Archives for the month of: April, 2017

Spring triggers

End of April brings out my “allergies” and many head colds.  My sleeping patterns and eating habits change too.  Beginning of May equals many family birthdays and Mother’s Day combined with Memorial Day and end of spring semester in college.  Dissociation is common.  Nightmares get worse.  The usual stuff.

Here, though, the sun rises around 7:00 AM and sets around 8:00 PM.  I can sleep late on weekends and still have plenty of time to go out for a walk in the sun.  Taking the trash and recycling out feels like less of a chore and more of a task on my to-do list.  With the weather in the high 40s or 50s (Fahrenheit), my big window can stay open while my loft remains warm and cozy.  Love fresh air.

A new pillow

Pillows have been a burden for many years.  Between chemical sensitivities and night sweats, I have yet to find a pillow that lasts more than a year or two.  Even the wool-filled ones from the last few years flattened out and stopped being supportive.  It’s hard to get comfortable and stay asleep, especially when the night sweats manifest.

But this weekend I found a new alternative.  There’s a local store that specializes in chemical free, natural & home furniture and bedding.   Last night, I slept easier and longer than I have in a while.  Not exactly nightmare free, but also not a night filled with bad dreams and sweat waking me up.  I hope investing in a new pillow continues to help with my sleep hygiene.

Knitting

Knitting is something I and my alters enjoy, but can also be triggering.  It’s also physically intensive and can be calming with repetitive action.  But this weekend, I feel happy, calm, proud, and accomplished.  My first infinity scarf is almost finished.  My arms and shoulders got some decent exercise, and no triggering this time.  It was a great distraction from my other discomfort and worry because still not feeling hungry or eating like I’m supposed to.

Walking – exercise & moving meditation

After some self massage and lying down meditation this morning, I felt good enough to do some apartment cleaning.  Picked up trash, collected recycling, and did some vacuuming.  Still have some laundry sorting to do, but that can wait a bit longer.  By treating these tasks as a moving meditation, I calmed down enough to go outside for a short walk and get a real meal at the grocery store.

That gave me a chance to check out new store products, eat outside, and enjoy the fresh air while thinking about what kinds of food and drinks to put together this week.  Being outside felt good and helped me feel better about myself.  Getting out the door isn’t easy this time of year, so any advantage to help me leave the building is welcome.

Conclusion

Sometimes changing seasons can affect mood and triggers.  Many people ask me if lack of sunlight or changing seasons increases my chance of depression.  The short answer is no.  The long answer is, not depression but my anxiety and hyper-vigilance get triggered.  I start to fear going outside and interacting with the world while also feeling angry with myself because I want to be outside enjoying the spring weather.

These coping strategies are hit or miss, but ones I love to put into practice as often as possible.  My young alter personalities enjoy the knitting as much as the teens and adults.  The moving meditation helps all of us relax and connect mind/body/spirit while also getting chores done.  Replaces scary or negative experiences with positive ones.  Finally, anything that helps us all sleep better is worth saving up the money to purchase and use.

I and my alters hope these examples might help you find a way to cope with unexpected triggers or seasonal changes too.

Thanks for reading.

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INTRODUCTION

Today I am reminded that failure is more about perception and beliefs than reality.  In the same way mistakes are learning opportunities, failure also offers chances to learn and improve for “next time”.  Because there will always be a “next time”.

Since I made the decision to move and then followed up by moving, I’ve experienced many mistakes and failures.  Shame has been a companion as I tried and failed to become part of interesting groups or clubs.  Sadness came from an application that got denied.  Anger and frustration from being railroaded/blocked/ignored by people while trying to achieve goals and objectives.

PROCESSING INFORMATION (coping strategy)

My previous therapist used to ask me what I learned from each experience.  And then we talked through or “processed” my thoughts and feelings.  It was during the “processing” part that my imagination and problem-solving skills engaged.  We discussed options:

  • next steps
  • what didn’t work and why
  • what did work and why
  • and (most important) how could I change my words and actions to achieve the goal?

SHAME & SHAME RESILIENCE

And one night when the shame of past experiences overwhelmed me, I called the hotline asking for help.  I didn’t want to give in to self-harm or OCD compulsions to put myself in reckless, dangerous situations.  The pressure inside kept building up squeezing my chest and head until I couldn’t think or feel.  And the hotline volunteer talked to me about shame.  About resilience.  About research into coping strategies and something called “Shame Resilience”.

