Archives for the month of: December, 2016

Since Christmas, I have been struggling with really bad anxiety.  Flashbacks, nightmares, changes in sleep and eating patterns, etc.

The body pain increased too.  That made me wonder what exactly triggered this round of escalation?

two things: letting down barriers and being emotionally supportive of an aunt who is still stuck in the abuse cycle I walked away from.

the barriers: I opened my heart and friendship to a neighbor whose little dog wrapped himself around my heart with one look at his big, dark eyes and some very loud barks.  I walked him a couple times last week to help my neighbor out.  She needed some help since her second job required a schedule change.

This brought back fond memories of when I used to exercise without pain and enjoy it.  Also memories of my puppy from a disastrous attempt at service dog training s couple years ago.  From there, came a tumble of other memories and feelings – some good, others not so great.

Emotional support: I reconnected with family on my father’s side this year.  It has been slow and careful because I don’t want to get sucked back into the toxic system that still exists.  They know that and (for the most part) respect my boundaries.  But I have an older aunt who still gets targeted for the emotional and verbal abuse/bullying/scapegoating by the rest of the family.  We had a conversation about that when she called earlier this week.  The call brought back other memories and familiar pain in my back the next day.  I want to be supportive, but not much else I can do until she is ready to take the steps to protect herself.  Where and how to I set boundaries to protect myself and support her?

I don’t know.  But yesterday was hard to concentrate at work.  I missed my deadline here by falling asleep 1 hour after work finished.

Today, I am taking a mental health day.  Have to because the anxiety is so bad I need to do some serious self care.  Sleep is #1 priority.  Followed by real food and hydration.  Getting outside for the first time in 4 days.  And trying to regain my sense of safety through grounding, soothing, and DBT strategies.

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This is the first year Christmas has come on a post day.

I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Usually, I write a post in advance to avoid any commitments or interruptions.

But not this time.

Shame & Anxiety filled holidays

In the past, I struggled with shame about how I preferred to spend my Christmas holidays. So I would evade questions or give breezy answers until people stopped asking me.  It’s easier than getting the pitying looks and having to face the whispers and concern about being lonely or alone for the holidays.  Or feeling the need to explain why I enjoy solitary Christmas days full of quiet and relaxation.  Or having to answer questions about why I choose not to spend time with family or friends.

Rest & Relaxation filled holidays

But this year, I’ve embraced my Christmas experience.  It’s been shaped by past and present memories, by personal values and preferences, and by my choice to honor the spirit of Christmas and Thanksgiving.  It also appeals to the practical side of my nature.

I want to be present as much as possible.  I want to remember what scares me about the holidays and why so that I can reclaim Christmas for myself.  I want to learn how to cope with the trauma and triggers so that some future Christmases can be spent with family and friends too.

This year’s holiday plan:

  • Send holiday cards to friends and family
  • Make a shopping list of grounding/comfort food and items for holiday meals
  • Cook food on Christmas eve
  • Connect with friends and family to say Merry Christmas
  • Do some things that feel good on Christmas eve
  • Download some e-books and borrow others from the library
  • Try to sleep on Christmas Eve night
  • Sleep in/relax on Christmas day
  • Wake up when I feel like it; eat when I feel like it
  • Sleep some more (and let the memories flow in and out)
  • Read, relax, enjoy the quiet so opposite to past holidays

Future holiday plan (for when I stop moving and settle in):

  • Decorate for Christmas with a tree and some wreaths, maybe plants too
  • Go out and enjoy some holiday cheer at community events
  • Maybe spend Christmas Eve/Day with people
  • And almost everything on the other holiday plan

Conclusion

A plan doesn’t always work for everyone.  But having some activities or tools in mind for when the triggers hit helps a lot.  So does dreaming or having hope.

I am not ashamed of how I spend my Christmases anymore.  I relish the idea of rest & relaxation in a time when everyone else is burdened with “have to do” lists that cause more negative stress than pleasure.

If ever there came a time when I did choose to be busy, that would be because I CHOSE to include entertaining and socializing into the holiday.  Not for any other reason.

Whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate, I/We all wish you a happy, healthy, safe seasons’s greetings.

Thanks for reading

Bad news is supposed to happen in 3s

First someone I am close to gets sick and is in the hospital around Thanksgiving.  Obviously bad news.

Second I make contact with family members who might or might not be safe.  Not sure if this is considered bad news.

Last Thursday I found out that a friend/mentor/co-worker I’ve known for about 10 years died.  He had cancer and fought bravely for quite a few years.  Obviously bad news.

Holidays bring memories and mixed feelings

My anxiety is much worse than normal.  I’m remembering events and activities that happened around the holidays (at parties and events, at home, at church/synagogue, at school) that were buried for decades.

