Archives for category: body memories

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

 

Advertisements

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

What I’m still struggling with:

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

The Positive

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

The Scary

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

Conclusion

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Body Memories

The traumatic experiences (aka memories) of past abuse held in one’s physical body.  Can cause feelings of physical pain, illness, muscle tension, digestive problems, and other issues related to the body.

Coping Techniques – a short analysis

 

I (we mostly think of ourselves as a single unit these days so “I” is appropriate) have been searching for coping strategies that help with body memories for quite a few years now.  In past posts, I’ve mentioned trying some strategies that were partially effective or not effective at that point in my recovery.  Part of the lack of success had to do with my place in recovery.  Part had to do with environmental triggers.  And part had to do with shame.

  • Sensori-motor psychotherapy – I was ready to try something new.  My alters were ready to try something new.  None of us really  trusted the individual recommended to us.  And the scheduling became an issue.  Then, something happened in a session (only the alters involved remember exact details), but suddenly this person and this treatment didn’t feel safe anymore.
  • Trauma-sensitive yoga – My mind was ready.  My body wasn’t.  I didn’t know how much physical pain I carried until after trying different types of yoga at different studios and with different instructors.  With recurring nightmares, triggers, dealing with so many people around me, not always feeling emotionally safe, and instructors sometimes being rude, stopping for a while seemed to be the right thing to do.
  • Acupuncture part 1 – in my old home state, I tried acupuncture.  It helped a little.  But then I stopped feeling comfortable with the person who treated me.  And I started feeling anxiety about the long commute.  The treatments stopped working.  And the nightmares started up again.  So I decided to wait on continuing this.
  • Acupuncture part 2 – in my new home state, acupuncture is combined with other parts of Traditional Chinese medicine like body work and massage.  I feel very safe at this clinic and trust both the intern practitioner and the supervisors there.  My body memories are starting to lessen and cause fewer incidences of moderate/severe symptoms.  The physical pain is also lessening.  My body is changing and getting healthier on the inside where the worst damage is.
  • Chiropractic part 1 – Chiropractic helped a lot when I went to a practitioner I trusted.  My spinal health and back muscles improved a lot.  I started to be mobile again.  Optimism and hope propelled me forward in the first phase of recovery.  Then I moved away from that practice and started with a recommended group closer to my new place and job.  But I didn’t feel as safe or comfortable there.  And I didn’t trust those people as much.  After 1 year or so without progress (I think I actually regressed), the main chiropractor talked to me about next steps in a private meeting.  We agreed that I could stop for now since the spinal manipulation wasn’t working.
  • Chiropractic part 2 – Part of the reasons the second round of treatments didn’t work was because my parents stepped up the pressure with more emotional and verbal abuse.  I was making a lot of progress; had a well-paying job; lived on my own; and started making plans for my future.  Plans that were opposed to what they wanted of me.  Between their manipulations and the stress of being “independent” for the first time, my trauma memories and nightmares trumped any progress the chiropractor might have made.  I learned, then, that trust between myself and the practitioner was a key element to progress and recovery.
  • Chiropractic part 3 – In the new home state, I am ready to look for a chiropractor and start treatments again.  My counselor says that a multi-pronged approach to physical healing will help a lot.  Since chiropractors focus on spinal health and spinal manipulation, I feel hopeful that my next round of treatments will help.
  • Massage Therapy – Yesterday I had my first massage in a long time.  It felt amazing.  And I trusted this massage therapist a lot.  We had a long conversation before my first visit and also discussed the approach and boundaries before starting the session.  I felt safe in the massage therapist’s care.  And my muscles felt so much better afterwards.  By better I mean less painful and tense.  Physically, my head, neck, shoulders, and back felt lighter too.  Yesterday evening, I slept better than I had in a long time.  So I am hopeful this will help too.

Expenses and Scheduling

All of these treatments cost money and time.  I am lucky to live in a place that has a lot of options within walking distance and others that are accessible by Uber or public transportation.  Medical insurance helps with more traditional therapeutic modalities like psychotherapy,  medicine, and medical doctors.  If you are lucky, sometimes your insurance also provides discounts for alternative medicine providers in their network.  Other times, it’s a matter of deciding what is necessary and then figuring out how to find affordable, reliable, professional care.

