Archives for the month of: March, 2017

Introduction

This past month has been busy with a lot of changes.  When not writing a post, working, or going to necessary appointments, I’ve been sleeping and trying to practice self care.

Coping Strategies

Thankfully, where I live offers grocery delivery service and food delivery options.  This kept me fed no matter how tired I felt.  But every once in a while I did try to go out and walk.  I did try to talk with friends and acquaintances.  Or at least act friendly when we ran into each other; this includes dogs and other friendly animals.  I also tried to do some cleaning and trash removal.

The Trigger

But I also felt some shame about not keeping in touch, especially with people and dogs in my building.  That shame mixed with my usual March depression created this compulsion to put myself in an emotionally compromising situation yesterday.  It was the first day in a couple of weeks where I felt good in the morning, dressed in a cute outfit for myself, and was focused on enjoying the day instead of the discomfort from feeling sick.

I don’t know what possessed me to do this (maybe missing my neighbor’s dog?), but I opened the door when I heard my neighbor’s dog bark.  His bark is distinctive, but I wasn’t sure if I missed him or not.  Well, I didn’t miss him.  We spent some quality time cuddling together, and then I brought him back to his human.

And this is where the emotional self-harm kicks in.  

 

Upon seeing her again, (I brought the dog downstairs to her while she was chatting with a potential renter) I suddenly felt the need to apologize for not being in touch over the last few weeks.  My mind got cloudy, and I started to feel really far away (desensitization) even though we stood less than 3 feet apart.  I didn’t want to say a lot or stay long, so I apologized and told her I’d been busy; she replied by saying we should catch up some time.  I agreed, then left.

Then I went upstairs and wrote her an email.  In the email I was more honest and explained in more detail what happened the past few weeks.  Who would want to be around people when they feel sick?

Then I sent the email, not expecting a response.

And I didn’t get one.  I won’t get one.

But I also didn’t feel upset or ashamed of myself for not getting a response.  I didn’t feel good or bad about myself.  The negative self talk did not arrive.  The trigger is still there.  The past memories and experiences tried and continue to try to shame me by bringing up memories of high school and college that used to unleash floods of shame and embarrassment.

Instead, the anxiety I feel now is because the expected response to this unsafe situation I put myself in did not occur.

As both my therapists would say: this is a sign of significant internal change.  And the anxiety over the different response – normal.

How did I cope?

  • I watched some episodes of Glee on Netflix and got in touch with the preteen and teen parts who were feeling the grief and shame.
  • Then I packed and put the accumulated recycling in the outdoor bins.
  • Before I treated myself with an amazing chocolate dessert, I brought the return packages to the mailbox.

Conclusion

My mind tried to trick me into feeling awful with past memories.  It used someone I consider a friend, but feel wary around now because of some semi-recent experiences that were part projection (triggers) and part reality.

I had not consciously put myself in an emotionally unsafe situation in over a year before now.  For two years, I was careful and chose to avoid people who seemed emotionally unsafe – i.e. they reminded me of my parents or others from the past with their words and actions.

And now I realize that I really have changed.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Thanks for reading.

94d5f52615e6ed71bc96c1a0dff3f553

 

(from: https://www.pinterest.com/cookoutchef/quotes-about-food/)

A good reminder to eat healthy, tasty, nutrient rich food and drink lots of water or flavored water (with a few treats sprinkled through) even when I feel ambivalent.

A Truth: I’ve talked a lot about how acknowledging and accepting my feelings has helped me move past many difficult moments in recovery. 

Another truth: I’m afraid of the negative feelings inside me.  I’m afraid to acknowledge them, accept them, validate them because they might just take over and turn me into a monster.

Coping Strategy: Denial

Coping Challenge: Find a substitute

Solution: Do what I did with the positive emotions that scared and overwhelmed me until I got used to them.  Then let the negativity go instead of keeping it as part of my life.

