Archives for category: Blog Posts

Another mobile post…please excuse the poor formatting.

I don’t write a lot of detail about my current family situation often out of respect for their privacy.  Some posts will contain coping challenges in general terms or about past experiences.  But often the tone and feelings are mixed.

This post comes from the perspective of being safe and loved by my father’s side of the family.

For the last ten days, I have spent a lot of time with my father’s side of the family.  Grandmother (100+), 3 aunts (seniors), and one uncle (senior) – they welcomed me into their lives, let me stay with them, spoiled me, and showed me through actions that I am safe and loved here.  In return, I tried to be a polite and respectful house guest and show them the same love.

I am not going to lie.  The adjustment was rough on all of us. It still is.  Most of their time is spent taking care of grandma; it’s stressful and difficult sometimes.   Whatever time is left, each one lives her or his own life too.

My biggest fears sort of came true. But others did not.  We walked on eggshells around each other and tried to be sensitive to the point of frustrating each other sometimes.  Other times, we fell back into old patterns without even realizing it.

Then something amazing happened.  Instead of holding grudges or getting angry, we were able to move past it and forgive or let go of the negativity.  When I got stressed and anxious into a flashback, they would help me calm down.  When one of them felt a certain way, I tried to help them.

And they all tried to get along with each other for my sake.  Something I greatly appreciate because of the strain it takes on all of them.  For my part, I tried to spend quality time with each relative one-on-one or in groups in the way that suited us both best.

In the past, we all wore masks and stayed “on” around each other.  This time, we acted like ourselves.  And got along better that way.

Communication is still iffy sometimes.  I tend to be more direct and open about my feelings. They are not.  Certain things can be said one-on-one, but are taboo in front of each other.  I screw that up a lot.

The most important part of this family visit was spending quality time with my grandma.  At 101, our time together is limited.  Instead of talking or going places, I sat with her and my relatives in her living room and occupied myself with activities while she watched game shows or slept.  Sometimes I talked with my relatives.  Mostly we did our own thing, and I tried to stay out of their way when they took care of grandma.

So while we struggle sometimes, we are doing okay.  My love of silence and solitude come naturally.  Best quiet times are when we sit together in the same room doing our own thing.  Sometimes we talk; sometimes we don’t.  Best active times are when I walked & shopped with different aunts.  Or when an aunt taught me how to hem my pants.

So I love my family.  And now I know that I am safe with them too.  So I will come back to visit when possible.  But I will not be staying with them.  Seeing me when I have to use certain coping strategies hurts them.  And they are not in a place where I can explain what they observe happening.

They accept all of it 100%, but seeing me like that reminds them what their brother/son did to me.  And their best coping strategies are denial and silence.  So it’s better to limit time with them next visit.  At least until we all can come to a place where talking about that stuff doesn’t stress them out.

thanks for reading.

Introduction

Lots of posts tonight.  I’ve been saving them up since most of my time is spent with grandma and other family or hanging with old friends

So in continuing the themes from the first and second posts of today, this post is about facing my conversational fears.

Fear of Sharing Ideas outside of work

I and my alters often feel shame about sharing our interests with outside people.  We also are not comfortable making small talk, although the adult host personalities are getting better with that in the home state.  We also have limited control over the automatic switching between alters who feel compelled to take over and speak without identifying themselves.

We also tend to be so focused on not offending or insulting someone else, that whoever is talking can end up offending & insulting the individual regardless.  Or the repeated apologies, I statements, questions to check in on the situation, and projected insecure behavior from all this stems from these fears:

  • rejection
  • humiliation
  • public speaking
  • socializing
  • making verbal mistakes – i.e. stuttering, switching and not knowing what comes out of my mouth, dissociating, being talked over and unable to express myself
  • anger/frustration/disappointment because I keep repeating myself trying to say something but can’t verbalize without being interrupted and losing my train of thought

The Shame connection

I have consistently been told that I am:

