming.  The pain is at level 9+ right now.  And everything feels like too much.

But, one moment at a time.  That’s all I have to get through.  One.  Moment.  At. A. Time.

Thanks for reading.

IMG_7569

Another quote from the Power of Positivity website (via Facebook)

Ever since moving to my new home, I’ve been recovering memories during sleep.  This is difficult because the memories come as dreams and sometimes interfere with or interrupt my regular sleeping.  That means I’m not getting as much rest as usual even though my sleeping habits have not changed.  Sleep deprivation and its resulting symptoms set in.  And I stop wanting to go out.

This quote resonates a lot with me because the exact scenario happened more than once as I reclaimed independence from my father.  His birthday was last Thursday; a few days after Labor Day; two week’s after my mother’s birthday; a little more than one month before mine.  In the past, memories of the trauma and abuse from my father were hazy and blurred.  Nothing concrete except feelings and fragments.  Now, I am remembering.  And the more I remember, the more I realize how covertly abusive he was.  And not just to me.  To my mother and brother too, but in different ways.

Sometimes I think my parents fed on each other’s negativity and enabled each other to be more abusive and destructive in our family system.  Maybe that is co-dependence; maybe it is something else.  But whatever the case, dad took out his frustration with my mom’s refusal to get consistent treatment and care on me.  And he put all of this projected hopes and dreams for the future on my brother.

And when I moved so far out of their control that they couldn’t force me into compliance anymore, my parents & sibling went out of their way to control how everyone else in our family system and community saw me/treated me.  None of those people are safe.  Not when they all see my mom and ask her how I am.  Not when they ask my brother, father and maternal relatives the same questions instead of asking me.  Not when those people tell lies and make up stories about me that I can’t refute or deny since I have not idea what they’re saying.

The persona they created for me lives on in many minds.  The truth of who I am is a mystery wrapped in an enigma both to me and everyone in my circle of trusted people.  I’m still learning who I am.  I am still becoming the woman I aspire to be.  Like an onion, I have to peel away the layers of denial, amnesia, trauma fragments, and disguises that kept me safe in order to find the authentic person underneath.

And when times are bad; when the switching is almost constant; when the depression sets in, I remember this quote.  And then I go to sleep.  My alters come out and do what they need to do; sometimes we cry; sometimes other chores get accomplished; sometimes exercise; sometimes we have lucid dreams.  A day might pass.  Two days might pass with a few wake-ups to use facilities, get a drink or food, etc.  And then, our mind relaxes into restful sleep.  And I/we awaken feeling refreshed.  And the cycle starts fresh again.

Thanks for reading.

I am triggered.  Tomorrow is my father’s birthday.  It never really bothered me before.  But now, my alters are remembering past experiences in dreams.  And the critical voices – mean, rude, negative, manipulative, insulting, and scary – intrude on my waking hours and try to stop me from moving forward with this month’s tasks: get scholarship information and simplify my budgeting system.

Worrying about money always triggers flashbacks and anxiety from the times when my father controlled me by managing my money, taxes, bills, and car for me.  And when he would manipulate me into giving away expensive stuff to my brother or other family members instead of selling or repurposing the items for myself.  

How?  By making comments about how I wasted time “playing” on these machines or “money” on software or electronics that “didn’t work” right because I was stupid and paid too much.   And by telling me I was in debt and should not waste money I didn’t have.  It would make my credit score worse.  And if I had extra money, why not use it to help my mom instead?  Because I didn’t deserve new or nice things that made me happy.

Back then, I didn’t know he used my credit to buy stuff and then lapse on paying it.  Or that he stole money from me through identity theft.  I know my mom did that through our shared bank account until I moved my money out an had my name taken off of it.  But I didn’t know my dad was until I checked my credit cards and saw a much higher balance than what I put on the cards each month.  But that was after I went to a bank and had the loan officer check my credit to see if I was eligible to buy a house back when I thought I was stuck in my old home forever.

I struggled with the decision to buy a home or go back to graduate school.  My father discouraged both simply by telling me that the only way to accomplish either goal was to follow his explicit plans.  And he had everything mapped out including my budget, transportation routes for both scenarios, and monthly expenses.  He made it clear that I couldn’t do either one on my own because I wasn’t smart enough to get scholarships or have the credit score to get a decent loan.  But worse, he spread his “worry” about me to mom and the rest of the family.  Mom didn’t want me to do either one; buy a house or go back to school because that meant I was doing better than her.  She told dad everything I told her, but in such a way that I was being evil for wanting something different than the life they planned for me.  So between te two of them, I sufdsnly had tons of family discouraging me from pursuing either financial and educational goal.  And you know what, it worked.  I bowed to the pressure and did not pursue either one.

Instead, I used the money to disappear and start over.

Now, every time I spend money on something that helps me or makes me smile, I get flashbacks and anxiety.  The voices start whispering or yelling at me.  I start switching.  My body hurts.  And I wonder if I really am managing my money properly or not.  I start thinking I can’t afford what I bought or invested in.  And I get mad at myself.

Reading, music, distractions, grounding, the usual stuff is not helping.  Mantras, affitmations, maintaining connections with people are somewhat helping, but not really.  And so I find myself struggling to cope with these unexpected triggers.

Thanks for reading.

IMG_7594

I found this on my Facebook feed through some friends who sometimes share the affirmations and quotes on their feeds.  Lately, they’ve been sharing quotes about shame and self care.  Once in a while, they share interesting articles about topics like shame, narcissism, manipulative people, and ways to identify/cope in real life.

This one resonated a lot because I find myself thinking about my past through flashbacks and nightmares during holidays like Labor Day.  Sometimes the urge to reach out and contact them overwhelms me; I have to remind myself that contacting them won’t give me closure.  It will open a door to let that toxicity back into my life.

Later in the week, I found this quote:

IMG_7591

And it reminded me so much of the toxic people I left behind; how they used to bring up my mistakes and embarrassing moments to remind me that I am still the person I was and  will never be able to change.  At least in their minds, I will stay the same.  Nothing I say or do will stop them from believing what they want to believe about me.

So I hope these quotes help you too.  When you are triggered, they might offer some grounding through reality testing.  When you are not triggered, yet feeling uncomfortable or anxious, these quotes might remind you to think of your present and your accomplishments instead of the past.

That is what they do for me.  And for my alters, these quotes are lifelines or bridges to a new way of remembering the past.