Archives for category: Life Changing Moments

Have you ever been triggered so badly that the feelings overwhelmed and broke through internal barriers?

That happened about 2 weeks ago.  

I lay down to sleep one night and flashed back to 1998.  The flashback lasted for hours.  It covered many years between 1998 and 2012.

And each memory was of a fight – a physical fight between my younger self and one or more other people.  Then I started to remember names and places.  And suddenly even living on the other side of the country didn’t feel safe.  I felt scared and out of control.

The experiences got distorted by feelings and body pain.  What feelings?  What pain?

The feelings: anger, shame, fear, confusion, grief

The pain: head, face, neck, abdomen, low back, hips

I felt so angry for days.  It built and built inside me.  Nothing I tried, nothing my alters tried, none of the typical and atypical strategies helped.  So I followed the plan my counselor and I put together in session.  I called the hotline first.  Then texted her with updates.  She called me; we talked.

The goal: focus on feelings first; then process the memories & thoughts.

One week ago:

The memories came back as dreams and nightmares.  I probably annoyed my neighbors by talking in my sleep and yelling/screaming/thumping the walls – explains why I avoid them right now.  It’s why I prefer not to have close neighbors, but that’s impossible in this apartment.

I started to realize the anger combined with body pain (treatments have been working to address chronic sinus, digestion, etc. issues) opened up a gate for the memories to get through.  The physical pain got worse and kind of triggering.  I kept getting confused about past and present.

But I also had to go out and take care of errands.  It helped that people I’m friendly with were on the route.

The feelings: numb, hurt, sad, shame, confusion, then numb again

The body pain: moved from head to back to abdomen to private areas to back again

The goal: get through one more week while counselor is away

This week:

My counselor is back; we had our session on Saturday.  Easter was Sunday.  The numbness wore off, and I realized that the back pain was masking something else.  My body was experiencing mild versions of panic attack symptoms.  The nausea was back.  And I lost my appetite between Thursday and Sunday.

The feelings: relief, happiness, empowered, anger, shame, grief

The body pain: sinuses, eyes, ears, scalp, back of the head, neck.

The goal: minimize the face pain, cope with the body memories around my legs/hips/abdomen, accept and embrace the inner monster that is not a monster.

What is the empowering part?

My inner monster is not a monster.

She is the part of me trained in martial arts and other forms of hand-to-hand combat, knife fighting, etc.

He is the part of me who learned acrobatics and submissions in order to take down grown people high or drunk or better armed and much stronger with an adolescent girl’s body.

They are the plant parts who processed the drugs and alcohol so fast through a child’s and adolescent’s body that she got sick instead of addicted.

They are my alter personalities – the parts of me who kept the secrets; learned how to read people; taught themselves to lie; pretended to be a fly on the wall; created vaults for the secret life experiences to hide in; protected classmates, cousins, and others close in age from being sucked in; and used physical force to protect the self from monsters and bullies.

Conclusion

Before these memories came back, I thought I was an out-of-control monster who physically hurt others for no reason.  I thought my temper and rage took over and were unjustified.  And I backed away from everyone – to the point of avoiding all physical contact with living beings – so ensure my safety and the safety of everyone around me.

Now, I know that I’m not a monster.  That those fragmented nightmare/dream stories of me fighting gang members, women, men, teen bullies, my sibling, my parents, and so many others were real.  That all of those seeming impossible take downs, submissions, and movie-like fight scenes in my head really did happen.  We did that with our body up until the year before moving.

And then those parts of me faded back inside to safety bringing the memories with them and leaving me feeling out of control again.

Now, I hope these parts will continue to share those memories and realize they are accepted, respected, cherished members of our system.  They belong in the present with the rest of us.  They deserve to heal and make choices with us and feel proud of their accomplishments too.  Most important, I hope they stop feeling ashamed of the things they said and did to protect and help everyone survive.

With their permission, I will be sharing more about self-defense, martial arts, and fighting for protection as healthy forms of exercise, self-esteem building, etc.

Thanks for reading

Introduction

This past month has been busy with a lot of changes.  When not writing a post, working, or going to necessary appointments, I’ve been sleeping and trying to practice self care.

Coping Strategies

Thankfully, where I live offers grocery delivery service and food delivery options.  This kept me fed no matter how tired I felt.  But every once in a while I did try to go out and walk.  I did try to talk with friends and acquaintances.  Or at least act friendly when we ran into each other; this includes dogs and other friendly animals.  I also tried to do some cleaning and trash removal.

