Archives for category: Shame

Introduction

My child parts are asking questions about their past memories – thoughts, feelings, experiences.  They are sharing information through images, feelings, sounds, smells, & tastes and then asking the rest of us for help. (reality testing, perspective, validation, compassion, support coping strategies)

I’m lucky to work remotely right now.  This gives us the opportunity share inner thoughts and support each other even at work.  My child parts feel safe and connected at all times, so sharing with us is not a distraction from “acting normal” and “staying safe” outside of home.  There is no shame or guilt or fear that comes from caring about the rest of the system and not wanting to be a distraction.

Past

Before, this couldn’t happen because our life was very compartmentalized.  Only work at work.  Focus on getting home safely before and after work.  Then only a few hours at home to decompress, do self-care, rest, sleep, and cope with triggers.  Our living situation and general environment wasn’t always safe or didn’t feel safe because of past experiences and present issues with unsafe people.

Present

As we remember, the experiences get processed.  The child parts feel safer and more comfortable with themselves and the rest of the system.  The shame from sharing information, exposing secrets, asking for help, and letting go of the past changes into self-compassion, acceptance, respect, and improved communication skills.  The guilt goes away as each part of me learns to accept the truth: it wasn’t his/her/its fault; none are responsible.

Conclusion

These changes to inner self-talk / self-thoughts are reflected in how I view and interact with the rest of the world.  In being able to communicate with myself better, I also learn how to communicate with others in the outside world.  I can be more objective and learn from my mistakes easier.  My alters can access these thoughts and use the experiences to help them do the same with their memories and experiences.

Then they share what they’ve learned with me.  We all benefit by feeling more at ease with ourselves and each other; feeling safe on the inside and outside; reflecting a new sense of self and confidence in social situations; and being less reactive to many exterior triggers.

There is still a lot to work on, but this is a good start.

Thanks for reading

 

Not much to write at this time.  My head aches too much.  But I do recognize a connection between Oriental medicine treatment helping my body feel better and increased feelings of shame or distress in the form of scalp/forehead pain.

Almost like an invisible force is punishing me for remembering, feeling, letting those trapped body memories free.  And since I’m experiencing less fear/guilt/distress over body pain (i.e. I can cope and work through it more and more), the force is going back to basics and using something that scares all of us in the system to make us stop.

That something is head/neck pain.  Triggers all kinds of negative feelings and thoughts.  Triggers flashbacks.  Causes distractions and mistakes.  And makes all of us just want to lie down and sleep OR take a pain pill and sleep.

So work is finished for today.  I ate food.  Had something to drink.  Used the restroom.

Time for sleep or at least some better rest than the last few nights.

Thanks for reading.

Sometimes life throws a curve ball.  Plans change.  Priorities change.

I thought my Chinese medicine treatments were over for the semester (winter break) and didn’t plan on one over the weekend.  Instead, the goal was knitting on Saturday and sewing on Sunday with some cooking and relaxing thrown in.  My friend’s scarf has been delayed long enough.  And I need to show some progress for the lessons I paid for.

But I had a treatment on Saturday.  I use treatment because each one is more than acupuncture; the needling is only one aspect of practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Along with the acupuncture, my practitioner used cupping and massage to help with the memories and muscle tension along my spine.  She warned me that the intensity of this  treatment (our goals were less anxiety and helping with cold symptoms) might cause some discomfort for a day or two as my body continued to heal.

This has happened before, so I wasn’t worried.  What I forgot to take into account was the over time and lack of sleep from the week before along with lots of memories.  So instead of sewing and cleaning house, I slept most of the day.  Was awake for maybe 8 hours total throughout the day.

And so, here I am writing my post a day late and feeling like a bad person for not meeting my self-imposed deadline.  And while I know I’m not a bad person, I still feel bad about not posting a late message.  On the other hand, I recognize that I am not perfect.  I do make mistakes.  And sometimes life gets in the way and there’s nothing to be done about that.

I needed to sleep.  My alters needed to regroup.  Our body needed to rest and feel safe.  Yesterday was a lesson.  Self-compassion. Self-care.  Listen to those inner voices.  Some do care.

