Archives for the month of: August, 2017

Confession:

I hate August (the month) and what it makes me feel/remember/think/relive

Epiphanies:

  • Someone once told me (or maybe I read it in different self-help books??) that sometimes people who criticize or complain about my character flaws are actually complaining about ones they have but can’t or won’t admit to having.
  • Especially people who feel less confident or are insecure and want to make the other individual feel worse to feel better about themselves – I learned this is true during my vacation home.
  • What turned me around most about people’s negative comments is that they have a grain of truth in them.  Before I started recovery and therapy to express myself instead of parroting my parents’ and caregivers’ beliefs, I acted that way toward other people.
  • It’s okay to love family from a distance.  Send cards, email, text messages, or voice mail messages on holidays and birthdays.  Maybe a phone call once in a while.  And (rarely) an in-person visit when in the same geographical area.  That keeps the family happy and allows me to maintain my sanity.
  • The people who cause me the most pain and discomfort can be my best teachers as long as I have someone I trust to help me reflect and process the experiences.

Transition:

  • A new home, a real home
  • Cooking and baking
  • A new therapist until my other one comes back from maternity leave
  • A new intern Chinese medicine practitioner
  • A new exercise regimen (trauma sensitive yoga)
  • A different hygiene routine

Conclusion

Sit back and enjoy the ride.  Try not to take anything too seriously.  Use the Back to Basics strategies.  Try not to let backlash take over.  Remember I am safe and happy in my new space.  Accept that my family and I will never be able to spend time together comfortably.  We are too different.

Thanks for reading

This is my first time trying to articulate a meditation practice that I created and want to share.  Please excuse any awkwardness as I try to put this into a framework that makes sense outside of my mind.  Feel free to skip the background section and go right to the visualization practice instructions at the bottom of the post.

Background

I have always struggled with expressing and letting go of negative feelings, especially anger and shame.  My parts also struggle with finding healthy, positive, safe ways to express and then let go of anger.  Shame is something all of us try to acknowledge and let go of, but sometimes requires the assistance of an objective third party.

Many people will say that exercise, journaling, crafts, punching pillows, yelling, dancing, tearing paper, drawing, etc. can help release the negative energy that comes with anger.  I agree with those people in a general sense.  Personally, every single one of the suggested activities can be or is triggering and makes my feelings worse.  Only in the past year have I been able to utilize any of these strategies without being triggered.

Lashing out is not something I ever wanted to do.  Therapy and internal reflection taught me how to identify triggers that caused the lashing out at other people/objects/beings.  Real friends and mentors helped me become aware of my words and actions so that I could change my behaviors through a combination of CBT and DBT.  These days I hardly ever lash out at others.  And when I do, I work hard to reflect on why and not feel shame about making a mistake.

The Hotline and therapy sessions along with self-help books eventually helped me stop lashing out at myself – punishment, self-harm, reckless and dangerous behaviors – except under certain conditions when I have to use last resort coping strategies.  Meditation, reflection, and grounding strategies helped me the most with this kind of lashing out.

But none of these strategies or techniques helped me safely express the negative energy that comes with feeling angry or let go of the negative feelings that come from a flashback.

I had to figure out a way to express or let go of the energy stressing out my body without physical activity that caused more instead of less pain and negativity.

That’s how this meditation or visualization practice works.  It helps me let go of the negative feelings and associated energy bursts without moving or harming anyone.  Maybe it will help you too.

The Visualization

Move into a comfortable position that supports your whole body (I prefer lying down)

Close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths.  Inhale for 10 seconds.  Pause for 10 seconds.  Exhale for 10 seconds.  Repeat.

Next imagine you are sitting in a clear bubble.  You can see everything around you (a 360 degree view), but none of it can reach you inside the bubble.  You are safe inside the bubble.  You control what enters and leaves the bubble.

All around you the negative feelings are moving – sometimes they look like dark clouds, other times bright streams of light; maybe monsters, or spiders, or ghosts.  But you are safe inside your bubble.  The negative feelings can’t hurt you or take over.  The negative energy can’t hurt you or take over.

