Archives for category: Coping Challenges

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

I hate feeling helpless.

I hate what happens in April.

Winter is over.  Spring is in the air.

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

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

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

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

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

Please inspire me to cope for:

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

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

Who am I?  Is the monster real?

NO.

Not. A. Monster.

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

Out of the dark, and into the gray.

Please universe inspire me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Going back to school was amazing in some ways – I felt so comfortable and accepted there.  Socializing was a lot easier than I anticipated, and I had so much fun in spite of the stress from lack of self-care time.  But I realized that my concern about self care masked the real challenge.

The real challenge was a flood of memories about my struggles trying to socialize and fit in with peers or attain meaningful goals.  My body started reacting first.  But not in the same way it usually does.  The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments have been helping a lot, so the cramping pain, nausea, and rapid breathing changed to something I didn’t recognize.  My sleeping was okay, but the dreams changed.

My anxiety increased every day as I got closer and closer to the last class.  Up until Friday in class, I debated whether or not to not follow through the rest of the application process.  There is still an email telling my admissions counselor I don’t want to continue waiting in my draft box.  It explains that maybe I am not sure I feel ready to start school in September.  My alters and I do worry that our body is not ready for that kind of stress yet.

Earlier in the day, I texted my counselor about my worries.  She got back to me while I was in the last class and convinced me to wait until after our session to decide about the email.  My counselor and I talked about it in session, but what came out of my mouth wasn’t what either of us expected.  My parts started talking.  They shared what each of us had been told throughout the years without providing context first.  By the time I came back, the session was over.  I felt really mad at myself, upset, and confused.

  • What I wanted to share has to wait until the next session.  But right now, we have to cope with the fallout symptoms from being triggered on multiple levels.
  • Memories of shame and humiliation with regards to socializing, participating in class, and enjoying myself in crowds
  • Memories of what my parents, brother, relatives, so-called friends, and other people said to shame and discourage me from achieving my school-related dreams
  • Coping with the fact that my body and mind are not reacting to these triggers in the “typical” way – and none of us know what to do

So now life has calmed down.  Work schedule is getting back to normal.  And I have an essay to write.  But this weekend was busy with work.  And I finally had some warm, sunny days to enjoy outside.  It was fun hanging out with neighborhood friends and seeing the crowds of people on the street again.

Thanks for reading

 

Background

Last week I was very tired.  My muscles hurt.  My brain was fuzzy, i.e. I lacked mental clarity.  Wasn’t hungry or thirsty.  Coped with 1 birthday, 1 holiday, and over time at work.

The nightmares started Thursday.  Waking up frozen in fear and unable to breathe started late Friday/early Saturday.  Waking up in the middle of the night for no reason started late Wednesday/early Thursday.  The gas and abdominal pain decreased after acupuncture treatment on Tuesday, but flared up again on Friday.

The Challenges

I have to say that rubbing my tummy in a clockwise position really does help to get things moving in there and relieve some of the pain.  Hard to imagine, but gas really does hurt until the body lets it out.  So does everything else that gets stuck in there.  Cause pain I mean.

And abdominal pain causes pain in other places too.  For me, it causes low back pain and pain further up my chest.  Then breathing deep becomes a challenge.  Then breathing shallow becomes a challenge.  Finally, I have to consciously remember to breathe.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.

Waking up Saturday morning, I felt fine in bed.  Going down the ladder was slightly uncomfortable because I felt off balance.  Then I go to the floor.

My body rebelled.  Said: “Get me to the bathroom ASAP”

In I went.  And so started the panic attack with my body in pain as it tried to eliminate waste.

Normally, this is not a big deal.  Panic attacks like this have eased up a lot with coping strategies in place.

But this time was different.  We had a time limit.  By we, I mean all of us mental alters and our body (considers itself an alter too).  And the time limit caused even more  triggers.  Caused a regression back to those times when nothing but passing out into unconsciousness made the pain stop.  Without the time limit, maybe we could have made it to therapy.