My body is healing and starting to look like it’s meant to look.  This is causing feelings of negative body image, self-consciousness, and fear.

I sent out holiday cards and have received some.  Two cousins sent a gift that made me feel so happy that I got scared.  I bought groceries to cook in the community kitchen; want to feel good and cook something.

Coping Challenges

Grief – brings out tears and feelings of sadness that trigger past feelings and similar situations.  I felt numb; then started crying.  But while I felt numb, I couldn’t stop sneezing.

Negative body feelings – I am so tired.  I am getting cravings to eat and drink stuff that makes me feel kind of sick and can’t avoid all of them.  My body alternately feels good and in pain.  And I am having trouble accepting my “real” body shape.

Hope – that maybe this year I won’t sleep through Christmas

Fear – that I probably will do that

Self-Care – because I am falling behind on some chores and goals with being so tired and sleeping a lot.

Strategy or Strategies?

Gratitude – because I feel so grateful for the typical and also unexpected blessings that have come my way this season

Allowing my feelings to flow through me – express, acknowledge, accept, let go of what I feel so they don’t get stuck inside and cause problems (I hope)

Present-focused attitude – to help me stay grounded and focused on my current tasks

Self-Care – because everyone deserves to be safe and healthy

Starting small – small chunks are easier to finish than large bites.  And small accomplishments add up with less frustration

So how are you going to prepare for the holidays?

Thanks for reading…

My Biased Perspective of Past Holidays

Holidays make me feel crazy an inadequate most years.  Also scared.  This is the time of year when everyone is “on a diet” or “off a diet” or “going crazy with the shopping and the parties and the party planning” and “making travel arrangements”.

People compete with each other to get the hottest trend item or have the best, most talked about party.  Everyone talks about gifts they’re buying or getting, vacations they’re going on, and the stress of holiday cheer.

Too many people.  Too busy.  Too loud.  Too much anxiety-provoking, stressful environmental factors in the outside world this time of year.

A New Goal: Fun, Relaxing Holidays

I was raised to believe holidays were about spending time with loved ones; enjoying good food, conversation, and games together.  Or for introverts like me, spending time around family, listening to conversations while playing puzzles or relaxing with a good book.  It meant helping my aunts and uncles cook and set the table for family dinner.  Or playing elf on Christmas morning at my grandma’s house and seeing everyone enjoy their gifts.

Those are my best and most favorite memories  of Christmas.  And they all happened before I turned 8 with my father’s side of the family.

These days, I don’t decorate or go to parties.  I do send messages to my friends and cook something good for myself.  Then relax with some books and movies if I’m not sleeping the day away.

But this year, I’m trying something different.  Since letting family back into my life, I have more reasons to be thankful and to celebrate.  I also have more triggers to cope with.  But I live far away from my friends and family now.  And connecting with them is not as easy as before.

So I’m reinstating a tradition.  Holiday cards.  By snail mail.

My only problems?  The cards might not all arrive in time.  I had stamps.  But not enough.  Friday was not a day I could go out – my cold decided to clear out and left me exhausted – and left me without enough stamps.  Then I realized I didn’t have enough cards.  One more…that’s all I need.

Fingers crossed I can get stamps and a card tomorrow.  With luck, the cards will be in the mail and delivered by Saturday.

Instead of blame & shame, a positive reminder of life’s surprises

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Thanks for reading

This could also go under life-changing moments, but I prefer it here.

Not a long post because still processing and learning to use coping strategies effectively.

Main Point

Feeling safe can change perspectives and long-held beliefs about oneself and one’s relationships with others.

First Change

Recovering memories from body and mind; then piecing them together with help from alters via dreams and nightmares.

Second Change

Interacting with the outside world more as my real self and with less dissociative experiences even in high stress situations.

Third Change

Allowing family back into my life on a limited basis; and through those blood relations, my parents and sibling are back too.

Fourth (and last on this list) Change

The beginnings of an integration where all alters work together as a single unit and allow our body to heal/become/look the way it’s supposed to look based on genetics and a higher power.

What does this mean?

I feel confident and able enough to protect myself from anything my parents or younger sibling might try.

The danger is not so much from my parents as from acquaintances and community members whose identities I don’t remember except in nightmares.

My biggest challenges have to do with facing my fears and triggers without using dissociation as my automatic coping strategy.

Conclusion

I am in a new phase of recovery.  I don’t have any reference points, past experience, or internal guides to start with.  My go-to strategies are dissociate and avoid.  They don’t work anymore.

But something must be going right.  I’m still alive and sane.

Step by step.  Moment by moment.

Thanks for reading.

Sometimes life throws a curve ball.  Plans change.  Priorities change.