The Trigger

But I also felt some shame about not keeping in touch, especially with people and dogs in my building.  That shame mixed with my usual March depression created this compulsion to put myself in an emotionally compromising situation yesterday.  It was the first day in a couple of weeks where I felt good in the morning, dressed in a cute outfit for myself, and was focused on enjoying the day instead of the discomfort from feeling sick.

I don’t know what possessed me to do this (maybe missing my neighbor’s dog?), but I opened the door when I heard my neighbor’s dog bark.  His bark is distinctive, but I wasn’t sure if I missed him or not.  Well, I didn’t miss him.  We spent some quality time cuddling together, and then I brought him back to his human.

And this is where the emotional self-harm kicks in.  

 

Upon seeing her again, (I brought the dog downstairs to her while she was chatting with a potential renter) I suddenly felt the need to apologize for not being in touch over the last few weeks.  My mind got cloudy, and I started to feel really far away (desensitization) even though we stood less than 3 feet apart.  I didn’t want to say a lot or stay long, so I apologized and told her I’d been busy; she replied by saying we should catch up some time.  I agreed, then left.

Then I went upstairs and wrote her an email.  In the email I was more honest and explained in more detail what happened the past few weeks.  Who would want to be around people when they feel sick?

Then I sent the email, not expecting a response.

And I didn’t get one.  I won’t get one.

But I also didn’t feel upset or ashamed of myself for not getting a response.  I didn’t feel good or bad about myself.  The negative self talk did not arrive.  The trigger is still there.  The past memories and experiences tried and continue to try to shame me by bringing up memories of high school and college that used to unleash floods of shame and embarrassment.

Instead, the anxiety I feel now is because the expected response to this unsafe situation I put myself in did not occur.

As both my therapists would say: this is a sign of significant internal change.  And the anxiety over the different response – normal.

How did I cope?

  • I watched some episodes of Glee on Netflix and got in touch with the preteen and teen parts who were feeling the grief and shame.
  • Then I packed and put the accumulated recycling in the outdoor bins.
  • Before I treated myself with an amazing chocolate dessert, I brought the return packages to the mailbox.

Conclusion

My mind tried to trick me into feeling awful with past memories.  It used someone I consider a friend, but feel wary around now because of some semi-recent experiences that were part projection (triggers) and part reality.

I had not consciously put myself in an emotionally unsafe situation in over a year before now.  For two years, I was careful and chose to avoid people who seemed emotionally unsafe – i.e. they reminded me of my parents or others from the past with their words and actions.

And now I realize that I really have changed.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Thanks for reading.

Late with this post…life got in the way

CONSEQUENCES

Negative

Some people think I am lying when I tell the truth about my past.  They think I don’t have feelings or am snobbish because of my lack of physical expressions.  My words and actions get misinterpreted often – flirting or friendly? happy or sad or angry or frustrated? – because people don’t have any visual cues to help them understand.

Some people think I am easy to take advantage of because I smile even when I’m upset or angry or confused.  They blame me for being weird and different; use it as an excuse for being manipulative or mean.  If my facial expression and body language are accepting and open to whatever they’re saying, they can turn around my words to make it seem like the disagreement is my fault.  I’d believe that in the past, before I learned about facial expressions and body language as part of communication.

My social anxiety for is often mistaken for a lack of confidence and treat me accordingly.  I am never sure how I come across to other people because I know about my lack of facial and body language cues.  That makes me feel anxious and afraid to connect with people.  And it causes me to ask questions about facial expressions and body language for clarification.  Questions that make other people uncomfortable and feel like they have permission to lash out at me or treat me with condescension since I don’t understand such basic human skills.

Past experiences taught me that there isn’t a difference between lies and truth.  Either way, I am a bad person and everything bad that happens to me is deserved.  Everything bad that happens to my family or friends is my fault.  Lies won’t help.  Truth doesn’t work either.  Only the people in control, the ones with power, are good and acceptable.

Connecting with others is difficult because of my honesty, respect, and open communication policy.  I can still be polite about it, but I refuse to accept, respect, or tell lies unless absolutely necessary.  And I have a difficult time not stepping in to defend people when I see others being mean just because.  Spending my time around negativity and meanness is not fun, so why bother?