But with less than an hour to work through the panic attack, everything quickly got worse instead of better.  Not until I texted the counselor to tell her that we couldn’t go because of a panic attack did the pain ease.  50 minutes later, the panic attack was over.

And I missed counseling.  Takes about 10 minutes to dress and leave.  Takes about 15 minutes to walk  there on a good day.  By  the time I arrived, the session would be mostly over.

Coping Strategies that worked:

  • Repeating the following mantra: “I love you.  You love you.  We love you.  I love us.  You love us.  We love us.  I trust you.  You trust you.  We trust you.  We trust our body.  I am safe.  You are safe.  We are safe.” to start.
  • Reminding ourselves: “We are safe at home.  This is our bathroom.  We can stay as long as we want.  We can leave and come back any time.”
  • Finally: “Pain is a warning system and reminder. Pain eases as our body does its job.  We trust our body to do what is necesssary to keep us safe.”
  • Belly rubs and back massage to help stuff on the inside move out.
  • Removing any layers that felt uncomfortable against the skin.
  • Breathing and changing position as needed to ease physical discomfort.
  • Cleaning up; putting on clothes or not; taking care of other needs like food and water; sleeping again.

Conclusion

Staying at home was  the best thing to do.  Following the panic attack, I had a light meal and slept for about 5 hours straight.  During that sleep, my mind and body waged war with whatever was causing the heightened anxiety and panic attack symptoms.

Woke up feeling refreshed and hungry for the first time all week.

Was it my grandmother’s birthday?  Was it Chinese New Year and my conscious choice not to celebrate?  Was it working over time?  Was it an email from my cousin?  Was it an email from the college admissions team requesting a call next week to inform me of their decision?

I honestly don’t know.  All I do know it that I’m tired and grumpy.  Today, for the first time in over a week, I actually woke up feeling rested and like myself.  I worked some more; did laundry; cooked a few meals.  And now I’m exhausted.

Also a little worried.  Missing appointments is a big deal and something I work hard not to do.

How do you handle missed appointments?

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Introduction

During certain times of the year, the pain gets worse and the memories overwhelm my logical thinking abilities.  I start to feel vulnerable outside of my apartment.  Too vulnerable and my brain automatically starts sending out “not safe” signals to the rest of my parts.  So I stop leaving my apartment building.  And then I stop leaving my apartment except when absolutely necessary.

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And even the “absolutely necessary” going out causes a problem sometimes.  But then I go outside and feel confused.  Being out of my apartment feels good at first.  I enjoy the scents and sounds from trees, restaurants, people, and dogs.  But the further I get from my building, the more vulnerable I feel.  What if the pain escalates?  What if I can’t get home?  What if I embarrass myself by having a panic attack in front of these strangers?

The questions, the fears crowd my mind and stiffen my body.  My hips start to ache.  My spine curves.  And I focus one step at a time to the counselor’s office.  Potential treat: a hot chocolate (regular or peppermint) from Starbucks before the appointment.  Potential treat: brunch/lunch on the way home.

Since I love food and hardly ever eat breakfast before my morning appointments, the reward sometimes helps me get from A to B.  Hot chocolate that I don’t have to make also helps.  Other days, visiting some stores to window shop works better.

But sometimes not even a reward for going out or meeting needs like laundry or grocery shopping can get me out of the apartment.

Challenge

Eventually, the agoraphobia passes.

While I experience the agoraphobia, I also feel frustration and shame.  Frustration because I want to be outside.  Shame because my fear and vulnerability prevent me from doing what I want.  Triggers occur.  Panic takes over.  And the only safe place feels like home.

Nothing I’ve tried helps.  Nothing makes the agoraphobia go away.

The trigger causing agoraphobia hasn’t revealed itself.  The trigger to make it go away hasn’t revealed itself either.

Conclusion

I wait out the periods of agoraphobia and hope that this one ends sooner instead of later.  But I still hate it.  I still struggle.

I still persist.

Remembering and pain will not stop me anymore now than it has before.

Thanks for reading.

 

Since Christmas, I have been struggling with really bad anxiety.  Flashbacks, nightmares, changes in sleep and eating patterns, etc.