For example:

  • psychotherapy with a trauma specialist is #1 on my priority list, so I found someone in-network with my medical insurance.  This means I pay a monthly premium for medical insurance and a reasonable co-pay at every session instead of the full fee; my insurance covers the rest.  Luckily, I found a practitioner within walking distance of my apartment, so transportation doesn’t cost anything unless I have to pay for Uber during bad weather.
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (the acupuncture and body work parts) helps a lot, but the treatments are expensive without insurance.  And finding a practitioner in my neighborhood and with evening/weekend scheduling options can be difficult.  So I go to the student clinic at a teaching college for treatments.  The price per treatment is reasonable; the interns and supervisors provide quality care; but transportation can get expensive since I have to either use public transit or a Uber ride.  Still, the combined costs are less expensive than if I went with a private practice for weekly treatments.
  • Massage Therapy is new to me.  I could find someone in-network so that a discount is applied to pricing, but I prefer referrals from people I trust for this sort of hands-on experience.  Finding someone closer would lower the transportation cost.  But since I won’t have to go for massage treatments as often as the other kinds of therapy, I think I’ll be sticking with this massage therapist team for a while.  Besides, they have evening appointments (big plus).
  • Chiropractic is one treatment that I will use my medical discounts for.  Also I will hope to find someone within walking distance of my apartment.  From what I remember, chiropractic treatments are sometimes a lot harder on my body than the other kinds.  Being local means I can take my time walking home and not have to stress out about transportation or anxiety attacks on the commute.  There are many safe places I can stop in for a break if necessary.
  • Routine medical treatment is something I plan on using my medical insurance for also.  But finding a practitioner who is also trauma sensitive has been difficult.  I definitely will have to build in transportation costs, extra travel time, and time spent looking for a provider on this.  Patience will get me what I want though.  Last time I rushed into making this kind of decision, I ended up really sick and with an upswing in PTSD symptoms.  Lesson learned.  And hopefully the small co-pay will even out the transportation cost.

Conclusion

I am lucky to have a full time job with flexibility in my work schedule.  The money I make allows me to cover the cost of medical care and still be able to make ends meet.  Living in my new city helps too.  Except for food, the cost of living here is a lot lower than where I used to live.  And my work/travel expenses are lower since I work from home.

But even when I lived in the other place, recovery treatment and managing my money properly were high on my priority list.  Sometimes I worked a lot of over time and had crazy hours.  Sometimes I couldn’t save a lot of money or zeroed out my accounts to pay all of  the bills.  Sometimes, I had to go into a little bit of debt to make myself safe.  But having a plan and understanding my finances (i.e. how much I made and where my money went) helped me make good choices of where to live and how to make the most out of what I had with limited resources and lack of a support network.

And since two of my favorite distraction/grounding/meditation coping strategies are reading and researching information, I used the quest to learn about personal finance and financial planning to help with many sleepless nights.  Maybe it’s too much for you to think about now, but understanding how and where your money goes can provide a sense of emotional safety, self-confidence, and independence.  The best part, though, is that anyone can manage his or her own finances.

It doesn’t matter how bad you are or think you are with math…

It doesn’t matter how much math or thinking about math scares you…

Maybe if math is a trigger, that could cause problems in the beginning…

Personal finance is less about numbers and more about knowing yourself, understanding your spending and saving patterns, and being able to make your own choices about where your money goes.  

Math is the tool that helps you understand these concepts through numbers.

Thanks for reading.

In other posts I’ve talked about how difficult watching my body change is for everyone in the system.  Every part of me (including my body as it is an alter personality) struggles with the sensations that signal memories, trauma, illness, or healing as body parts change in:
texture (firm/soft/squishy/hard/bumpy/smooth), size (grow/shrink/expand/contract), color (red/pale/yellow/green/blotchy/tan/normal), and shape.

Right now, my biggest concerns are related to physical pain, recovering memories that trigger changes in my body, coping with both memories and pain, and understanding how to improve my lifestyle (diet and exercise and self-care) to accommodate these changes.