Positive

I learned how to spot lies from a young age.  Even if I don’t say anything right away, I know when people lie to me.  And when people lie to me, I have two options: 1) call them out on the lie; and 2) let them think I am really that stupid and gullible to believe the lie.  Option 1 gets used with people I care about because I want to build a relationship with them based on respect, open communication, honesty, and acceptance.

Option 2 gets used on people I don’t trust or care much about.  Often these are people I let into my life because of triggers or self-harm type punishments because these people treat me the way my parents and perpetrators did.  Every once in a while, I will catch them in a lie and point it out to them just as a reminder that I know what they are up to.  This is usually my first step in breaking off a friendship.

I learned how to tell and value the truth to compensate for lack of physical expressions.  In school, I heard the phrase “honesty is the best policy” a lot.  In real life, I learned “lying is the best policy” from both parents and the perpetrators.  Lots of kids lied and got caught in school.  Some got punished; others didn’t.  I didn’t often get caught or get punished for lying because the teachers couldn’t read me.  But I watched how the known liars got treated vs. how the truth tellers got treated.  Liars were not trusted or respected.  Truth tellers were.

I learned that lying is neutral.  The person telling the lie and the consequences of the lie make it good or bad.  I lied to survive my childhood and adolescence.  As often as I lied, I also told the truth to the people who mattered.  And I refused to cheat on homework or exams even if  that meant I failed and had to repeat something.  Earning the trust of my teachers felt good even if that had disastrous social consequences with my peers – i.e. suck up, teacher’s pet, nerd, etc.

I learned that sometimes shame comes from hiding secrets and telling lies.  Being honest to myself and others about my feelings, thoughts, and behaviors helps me let go of some shame.  I can put past experiences and events into perspective.  Perspective has a way of revealing the holes in a liar’s story, including the lies I used to tell myself.

Finally, I learned not to feel ashamed of myself for not reacting to feelings like most people do.  And learning the lesson is not the same as consistently applying it.  That part I still struggle with.  But I am lucky enough to have a support network to help out.  And when my friends or support network reaches out to me, I do the same for them.  Support.  Respect.  Acceptance.  It all goes both ways.

Thanks for reading.

LYING

I am an excellent liar.  I can freeze my body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions in neutral  or gullible obliviousness.  People lying to me think I believe them.  People listening to me believe what I’m telling them.  The usual “clues” do not apply when I decide to start lying.  I can project any emotion and feeling on my physical self when I feel nothing, something different, or the opposite emotion internally. But people looking at me believe what they see.

EMOTIONAL/PHYSICAL DISCONNECT

On the other hand, I can’t match genuine feelings with their appropriate physical expressions.  My facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice do not betray my real feelings unless I consciously work hard to portray the correct expressions.   That leaves many people skeptical of when I reveal truths about my background – I can/have/do talk about trauma with an expression and tone of voice matching someone conversing about the weather.

Moderating the intensity of my tone is also difficult.  In spite of acute and sensitive hearing, I have a hard time discerning when my voice rises/lowers and so on.  As my emotional state increases, my sensitivity to such changes decreases.  And my facial expressions change like a movie on fast forward.  People who see me in a state of high anxiety or a panic attack back off fast because I appear crazy in that context.

WHY?

As a child, I learned how to project whatever feelings/emotions/thoughts would keep me from getting abused.  It was survival.  It was necessary.  It taught me how not to have feelings.  Expressing joy got me punished.  Expressing anger got me a beating or inappropriate touching as punishment.  Expressing fear, sadness, anxiety, or worry got me the silent treatment.  Talking out of turn (i.e. telling the truth of what happened or anything different from my parent’s version of the truth) got me accused of lying, exaggerating, causing problems, etc.

So I denied having feelings.  I buried them deep and forgot about them.  But I had random explosions of tears and rage growing up.  There were temper tantrums.  There was fighting back.  There were instances of “rebellion”.  There were times my mind clouded, and I disappeared.  When I came back to myself, everyone was mad at me.  Hurt feelings, I was accused of being mean and exploding with anger for no reason.  And everyone from my parents to my younger brother to my so called friends used this to shame me, manipulate me, take advantage of e, and set me up as a “crazy, unstable, lying” person to the rest of my community.

No one wanted to be friends with a rude, annoying, crazy, raging, unstable, liar who otherwise had no personality.