Now imagine a large recycling container with a vacuum on one side and a hose on the other side.  The vacuum sucks the negative feelings and energy into the container.  The container recycles the negative feelings and energy into neutral feelings and energy unrelated to you and any of your experiences.  Then the hose pumps the neutral feelings and energy back into the universe.  All of this is done using a remote control.

The remote control is inside your bubble.  You turn on the recycling container and adjust the speed.  As you watch, the vacuum starts sucking up the negative feelings and energy. You control the speed and sound of vacuuming and the recycler.

Slowly, but surely, the area around your bubble changes, becomes lighter, less crowded, less foggy until all of the negative feelings and energy bothering you right now is gone.  You turn off the recycling container, put it away, and observe your surroundings.

Notice any color changes, or sensory changes.  Notice your breathing – is it still slow and deep, or rapid and quick.  Observe how your body feels – are the muscles relaxed or tense?  Observe your energy levels – have they lowered or evened out or something else? Observe your feelings – do you feel more or less clearheaded, calm, relaxed?

Take two slow deep breaths.  Inhale for 10 seconds.  Pause for 10 seconds.  Exhale for 10 seconds.  Repeat.

Continue to breathe slow and deep.  Open your eyes when you feel ready.

***feel free to substitute your images for mine at any time in the visualization.  Some people prefer sitting inside an auditorium with a clear dome or laying on the grass instead.  The goal is for you to try this meditation and then adapt it to suit your specific needs if it works***

Thanks for reading this long post.

The Past

There was a time in my life when expressing gratitude was difficult.  Fear, shame, anger, disbelief in the positive made believing in anything good too much to handle.  I felt grateful for being alive, relatively safe, and able to recover.  I thought about the blessings almost as much as the curses and reflected on both in and out of therapy.  But I couldn’t say or think or share the words/expressions/behaviors with my conscious self and others in the outside world.  That made me feel too vulnerable.

Round 1 of Therapy

My first official therapist was a clinical psychologist who had previously treated a first cousin so was familiar with some family dynamics.  We focused more on rebuilding my internal foundations – repairing cracks, identifying & “disabling” automatic defense mechanisms, keeping me in the present while minimizing “psychotic” symptoms – and coping strategies for anxiety & anorexia.  Her favorite strategies involved Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and challenging the beliefs in my mind.  We touched on gratitude, but not much.  Some words here are in quotes because this therapist did not believe in trauma or DID.  All signs of trauma-related symptoms were deemed “psychosis” or “psychotic” in nature and required medication.

Round 2 of Therapy

My second therapist did not work with trauma – she told me that up front – but she helped me with anxiety and anorexia until the trauma symptoms took over; then I had to find someone else.  But this therapist started teaching me about Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and gratitude affirmations or prayers.  She also talked to me about the different 12-step programs and how they are designed around spirituality and connecting to a higher power more than a specific religion.  We practiced creating and saying gratitude prayers (aka affirmations) together in session.  The ones I liked, I wrote down or memorized to use later.

Round 1 of Partial In-Patient programs

Here I learned more about DBT, Positive Affirmations (previously discussed with a doctor-sponsored life coach and touched on in past therapy sessions), and the power of spirituality in healing.  There was also some talk about meditation and deep breathing, but not much.  Mostly centered on mindfulness or visualizations and how to combine affirmations with deep breathing & meditation practices.  But this was a big turning point in my life.  For the first time, I wasn’t alone.  And I wasn’t different from anyone else.  These people cared a lot.  And they tried hard to help us in many ways (including by example) learn the lessons in our groups – especially about boundaries.  I soaked up the information like a sponge and came out with a newer, more positive perspective on everything.

Round 3 of Therapy

I was working with this therapist, a trauma specialist, when I started this website and blog.  She taught me about self-acceptance, the power of gratitude in all of its forms, and how to safely express gratitude so that I welcome the positive energy, influences, and opportunities available just by “saying thank you” and “asking for guidance” by example too.  While this therapist uses all of the strategies and techniques listed above, she also uses EMDR, Hypnosis, other trauma-specific types of strategies, and meditation.  But her meditation styles and practices are rooted in Buddhism, and she was able to share resources like Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Han, and the Dalai Lama for me to explore on my own time.  Through her, I discovered compassion meditation, gratitude meditation, ways to breathe so that I can make friends with my fear and be objective as I reflect on my past.  This is when my alters and I acknowledged each other; and we opened ourselves up to the world together for the first time.