  • Four months into my new home, and I’ve had to face some hard facts:
  • Internal healing means my body mass is shifting even if I’m not actually gaining or losing weight
  • I’m doing slightly more exercise than I used to and using different muscle groups because of the layout in my new apartment.
  • More and different exercise means more calories burned and clothes fitting differently
  • The weather here is milder, but still cool in autumn.  More clouds, less sun equal vitamin D supplements and maybe others too to help with fatigue and other deficiency-related issues.
  • The spinal pain, abdominal pain, persistent cold that won’t go away, bloating around my middle and other odd places, and sinus pressure are all related to my current food choices and lowered levels of activity.

How did I learn this?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including acupuncture and gua sha (type of massage) treatments with a student and supervising practitioner who have been helping me pinpoint where and how the pain manifests to find a root cause.

In TCM terminology, I have a persistent dampness and some heat causing circulation problems with my qi.  That means:

  • I’m having trouble digesting food and getting nutrition
  • I’m having trouble eliminating toxins in my body
  • This is causing sinus pressure, swelling, fatigue, lack of appetite, headaches, stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, mucus/phlegm buildup and so on.
  • It’s also causing the swelling around my spine and abdominal area to increase/decrease depending on what I eat, how much, and when.
  • Acupressure (massaging points related to those problems), dietary changes, and moving around more along with my regular acupuncture treatments will help in the long term
  • The process is slow

Why this is triggering

When I started nutrition therapy, I was eating mostly vegetarian/vegan style because meat products (chicken, beef, eggs, etc.) were too difficult to digest and made me feel sick/not hungry, etc.  But I wasn’t getting enough nutrients at the time.  And I was mostly making this decision from anxiety.  Eating food my family enjoyed triggered lots of anxiety and made eating/digesting food that much harder.

Since then, I’ve become adventurous about food again.  I’ve faced and conquered many of my food-related fears and enjoy trying new foods.  My alters have also faced many food fears and learned to enjoy eating, cooking, shopping, and preparing food.  The cleaning and storage parts are still difficult, but that’s another topic for a different post.  Part of that facing fear was eating different kinds of meat and dairy products again.

Another part was recognizing my cravings and urges to eat or not eat certain foods as triggers and anxiety reactions to hurt/punish myself instead of nourish myself.  And as the memories come back, I’ve been indulging in those foods while ignoring how they make me feel – sick, tired, heavy, low energy.  But eating the food reminds me of happy  times with my uncle and father’s side of the family.

But lately, I’ve been frustrated about my food choices.  Not interested in eating anything really.  Not interested in cooking either.

So when the practitioner told me she could see and feel the physical symptoms of dampness in my body, I decided it was time to make some changes along with regular treatments.  I’m going to try eating more plant based/whole foods style.  When I get a craving for chocolate or dairy or meat, I will pay extra to buy and use one of the substitutes instead.  Instead of buying pre-made juices and hot chocolate, I will experiment with making my own from spices and herbs that are beneficial and can be easily included in those drinks with a blender.

And when I feel like eating a meat product or dairy and my body is feeling healthy again, I will eat a little bit and see what happens next.  If I feel okay still, I will continue to add small amounts.  If I feel bad, I will continue to make alternative choices.

So what do you think?  Is this a good trial?

Thanks for reading 🙂

 

Halloween is next Monday.  I’m not sure I can post on Sunday, not with so many memories of why the time around Halloween scares so much flowing through my mind right now.

The holiday itself is not the problem.  The events and experiences that happened on and around Halloween are.

Instead, I’m writing early.  And I’m sharing something that scares me in ways that I have a hard time describing.  Like the title says, I’m talking about my physical body and the changes it is going through right now as the internal damage heals.

If this is too triggering, please stop reading.  If not, continue.

Read the rest of this entry »

My focus is on safety, self-care, and comfort or self-soothing to help with the body memories and pain.

Many of the coping strategies I use for pain management are not available right now because the food options here are different from where I used to live.  There is not much of a Chinese community with authentic foods through restaurants.  What is available is hard to get to without a car and tends to be very salty.  Cooking has been interesting with community kitchens and lack of pantry space for utensils, etc.

And cooking or food is a major coping strategy for me: provides sensory and physical grounding, soothing smells, nourishment, a connection to loved ones who passed on years ago, etc.  A microwave is useful, but cooking grains and pasta or meat is trial and error right now.  Soon, I will have an electric kettle, rice cooker/steamer, and slow cooker to make cooking easier.  But they are low priority right now.