Because the weekend got me thinking about anxiety, here’s a quote from the Dalai Lama.  I hope it helps you as much as it helps me.

dalai-lama-quote

Thanks for reading xo

Introduction

This time of year I think about (read obsess over) my body and its “flaws” as told to me by others.  My body is in pain – joints, muscle, skin, sinuses, bone, etc. – and prevents me from enjoying the fresh air that comes with warmer weather.  March and April are months when people first noticed my body start changing with puberty 20 plus years ago.  It is when the body shaming started.  And the body violence increased.

Between 7-15, the perpetrators who liked to use me sexually started being physically violent too.  The violence got worse as my body matured and clients needed to find other ways to “get it up” or “get in the mood” depending on gender.  With the sex and violence came shaming phrases: you want (fill in) because of the way you look; you’re asking for (fill in) with your body language and clothes; I wouldn’t have to (fill in) if you looked like you did before (child body); you are a slut; if you stopped fighting, I wouldn’t have to hurt you so bad…

Epithets like: thunder thighs, big butt, fat belly, flat as a board, big boobs/small boobs, bad skin/nails, hairy legs, vain child, arrogant, self-centered and so on dogged me as I tried to understand the changes happening inside me.  Comparisons to my female cousins made me feel small and worthless and nerdy – invisible and shamed for taking attention away from them – when compared to their popularity and style and social skills.

Being told I was dumber, uglier, quieter, and less adept at anything than my parents and brother with words and actions by everyone reinforced my body and self shame.  In every possible way, I was taught that my body was inferior, unhealthy, ugly, worthless, and not mine.  Basically, I should be dead.  I don’t deserve a healthy, slim body with womanly curves when the rest of my more worthy female relatives are less blessed in those areas.

The Meat of It

I spent high school and college avoiding relationships as often as possible and hiding my body with clothes that did not flatter or suit me.  I spent time around people who hated and made fun of me under the guise of being friends.  I wore hand-me downs and clothes that were decades out of fashion (given to me by my aunts and mother).  Any clothes I bought for myself had to be approved by my parents – I couldn’t shop alone for fear of what I might by.  Grooming wasn’t allowed; not the way most teenagers are allowed to experiment and spend hours in the bathroom or alone in the bedroom trying out makeup and hygiene products.

And I was always on a diet.  Because my parents thought I was fat.  I wasn’t fat – in fact I was dangerously underweight at less than  or equal 90 lbs. for most of high school – but I had curves that both my parents hated and wanted to not see.  Basically, they tried to stop me from going through puberty.  It didn’t work though.  I eventually made 100 lbs and stayed close to that the last two years of college unless I was in a downward spiral.  In college, I gained the freshman 15.  That summer, I dropped down to less than 90 lbs. again.

Senior year in college, many concerned people (none who were friends, just good people who cared enough to help out troubled peers) stepped in and convinced me I needed help.  Free counseling got me through graduation, but didn’t prevent the weight loss or attempted suicide.  Professional counseling after graduation started me on the path to be kinder to myself by getting healthy and rebuilding my sense of self to start.

Conclusion

Being skinny and weak kept me safe.  Being strong and healthy made me a target.  Looking like a woman made me less valuable to the cult (only wanted and paid for child-like bodies) and worthless to my parents.  My father hated my body and made me cover up all the time.  My mother was jealous of my body and liked to criticize my body for her own amusement.  She also liked to hurt me under the guise of “checking for wounds” or “helping me clean hard to reach areas”.

My only thoughts from that time until about 12 years ago were to hurt, punish, hide, destroy my body and feminine parts.

Then I decided that I wanted to stop feeling ashamed of my body.  And I wanted to be healthy.  Every time I tried to do something positive, family stepped in with the shaming.  Then the voices in my head triggered shaming thoughts and compulsions driven by an obsession to look a certain way or not look a certain way.  In all honesty, I thought I was 170 lbs with rolls of fat hanging down everywhere and that I had secretly had breast augmentation surgery because how else could I have large breasts when everyone else had small ones unless they were overweight/obese?

And even some overweight family members (mother included) still didn’t have large breasts to go with the extra weight.  And that was extra shame.  Because I never, ever wanted to have that kind of surgery.  An overtly feminine body would get me unwanted attention and keep me from being invisible.  But every year, I’d be obsessed with thoughts of breast implants, butt implants, feminine curves, padding, etc. and compelled to find information about it.  And I’d look down at my body or in a mirror and see rolls of fat, jiggly body parts, and stretch marks.  Then I’d feel shame and hate.