This was my life for 27 years.  I did not have a personality, was not an interesting person, was looked down upon by everyone around me.  I did not have feelings except for facsimiles to appease other people.  Problems like this made developing friendships difficult.  It made getting jobs and keeping jobs hard too.  At least in my community or any community where my classmates and family had connections.  All of which I was interested in working at the time – healthcare, non-profits, colleges, newspapers, magazines, and other jobs related of my degree.

MOMENT OF TRUTH

Not until I started my first “real” job in an office that valued my skills and opinions did I realize there was something “wrong” with my responses to other people.  I had just started therapy with my second counselor and was feeling very stressed out about all of the changes over the past few months: new job, new apartment, new neighbors, new commute, leaving school, new doctors, new therapist.

She helped me for 3 years; we worked on my anorexia, anxiety, low self-esteem, and OCD.  When the trauma issues started taking over, I had an emotional breakdown.  Crying, nausea, pain, sleeplessness…you name it, I experienced it all in a flood.  It was like everything I held in for 27 years came flooding out in 2 days.  Only, I didn’t know these were feelings.  Or that I was physically reacting to all of these feelings.

She sent me for a crisis evaluation.  When we first started, the therapist told me outright that she did not work with trauma.  I told her that was okay because the trauma was not the main problem  then.  My anorexia and anxiety disorders (according to the previous people) were.  As soon as she realized the trauma had taken over our sessions, she sent e for additional help and slowly transitioned me to another therapist.

During the transition, I went for my first partial in-patient program.  There, I learned about what feelings were, that I had feelings, and that the physical/mental problems I had were because of those feelings.  After about 6 weeks there, I was in a much better place with a rudimentary understanding of feelings, aka emotions, and how they made my symptoms worse when allowed to take over and control me.

DBT (Dialiectical Behavioral Therapy) taught me how to recognize, control, and balance my feelings so that I could make choices about how to handle situations instead of just reacting to them.  CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) taught me how to follow the trails left behind by my feelings to understand triggers that led to thoughts and behaviors.  Grounding taught me how to come back to the present when feelings overwhelmed my senses.

But none of this really taught me how to get my face, voice, and body to align with my actual feelings or thoughts.

Or how to manage the pain that continually discourages me from trying to integrate my mental/emotional self and physical self so that the feelings and expressions/body language match.

As for the lying…the only time I purposely lie is for survival.  Any other time, I am scrupulously honest.

Thanks for reading.

This post IS NOT about judgement or defending my choices.  It’s about the complexity of a dilemma that comes every four years in this country.

Every four years, I face a dilemma.  Do I register to vote or not?  And if I register, do I vote or not?

Since I turned 18, I’ve voted 3-4 times in my life.  Election years always happened during times I was moving from one county to another and had to register again.  Or the voting booths were in locations I couldn’t get to without a car.

When I joined the address confidentiality program in 2014, I was told not to register my new address with the USPS or register to vote.

Not because they didn’t want me to vote or be able to get mail delivered to my home.

Because both registrations put my information on public record.  An official public record that can be accessed by anyone in the US or other foreign country by computer or a specific set of forms; shared or sold to other people for direct mail marketing and other purposes; and leaves me vulnerable to being found by the people I’m hiding from.

Yes, I said it.  I am hiding from my parents, my brother, my mother’s side of the family, people from that community I was raised with/went to school with, and many of the other predators/abusers in my past who I don’t remember or recognize, but who remember and recognize me.

Yes, I changed my name.  Yes, I joined a program that kept them from finding my address and location before.  That didn’t stop former classmates from high school and college from recognizing me and harassing me.  That didn’t stop my cousins and their friends from trying to verbally abuse me in public.  That didn’t stop my brother’s friends from doing all of the above before I moved.

I left the address confidentiality program when I moved across the country.  I did not register my new address with the USPS because this apartment is a “starter” place – i.e. not sure if I’m staying or not for the long term.

I planned on registering to vote.  I filled out the form and sealed it.  But then I stopped before applying the stamp.  And I hid the registration.

Because I got scared.  And I didn’t like any of the candidates.

In some of my Facebook and other groups, I nominally supported Hillary Clinton.  That came because I could not intentionally support a man who promotes and condones racism and abuse of any kind.

As I followed the campaign (sort of), the flashbacks got worse.  The fears increased.  My body reacted negatively to any thought of sending in that voter registration.