  • not smart
  • lacking social skills
  • not loud enough
  • too loud
  • full of stupid ideas & opinions
  • not worthy of being listened to
  • going to embarrass and humiliate myself when talking or sharing ideas out loud
  • talking funny/confusing/weird
  • a boring conversationalist
  • not supposed to talk because my opinions, interests, ideas, etc. are not interesting
  • not supposed to ask questions because the response will always be negative and/or demeaning or (worse) silent treatment
  • not allowed to talk because I always embarrass the people with me by opening my mouth
  • so scared about talking that I start switching alters and am unable to follow a conversation or control what’s coming out of my mouth
    • usually conflicting opinions and words, sometimes gibberish, sometimes stuttering or stumbling over my words

These lessons have been embedded in me since I started talking and then (either consciously or unconsciously) reinforced by life experiences as I grew up.  On the negative side, it means verbalizing anything is painful to an almost physical degree.  On the positive side, these experiences forced me to become a better listener (when I’m not switching) and a better writer.

But those coping strategies, while effective, did not and do not address the trigger being discussed here.  And my issue with switching personalities and sounding self-centered because of all of the talk about myself.

And when I brought this up to my friend, she told me that I could:

  • talk about ideas
  • ask how the other person is doing
  • find something other than myself to talk about if I really wanted to or tried

Did you read the last bullet?  IF I REALLY WANTED TO AND TRIED TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE

What that friend doesn’t realize is:

  • I am aware of doing this to people for different reasons
    • Sometimes I do it on purpose as a coping strategy to drive people away when nothing else works – annoying/rude/off-putting/abrasive/self-centered
    • Sometimes I do it to test if an individual is listening to me or not
    • Most often I do it because the other person or persons have a habit of making assumptions and interrupting me without letting me finish so this becomes a conversation pattern that is difficult to disrupt
  • I am not always able to control or stop it from happening, especially in stressful or triggering situations
    • Awareness is key, and I am not often aware any switching occurred until too late
  • I am not always able to tell the individual I am talking to that my alters are the ones talking to them.
    • i.e. “Oh, hey, it might sound like I’m talking about myself a lot and acting self-centered, but I’m really not. My alter personalities like you and feel comfortable talking to you as individual alters so are using “I” for themselves.  Complicated, yes, but true.  Not all of the “I” statements  are about the “me” you know best.  They are from the other “me” personalities.”
  • Less often these days, I do this in conversations sometimes when I switch without awareness because talking is triggering

FROM Rude/Offensive Language TO the Socially Appropriate Language Process

And yes, this is a process – one I can’t do alone – that requires asking a counselor from the BARC Hotline, my therapist, or a trusted friend for assistance.

Although I am starting to realize that asking friends (even close, trusted, good friends) for help with this is NOT such a good idea.  But lessons learned and all that.

In order for me to verbalize my thoughts, I have to go through the DBT process for expressing my feelings to be able to verbalize what to say to anyone in a conversational tone.  So here are the steps:

  • Identify my feelings
  • Identify the cause of those feelings with words
  • Identify the goals or purposes of the future conversation
  • Use “I” statements in this phase to clarify my feelings and opinions and boundaries
  • Call the BARCC Hotline and ask the counselor for help:
    processing and reality testing the situation
    my experience of the situation
    and my potential verbal response to handling the situation
  • Work with the counselor to refine the goal and possible ways to approach the conversation without it sounding rehearsed or like a therapy session
  • Repeat as needed with another counselor or my therapist while in session

YES, it’s a long and clunky process, but this coping strategy has helped me improve many conversations and work through the backlash of having such conversations without rehearsal too.

BUT, I can’t use this process EVERY TIME with EVERY conversation I talk to in ANY situation.

Why is this fear & shame so important to clarify and work through right now?

