Archives for category: Anniversaries

HAPPY HOLIDAY WEEKEND to everyone who celebrates a holiday this season.  Holiday season because so many people celebrate Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc. during this time of year.  I am thankful for all of the many people who have passed through my life this year.  Thank you for being part of this blog.

HOLIDAYS

This year was a year of renewing connections.  Scary as it is and was, I’ve started to let more family back into my life.  Some have stayed, some have left again.  In the end, the ones who stayed truly want to be involved and work out a new relationship.  The others are happy to know I exist and go on with their lives.

Yesterday, I was in California visiting family for the day.  It was a great relief from the living situation issues occurring right now.  Except the owner interrupted our day because she couldn’t get in for the inspection; also my smoke alarm was beeping.  An inspection that she gave notice of the day before, so my evening was spent cleaning and documenting the apartment instead of relaxing before the visit.

And of course, when I left everything was quiet.  Coming home, the flight was delayed; I got home close to midnight.  The apartment cold because I turned off the heat for the day.  The neighbor complaining because I turned up the heat to warm it up; then turned it down once the apartment felt less cold.  And a smoke alarm chirping because the battery was dying.

But today, my goals changed.  I was so tired from traveling and other stuff that I slept until late afternoon today.  Then went out in the snow for a quick trip to the grocery store, lunch, and batteries.  Batteries to fix the beeping smoke alarm.  Lunch because I didn’t feel like cooking after I woke up.  Groceries to complete what I missed for Christmas dinner tomorrow.

The apartment is still freezing cold, but that’s not going to stop me from enjoying today and tomorrow.  Besides cooking will help warm up the place :).

HOME

The owner gave notice of an apartment inspection earlier this week and entered yesterday while I was out.  For safety measures, I took photos of the place after cleaning it up.  So here are a few photos of my first, official, decorated home.  Enjoy!

TRIGGERS

I am almost at my wit’s end with this living situation.  Dealing with the upstairs neighbor and the owner is so triggering that I am back in survival mode right now.  It’s snowing this Christmas.  Unusual for my new city home, but welcome too.  The cold has me shivering even inside, but extra layers help a lot.  And not having to play with the heat sort of, maybe reduces some triggers.

The neighbor reminds me of the bullies I encountered in school and how helpless I was to fight back and feel safe.  The owner reminds me of the emotionally abusive, shaming, manipulative female care-takers from childhood and adolescence.  They controlled everything about my living situation and never let me feel safe or secure wherever I happened to be.

Home doesn’t always feel safe with the intermittent noise and heat changes.  REM sleep is rare these days too.  Hallucinations have started up again.  If the visual hallucinations become auditory ones, I’ll be visiting the ER.  (fingers crossed that doesn’t happen).  Anxiety and hyper-vigilance are increasing.  Paranoia and feeling crazy are close companions.  In my present mind, I know that I’m not being paranoid and that I’m not crazy.  But that doesn’t stop the feelings.

POSITIVE NEWS

On the good side, there are only 4 days left until my meeting with the attorney.  Then there will be some progress and less feelings of frustration or helplessness.  Between now and then, all I have to do is keep my head down, enjoy vacation, and survive.  All of this designed to keep me out of the apartment and in a happy state of mind.

Thanks for reading!

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Child to mid-twenties

Thanksgiving used to be celebrated 3x every year over the course of 2-3 days: once at my parents’ home with certain family members; once with my father’s side of the family; once with my mother’s side of the family.  There were tables full of food; children, teens, and adults everywhere; noise levels similar to stadium concerts (at least from my perspective) with so many people and televisions on loud; and secrets.  So many secrets and people sneaking off for minutes or hours at a time.

By the time I was in college, Thanksgiving was celebrated 2x every year with less and less family/friends and lots of tension.  Most of us were grown and had other places to be.  The next generation of children were second or third cousins removed on my mother’s side, and I was disconnected to them.  On my father’s side, people cooked while others watched tv or read books (me) and ignored or were ignored by everyone else.  Then my younger cousins and brother scattered to be with their friends while my parents kept me isolated and ignored.

You may be wondering why or how they managed that.  Part of it was me – I isolated myself and chose not to make friends or trust people at that time.  Part of it was them limiting access to my car – they always blocked me in and parked their cars in front of the driveway so I’d have to move their cars to get out.  And I did not want to drive their cars.  Asking them to move the cars was like banging my head against a brick wall.

Mid-twenties to early thirties

Then I walked away from my family.

Holidays became something different.