Until one of my early therapists started questioning me about my thoughts and compulsions.  Together we reality tested each of my beliefs.  Not really assumptions because these were my “set in stone truths” as taught by life.  Little by little, she forced me to look at each body part and decide how much “fat” really existed.

Then came nutrition therapy and the concept of loving kindness towards myself.

And every time I heard a “body shaming” thought, I had to stop and rephrase that thought to something “body neutral”.  Then rephrase the thought to “body positive” after a time.

And every time I felt the urge to hurt my body, I taught myself  to stop and understand where the compulsion came from.  Then remind myself that I like/love my body and don’t want to hurt it.  Hurting my body hurts me too.

Eventually, I started reminding myself that it’s ok to make mistakes and relapse sometimes.  That’s my mind telling me some part is in trouble; time to step back and think before moving on.

These days, being kind to myself means the following:

  • Stop criticizing myself when I experience backlash and shame for using “last resort coping strategies”
  • Remind myself that I am doing the best that I can; it’s ok to give in to the compulsions and obsessions sometimes
  • To feel gratitude that I am coping with the shame and making positive changes to my body image
  • To remind myself of the positive steps I am taking to be body positive – and how much fun it is
  • Making sure I take care of myself no matter how crazy work gets or how depressed I feel when the pain and memories overwhelm me.
  • And to not feel bad when I have to post before or after Wednesday and Sunday because of work and personal deadlines.

Thanks for reading.

Introduction

I’ve been in therapy for 11 years.  The first 3 years, I worked with a psychologist who helped me rebuild my foundations, but also made me feel like I was crazy because she did not believe in trauma and abuse.  We parted ways after I realized a) she wasn’t helping anymore; and b) trying to fit sessions in between grad school and work was impossible.

The next 4 years were spent with an LICSW who specialized in eating disorders and anxiety.  She flat out told me that she did not work with trauma and was willing to help with the other stuff if I was ok with that.  I agreed, and we had a great relationship until the trauma got worse in 2009.  From her, I learned the tools to manage emotions and triggers that caused relapses in anorexia.  She also helped me learn to improve my self-confidence and feelings of self worth in spite of the pressure from outside sources to go back to what I was.

The past 5 years have been about understanding and learning to cope with my trauma history.  That meant remembering, coping with anxiety and overwhelming feelings, working through shame, setting boundaries, and ensuring my safety.  It mean accepting that PTSD and DID were part of my identity now.  It meant acknowledging I was a victim of domestic violence and other abuse.  It meant acknowledging I was a survivor who did what was necessary to get through hell.  It also meant making the choice to be me with all of my weirdness and quirky characteristics and alternate personalities or be part of a family system that hurt and abused me.

The Event

When I decided to separate from my family and disappear, I didn’t know it would lead me to where I am now.  The first two years were all about making sure they couldn’t contact me (phone, email, work, home).  The third year was about trying to feel safe where I lived in spite of people from my past continuing to stalk and harass me.  That is when I started the process to change my name and move out of the city.  This past year has been about not hiding anymore.

Part of the not hiding goal was to develop a personal style so that my outside (physical appearance) self matched my inside self.  I wanted to show myself in my appearance; be me and have that reflected in my clothing choices, accessories, etc.  Because wearing clothes that fit and feel comfortable are stepping stones to rebuilding confidence in self image and appearance – two parts of myself that were taken away a long time ago through hate and shame.

My genetic history blessed me with looking physically beautiful and having an attractive body.  Not hiding anymore meant I’d be getting a lot of unwanted and triggering attention.  But hiding wasn’t an option anymore.  Wearing ugly clothes and playing down my physical appearance made me feel awful.  The journey to finding my style started in April of this year with a personal style program and is ongoing.

The not-hiding part was completed last week when I attended the company holiday party in a stylish and comfortable outfit that brought out my inner confidence and personality.

Post-Event Backlash

And I know I had a good time, that all of this was real, because of backlash the next day.  Started with a dreamless sleep that left me waking up in terror.  Continued with a moderate headache and lots of distraction at work.  Culminated with knots and lumps inside no matter what coping strategies I and the alters employed on the way home.

Once we got home, the urge to self-harm came back.  And nothing we tried could make the compulsion ease or go away.  The flashbacks, the memories, the shame knocked us out.  Talking to a counselor on the hotline helped a lot.  We walked through the feelings to understand where the trigger came from.  Then she helped me create a safety contract.