Round 2 of Partial In-patient programs

Let’s just say that the break from work gave me the time and space I needed to make some important decisions about family relationships and my personal life.  The people running the program this time were new and completely different.  Their approach was more clinical and detached; they didn’t care the same way as the last group of people who ran the program.  I didn’t learn as much or find their lessons or mentoring as useful as last time.  But then, I was also a different person and my alter personalities were emerging and causing all kinds of interesting experiences in the outside world then too.  But I am grateful for the experience because being there, around so many different women with similar challenges and alternative approaches, gave me the strength and resolve to break from my toxic family situation.

Present Time

I practice gratitude multiple times a day – always in the morning and before bed – because the reminders and affirmations help me stay grounded in the present.  Sometimes I pray, sometimes I use an affirmation, sometimes a compassion meditation, sometimes positive self-talk as I breathe deep for a few minutes.  Either way, it connects me to the life energy found in nature and the universe; and then I feel less alone, less scared, and less stuck in one place.

***I might have mentioned this before, but I will mention it again because this is important***

I do not believe in organized religion – that comes from being raised in a cult – but I do believe in God in all of his/her/their/its many forms.  Each of my alters and have an inclusive attitude towards religion and spirituality.

It’s hard not to when some of the most positive and life sustaining influences were and are: Jewish, Christian (Protestant, Methodist, etc.), Catholic, or agnostic.

Also when some of the most negative influences were and are: Jewish, Christian (see above), Catholic, agnostic, Mormon, Pagan, Satanic, or Greek Orthodox.

So while I do believe in God, I do not assign a specific gender, religion, or form to this higher, universal power.  And I separate my gratitude practices from religion and focus on spiritual connections with nature.  All of us in the system believe that nature in all of its forms are God’s every day miracles.  By connecting with them and sharing thankfulness, compassion, acceptance, and respect we open ourselves to so an amazing support network.  And find answers to questions or directions at a crossroads.

Thanks for reading.

Survival Mode

All parts of me still feel drained and off center right now.  Some unexpected challenges and expenditures for my new apartment combined with scheduling appointments around work and the owner’s schedule made this week rather interesting.

Home

general spaces:
I love the energy in this building.  In spite of the old windows that stick and have a hard time opening, quirky sliding doors, and electrical outlets that are not always grounded or placed in ideal locations, this studio apartment really does feel like home.  My neighbors are friendly, respectful, and quiet.  The owner and her management team are respectful, responsible, and responsive too.

Unexpected challenges

  • Changing home decorating and budget plans
  • Multiple panic attacks because I am changing my budget plans
  • Learning more about myself and my unique (but unacknowledged) skills
  • Understanding why strategies that worked before are not so helpful this time

The Coping Strategies for Self Care

After a session with my intern Chinese medicine/acupuncture practitioner this week, I decided to try and learn more about empaths and empathy.  She physically felt some of the problems I was experiencing during treatment and shared that information with me with calm acceptance.

It was the first time anyone had ever acknowledged and used extrasensory skills in a professional setting around me.  And it brought me back to face some facts about myself. I am an empath too.  What kind, I’m not sure exactly.  I don’t always or often experience physical symptoms of other people in my own body.  But I can and do experience energy changes, emotions, and other information about people and living beings through my senses.

All of this led me to a psychiatrist and self-proclaimed empath named Judith Orloff.  I’ve been listening to her book called The Empath’s Survival Guide and learning about my extrasensory skills.  This includes coping strategies and skills like – sleep, meditation, water, and food.

While I don’t subscribe to everything she’s talked about so far, her unique perspective helped me understand why these four strategies are always part of my “Back to Basics” plan.

Sleep
Before reading this book, I knew that sleep was essential – my body would knock me out if I overextended myself – but didn’t understand how or why it was so much more effective than taking a pill or using an energy drink to recalibrate like everyone else.  Now I understand that sleep is a time for reconnecting with all parts of myself and allowing those parts to relax and replenish energy levels while also healing themselves.