The counselor offered a TED Talk by Brene Brown as a coping strategy.  I was so moved by the TED Talk that I followed the link to her other TED Talks.  Then looked her up online and found her books.  My goal was to learn more about her knowledge and perspective of shame.  But then I started reading her book.  The topics sparked connections in my brain.  But it was the opening quote that pulled the connections together.

Connections that helped me understand why I kept going, kept trying, kept living in spite of the shame and the doubters working so hard to make me stop.

THE QUOTE FROM “Man in the Arena”

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LIFE LESSONS

I’d rather try and fail; apply and be deniedlive and make mistakes than stand aside and watch the world move around me.  How will I know if I can do something unless I try?  Life is an experiment.  Success or failure, each one is a chance to learn.

So maybe this time I failed or was denied acceptance into a program/group/etc.  That only means I’m not ready yet.  There is more to learn and experience.  And next time I will succeed.

Which next time?  Maybe the second, maybe the fifth – doesn’t matter as long as I keep on trying.

Failure really isn’t failure if I learn something same way mistakes are opportunities to learn (Thanks Mrs. O from 7th grade math)

If I did everything possible to succeed and failed because of circumstances beyond my control, is that failure or success?

CONCLUSION

I chose the “Man in the Arena” quote because it reminded me to live full throttle and not listen to the critics in the stands.  What do they know about living in the arena?

I hope this inspires you all to live full throttle too.

Thanks for reading.

 

Nightmares are terrible experiences to work through at any time.  When you have alter personalities and switch in your sleep, the lack of awareness can cause problems.  By lack of awareness I mean not realizing when I am: shouting, screaming, crying, talking, kicking, punching, thumping, and so on while I am paralyzed (locked inside my body).  Usually my noise happens when I’m having a dream that involves anger and fighting.  All that means the neighbors get annoyed.  They start making noise.  And no one in the system is sure who or when or how the issue was resolved.

And yes, I’m having nightmares.  Or maybe reliving experiences as I sleep?  Or maybe I’m asleep and my alters are awake having flashbacks?  So confusing, yet so real.

As I told the admissions council during my second interview, some part of me is always awake.  I never truly sleep.  But I do get lots of rest.  And lately, my wireless headphones have been a blessing.  I can block out the construction, the neighbors, the cars, the wind when windows are open and get some rest.

Downside is that I can’t exactly hear when my neighbors bang on the door or the wall to get me to quiet down with the headphones on.  And when the neighbors do bang and shout, I’m not sure it’s me or someone else they want to quiet down.  Or if the new neighbors are moving furniture/drunk and walking into things, etc.

But I also have new neighbors.  They happen to be younger and louder than the others.  Also chattier and with chatty guests who visit at all hours.  And some like to smoke in the building even though that’s against the rules.  So any or all of this could be happening while I’m trying to sleep.

And whoever’s in charge at the time will take care of these issues.  So far, no complaints from the property manager about noise or other issues.  But the banging and music do startle awake and make some alters tense up.  To be honest, I’m not sure if any of us actually get out of bed to talk with the neighbors at night or just stay in bed hoping it will stop.  And I am kind of afraid of what could happen if one of us does try to chat with the loud neighbor.

As for basic coping strategies, here is this week’s list:

  • Airing out the apartment – warm enough to keep windows open a few days last week
  • Feeling comfortable (not to cold or hot) in bed
  • Gratitude affirmations
  • Deep breathing and meditation
  • Self massage and use of acupressure points
  • Letting the memories flow – aka alters share memories, experiences, thoughts, and feelings with everyone else
  • Listening to music
  • Listening to favorite nature sounds
  • Re-reading old favorites and some new books
  • Staying inside
  • Sleeping when I can; resting when I can’t; eating when I feel hungry
  • Letting myself be

It’s the downside to apartment living, especially micro-apartment living.  Small spaces crowded next to each other; soundproof that isn’t truly soundproof; and a basic lack of privacy from having neighbors so close.  Too bad I can’t afford my own house on a quiet street with very few neighbors and lots of beautiful trees.

But now that my secret life isn’t so secret anymore and we aren’t expending so much energy living two lives, maybe this lack of energy and need for solitude will lessen.  I’ve actually spent more time outside my apartment and interacting with people in the last two weeks than I did for the last 3 months.  And as much as I liked it (all parts in the system really enjoyed it), spending time chatting with people and in crowds really drained my energy.  So now we’re all back to figuring out how to refill the well.