I couldn’t do it.

So here’s my dilemma: Do I be a responsible American citizen and vote?  Or do I keep myself safe and protected by not putting my name and information on public record?

And 4 years from now, I will face this moment again.  New candidates, same kind of attitudes.  Will I register or not?  I guess that depends on how safe I feel because self care is more important to me than upholding a country’s ideals right now.

Thanks for reading.

The more I live in the present and focus on working through recovery, the more I remember my past.  The memories are being unlocked as I learn to work through the pain in my body.

Less pain = more memories recovered

Less pain = more crying and grieving before the letting go process moves on

More pain = less memories and more confusion

More pain = less awareness of my feelings and instincts

Do I want less pain?  Yes.  Do I want to remember what is locked up in my body?  Not really.

Today, after about 3 weeks of acupuncture with the new student and 3 sessions with my new counselor in between sessions with the old one, I can finally put some of the pieces of my childhood and adolescence together.  The recurring dreams that turn into nightmares really did happen.  And those people I remember fighting, they were real friends who became targets for  the monsters controlling my life.  In protecting them, I lost their friendship too.

And other people who could have made decent friends, I had already mastered the art of pushing people away by then.  And it wasn’t safe either way.  No matter where I went, there was always someone who recognized me and spread the rumors behind my back.  Or told someone in my family what I was doing.  And then the harassment (not of me, but of the people who were kind to me) began.  They thought I knew.  But I didn’t.  And instead of talking to me about it, they kicked me out of their lives and avoided me.

Living a double life is not fun.  Being drugged into not remembering that other life completely sucks.  And when the truth hits, the sensation is overwhelming.  The tears fall until no one wants to cry any more.  The movie reels start.  And suddenly, I can see my friends and any family members involved as they were back when we were children.  I hear their voices.  And the memories come flooding back.

The big difference here is that no one tries to stop the flood.  We all sit back in our comfy chairs and watch the memories go by.  From our safe bubble, the memories surround us.  But they don’t hurt us anymore.  Our bubble can float to the surface, bounce from wave to wave, and coast along the flow of movement instead of being drowned.

And the memories tell me that I can’t trust anyone.  I can’t make friends because those friends might be targeted as employees(sex trafficking), members (of the cult), or clients (for drugs and other illegal stuff).  Or they and their families will have to suffer being harassed and stalked and manipulated by my parents and the other people who owned me.

So yea, I and my alters, we all feel kind of sad and depressed today.  People often wonder why I don’t pursue leadership jobs and more social activities.  How can I tell them why that kind of job doesn’t work for me?  That I am afraid to be noticed because the monsters will hurt me again?  Or hurt the people around me.  How can I tell them that I survived by staying below the radar instead of taking charge and being more independent?  How can I say that I am ashamed of my intelligence and skills so have a hard time displaying them in public and around strangers who might not actually be strangers?

Thanks for reading.

Introduction

I love music.  My alters love music.  But for the longest time none of us could listen to music without getting triggered.  Most of my CDs and music choices were taken away from me, made fun of, used or broken by people in my life who didn’t want me to enjoy music or got tired of me listening to the same songs all the time (college dorms and visiting family members).  At home, nothing belonged to me so my parents “borrowed” my music whenever they wanted and kept what they liked for themselves.  And my brother loved music too so he didn’t want me to be interested in music at all.  Because anything I was interested in became evil, boring, etc.

But music is everywhere.  And it’s hard to stop songs from being heard when people like listening to the radio in the car, at the stores, and so on.

The life changing moment

Back in high school, a lot of traumatic events took place.  Some I’ve written about here.  Others are waiting to be told.  But I felt trapped and hopeless until I heard a song called “To the Moon and Back” by a semi-popular pop band called Savage Garden.  The lyrics resonated so well with my life at the time, I thought the artists had been flies on the walls of my life.  Hearing this song was y first real experience with empathy and not feeling alone – like I was the only person in the universe experiencing these problems and feelings.

Here is the YouTube link if you are interested in checking out the song.  Maybe it will inspire you to keep going; maybe not.

Either way, happy Friday and wishes for a relaxing weekend.