What does that mean: I use a Tibetan meditation practice called Mara to help me sort out my overwhelming feelings and fear when nothing else works.  This practice is something I learned from reading Pema Chodron’s books and listening to her audio books.

During my last Mara meditation, I realized that I was afraid to let the negative feelings out because they might turn me into a monster like my parents or the other perpetrators.  But after the session, those negative feelings didn’t seem so scary.  And the only person I hurt by keeping these feelings inside was myself.

So I’m embracing the hate.

Then I’m letting it go.

Because hatred, violence, pain, meanness, and hurt don’t have a place in my life anymore.

Will I still experience negativity and negative feelings? YES

Will I still experience violence, pain, meanness, hatred, and hurt?  YES

Will that negativity continue to define my life?  I sincerely hope not.

How will I work through this?  One moment at a time with lots of support from loved ones.

Thanks for reading

I’ve been practicing self care since the last post.  A lot of sleeping and a lot of cooking have brought my energy levels back up.  One load of laundry, a potential new apartment interview, taking care of taxes, knitting, and essay writing rounded out the rest of my physical self care strategies this weekend.  Meditation, deep breathing, a mindful walk, sensory grounding, and a call to the hotline rounded out my mental self care.

What I’m still struggling with:

Body memory and body self care.  In the last post, I mentioned how much the treatment impacted my body.  What I didn’t realize was the consequences of that impact.

The Positive

  • Less physical pain around my face, neck, and spine
  • Less swelling around my sinuses, ears, neck, and abdomen
  • More yucky stuff (aka toxins) getting released
  • More feeling in my legs and other muscle groups that have been numb for a while
  • Improved temperature regulation
  • Improved sleep

The Scary

  • Odd tingling pain and discomfort from hips (and are between) to toes that is starting to go away
  • Extreme tiredness and lack of energy immediately after treatment
  • Lots of recovered memories and memory fragments piecing together while awake and asleep
  • Had to take a “mental health day”
  • Tenderness in private parts that feels uncomfortable and triggering – don’t know how to cope with it
  • Increased visits to the bathroom that interrupt my sleep and feel oddly uncomfortable because the previously mentioned tender parts are affected.

Conclusion

I really need to talk with my intern practitioner about these sensations; glad Tuesday is only two days away.  And after that conversation, I may break my rule and ask my counselor to call me between sessions.  This discomfort is not something I’ve ever had to cope with long term and starting to distress me.

Other than that, I’m feeling pretty good about the self care.

Thanks for reading.

It’s March again.

The depression and feelings of shame/badness/evil are back.  I had a panic attack between yesterday and today.  It felt different, but I still had to take  the day off to sleep.

The body memory pain lessens with each acupuncture treatment – cupping and body work are helping too.  But the other pain – pain that comes from the toxins clogging my face and abdomen – increases.

While I am grateful for the pain (it means the toxins are moving out of my body) the headaches and sinus aches are triggering and distracting.  The back pain and abdominal pain feel scary until I burp or fart.  Then it feels slightly embarrassing.  Also feels triggering.

All I have to do is focus on self care until my next appointment with the counselor.  That’s what we agreed on in today’s session.  Me take care of myself in the best way possible.  Sleep.  Cook.  Be active, but not too active.  Conserve energy.  Prioritize goals.  Work.

And maybe this time the feelings of being evil, incompetent, stupid, etc. will not win.

Thanks for reading.

Going back to school was amazing in some ways – I felt so comfortable and accepted there.  Socializing was a lot easier than I anticipated, and I had so much fun in spite of the stress from lack of self-care time.  But I realized that my concern about self care masked the real challenge.

The real challenge was a flood of memories about my struggles trying to socialize and fit in with peers or attain meaningful goals.  My body started reacting first.  But not in the same way it usually does.  The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments have been helping a lot, so the cramping pain, nausea, and rapid breathing changed to something I didn’t recognize.  My sleeping was okay, but the dreams changed.