Coping

We were expecting backlash.  We were not expecting the compulsions for self-harm or the flashbacks.  It didn’t happen at the previous holiday party.  Why would it happen this time?  And how come everything we tried was necessary but not sufficient?

The list of coping strategies for this backlash goes as follows:

  • Distraction – books, music, work, Facebook style groups, chatting with co-workers and friends, cooking, playing games, making budget and shopping strategies for next year
  • Self-Care – doing one of the style challenges for the day; remembering to eat all of my meals and drink fluids; putting on chapstick; taking walks; laughing with a friend; downloading books; wearing comfortable shoes; going in to work later and staying later to make up time
  • Self-Soothing – eating chocolate; drinking juice and bubbly water; enjoying flavors that remind me of happy times; wearing clothes that felt good against my skin; staying warm and dry; getting enough rest; going to safe spaces in our mind
  • Emotion regulation – sitting with my feelings; acknowledging the turmoil inside and letting it pass; listening to my alters share stories and movies; laughing with them as we used lucid dreaming to change scary nightmares into successful adventures; identifying and naming our feelings; doing the opposite of how we feel to change our thoughts
  • Comfort – cuddling with stuffed animals; playing dress up; wrapping up tight in a blanket; listening to nature sounds; keeping in touch with close friends
  • Asking for help – when all else fails, reaching out for extra support from people who understand trauma and are willing to offer help

Lesson Learned

Not hiding feels great.  But the reasons for hiding still exist.  The shame and fear that caused us to hide hasn’t gone away.  And now the memories are back with clarity that comes from hindsight.  That means more change, more unsettled feelings, and more coping challenges.  Someday, though, this will get easier.

That belief, the hope that coping will get easier as I move on, keeps all of us going.

 

Connecting it all

For me and the alters in our system, matching my insides and outsides means developing, strengthening, and expressing who I really am from the inner foundations to the outer physical representations the rest of the world uses to judge people.

I did not start to heal from past hurts until I was able to figure out who I was and what I valued.  The answers to those two questions became the foundation for who I am now.  Without them, I would not have had the courage to accept my alters; let alone leave my family and start fresh in another city.

Lies by themselves are neutral.  I truly believe that because words without context and emotions lack coherent meaning.  Even neutral though, lies can cause more damage than help.  Deception means hiding, causing misdirection on purpose and indicates a lack of trust in some part of the relationship.

“I don’t want to hurt his/her/your feelings” means I don’t trust you / me to respect or accept my honest feelings and opinions about the topic; answers to the question.  Or I am afraid you are going to be insulted  and mean to me if I am honest so I will tell you what you want to hear.  Or I don’t really care about you and am going to tell you something to hurt you and make me feel better because I pulled one over you.  Or I can’t let you feel good about anything because your happiness is a threat to me; you are competition and have to be put down so I feel powerful and stay in control of you.  You are not allowed to have confidence and your own opinions because I own you and am in control of you; you are not a person.  You are everything I hate about myself in another body.

That is how I was raised.  That is the story of my childhood, adolsecent, and young adult experiences with everyone in my world at the time.  It is how I believed everyone interacted with everyone else until I got to college.

And acting like that; telling those lies; being who I was expected to be instead of who I was made me ashamed of myself.  The self-hatred and anger were so strong that I started punishing myself in elementary school.  By middle school, I had full-blown anorexia nervous and had attempted suicide twice.  Once by starvation.  Once by suffocation.The last time I attempted suicide and almost succeeded was in college, just after I turned 21 and before I started sessions with the first therapist.

She helped me learn to like and respect myself by finding ways to allow me the freedom to live my values.  I stopped lying on purpose that year.  The only exception being for survival.  Even though I hated myself for lying to survive and punished myself afterwards, I still lied to stay alive.  

Eleven years later, I can honestly say that I love myself and all of my parts.  And I don’t punish myself for lying to survive as often.  Some day that will become “do not punish anymore”

Coping is difficult when the negativity and doubts being you down.  

Recovery feels impossible as long as you feel like you don’t deserve it.

But you do deserve recovery.  So do I.  So does every survivor of any kind of trauma. 

This is my idea of recovery:

To live a full life on my terms.  No one else’s.  To thrive and not let my past make present and future decisions for me.