The body pain increased too.  That made me wonder what exactly triggered this round of escalation?

two things: letting down barriers and being emotionally supportive of an aunt who is still stuck in the abuse cycle I walked away from.

the barriers: I opened my heart and friendship to a neighbor whose little dog wrapped himself around my heart with one look at his big, dark eyes and some very loud barks.  I walked him a couple times last week to help my neighbor out.  She needed some help since her second job required a schedule change.

This brought back fond memories of when I used to exercise without pain and enjoy it.  Also memories of my puppy from a disastrous attempt at service dog training s couple years ago.  From there, came a tumble of other memories and feelings – some good, others not so great.

Emotional support: I reconnected with family on my father’s side this year.  It has been slow and careful because I don’t want to get sucked back into the toxic system that still exists.  They know that and (for the most part) respect my boundaries.  But I have an older aunt who still gets targeted for the emotional and verbal abuse/bullying/scapegoating by the rest of the family.  We had a conversation about that when she called earlier this week.  The call brought back other memories and familiar pain in my back the next day.  I want to be supportive, but not much else I can do until she is ready to take the steps to protect herself.  Where and how to I set boundaries to protect myself and support her?

I don’t know.  But yesterday was hard to concentrate at work.  I missed my deadline here by falling asleep 1 hour after work finished.

Today, I am taking a mental health day.  Have to because the anxiety is so bad I need to do some serious self care.  Sleep is #1 priority.  Followed by real food and hydration.  Getting outside for the first time in 4 days.  And trying to regain my sense of safety through grounding, soothing, and DBT strategies.

thanks for reading

Bad news is supposed to happen in 3s

First someone I am close to gets sick and is in the hospital around Thanksgiving.  Obviously bad news.

Second I make contact with family members who might or might not be safe.  Not sure if this is considered bad news.

Last Thursday I found out that a friend/mentor/co-worker I’ve known for about 10 years died.  He had cancer and fought bravely for quite a few years.  Obviously bad news.

Holidays bring memories and mixed feelings

My anxiety is much worse than normal.  I’m remembering events and activities that happened around the holidays (at parties and events, at home, at church/synagogue, at school) that were buried for decades.

My body is healing and starting to look like it’s meant to look.  This is causing feelings of negative body image, self-consciousness, and fear.

I sent out holiday cards and have received some.  Two cousins sent a gift that made me feel so happy that I got scared.  I bought groceries to cook in the community kitchen; want to feel good and cook something.

Coping Challenges

Grief – brings out tears and feelings of sadness that trigger past feelings and similar situations.  I felt numb; then started crying.  But while I felt numb, I couldn’t stop sneezing.

Negative body feelings – I am so tired.  I am getting cravings to eat and drink stuff that makes me feel kind of sick and can’t avoid all of them.  My body alternately feels good and in pain.  And I am having trouble accepting my “real” body shape.

Hope – that maybe this year I won’t sleep through Christmas

Fear – that I probably will do that

Self-Care – because I am falling behind on some chores and goals with being so tired and sleeping a lot.

Strategy or Strategies?

Gratitude – because I feel so grateful for the typical and also unexpected blessings that have come my way this season

Allowing my feelings to flow through me – express, acknowledge, accept, let go of what I feel so they don’t get stuck inside and cause problems (I hope)

Present-focused attitude – to help me stay grounded and focused on my current tasks

Self-Care – because everyone deserves to be safe and healthy

Starting small – small chunks are easier to finish than large bites.  And small accomplishments add up with less frustration

So how are you going to prepare for the holidays?

Thanks for reading…

This could also go under life-changing moments, but I prefer it here.

Not a long post because still processing and learning to use coping strategies effectively.

Main Point

Feeling safe can change perspectives and long-held beliefs about oneself and one’s relationships with others.

First Change

Recovering memories from body and mind; then piecing them together with help from alters via dreams and nightmares.

Second Change

Interacting with the outside world more as my real self and with less dissociative experiences even in high stress situations.

Third Change

Allowing family back into my life on a limited basis; and through those blood relations, my parents and sibling are back too.