My anxiety increased every day as I got closer and closer to the last class.  Up until Friday in class, I debated whether or not to not follow through the rest of the application process.  There is still an email telling my admissions counselor I don’t want to continue waiting in my draft box.  It explains that maybe I am not sure I feel ready to start school in September.  My alters and I do worry that our body is not ready for that kind of stress yet.

Earlier in the day, I texted my counselor about my worries.  She got back to me while I was in the last class and convinced me to wait until after our session to decide about the email.  My counselor and I talked about it in session, but what came out of my mouth wasn’t what either of us expected.  My parts started talking.  They shared what each of us had been told throughout the years without providing context first.  By the time I came back, the session was over.  I felt really mad at myself, upset, and confused.

  • What I wanted to share has to wait until the next session.  But right now, we have to cope with the fallout symptoms from being triggered on multiple levels.
  • Memories of shame and humiliation with regards to socializing, participating in class, and enjoying myself in crowds
  • Memories of what my parents, brother, relatives, so-called friends, and other people said to shame and discourage me from achieving my school-related dreams
  • Coping with the fact that my body and mind are not reacting to these triggers in the “typical” way – and none of us know what to do

So now life has calmed down.  Work schedule is getting back to normal.  And I have an essay to write.  But this weekend was busy with work.  And I finally had some warm, sunny days to enjoy outside.  It was fun hanging out with neighborhood friends and seeing the crowds of people on the street again.

Thanks for reading

 

One of my biggest fears about going back to school is not being able to “act normal” around other people for extended periods of time and still learn.

Turns out, that is not my biggest obstacle to going back to school.  Balancing self care with work and school is my biggest obstacle.

Right now, I’m in a positive healing space.  My body is responding to current treatment and improving – slow and steady progress.  I have more energy and less instances of panic attacks.  My mind is more clear-headed.  Basic chores and tasks like laundry, house-cleaning, and cooking are easier and more enjoyable too.  My sleeping and appetite are better.  The muscle and joint pain are easing too.  And I am knitting again.

All positive improvements and personal milestones.

Working full time and going back to school for the last two weeks and this week has brought home how little time I will have for self care.  My personal time decreased by 50%, and my stress increased about the same amount.  I worried about transportation, being available to people at work, meeting my deadlines, paying attention in class, getting proper nutrition, coping with the new people (at school) and responsibilities (at work), and getting enough sleep.

Instead of taking time off, I worked extra on the weekend to make up missed weekday hours.  I did extra loads of laundry; spent more time packing my backpack and snacks for class time; and pushed myself to wake up early so I could eat breakfast before leaving in  the morning.  Or pushed myself to eat 1 – 2 decent meals before the afternoon classes.

Then, on Monday, class discussed a part of diagnosis and treatment related to genitalia.  And the instructor demonstrated how to identify location points on the body while also being sensitive to the patient’s boundaries about physical contact.  It was the first class where I was so anxious that I dissociated a couple times during the demonstration.  Later that night, I had trouble sleeping.

This is when I realized how vital my current self care routine is to managing the PTSD and moving forward with recovery.  My health is important to me.  It’s part of my I moved and started fresh.  Being here has helped me realize that my emotional and mental self is much improved and in better shape than my physical self.

The current treatment of Traditional Chinese Medicine + trauma counseling/therapy + massage is working.  And I don’t want that to stop.  My worry is that adding school to a high-stress full time job at this point will take away the time and energy for self care.  And if that happens, I will spiral downward and relapse.

The learning part won’t be a problem.  The memorizing part will be a challenge, but not as bad as I thought it could be.  The communication and socializing part is a lot less scary and will be manageable with the right set of coping strategies in place.  But I feel like I will struggle with time management and transportation anxiety.  Managing work, school, homework/study, apartment maintenance, self-care, and my finances will be a big challenge.

Thanks for reading.

Background

How do you feel on the inside?

That question is what my therapist asks me whenever I question a choice, action, or reaction to a triggering event/experience.  She calls it my internal litmus test.