 

This post is mot proofread or edited.  Any misspellings and bad grammar are mine and mine alone.  The topic was not planned in advance, but wanted to come out today :/

The Beginning

Back in 2008 or 2009, the company that delivered office supplies to my company started sending different people to deliver the boxes.  It did not mean much to me at the time because I was not involved with that part of our business.  I tried to be friendly to most of the people who came and went, but did not go out of my way to make friends.

One day, I was working when someone came to deliver supplies. I had not seen the delivery people much except in passsing because my hours were irregular as a contractor.  But this time, he stared af the back of my head until I turned around.  And when I did, I got scared and triggered.  He looked familiar, but I did not recognize him.  So I turned back without acknowledging him.

It was not to be rude or mean.  It was fear, plain and simple.  This was before I started working with a trauma specialist; before I learned about the amnesia and the DID.  Besides most people from my past usually ignored me and pretended they did not know me when I approached them.  How did I know this would be any different?

Well, he did recognize me.  And my name on the name plate near my station confrmed it.  His co-workers, the new delivery crew, recognized me too.  And most of them did not like me.  They liked to talk about me to the receptionist on the second floor; she was supposed to be my friend.

I didn’t know they were talking and gossiping about me then.  Hindsight is twenty-twenty as many will tell you.  But it explains a lot about how and why we started drifting apart.  And she never bothered to ask me about what they told her.  But I guess that makes sense if she was pretending to be friends and really felt otherwise instead.

Soon after the new person started making deliveries, I started having more anxiety attacks about being in the office.  And small, seemingly unconnected issues started to pop up.  Problems with supply orders and deliveries when the usual person was on vacation.  Problems with mail not being sent or delivered.  Problems with people changing attitude towards me.

That continued for until I left for a month on short term disability (partial in patient program) in 2012 and came back to find out our third team member retired while I was gone.  And with her retirement, the company decided to change office supply companies.

I did not have to deal with those jerks anymore unless I happened to be passing them by as I walked in the neighborhood.  And they had no reason to bother me either.

Why share this now?

It was a first step for me in realizing that my past would continue to hurt me unless and until I did something.  It was a reality check that denial couldn’t explain away.  The pieces from my memories refused to sfay separated.  The truth about my family and life before I joined this company was crystal clear.  The reasons for increased family pressure to change jobs made sense.

They had inside knowledge into how successful I was there and could not stand it.  My parents constantly told me that I needed a job with benefits, instead of being a contractor.  My aunts and uncles harped on the long hours and over time without proper compensation and benefits.  They all kept sayong hap my job was not professional or prestigious and put it downw often.  And likely I would not be keeping my job with because of te recession so I needed to find a proper job in a resodcted field that let me use my degree.  

My parents tried to ruin my chances at the company woth rumors and sabotage.  They tried to convince me to find a ndw job and almost succeeded.  I went on job interviews and started designing a website and marketing materials to expand my contractor business.  Instead, I became a full time employee and kept inproving my reputation and experience there.

Then I left my family and spent the next two years disappearing from their lives.

The memory of how I treated that man haunts me and brings back feelings of shame and self hate grounded in my past trauma.  In my heart and mind, I know I did not do anything wrong.  My behavior made sense because I did not recognize him.  And yes I was afraid too.  Afraid of putting myself out there and apologizing for the snub.  Afraid of making a mistake and getting verbally attacked.  Not arrogance or snobbish attitude on my part wven though that probably makes from his point of view.  

And when I did try to talk to him about the deliveries and supplies in rhe boxes when mt co-worker was gone, he ignored me and acted like I did not exist.  That brought more feelsibg of shame and had me questioning myself.

Until now.  The shame and anger still exist when the memory pops up.  And feelings are intense too; blinding and able to send me into a flashback to be honest.  And I wonder why memories like that come back to me so randomly.

How is this a life changing moment?

The one I mentioned last, about how he ignored me as I tried to talk to him about an order and delivery that was over one week late?  Well, another person intervened and helped me get perspective about the situation.  From then on, I stopped getting involved in the ordering process unless absolutely necessary.  And then I realized that I couldn’t get away from the toxic people without leaving.  That meant family and jobs.  But then, I was offered a chance to become full time and have job security.

In spite of what he did, of the mindf#%k my family tried to give me, the people where I worked believed in me.  They knew the real me and did not believe the rumors or nasty gossip from other departments and other people.  And all of this happened because of the way I chose to treat others in spite of how they treated me.