The same is t rue for real dishes, cooking utensils, silverware, etc.  I have chopsticks, plastic bowls, and soup spoons thanks to my aunt.  That plus a Chinese cleaver (like a butcher knife), a paring knife, and disposable utensils are all I want for now.  Buying dishes and silverware is personal, so I am willing to wait until I find exactly what I want – be they new or new to me via thrift stores.

I’ve been remembering again.  And the last few days have taught me that sometimes I have to relive the pain and scary sensations in my body in order to remember.  Then the pain will lessen instead of increase.  And the other symptoms will change too.  But remembering why my spine hurts so much in certain places and causes problems with alignment, joints, and muscles from head to toe is not easy.  Neither is remembering that my parents caused the pain as punishment and a way to keep me in place when other stuff was happening.

Yes, I am being vague.  I am still processing and putting together the memories.  Still working on what tools I have available that can help the most.  And working through the realization that many of the tools I depend on most are not accessible right now.  As I put the pieces together and experience less pain, I will write about why experiencing the physical symptoms of pain, shaking, headaches, etc. is a necessary part of retrieving my memories and then making sense of them.

Thanks for reading.

CAUTION: The story below is kind of gross…read at your discretion

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Every year around April and May, I get really sick with a sinus infection of sorts.  It’s viral and causes my sinuses to get filled with fluid; it blocks passageways around my jaw, ears, and throat while leaving the areas around my nose and eyes slightly swollen and heavy-feeling.  The sensation itself is not unknown to me as I have been prone to head colds and sinus infections since childhood.

The difference between this one my others is the intensity of symptoms that come with it.  As a child and teen, I spent the months sneezing and blowing my nose; it looked rather gross to people who saw me constantly sneezing and using up tissues like people change underwear or socks or started sneezing and couldn’t get tissues quick enough.  During college, when I realized tissues were hard to carry and dispose of with class schedules, the sneezing changed to nausea followed by bouts of vomiting over a period of days.

And if I was lucky, that wouldn’t happen again for a while.  As for outward symptoms, nothing swelled up or looked obviously wrong with my face.  My jaw and teeth started to hurt.  My nose and eyes started to hurt.  Then my throat and ears.  Everything felt stuffy.  Finally, headaches and exhaustion kept me from feeling hungry or thirsty.

The doctors told me it was allergies and gave me medication.  The medication kept the stuff inside me so I stayed sick longer; made me sleepy and lethargic; caused other reactions that made me sick.  Then they thought it was a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics.  Then they thought maybe it was a deviated septum; that got corrected in high school and kept the worst infections away for a while.  When I switched doctors, the new PCP told me that there are bacterial and viral sinus infections.  Antibiotics don’t work with viral ones, so try saline solution, lots of fluids and warm liquids, tylenol, etc.  That actually did/does help some.

Odd part is, I only get sinus infections and head colds around or after certain events and anniversaries:

  • Visiting parents and certain relatives
  • Going to parties, bars, dancing, social events with family or acquaintances
  • Memorial Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day
  • Birthdays and family get-togethers
  • School beginnings/endings, holidays, graduations

And the severity of symptoms depends on how long I stayed at events and anniversaries.  A new trigger is painting my nails; I tried it over the weekend for the first time in over 10 years.  Won’t be doing that again.

So now I wonder: am I really sick with an infection or is my body reliving something that is making me feel and act sick?

Either way, I have to treat this like an illness, yes?  It’s not going away on its own, so I guess the answer is to try the usual and then some less typical strategies?

Thanks for reading.

Extra post this week.

To maintain professional boundaries and confidentiality, I try not to get too specific about the details of my job and co-workers.   The same is true about friends and people I consider family.  Only if I have permission from them, do I share specific details or information.  Bear with me if this post is clunky as I try to maintain the boundaries and confidentiality and share my story.

Most of my job is to make sure deliverables get to the client within the deadline.  In order for me to do that, other people in the department have to be able to meet their project deadlines.

Makes sense right?

And also a good reason why I do my best to ensure that happens by doing the other part of my job.  That part is to troubleshoot small issues, connect people with each other to get answers when someone gets stuck, and share relevant information with people in my department.