Thanks for reading

 

Have you ever been triggered so badly that the feelings overwhelmed and broke through internal barriers?

That happened about 2 weeks ago.  

I lay down to sleep one night and flashed back to 1998.  The flashback lasted for hours.  It covered many years between 1998 and 2012.

And each memory was of a fight – a physical fight between my younger self and one or more other people.  Then I started to remember names and places.  And suddenly even living on the other side of the country didn’t feel safe.  I felt scared and out of control.

The experiences got distorted by feelings and body pain.  What feelings?  What pain?

The feelings: anger, shame, fear, confusion, grief

The pain: head, face, neck, abdomen, low back, hips

I felt so angry for days.  It built and built inside me.  Nothing I tried, nothing my alters tried, none of the typical and atypical strategies helped.  So I followed the plan my counselor and I put together in session.  I called the hotline first.  Then texted her with updates.  She called me; we talked.

The goal: focus on feelings first; then process the memories & thoughts.

One week ago:

The memories came back as dreams and nightmares.  I probably annoyed my neighbors by talking in my sleep and yelling/screaming/thumping the walls – explains why I avoid them right now.  It’s why I prefer not to have close neighbors, but that’s impossible in this apartment.

I started to realize the anger combined with body pain (treatments have been working to address chronic sinus, digestion, etc. issues) opened up a gate for the memories to get through.  The physical pain got worse and kind of triggering.  I kept getting confused about past and present.

But I also had to go out and take care of errands.  It helped that people I’m friendly with were on the route.

The feelings: numb, hurt, sad, shame, confusion, then numb again

The body pain: moved from head to back to abdomen to private areas to back again

The goal: get through one more week while counselor is away

This week:

My counselor is back; we had our session on Saturday.  Easter was Sunday.  The numbness wore off, and I realized that the back pain was masking something else.  My body was experiencing mild versions of panic attack symptoms.  The nausea was back.  And I lost my appetite between Thursday and Sunday.

The feelings: relief, happiness, empowered, anger, shame, grief

The body pain: sinuses, eyes, ears, scalp, back of the head, neck.

The goal: minimize the face pain, cope with the body memories around my legs/hips/abdomen, accept and embrace the inner monster that is not a monster.

What is the empowering part?

My inner monster is not a monster.

She is the part of me trained in martial arts and other forms of hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting, etc.

He is the part of me who learned acrobatics and submissions in order to take down grown people high or drunk or better armed and much stronger with an adolescent girl’s body.

They are the plant parts who processed the drugs and alcohol so fast through a child’s and adolescent’s body that she got sick instead of addicted.

They are my alter personalities – the parts of me who kept the secrets; learned how to read people; taught themselves to lie; pretended to be a fly on the wall; created vaults for the secret life experiences to hide in; protected classmates, cousins, and others close in age from being sucked in; and used physical force to protect the self from monsters and bullies.

Conclusion

Before these memories came back, I thought I was an out-of-control monster who physically hurt others for no reason.  I thought my temper and rage took over and were unjustified.  And I backed away from everyone – to the point of avoiding all physical contact with living beings – so ensure my safety and the safety of everyone around me.

Now, I know that I’m not a monster.  That those fragmented nightmare/dream stories of me fighting gang members, women, men, teen bullies, my sibling, my parents, and so many others were real.  That all of those seeming impossible take downs, submissions, and movie-like fight scenes in my head really did happen.  We did that with our body up until the year before moving.

And then those parts of me faded back inside to safety bringing the memories with them and leaving me feeling out of control again.

Now, I hope these parts will continue to share those memories and realize they are accepted, respected, cherished members of our system.  They belong in the present with the rest of us.  They deserve to heal and make choices with us and feel proud of their accomplishments too.  Most important, I hope they stop feeling ashamed of the things they said and did to protect and help everyone survive.

With their permission, I will be sharing more about self-defense, martial arts, and fighting for protection as healthy forms of exercise, self-esteem building, etc.

Thanks for reading

Sometimes I can write and share a post on holidays.  Sometimes I can’t.  Easter is one of those holidays that sometimes overwhelm and other times I forget about.

With everything that’s happened and all that I’ve remembered, Easter was better spent hiding and sleeping.  And that’s what I did yesterday.

But I also didn’t want to end this post on a sad note.