If I could, I would go up to that man and thank him for helping me realize I was not the same person anymore.  And while I still get hit with the feelings of anger and hate and shame, I know it’s because my alters are remembering their experiences in high school (or earlier) and college; getting triggered and overhwelmed by the memories and feelings still.

He is the past, not the present.  But thinking about or recoveirng memories related to relationshipss brings it all back.  And brings him back too.  I never did learn his name.  And I hope to never encounter him again.

My past is past.  Anyone who believes the rumors and stories is not who I want in my present.  Anyone who would treat me different without getting to know me first is better off in someone else’s life.

And those are the lessons I learned from remembeing this:

  • I can’t change the past or the feelings it brings out in me.
  • I don’t want to change the past because then I would not be who I am today
  • Someday I will remember him and all of the others without feeling the blinding shame and self-hate
  • And when I stop feeling the shame and self-hate for circumstances beyond my control, I might finally be ready to stop hating that part of my life

Introduction

Last week, I wrote a little about meditation and how it is different from dissociation.  One aspect of meditation that always astounds me is how easily I can communicate with my alters when I go into a meditative trance.  Visions, sensations, verbalization, body memories all pass through a rotating amphtheater with unusual clarity and consistency.  My alters and I are in the audience looking up as the sensory information reveals itself.

Sliding into that meditative trance is easy.  Why, no one is knows for sure.  Here are some possibilities: Being able to dissociate at an early age helped.  Early meditation training taught me focus and patience.  Practicing exercises and lessons from John Kabat-Zinn’s audio tapes reminded me to acknowledge whatever is going on inside instead of suppressing it.  Reading about Buddhist and Daoist meditation practices, watching qigong videos, and practicing yoga opened me to other kinds of meditation.

Variety helps because I never know when I will need to meditate or for how long.  Meditation is less scary and anxiety provoking than dissociation so my alters and I often try to meditate instead of dissociate during a flashback or panic attack.  And being able to meditate anywhere allows me more freedom to move around.

How does this connect to remembering?

Meditation allows me to step back and view memories as an observer (think amphitheater) alone or with my alters.  The meditative trance offers a safe space where the sensations and feelings are distant instead of acute.  And since meditation is controlled and focused, my breathing stays steady.  Steady breathing controls the nervous system and keeps my mind, body, spirit calm instead of stressed.

I can’t control when the memories come.  I can’t control how my body reacts if a flashback slides in and takes over everything.  I can do damage control and take steps to minimize the onset of a panic attack.  Or I can set alarms in place to alert me when I get triggered.  By “I” I mean everyone in the system.  Different alarms for different alters, etc.  It’s not perfect, but any little bit helps.

What about the moving on part?

Sometimes, a survivor can’t move on without remembering blocked memories.  They are important and necessary to provide a framework that allows the survivor to make informed choices in the present and future.  Problem is, many survivors with traumatic amnesia (myself included) don’t know they are missing vital information until they remember and can make the connections.

 

Recovering memories causes me to get physically ill and have panic attacks followed by painful body memories for days or weeks, sometimes months.  They come as flashbacks and nightmares over a period of time; bits and pieces from different alters and different times congregating in a part of the internal world reserved for memory puzzles.  The pieces stay there moving around, coming together, pulling apart, reforming themselves until something clicks and becomes a memory.

The Memory

Last week, I remembered while in the shower.  I was grumpy from cramps and PMS; the water and steam helped with relaxation.  My alters and I slid into a flashback without conscious realization.  Suddenly, it was a different bathroom in a different house with a different (younger) body.  And my alters were talking to me trying to bring me back to the present.  Their voices competed with the voices in the memory.

All I heard at first was muffled sound.  As usual, I was blind; coudln’t see anything.  My nose told me there were mold and stinky flowers somewhere close.  My body hurt.  I tasted chemicals in my mouth.  And the water was cold instead of hot.  My belly hurt.  Back hurt too.  Lower back and abdomen, not stomach area, hurt and moved funny.  Suddenly my alter’s past thoughts came back to me.  I cupped my hands around my abdomen and felt sadness.  That’s when I came back to the present.  That’s when I heard one of the adult alters talking to me; reassuring me that I was safe and that the memories my body shared were real.