  1. It’s the single biggest stumbling block to becoming more social & living a full life in the present moment
    1. Find a way for alter personalities to feel safe enough to reach out to each other in our system so that we can help and support each other – understand and find ways to cope together without blame/shame/guilt/frustration/anger/fear getting in the way
    2. Making & keeping friends
    3. Socializing without anxiety
    4. Feeling confident in myself and being able to portray that in my conversations
    5. Find a balance so that my alters stop automatically switching and talking during potentially stressful or triggering conversations
    6. Find a way for all parts of me to be able to converse and verbalize when they feel like it instead of interrupting or causing issues
    7. Dating and potentially being part of an intimate relationship
  2. It’s a major trigger I have to face in order to accomplish my professional goals in the future
    1. go back to graduate school
    2. get my degree in alternative medicine
    3. work as an alternative medicine practitioner
    4. make this website & blog a self-sustaining business so that I can continue to improve the website design and expand the Resources page
    5. make my existing job less stressful
    6. networking & future job hunting

How am I going to cope with this?

I don’t know.  We don’t know.  It would be different if we lived separate lives.  But we are “integrating” into one unified self.

By “integrating”, I mean we are becoming a balanced and unified personality without any alters disappearing.

Yes that defies the conventional meaning of Integration for Dissociative Identity Disorder.  But, none of us want any alters to poof out of existence.  We’ve lived together for 34 years and want to continue doing so – only now as a merged, single personality to the outside world.

This topic is something for all of us to discuss with our current therapist.

Thanks for reading

I have a confession

My mind set has regressed into old patterns again.  I am back to feeling paranoid and unsafe in my own mind sometimes.  I am letting my family treat me like I was before and then stewing over it.  The stewing is triggering flashbacks and switching.  I am feeling less grounded and more like my old self before this blog.  A self that had more inner turmoil and less confidence in her/their ability to cope.

How I know this?

A good friend gave me a much needed kick in the ass today as she called me on my behavior and my thought process as verbalized in our conversations for the past 24 hours (for more on that read “Alter Post: feeling conflicted“)

What Behavior?

  • Switching alters and then talking or behaving different without awareness
    • Alters taking over are triggered and not present; could be victims still or experiencing flashbacks and speaking from that point of view
    • When this happens, the host personalities cannot take control long enough to implement coping strategies or explain that the “individual” talking is not who the other individual believes she is
    • Not being allowed to tell the person I/we are talking to that he or she is talking to the alters instead of the “usual” host personality
  • Talking about myself too much – something I do as a way to annoy other people and turn them away OR when I am switching without awareness and my alters are talking from their points of view
  • Over-apologizing – saying I am sorry for everything because I (or the alter in charge) feel shame for being myself around her
  • Making connections between ideas and experiences that could be coincidence
  • Thinking people are watching me again
  • Using therapy talk styles to understand what the problem is in conversation with my friend and not explaining in advance that what I am sharing with her is NOT how I will approach family members
  • Feeling insecure in my ability to communicate and be okay in my friend’s house so all of the topics I stored to talk with her about flew out of my mind
  • Not being assertive enough during conversations to ask her to stop interrupting me so I don’t lose my train of thought and start repeating myself
  • Allowing interruptions because the other person or persons assume they know what I am saying, but really don’t, and then moving on out of shame
    • The part of me talking knows what is happening, but can’t get the words right to verbalize with clarity and conciseness and feels unable to assert the self in conversations
    • Leads to anger, frustration, shame, and triggers
    • Leads to varying ways to display that irritation & more switching to find an alter who can verbalize what is happening

The advice & my reflections

  • Stop talking like I just left a therapy session or group session; it can annoy and turn other people way
    • Instead reframe the words into a more conversational style that gets the point across without turning the listener away – especially if it’s someone I care about
    • If I need help, call the hotline for assistance or tell the friend I am speaking with in advance what the conversation is about and why; then check in regularly to make sure we are on the same page
  • Remember that I am safe here and am not a child or a victim anymore.
  • Remember I have options to leave if necessary
  • Remember to practice self care even if that means I leave the room for privacy to do what is necessary
  • Remember we are all flawed and struggling to be polite to each other
  • Remember that my being there is as stressful on them as it is on me – we are all walking on eggshells around each other.
  • Use my grounding tools along with my physical armor – aka outfits & tattoos – to help all of us stay grounded in the present instead of switching and letting my alters use the automatic defenses.
  • When I get interrupted, stop tell the person that I have a point to what I might have repeated before and would like to finish all the way rough.
    • Ask the person not to make assumptions about what I intend to say.  Being interrupted makes me lose my train of thought and repeat myself.
  • Find a polite way to talk to my aunts about potential trips to visit me in my hometown.
  • And make sure I get some alone time.  I forgot what it was like living around them with the TV on all the time and someone always talking or playing on a mobile device.