For the first time in my life, I could celebrate any way I wanted.  I could sleep through the day.  I could be alone.  I could cook or not cook.  I could decorate or not decorate.

Bottom line: I had choices.
And for a long time, I chose not to celebrate.  Instead, I let my alters out to play on those days.  Together, we worked through the scary memories, anxiety, anger, shame, and negative experiences associated with those anniversaries.  We stayed inside; read books; watched movies; slept; and took care of ourselves.

Thanksgiving 2017

My favorite foods of Thanksgiving:
Gravy
Stuffing
Butternut Squash or Yams

After everything that happened over the last few weeks, buying pre-made food to reheat made more sense than cooking from scratch.  Cooking from scratch triggered memories, but re-heating didn’t.

Text messages kept me in touch with close friends and family while keeping me safe from the toxic people.

Instead of sleeping through the day, I put together part of my sofa.  By part, I mean the sofa is in use, but the sectional and sleeper parts still need to be put together.  By the time I finished the main sofa and realized the rest had to wait, my muscles were saying “we’re done.  No more please.”   But the rest of me felt happy and accomplished.

So happy, in fact, that we slept on the sofa that night.  It’s surprisingly comfortable.  In spite of the muscle discomfort and stress from the upstairs neighbor’s musicals, putting together the sofa brought out feelings of accomplishment, joy, and contentment – aka endorphins.   Not even phone calls with my family and flashbacks could get me down.

Gratitude

Maybe it’s petty of me, but I also felt grateful that having a secondary place to sleep pissed off my upstairs neighbor.  She couldn’t disturb my sleep because I wasn’t using my bed.  Therefore, her musical of dropping stuff on the floor above my head didn’t work.  It was the first night in a while that I managed to sleep undisturbed and wake up on my own time.

But then I was also grateful her musical dropping of stuff on the floor woke me up the next day.  It was early enough that I had time to call Ikea, get my replacement parts for the sofa sectional, then go out to visit friends and see a movie.  It was Black Friday, and I was afraid that going to a mall would make things worse.  Instead, it was cathartic.  I felt calm, relaxed, and grounded inside myself.  The movie was good too, but I’m still not a Thor fan.  And I really need to put together a magic bag for crowded movie  theaters.

The musicals still occur just after I settle for bed and randomly throughout the day, but the sleep headphones and a favorite playlist make it all tolerable.

Mostly, I am grateful to have enjoyed Thanksgiving awake and grounded in the present instead of dissociated, hyper-vigilant, and upset.

Conclusion

I am still a solitary person who prefers alone time instead of crowds.  After so many years of being alone and/or lonely in a crowd of people, celebrating alone without any obligations feels good.  Maybe someday the other people in my life will understand that being physically alone does not equal being unconnected to my loved ones.

Relationships, connections, and interactions come in many forms.   And my heart, my mind, my spirit is always open to them even if my physical self shuns sharing space with others.  I keep all of these people and places in my heart and my mind during the holidays, so they are always with me.

Thanksgiving and similar holidays used to anger me, all parts of me.  I could honestly say that I hated the holidays and mean it.  But that hate gradually changed as different parts of me opened up to the rest of us.  We shared our pain, our grief, our fear, and our shame.  Then we learned how to cope with those feelings and associated memories with lots of help and support from outside people.

So thank you guests, family of choice, mental health providers past & present, family of blood, and other providers past & present who’ve helped me get to a place where holidays are fun instead of stressful.

Thanks for reading.

My birthday was last weekend.

I turned 35.  Oddly, I felt a lot of anxiety along with the usual joy and gratitude that comes from being alive one more year.  Why this year instead of past years?  Honestly no one in our system can answer that.

35 just feels like a big year.  A turning point.  A crossroads perhaps.  So much good is happening that the memories are flooding in fast & furious.  Body memories connecting with emotional or cognitive memory fragments create complete memories of past experiences.  Those memories come in dreams and immense pain from my neck down.

In spite of all that, waking up to birthday wishes from friends and family made me feel blessed.  The warm messages brightened my morning and had me excited to start the day.  And it was an amazing day in spite of the pain.

I did not do anything special.  It was a day for self care and exploring spent in blissful solitude broken up with visits to appointments and interesting people in different stores. Time did not manage me that day.  After my appointments, I took my time enjoying the beautiful day as I headed back home.

For the first time that I can remember, my birthday was spent in an enjoyable way with full awareness of everything that occurred.  Not one of us (the alters or myself) dissociated, split, switched, or forgot anything that happened.  We laughed and played and watched movies or read books or knitted while relaxing and waiting for the stew to finish.