Then other alters, young and old, confirmed the memories in their own way.  And I had to face a truth I didn’t want to think about days before my favorite holiday.  The memory scared me.  It upset me and turned my world view upside down.  And the memory explained so much about my reluctance to pursue the next part of recovery: intimate relationships.  My therapist, after we discussed the memory and what triggered it, told me that maybe I had to remember this before I could move on to the next big change: moving out of state.

Conclusion

In another post, I wrote about not wanting to have children without knowing exactly why.  I’ve also touched on other fears related to intimacy and sexuality.  Now, I know why.  An unexpected teenage pregnancy followed by a painful, non-surgical abortion.  None of which was my choice.  And that lack of choice, that fear of not having control over my body, keeps me celibate.  I never want to go through that kind of experience again.  And if I want to experience an intimate relationship, I have to figure out a way to cope with this fear.  So meditation, moving on, remembering all comes together in one fell swoop.  And now I have all of this to work through too because moving out of state opens up a lot of avenues for me.

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post about life changing moments.

Introduction

We started counseling/therapy/pscyhotherapy in 2004.  In the past 11 years, every one of us has gone through transformation and change.  We worked through our fear; took down the barriers separating us from the rest of the world; let outsiders see our inside self (the real us); all while coping with rages, fear, shame, guilt, anguish, pain, and grief that did not seem to have a source.  Baby steps.  Learn to trust ourselves.  Learn to trust each other.  Learn to trust outsiders.  Make mistakes.  Try again.  Keep on trying.  Do what is necessary to survive.  Accept that survival means acting and speaking in ways that are not aligned with our values.

Stop shaming ourselves like the others did for taking steps that felt right to our instincts, steps that went against our conditioning.  Steps that caused physical/emotional/psychological pain and obsessions/compulsion to cause harm as punishment for breaking the rules.  Learn how to cope with panic attacks and dissociation.  Learn emotion regulation and anger management so as not to harm innocents (including ourselves).

Present

Yesterday I posted a life changing moment just after it happened.  Today I am writing about the backlash.  Because as much as I hope that someday every survivor finds a way to move on from surviving to living to thriving and experience the confidence that comes from hard internal work, I also know that it is a dream.  Success comes to those who work hard; learn from mistakes; keep an open mind; cultivate empathy, resilience, compassion; and persist in moving towards healing will someday experience insides and outsides matching.

The inner changes will be reflected in outside personality and treatment of self/others.  A friend at work is presently going through such a transformation; it’s an honor and a pleasure to support him as he becomes the person he wants to be on the inside and the outside.  And much appreciated to have him as a supporter of my journey too.

As my current counselor says: what you put into your recovery is what you get out of it.

We got the courage to face our fears with joy and trust in our support system.  And backlash in the form of flashbacks reminding us that the woman we saw yesterday knew and did nothing to help before.  What used to be fuzzy sensations and fragmented memories are now full color, motion-picture style memory videos looping through our brain.  Awake or sleeping we cry at unexpected times, feel anger, anxiety, sadness, and shame.  The headache means some are suppressing the tears so as not to cry at work.  The tense muscles mean pain is on the way.  Body memories will appear if we don’t let go.

So what to do?

I am not sure.  We all will be trying different methods of self-care tonight.  Soothing, grounding, connecting with friends, getting perspective from others, a call to the hotline, making dinner, and remembering that every encounter has multiple perspectives.  Because even though walking away was the best thing I did, I still love my family.  And I know that a lot of them love me in their own way too.

Seeing my aunt hide from me was a shock.  I did not feel smug or proud that she hid from me.  I felt confused and conflicted.  It was never my intention to cause her pain or harm with my presence.  Nor was it the intention of my alters.  A mutual friend (of mine and the aunt’s) who did not attend the party (other commitments) helped me get perspective on this.  The friend also reminded me that the aunt loves me and might have been trying to respect my boundaries/not hurt me by hiding.  The aunt might also have been giving herself time to make a plan since she was not sure how to cope with the situation.

Conclusion

While not having contact with immediate family and anyone who knowingly participated in past experiences is absolute and unchanging, I am reluctant to shut out family who might be willing to change and meet me part way to create something new from the ashes of the past.  I will not ever let any of them hurt me like before.  And I won’t forget.  That is part of why I/we experience the backlash.  But I am in a place now where I am secure enough in myself and my ability to be safe that taking baby steps outside of my comfort zone are possible.

This is what we want and hope for our visitors and guests.  That some day each and every one of you will be able to live the lives you deserve.