The Honest Truth

I love and respect my aunts, uncle, and grandmother a lot.  I enjoy being here and visiting my friends and co-workers.  But I can’t wait to go back home.

Being here is too stressful and triggering.  Even though I have access to resources, I still struggle to remember to use them along with everything I’ve learned in the past year.  Especially when my alters are in charge.

What next?

Right now, many of the alters are struggling with shame for something that happened this weekend.  They have some individual processing and coping to deal with and then need to discuss what happened with the rest of the system to share support & brainstorm a strategy for future experiences.

The rest are struggling to find balance and a way to express themselves/cope/feel acknowledged around a group of people who don’t know/struggle to understand them and that they exist.  Mental Health issues aside, it’s necessary to utilize more grounding and self-soothing techniques to help us all find our balance instead of splitting off again.

Finally, all 88 of us need to have a discussion about how to explain to friends what is happening, why, and how to address the issue when alters who don’t normally talk to outsiders start taking over and talking over themselves through constant and seamless switching.

thanks for reading

 

 

**Disclaimer: all thoughts, feelings, opinions and expressions here are from the perspective of one or more alters in our system.  Not anyone else**

First post today.

We have been lax about posting.  Thursday and Friday this week were busy with family and coping with unexpected challenges.  Different parts of our system are still victims.  Others are survivors. Some are thriving instead.

But all of us are struggling with how to interact with our relatives and certain friends.  We are struggling not to fall back into old patterns.  We are struggling with automatic switching.

In the last 24 hours 15 of us switched places and talked to our friend – who we traveled to visit and stayed with as a guest – and did not tell anyone it happened.  Our host self did not even know it happened.  Since we all have the same voice as adults (and the child parts and mimic that voice too) that came to some awkward assumptions (her about our whole self) and repeated, but useful reminders and advice to deal with the current coping challenges (next post).

Our host self sounded like she was talking about herself a lot.  Very self-centered and not interested in others – absolute untruth.  She also seemed wound up and stressed out; true.  And she appeared to be back in the victim mentality based on how she tried to explain what was really going on – but we wouldn’t let her tell the friend we were hijacking her voice and sharing our fears and frustrations instead.

Our host self, who is actually okay with and able to handle the relatives well, hardly spoke to the friend.  We know this friend is safe and accepting of our past and present situation.  We could talk without fear and used it to speak our thoughts instead of asking the rest of the system for help coping with our triggers.

When our friend pointed it out today, we loosened the reins and let our host self explain a little about alter personalities, but not much.  Not the most important piece: that our friend wasn’t talking to the adult host self who is caring,  empathetic, okay with small talk, and more interested in listening to others than herself.

She knows that when the conversation gets to be a lot like therapy or the words coming out are mostly “I” statements,  then we are taking over her voice and talking.  But she doesn’t tell others.  She just lets them think that she is selfish and self centered and stuck in the past.  Or using therapy strategies for expressing feelings and setting boundaries in conversations instead of typical social conversation language.  The second option is typically used on the hotline only to help us work through an issue and find the best way to verbalize it in a conversation. But sometimes one of us will ask friends for help and then use this technique with them too.

The problem was, none of us told our host self we were doing this.  And we didn’t tell our friend either.  We just fell back into old patterns and then embarrassed our host self.

Now we have to figure out how to fix this for her and everyone else in the system.  Otherwise, it will be a very long week.

p.s. This post aas written on a smart phone, so please excuse the unusual formatting, etc.

thanks for reading.

Background

Earlier this week (Sunday to Monday), I took a red eye flight across the country to visit family and friends.  When I arrived, I got off the plane and went to work first.  4 days of work and 8 days vacation make sense so I can spend time with both families.  I didn’t anticipate many problems because I usually sleep most of the plane trip.  And I pay extra for the plane upgrades – extra space, early boarding, early advantage for carry on space – and conveniences that make  flying easier.