Food
Anorexia and almost a decade of severe food allergies/sensitivities taught me to be mindful of what I eat, how much I consume, and when I eat (frequency of meals) to stay healthy, energetic, and balanced.  While following these personal guidelines helped me maintain a healthy weight and feel strong, they sometimes frustrated me too.  After reading about how physical sensitivities are part of being an empath and why, I am practicing more self-acceptance and less shame about my unique eating habits & dietary needs.

Showers – aka baths, water, etc. (swimming not so much)
I love water.  I love being near water, smelling water in the air, drinking water, taking warm/hot baths & showers, and surrounding myself with the colors of water.  Swimming – not so much.  Being in the ocean, a river, or a pool – not so much.  Being on the water in a boat – absolutely fine.  But I’m also ashamed of this love for water.  The why is still unclear, but it exists.  The book offers an explanation about why I (as an empath) love water so much.  I am skeptical and keeping an open mind.  Some experimentation is required.  But I always feel amazing after a warm/hot shower with my favorite soap.

Meditation
I’ve practiced different types of meditation since I was 6 years old.  Maybe even earlier than that as the martial arts some of my relatives practiced fascinated me.  Our relationship has been rocky at times, but meditation never failed me when I needed help.  Now meditation helps me sleep better and wake up grounded in the present instead of stuck between the present and the past.  On public transportation or in crowds, a simple mediation practice helps me breathe easier and cope until I am alone again.  Throughout the day, meditation sometimes replaces my need for a nap or helps me get some physical activity (mindful walk or mindful washing dishes).

Conclusion

The next steps on my healing journey are to explore, grow with, and accept my empathic abilities and how they are influencing my current recovery practices.  I don’t know a lot about being an empath or an intuitive; what skills one might have; how to use  the skills without draining myself; or how to protect myself from sensory overload.  Before now, I couldn’t even acknowledge that my mind, spirit, body self even had these skills.

My parts and I chalked it up to having great instincts.  And suffered the mood swings, outbursts, and energy drains from certain people in shamed silence.

Now, it’s time to step out of the closet and learn.  Knowledge is power.  Power offers protection, insight, and opportunities.  Plus, maybe this will help us all integrate and align ourselves better.  And we can move forward with our goal for a second career sooner instead of later.

Thanks for reading.

Like the title says, enough is enough right now.

Present State of Being

Emotionally, everyone in the system feels happy, grounded, steady, and excited about our new home.

Spiritually, we all feel reflective and a little stressed out as bits and pieces of recent experiences add perspective to confusing past memories of family time.  And also that some friends turn out to be somewhat different than expected.

Physically, all tired and experiencing backlash – physical panic attacks, migraines, back pain, and exhaustion to go with nausea and cramps from that time of the month – from all of the changes.

I almost fell asleep without posting today :/

Plans for this week and two weeks into the future

So the next few weeks will feel like Survival Mode again – lots of self care; lots of self-soothing; coping with backlash and physical panic attacks; more sleep and less activity.

I have a resource post coming up this month, but not sure when.  Need to find some resources to link to for tapping.  Maybe YouTube videos this time?  Either way, I want to try out some of the tutorials before sharing here.

Also, some quick reminders:

Sometimes falling into old patterns is okay – many times it happens as part of an automatic defense mechanism without awareness until the experience is finished.  Other times, it takes a safe person (friend, therapist, loved one, significant other) to point out what is happening.

As my previous therapist and a friend later pointed out, sometimes our subconscious self is more aware of the reality of a situation than the conscious self and takes steps to protect everyone – i.e. implementing the automatic defense mechanisms.

Therapy does not make a person more selfish or self-centered.  Therapy encourages the individual or group to open up and be more authentic while also learning strategies to cope with internal struggles in healthy safe ways.  That includes “I” statements, being assertive, setting boundaries, and changing.

Finally, change scares a lot of people especially when they are struggling with their own demons and not happy when a pattern changes.  If someone accuses you of  a negative behavior or something similar unexpectedly, please remember that individual might be triggered by the changes and projecting her or his fears on to you without realizing it.

Takes a lot of resilience and strength to maintain your own boundaries during the conversation and then reflect on the experience to process it properly.  

You didn’t do anything wrong.

You are growing, changing, and becoming more you.

It’s something I have to remind myself of often this month.  I hope the reminder helps you stay strong too.

Thanks for reading.