I thought my Chinese medicine treatments were over for the semester (winter break) and didn’t plan on one over the weekend.  Instead, the goal was knitting on Saturday and sewing on Sunday with some cooking and relaxing thrown in.  My friend’s scarf has been delayed long enough.  And I need to show some progress for the lessons I paid for.

But I had a treatment on Saturday.  I use treatment because each one is more than acupuncture; the needling is only one aspect of practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Along with the acupuncture, my practitioner used cupping and massage to help with the memories and muscle tension along my spine.  She warned me that the intensity of this  treatment (our goals were less anxiety and helping with cold symptoms) might cause some discomfort for a day or two as my body continued to heal.

This has happened before, so I wasn’t worried.  What I forgot to take into account was the over time and lack of sleep from the week before along with lots of memories.  So instead of sewing and cleaning house, I slept most of the day.  Was awake for maybe 8 hours total throughout the day.

And so, here I am writing my post a day late and feeling like a bad person for not meeting my self-imposed deadline.  And while I know I’m not a bad person, I still feel bad about not posting a late message.  On the other hand, I recognize that I am not perfect.  I do make mistakes.  And sometimes life gets in the way and there’s nothing to be done about that.

I needed to sleep.  My alters needed to regroup.  Our body needed to rest and feel safe.  Yesterday was a lesson.  Self-compassion. Self-care.  Listen to those inner voices.  Some do care.

Because the weekend got me thinking about anxiety, here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama.  I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

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Thanks for reading xo

Not sure how others receive information about their past, but mine come in a few ways.  The main ones are: dreams/nightmares, flashbacks, & body memories.

The PTSD makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the automatic reactions that get triggered each time I remember something.

The DID makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the way my brain developed and learned to store memories, sensation, & experiences.

Back in my old living area, I was constantly bombarded by triggers and memories.  It was all my therapist and I could do to keep me relatively sane and focused on the present instead of spiraling out of control.  I never truly felt safe there and could not move on to work on other aspects of recovery even though I was ready to do so.  Every time I tried, the flashbacks and dreams and body memories bombarded me with warnings.

Now, in my new living area, I am safe to delve into these memories, work on pain management and merging the fragmented sensations from body memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks into whole memories of my past.  I am physically and emotionally safe here.  I can go outside and walk around any time.  I can use public transportation without fear of getting harassed.

I can shop at stores and know that bad service is because of the individual’s issues and not my past.  I can reconnect with safe family members.  I can enjoy hobbies and practice self care that was impossible before.  I can let my body heal and look the way nature intended for it to look instead of how my past molded it.

But with all of that comes learning how to cope with the shame and fear and distress that comes from confronting those triggers.  My tool box is full of options.  I’m learning new ones all the time just by observing how people interact with each other in real life.  Did I mention that people-watching is one of my favorite things to do?

The struggle now is learning how to utilize my toolbox for these new and different challenges.  It’s like starting from square 1 all over again.

So the posts here will continue to be about the same topics, but the perspective will continue to change as my journey changes.  Thanks for reading and understanding.

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I think about my life often this time of year.  It’s a time of overwhelming feelings and the urge to belong somewhere.

For a couple weeks, I did great with the dietary changes my body felt amazing.  My mind felt wonderful.  And then I had this scary experience with a Uber driver that sent me on a tailspin of flashbacks – being trapped in cars with reckless or anxious drivers and feeling out of control – that pushed me to eat foods that would make me feel physically uncomfortable and/or sick.

I  tried to find alternatives.  I tried to use other grounding and coping skills.  I reached out for help on the hotline and spoke with my therapist.  I talked with my acupuncturist too.  But in the end I gave in and ate the foods that made me bloated, gassy, nauseous, and cramped.

Why?  Partly because I feel mixed emotions about reconnecting with more family members.  Partly because my body is physically changing and healing and becoming the body it’s supposed to be instead of the body it was turned into by past experience.  Partly because one way for me to cope successfully with overwhelming body sensations is to leave my body.  But I can’t leave unless my body is in pain or discomfort; the 2 triggers that allow me to disassociate from my physical self.

Do I feel guilty about harming myself with food?  Not really

Do I feel ashamed of harming myself with food? a little bit

Do I wish I could find an alternative to this?  Absolutely yes

How am I dealing with the minimal guilt and shame?  By being kind to myself and doing what I can to minimize the consequences of eating food that is difficult to digest.

Will I do this again in the future?  Probably.  It’s hard to let go of something that works and drowns out the uncomfortable sensations with familiar ones – even if those familiar ones are harmful and negative.

What next?  keep trying to find a substitute coping strategy that doesn’t involve self harm by food.

Hence the quote above…

Thanks for reading