Main Concerns

  • Panic attack
  • Body memories
  • Physical Pain
  • Digestion/bladder/bowel issues
  • Confusion
  • Dissociation

The biggest Surprise
My alter personalities were restless and active the whole time I slept
What happened:

  • I fell asleep with my sleep headphones and a sleep mask wearing my comfy airplane outfit (knee length dress, head scarf, long sleeve wool cardigan, and sleep socks).
  • My alters came out, and I started switching in my sleep.
  • They started taking over our body and moving me around in the chair.  A Lot.
  • Then they objected to the seat belt and kept sending pain signals to my left side.
  • Later, I had to use the restroom, but they wouldn’t wake up an adult to deal with this.
  • Eventually, I had to get up and move around; used that time to visit the restroom.
  • I offered to buy us a travel blanket so we could curl up and get comfortable without exposing too much skin, but they kept saying “no”.
  • Then our body temp lowered as we relaxed into rest mode.
  • Half way through the flight, I gave up trying to sleep and just listened to music or TV instead.

The Challenge of Restless Alters on a Plane:

  • Disturbing my neighbors while they slept
  • Feeling shame and over apologizing to my seat mates
  • Anxiety over how I appear to the flight attendants and other passengers
  • The discomfort and pain of sitting in one position so long without any of the meditation techniques working to relieve the pain

The Second Biggest Surprise
Riding the bus from the airport to the office.

What Happened:

  • The bus was crowded so I had to stand in an awkward position
  • At the stop after mine, an older woman came on the bus and kept staring at or through me
  • The bus driver had to get off for about 10 minutes at the third stop; we didn’t know if he would come back or not
  • While the driver was off, the woman kept looking at me as if it was my fault.  I kept looking her in the eye, shrugging, and then looking away
  • Then an Asian girl got on the bus.  And the woman started talking to the other passengers in a strong local accent
  • The accent triggered me and made me feel so nauseous I got off early
  • The next bus was almost empty, but I ended up at work later than I wanted
  • The nausea didn’t go away until I used pressure points on my wrists; then kept coming back throughout the day

Rest of the Challenges

  • I lost my liquid items and toothpaste out of anxiety and stress
  • (forgot to take them out of my bag and then put them in again after my bag went through the machine again)
  • In Chinatown, people were extremely rude because my bald scalp showed through my head scarf
  • At lunch, I had to interact with people who were not exactly nice to me before I left
  • By lunch I was feel jet-lag and started crying in the bathroom from overwhelming feelings (good and bad)

Coping Strategies

  • Focusing on the positive
  • Acknowledging the potential triggers & negative feelings; then letting them go
  • Using grounding techniques
  • Allowing myself to feel everything
  • Giving and receiving lots of hugs
  • Getting my work done
  • Keeping in touch with my relatives
  • Asking for a ride home instead of using public transportation
  • Getting a good night’s sleep

Next on the list to research

  • Strategies for stretching and relaxing on a long flight
  • Strategies for helping my alters calm down during sleep
  • Strategies for dealing with the shame that comes from too much activity that disturbs my seat neighbors

Thanks for reading

 

 

 

Greetings from across the country!

I apologize for being late with this week’s post, but was busy getting ready for a cross country flight and then flying over night to work this morning.

After tomorrow (Tuesday), I am on vacation for the next 8 days and will be posting articles as they come to me – not just on Sundays & Wednesdays.

Starting in August, the schedule will be back to normal.

Thanks for your flexibility!

AlterXpressions

Body Memory & Flashback Witness

During an acupuncture treatment last week, I experienced flashbacks, body memories, and switching.  My practitioner came in to take the needles out and saw me as I re-lived flashbacks on the table.  Thankfully, we talked and prepared for a situation like this.  She brought me back by talking with the alters present and being patient.