The pain did not stop any of us from enjoying the day.  We simply adjusted to the physical limitations of neck/shoulder pain by carrying the shoulder bag on the other arm and using both hands to cook.  Took a lot of breaks in between our travels.  And remembered to eat or drink fluids throughout the day.

And maybe that is what made us all feel so anxious.  A birthday without expectations or obligations to anyone.    Pure joy.  Simple fun.  Interesting, kind people.  Yummy food.  A good night’s rest.

The joy and peaceful feelings continue even now.  A different set of Chinese herbs are helping with triggers, sleep, and pain issues.  I did not expect help with the pain, but it’s been helping.  The herbs have made everyone sleep a lot, but that’s okay.  We needed the rest.  And something has changed inside too because the adults finally managed to do laundry!

Plus, the colder temperatures are not bringing up scary feelings or memories for the children as much this week.  It helps that many of the shopping packages were delivered over  the last few days.  But really, the herbs are working with our body and mind this time instead of trying to manipulate changes.  And that feels really good.

Maybe even good enough that mornings will stop being scary too someday.  And maybe good enough that bathrooms and small dark spaces like under sink cabinets will also feel safer too.

Thanks for reading.

Hello,

This weekend is a holiday weekend in the USA.  That means we have a 3 day weekend to celebrate Labor Day.

Not sure about any of you but most major holidays bring about some anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, hyper-vigilance, and so on.  Triggers are everywhere, and a lot of places don’t feel safe.  I worry about what could or will happen if I interact with people when I feel this way.

Staying home feels right unless there is something I HAVE TO do that requires leaving.  Delivery works best too since it helps me meet my self care needs without causing anxiety or panic attacks.

Depression is something that comes and goes in waves.  Last month, it took over for quite a few weeks as I struggled to process so many changes and cope with flashbacks.  Funny how (for me at least) working through anger and shame eases the feelings of depression in my mind/body/spirit.

At times like this (read almost any anniversary), Self Care and Self Soothing are super important to maintain, increase, start again, continue, or follow up on – depends on where you are in the moment – so that the symptoms and scary stuff don’t take over as easily.

So I wish you all a safe, healthy, relaxing weekend full of sleep/rest, self care, and positive energy.

xx AlterXpressions

p.s. Yes there is a post going up tomorrow.  This is a bonus for all of us 🙂

Dear Mom,

I love you.  I hate you.  I feel sorry for you, for me, and for all we didn’t have as a mother and daughter.  Sometimes I think I miss you.  Other times I feel shame that I don’t miss you.

But I’m happy we are not in each other’s lives anymore.  I needed to find myself.  And you needed to do the same.  Me in your life just brought back stuff you didn’t want to deal with.  You in my life kept me from finding my confidence and truly living.

But you also did something I didn’t fully appreciate until after I moved out of state and started remembering my childhood.  You left me with monsters – pedophiles, rapists, cults, drug traffickers and dealers – when you didn’t want me around.  The monsters paid you and compensated you with other perks that made you happy once in a while.

But those monsters also raised me into the woman I am now.  They taught me life skills and survival skills.  They taught me how to protect myself and identify lies as they are told to me.  Most important, they taught me how to survive anything with intelligence, patience, and resilience.

Living with you, taking care of you from childhood into adulthood taught me other important skills.  Not all of them good or bad, but extremely useful in dealing with the bullies, pushy relatives, and generally mean people.  If you hadn’t been so abusive and neglectful, if you hadn’t told lies that convinced others to treat me like a lying pariah for most of my life, and if you hadn’t tried to control me by destroying my sense of self, I might not have learned how to be independent and self-reliant.

So maybe I am a suspicious and skeptical person when it comes to trusting people.  Maybe I keep most everyone at a distance and only let in so many people at a time.  And maybe I lack confidence in socializing and communicating because I spent so much of my life quiet and silent.

But I am the woman I am today because of you.  I am smart, strong, resilient, caring, empathetic, creative, confident, sometimes rebellious, assertive, respectful of others, and able to stick to my values.  You taught me to fight for what I believe in and speak up even when I’m going to get in trouble.  Sometimes honesty and persistence turn people away.  And plain speaking can make other people uncomfortable.

All of that is okay as long as I stick to being me instead of pretending to be something or someone I’m not.  In trying to make me your creation, you taught me how to preserve my sense of self even when times were darkest.  In turning everyone against me, you taught me that I didn’t need other people (or their approval) to be happy and fulfilled.