The first time she asked me this question, I was so shocked that my voice dried up.  My brain stopped.  Everything blanked out, and she had to bring me back with grounding questions and comments.  Then she explained how the test worked: if I feel happy and positive about my choice on the inside, it was the right one; if I feel unsure or uncomfortable, the choice could be a mistake and something to learn from; if I feel bad, angry, negative, guilty, etc., it was not the correct choice.

I felt awful about my choice the first time she asked me that question.  As we discussed the whys in session, I started to understand what felt wrong and how to fix the mistake.  No matter my answer, though, the test always works.

The Good

This test helped me work on the following topics:

  • Stop and Think objectively
  • Get perspective
  • Trust my instincts
  • Learn from my mistakes
  • Make alternative plans to correct mistakes
  • Feel compassion for myself
  • Learn to be gentle with myself
  • Listen to my alters as they communicate
  • My alters listen to me as I communicate with them
  • Cooperation

The Difficult

  • This test challenged me:
  • To work with my backlash instead of against it
  • Recognize and ask for help in coping feelings of shame and guilt
  • Discover new ways to use my existing coping skills with backlash instead of falling back on self harm
  • To work with my alters as a team to face  our fears and recovered memories
  • Build my alters’ confidence in communication and switching so they stopped feeling shame every time they came out and defended us from perpetrators, bullies, and people from the past
  • Be assertive and set boundaries for internal and external living to promote a healthy self
  • Let go of toxic relationships without shame and guilt
  • Remove toxic people from our life
  • Not get into relationships with toxic people
  • Be open to reconnecting with family members who are willing to respect my boundaries and build a relationship based on acceptance and respect of who we are now
  • To test present reality against the thoughts and feelings overwhelming my inner self

Conclusion

The internal litmus test is scary and full of potential pitfalls.  It requires honesty and persistence and resilience in shattering the denial and lies that prevents me from moving forward with recovery.  Every time I or one of the alters uses this test, we know that the results are honest and true.  Finally, the test offers us a safe way to experiment with challenging our triggers and monsters within a supportive framework (counselor, coping strategies, respective).

Thanks for reading

Introduction

My child parts are asking questions about their past memories – thoughts, feelings, experiences.  They are sharing information through images, feelings, sounds, smells, & tastes and then asking the rest of us for help. (reality testing, perspective, validation, compassion, support coping strategies)

I’m lucky to work remotely right now.  This gives us the opportunity share inner thoughts and support each other even at work.  My child parts feel safe and connected at all times, so sharing with us is not a distraction from “acting normal” and “staying safe” outside of home.  There is no shame or guilt or fear that comes from caring about the rest of the system and not wanting to be a distraction.

Past

Before, this couldn’t happen because our life was very compartmentalized.  Only work at work.  Focus on getting home safely before and after work.  Then only a few hours at home to decompress, do self-care, rest, sleep, and cope with triggers.  Our living situation and general environment wasn’t always safe or didn’t feel safe because of past experiences and present issues with unsafe people.

Present

As we remember, the experiences get processed.  The child parts feel safer and more comfortable with themselves and the rest of the system.  The shame from sharing information, exposing secrets, asking for help, and letting go of the past changes into self-compassion, acceptance, respect, and improved communication skills.  The guilt goes away as each part of me learns to accept the truth: it wasn’t his/her/its fault; none are responsible.

Conclusion

These changes to inner self-talk / self-thoughts are reflected in how I view and interact with the rest of the world.  In being able to communicate with myself better, I also learn how to communicate with others in the outside world.  I can be more objective and learn from my mistakes easier.  My alters can access these thoughts and use the experiences to help them do the same with their memories and experiences.

Then they share what they’ve learned with me.  We all benefit by feeling more at ease with ourselves and each other; feeling safe on the inside and outside; reflecting a new sense of self and confidence in social situations; and being less reactive to many exterior triggers.

There is still a lot to work on, but this is a good start.

Thanks for reading