Ever since then, I’ve been experiencing more body memories, more pain, and more urges to stretch my aching back and shoulder muscles.  Instead of not feeling hungry or thirsty anymore, I feel hunger and thirst.  I enjoy food again.  And I feel more active.  And also more tired.

My Body is Talking to Me

The flashbacks happen at night instead of during the day.  I get through work okay.  But by end of day, my energy flags and I feel tired from not sleeping or not resting?

I’ve been switching at night, in my sleep, and reliving my past.  My current therapist says my body is talking to me.  I need to listen.

So I am listening.  I am paying attention.  I am working with my body instead of against it.

For that matter, I have to say that right now, the meat eaters are in charge.  They are choosing what we eat and drink, how much, how often, and in what combinations.  Thankfully, they also enjoy lots of fruit and vegetables so our nutrition stays mostly balanced.

The biggest surprise has been the increase in stretching exercises and decrease in chocolate consumption.  Although, that might be rising again with recent stress.

The Challenges are typical

  • Dissociation leads to memory blanks
  • Swtiching takes up a lot of energy so leaves everyone feeling tired
  • Pain management also consumes a lot of energy and requires tapping or self-massage sometimes.
  • Body memories, nightmares, and flashbacks contribute to distrubed or distrupted sleep.

The Strategies are not so typical

  • More music and audio grounding, less reading of books
  • More happy, silly, singing movies and less serious ones
  • More activity, less lying down
  • More socializing and cuddling with my doggie friends, less hiding from people and worrying that I’m going to blurt out something odd or uncomfortable
  • More gratitude and less fear inspiring my words and actions

How do you cope with changes in reactions to “typical” or “normal” triggers?

Thanks for reading

 

Not much to write in this post.

I’ve been going slow this weekend.  The pain is intense, and being kind to myself is most important right now.

A lot of times, I can sleep or rest and reflect – that allows everyone in the system to share and help each other safely – but other times I need to move.

This weekend was a “move” weekend in spite of the intense back pain (body memories) and associated grief – more on that in another post.  Plus I had to start packing for my trip and my move.

So I turned cleaning, de-cluttering, and packing into reflective moving meditation exercises.  And got more than I expected accomplished.

Then I took today to clean my kitchen (dread….) and organize my place for a showing.

Finally, I took a nap.

Now I can relax knowing this post is finished – all my obligations met – and I’m prepared to continue working and packing during the week.

Thanks for reading.

A quick post today.  You can find these links on the Resources page too.

I’ve been looking into different types of headphones for sleeping since I like to fall asleep listening to nature sounds, music, meditation recordings, or audio books.  The headphones help block out street and neighbor noises that wake me up at night.

Traditional headphones are not comfortable for sleeping.  The traditional styles are too bulky for side sleepers.  The wireless options need to be re-charged often.  And the wired options could be a choking hazard.

I thought maybe wireless exercise headphones might work, but the style I chose had many of the same issues listed above.  And the blue tooth is not reliable in my sleeping space.

Instead of continuing a search for wireless headphones, noise cancelling headphones or exercise headphones, I searched for headphones for sleeping and meditation.  That brought up two interesting articles.

This article reviews several styles of headphones, ear plugs, and combination headphone/face masks.

This article reviews headphones only.

I chose the CozyPhones Sleep Headphones; it’s #2 on both lists.  I’ve been using it for 2 nights so far and like it a lot.  With the sound on medium and my windows open at night, the headphones do reduce the noise.  And if the headband slides, I lose sound.  Otherwise, the headband is comfortable, and the sound quality is decent.  And the headband comes in many colors.

If you decide to try sleep headphones, please let me know how they work for you.

Thanks for reading

Trigger warning: Please take care of yourself and only read if as long as you feel safe/comfortable

Objectification

For most of my life, I’ve been objectified.  First as chattel, then as a sexual vessel, a soldier, a toy, an extension of my mother, a skinny girl/woman, a curvy/feminine/sexy object, a doormat, a “nice girl”, delicate, weak, etc.  People looked at me, listened to my voice, and made assumptions.  Hardly anyone ever took me seriously, and someone always tried to take advantage.