So I’m sharing some links to positive affirmations for survivors of abuse, trauma, or related issues.  This way you get to choose which ones to view and (if you like) add to your personal resources.

https://www.aconsciousrethink.com/3949/7-healing-affirmations-victims-narcissistic-abuse/

http://www.thehotline.org/2016/03/5-self-care-tips-for-abuse-and-trauma-survivors/

http://www.mdjunction.com/forums/post-traumatic-stress-discussions/general-support/3378995-affirmations-for-the-trauma-survivor

 

Thanks for reading

Too many flashbacks.  Too much remembering.  OCD compels me to do something I don’t want to do, yet I give in sometimes.  Obsessions continue.

I hate feeling helpless.

I hate what happens in April.

Winter is over.  Spring is in the air.

I wish for inspiration.  I hope for inspiration.  I ask for inspiration.

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What works?  How to cope?  Moment by moment.  Minute by minute.

Sleep.  Wake.  Eat.  Drink.  Ground in the present.  Breathe.  Meditate.  Distract.  Do everything I can to protect myself.  Backup all documentation.  Feel.  Let go.  Call the hotline.  Give in to the compulsions.

Did all  that.  Once.  Twice.  Over and over again.

Please inspire me to cope for:

  • One more day of work
  • One religious holiday
  • One weekend morning before therapy

I hate remembering.  Yet remembering helps me heal.  If I didn’t need to know, I wouldn’t remember.

Who am I?  Is the monster real?

NO.

Not. A. Monster.

Just me.  parts of me leading a not-so-secret life anymore.

Out of the dark, and into the gray.

Please universe inspire me.

I don’t have much to write today.  Panic attacks this weekend.

This one seems to fit my mood

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I hope it helps you too.

 

Thanks for reading

I love writing.  Many parts of me also love writing.  I use “many” because some of my parts are too young to be able to write – they draw and color instead.

Like talking with a safe person, journaling or writing a post and sharing it with guests allows me (as the representative for all of us) to break silence.  I express and make concrete what is asking to be acknowledged inside.

What is asking?  Memories, feelings, thoughts, experiences, information, sensations, and secrets.

Sometimes the need to share those secrets feels like a compulsion; it becomes an obsession that creates mental loops pushing and pushing me to do something (compulsion) to make the anxiety go away.

Other times, the need to share those secrets is overwhelmed by the feelings of fear and shame that the monsters/punishers (alters who are stuck in the past and trying to protect everyone from the inevitable punishment for disobeying).  Then the compulsion to hurt myself in some way becomes stronger as I struggle to decide whether or not to write down that specific experience or story.

Most often, though, the problem I have with journaling and writing posts when I feel overwhelmed with the compulsion to share is more comes out than what I intended to write.  And that “more” is triggering – brings up other memories, feelings, thoughts, and sensations no one in the system is ready or able to cope with.

So I’m sorry for the late post.  We are all sorry for the late post.  But no one was in a good mind state to write a post yesterday.  And even with this post, the anxiety is rising.

I’m off to make my favorite drink of hot water with honey.

Thanks for reading.

The past few months have helped me realize that sometimes experiences become benchmarks.  And benchmarks become anniversaries.  Not all anniversaries are bad ones.

These are some of the good ones I feel grateful to remember and want to share:

  • 22 years of keeping secrets and choosing not to address rumors about my sexual orientation that got me ignored, bullied, harassed, etc. by “friends”, family, class mates, teachers, and community members
  • 20 years since one rapist got me pregnant and then forced an abortion
  • 18 years of celibacy by choice – I chose not to have sex or sexual relations until a time came when I changed my mind
  • 13 years into recovery and in the “live” phase instead of “crisis” phase
  • 12 years since I learned about posttraumatic stress disorder and trauma therapy
  • 10.5 years working at the same job
  • 10 years since I started choosing my own medical and mental health providers
  • 5 years since I walked away from my family and started to take my life back
  • 5 years since I learned that the “voices” in my head were real (DID) and not my imagination making me crazy
  • 3 years since I legally changed my name and started to feel safe in all parts of my life
  • 8 months since I reconnected with safe family members
  • 8 months since I moved out of state and started fresh
  • 6 months until I turn 35 years old – 14 years beyond what I assumed by expected life term

Sometimes it takes a look backwards to remember all of the good that happened in spite of the bad.  I feel grateful for the opportunity to remember and celebrate these benchmarks this week.

Thanks for reading