So thanks for being the mom you were.  I love you sometimes.  I hate you other times.  And I wish you can find the happiness you’ve been searching for someday.

Love,

Your daughter

Today is my brother’s birthday.  Yesterday was a blood relative’s birthday.  Over the weekend was another relative’s birthday.  This weekend is Mother’s day.  Next week is two more family birthdays.

The memories are strong this week.  So are the physical symptoms that come with my PTSD.  Strange how my alters and I experience our physical changes both together and separately.

Yesterday, I realized that crying makes me sneeze and look like I’m having an allergy attack.  My nose drips constantly, and I’m always sneezing or cleaning up.  My eyes get red and itch, but hardly any tears come out.  The headaches and muscle aches get worse.  It makes me feel sick to my stomach and scared because I don’t know how to make it stop.

And that happens because my alters are crying, not me.  And they weren’t allowed to cry as children or teens.  But they were allowed to sneeze and look like they had allergy attacks.  So I sneezed and so on all day yesterday and a few times earlier in the week.

It’s been so long since I truly cried that I forgot the physical sensations associated with crying – pressure around my nose and eyes, drippy noes, red/swollen eyes, feeling clogged up, having to mouth breathe, and constant sneezing – since I obviously am not lady-like when I cry.  And neither are my alters.

But why the tears?  My therapist and I are working on ways to express anger and other feelings in healthy ways.  And people often tell me that crying can relieve pressure/tension and have many different meanings.  Tears are not weakness either.  So maybe everyone needed an outlet and couldn’t think of anything else to express all of the anger, fear, shame, hurt, guilt, and sadness of the memories.

Either way, the tears opened up a path for my alters to finally confront the worst memories and feelings that tear us up during the month of May.

I thought they all had to do with my parents, my brother, my relatives and how they treated me.  But it’s more than that:

  • Senior prom/prom queen nomination
    • I didn’t want to go, didn’t understand why my mother and brother forced me to go, didn’t understand why suddenly so many classmates who tolerated and ignored me now hated me, until yesterday.  Why was I nominated for prom queen?  I wasn’t popular.  I didn’t have the best GPA.  I didn’t participate in many school activities.  Maybe someday the reasons will come back.
  • High School graduation
  • College graduation
  • The end of 2 cults
  • The end of a combined pedophile/human trafficking porn ring
  • Injuries and “secret” ER visits to get treated, but not completely fixed
  • The secret life changing into something positive, but still a secret because hardly legal or legitimate
  • Seemingly conscious choices in the “public” life that were not
  • Finally understanding why my body hurts so much in so many places and potentially how to fix the related problems

Downside – I’m really tired and kind of distracted.  My alters are also distracted and feeling scared.  Scared equals angry.  Angry means an unstable temper no matter who is in charge.

And an unstable temper creates more feelings of fear that turns into feelings of anger.

I feel like this anger is different from other anger that we’ve experienced.  With this anger surfacing, the vault opens more.  Memories show up.  Feelings flow through us.  We alters can connect with each other more.

So while I/we are so upset and scared about the instability of these feelings right now, most of us are also happy about the change.  It means all of us are moving forward again.  And we can look back without the pain of shame and guilt distorting our perspective to find a more objective understanding of the past.

So while my brother tried his hardest to make me feel useless, crazy, invisible, and worthless before I left home, I still wish him a happy birthday.  Same for my other relatives – the ones who I miss so much my heart hurts and the ones I alternately love and hate.

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

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

I have one grandparent still alive.

She turns 101 today.

We spent 4 years apart because I had to walk away.  The year she turned 100, we reconnected again.

I saw her 2-3 times before I moved across the country.  She never doubted me, always believed in me, consistently loved me even if she couldn’t protect me.

Hard choices all around.  Choose one person or the whole family?  She chose the whole family, and I think I’m better for it.  After all: I got to be part of her, my aunts, my uncles, and my cousins lives then.  Still have them now.

So today, I’m feeling gratitude and love.  I’m celebrating life.  And I’m thanking the universe for both of us still being alive.

My grandmother survived marriage, war, immigration, births, deaths, children, grandchildren, and so much more.

Still, when I saw her today, she smiled and asked if I ate yet.  Then told me I’m wearing a pretty hat.

She’s 101 years old.  She still wakes up in the morning and goes to bed at night.  She uses a walker and watches her favorite TV shows during the day.

I love you Grandma.  You inspire me to keep on going, living, enjoying life.

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

you-may-not-control-all-the-events-that-happen-to-you-but-you-can-decide-not-to-be-reduce-by-them-struggle-quote

Thanks for reading