Since all of the big changes over the past year, everyone in the company has had to learn a lot of new processes and programs while also doing their jobs.  Some of the processes like user names and passwords for different websites are time consuming and difficult to learn/remember.  Others not so much.  And a lot of people are resistant to change.  They ignore the emails and try to use the “old” ways instead.  Then get frustrated and blame someone else for the problem.

Usually the messenger whose “instructions are not working”.  AKA me.

Then they, (not always with respect) request that I fix the problem for them because (put the excuse here).  Mainly they don’t want to learn the new process and will ask everyone else to fix it for them until someone does.

It happened again last week.  Yesterday, I received the 5th email/call telling me my instructions didn’t work and demanding I fix the problem remotely.  And I got fed up with it.  Because I am not part of IT.  I am not a computer specialist.  And my job is not to do these tasks for other people.  it’s to share information with them so they learn how to do it themselves and are not dependent on someone else to solve their problems.

So how does one address this boundary issue?  I talked it over with my supervisor – mostly because I wanted to be clear what my job is and is not before I send something out publicly.  Then I asked my contact in Customer Support (IT for software programs and someone with experience dealing with these people) who works closely with IT for advice.  She gave some great information that helped me refine what to say.

Then I had to figure out how to get the message to everyone in multiple states, territories, and countries while also maintaining a professional tone.  Being a writer, I chose email and spent an hour crafting my message.  After I sent it out, I felt better.  And I got some positive responses back too.

But I still feel triggered.  And it’s not helping with my sleep issues and feeling vulnerable this time of year.  My therapist says I did a good job.  And so far I haven’t had any negative feedback from my supervisor or any of the managers.

Will I be able to do this next time?  I hope so.

Will I be able to avoid the backlash like I did this time?  Maybe.

Do I feel better, safer, more confident now that I pushed everyone back to the other side of the boundary?  Absolutely, yes.

This time of year it is so easy to fall back into old patterns and then start the new year feeling bad.  I hope this story empowers others to maintain their boundaries too.  Because maintaining boundaries this time of year ups our chances for a better time in the future.

Introduction

Part of my recover that has not discussed here before is the anorexia nervosa.  While our mind has recovered to the point where we do not practice anymore, our body has not.  Under stress or floods of flashbacks, it reverts back to what it knows to handle the stress, relieve the pain of backlash, or let the rest of us know something is wrong.  It starts slow in the subconscious.  We are not as hungry and thirsty.  Do not have to use the bathroom as much.  Crave foods we normally don’t want.  Not want to eat foods we normally enjoy.  Feel tired.  Start skipping meals.  Stop drinking as much fluids.  Have trouble sleeping.  Forget to eat.  Feel physically weak.  Lose weight.

Realization and Facing Facts

And that is when we realize something is happening.  Something not good.  Only none of us are actively practicing anorexia; consciously restricting or starving ourselves; over exercising or using laxatives on purpose.  It used to confuse everyone and make us question whether or not we are in remission/recovery for the eating disorder.

Around this time, different alters start panicking; others start putting the recovery plan into place; and one or more email/call the dietitian for assistance.  As we start to gain weight, parts of our body bloat and look “fat” while others do not change.  Usually it’s our abdomen and stomach that bloats.  Sometimes our lower back.  The bloating is normal as our body tries to protect and heal our organs while we start the weight gain process.

Problem is, not everyone in our system is aware that the bloating is normal.  Or that it happens when bodies get activated too.  Because the anorexia combined with physical abuse damaged a lot more internal organs than can be accounted for or diagnosed by current medical science.  The bloating triggers us into flashbacks and nightmares related to negative body image, sexual abuse, etc.  It makes everyone want to lose weight again on purpose to make the “fat” go away.  Or try extreme dieting again.  And when the bloat doesn’t go away, we are confused.  Because nothing that we use to cope with anorexia is working.

Conclusion

This is happening right now.  Our whole abdomen from below the rib cage all the way down past our stomach is bloated with a cushion of water.  It looks and acts like fat.  It makes our clothes fit funny by giving us a muffin top.  And just this weekend we realized that the bloat is not going to go away until the memories and related internal damage are healed.  This could be a while.  And it will take some research and experimentation to figure out what coping strategies and resources will help.  Has this ever happened to you?  How did you cope?