Fourth (and last on this list) Change

The beginnings of an integration where all alters work together as a single unit and allow our body to heal/become/look the way it’s supposed to look based on genetics and a higher power.

What does this mean?

I feel confident and able enough to protect myself from anything my parents or younger sibling might try.

The danger is not so much from my parents as from acquaintances and community members whose identities I don’t remember except in nightmares.

My biggest challenges have to do with facing my fears and triggers without using dissociation as my automatic coping strategy.

Conclusion

I am in a new phase of recovery.  I don’t have any reference points, past experience, or internal guides to start with.  My go-to strategies are dissociate and avoid.  They don’t work anymore.

But something must be going right.  I’m still alive and sane.

Step by step.  Moment by moment.

Thanks for reading.

Not sure how others receive information about their past, but mine come in a few ways.  The main ones are: dreams/nightmares, flashbacks, & body memories.

The PTSD makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the automatic reactions that get triggered each time I remember something.

The DID makes separating and understanding the information difficult because of the way my brain developed and learned to store memories, sensation, & experiences.

Back in my old living area, I was constantly bombarded by triggers and memories.  It was all my therapist and I could do to keep me relatively sane and focused on the present instead of spiraling out of control.  I never truly felt safe there and could not move on to work on other aspects of recovery even though I was ready to do so.  Every time I tried, the flashbacks and dreams and body memories bombarded me with warnings.

Now, in my new living area, I am safe to delve into these memories, work on pain management and merging the fragmented sensations from body memories, dreams, nightmares, and flashbacks into whole memories of my past.  I am physically and emotionally safe here.  I can go outside and walk around any time.  I can use public transportation without fear of getting harassed.

I can shop at stores and know that bad service is because of the individual’s issues and not my past.  I can reconnect with safe family members.  I can enjoy hobbies and practice self care that was impossible before.  I can let my body heal and look the way nature intended for it to look instead of how my past molded it.

But with all of that comes learning how to cope with the shame and fear and distress that comes from confronting those triggers.  My tool box is full of options.  I’m learning new ones all the time just by observing how people interact with each other in real life.  Did I mention that people-watching is one of my favorite things to do?

The struggle now is learning how to utilize my toolbox for these new and different challenges.  It’s like starting from square 1 all over again.

So the posts here will continue to be about the same topics, but the perspective will continue to change as my journey changes.  Thanks for reading and understanding.

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I think about my life often this time of year.  It’s a time of overwhelming feelings and the urge to belong somewhere.

For a couple weeks, I did great with the dietary changes my body felt amazing.  My mind felt wonderful.  And then I had this scary experience with a Uber driver that sent me on a tailspin of flashbacks – being trapped in cars with reckless or anxious drivers and feeling out of control – that pushed me to eat foods that would make me feel physically uncomfortable and/or sick.

I  tried to find alternatives.  I tried to use other grounding and coping skills.  I reached out for help on the hotline and spoke with my therapist.  I talked with my acupuncturist too.  But in the end I gave in and ate the foods that made me bloated, gassy, nauseous, and cramped.

Why?  Partly because I feel mixed emotions about reconnecting with more family members.  Partly because my body is physically changing and healing and becoming the body it’s supposed to be instead of the body it was turned into by past experience.  Partly because one way for me to cope successfully with overwhelming body sensations is to leave my body.  But I can’t leave unless my body is in pain or discomfort; the 2 triggers that allow me to disassociate from my physical self.

Do I feel guilty about harming myself with food?  Not really

Do I feel ashamed of harming myself with food? a little bit

Do I wish I could find an alternative to this?  Absolutely yes

How am I dealing with the minimal guilt and shame?  By being kind to myself and doing what I can to minimize the consequences of eating food that is difficult to digest.

Will I do this again in the future?  Probably.  It’s hard to let go of something that works and drowns out the uncomfortable sensations with familiar ones – even if those familiar ones are harmful and negative.

What next?  keep trying to find a substitute coping strategy that doesn’t involve self harm by food.

Hence the quote above…

Thanks for reading