Years of therapy and spending time with positive, supportive people have helped me realize I am more than an object.  Part of my recovery is changing the objectification into a positive sense of self – including positive body image and healthy self-esteem – where people see me first instead of my body.   I used to think that body shaming and negative self-image was only connected to my eating disorder.

Now I know the truth.

That a negative body image and body shaming are separate, but related issues and do not always have anything to do with an eating disorder.

Negative Body Image

I used to hate my body, my face, my appearance.   I blamed my face and body shape as the reason for past traumatic experiences.  So I hurt myself – starvation, self-harm, compulsive exercising, not sleeping, making myself sick, reckless/dangerous activities, not caring for physical or mental health – often and in various ways for decades.

These days, I love my face and my body.  I accept all of its quirks and am grateful to be whole and healthy in spite of the pain.  I dress according to my personal style, comfort needs, and daily tasks.  The colors, the fabrics, the shapes, and the accessories help me feel safe, confident, grounded, and happy.  The textures and weights act as self-soothing and grounding objects.

Even though wearing clothes that fit and flatter shows off my feminine body shape and draws attention, I feel secure enough in who I am to ignore all that and enjoy myself.  Most of the time, I can ignore people criticizing my clothing choices or commenting on my weight changes.

But sometimes, the comments hurt or bring out anger.

Body Shaming

Have you ever been told you are too short or tall?  Maybe your eyes bug out or are slanted?  Your hips too wide?  Your butt too big?  Your chest not muscular enough?  Your body stick-like?  You look too masculine/feminine/boyish/girlish for your age/gender/size?  You are flat-chested or large breasted?  Your man-boobs are too prominent?  You stomach is not flat enough?  Skin too flabby?

Has anyone ever criticized your clothing choices?  Your accessories?  Your posture?  Shoes?

These are all examples of body shaming.  Many of them I personally experienced.  Some I have heard told to people I care about.  Others from comments made about celebrities.  The comments from my parents, sibling, cousins, and relatives are the ones that hurt most.  Second place goes to friends, co-workers, mentors, supervisors, and other people in authority positions.  Finally, the random hate from strangers and people posturing for acceptance were the least harmful.  It’s hard to take people who don’t know me seriously.

What brings this up now?

Summer time means wearing less clothes for one thing.  July 1st is a double anniversary with lots of meaning.  July 4th is another anniversary.  I remember spending most of my summers locked up and away from friends, relatives, etc. except on certain occasions for most of my pre-adult life.

Added to all that, I’ve been talking with my aunts more often to coordinate my 2-week visit back home later this month.  During a conversation, one of my aunts proceeded to body shame me, criticize me, and then act like she forgot I was visiting.  No, I am not sure why she decided to cross my boundaries and talk to me this way.  I could speculate, but why bother?  She is who she is, and I should have expected something like this to happen at some point.

Why is this time more of a challenge than past experiences?

My reaction was different.  My feelings were different.  My perspective had changed too.

Instead of feeling hurt or guilt or shame, I felt outrage like “how dare you treat me this way” and pushed back instead of retreating or defending myself.  My response was simple, non-aggressive, and direct.  Then I told her that these days are available if she wants to spend time with me when I visit.

But I still felt angry.  The anger scared me for many reasons.  Different feelings bring out different reactions and impulses.  Anger tends to bring out my rebellious and reckless sides.  It also clouds my thinking.

During that phone call I realized the body shaming and criticism did not trigger any negative feelings about my body.  It did however knock at my self-esteem a little and bring on some nasty flashbacks complete with physical pain.  I felt defensive and uncertain about wearing dresses again.  And part of me was justifying my clothing choice for the day on the inside.  So I made a plan.  When I realized I couldn’t execute the plan on my own, I asked for help.

That was Friday.

The Plan

Go out for a walk in my neighborhood.  Play with friendly dogs.  Eat good food.  Go home and watch a movie or sleep.  Go to counseling the next day.  Have fun and enjoy my 4-day weekend even if that means spending a lot of time sleeping.  Do some packing for the future move.  But most important: RELAX

Thanks for reading.