That dream is what I want for all survivors too.  So I share my personal struggles with wanting to be a genuine person 100% of the time with every individual and still protect myself.

What about you?

Some of my favorite affirmations come from Louise Hay.

This one is a particular favorite because it helps me remember one of my most important values: accepting responsibility for myself while letting others be responsible for themselves

Forgiveness doesn’t come easily to me.  Neither does trust.  Instead, I have learned to practice Tara Brach’s concept of Radical Acceptance.

This has allowed me to separate words and actions from individuals.  I can forgive individuals because humans are fallible, make mistakes, and have the freedom of choice granted by virtue of life.

It has also allowed me to hold the people who hurt me responsible for their actions while also releasing the pain and hurt of the past.  Instead of accepting responsibility for events and experiences beyond my control, I accept that my parents and the others who hurt me chose to act that way and are responsible for their words and actions.

I am only responsible for my reactions and my choices in how I reacted.  I forgive myself for what I had to do to survive and do not regret those words, actions, and reactions anymore.  Those experiences are life lessons and reminders of how I used to be and how I choose to act differently now when similar situations appear in my life.

If I had a choice to go back in time, I would not do anything different.  Because changing one part of the past results in me being someplace different now.

I love my family.  I respect them as humans and individuals.  I hate their actions and words towards me, towards, themselves, towards each other, and towards others.  I feel compassion for them and wish they did not hate themselves so much that they choose to hurt others in order to feel better.

And some day, all of my parts will come to a place where this is true.  Until then, we struggle with nightmares, fear, anger, resentment, hurt, shame, guilt, and stress from the burden of our memories.  Because even when on her medication, my mom chose to hurt and manipulate everyone around her.  We were allies/competition or enemies to be destroyed.

Anyone who tried to help her, tried to get her to see a psychiatrist or counselor for medication adjustments or assistance got yelled at, talked about behind their back, silent treatment, missing or destroyed items, and a flood of tears.  Because trying to help her meant trying to hurt her and punish her.

So eventually, I stopped taking responsibility for my mom’s actions.  I stopped taking care of her.  And when I did, the entire family turned on me.  I don’t hate them for it.  Not anymore.  Some of my parts do.  Because the shaming, the accusations, the shunning hurt.  I was trying to do the right thing.  To be my own person and help my mother.  I stopped taking responsibility for my father’s frustration with her too.  And my brother’s embarrassment and anger at her actions and reactions, her scenes and her problems.

I did not make them that way.  I am not responsible for them.  I am not meant to live my life under their control.  My role in life is not to be an extension of any of them, invisible, taking care of their needs and bearing responsibility for their problems.

This affirmation means a lot to me.  I created my own versions to keep in my mind and heart when the anger boils over:

I accept myself and all that I am.

  • My past, my present, my future are mine to choose and be responsible for.
  • I love my family.  I am not responsible for them or their choices.
  • I accept that I am changing for the better, learning to live and be my authentic self.
  • I accept my family for who they are and the choices they make.
  • I loved them then. I love them now.  I will love them no matter what happens.

Thank you Ms. Hay for your inspiration and thoughtful sharing of affirmations.

Who am I?

I am a survivor of long term domestic violence and various forms of abuse at the hands of family, friends and others from childhood to young adulthood.  Ten years ago, I started the recovery process.  Two and a half years ago, I finally separated from my abusers and am safe.  Now my focus is on life after recovery because, while recovery is a process I am still going through, my focus is more on living and thriving than merely surviving.

What is recovery, and what does it mean?

On this blog, recovery means reclaiming one’s life after experiencing trauma or traumatic events that impact and alter one’s life in negative ways.  For me specifically, this means domestic violence and abuse that caused complex posttraumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder.

What does life after recovery mean?

Life after recovery is that special place where a survivor can focus on putting her life back together, focus on living and thriving instead of surviving.  It means making friends, going back to school, building relationships, achieving goals, travel, dream jobs, financial security, having fun, or whatever your definition of living is to you.

So why this blog now?

Part of my recovery coping strategies and one of my values is being able to help others.  This blog is a safe place for me to write about and share my knowledge and experience with recovery and finding resources with others looking for help, and the website allows me to offer a safe place to find other kinds of resources (i.e. books, website links, hotline phone numbers, resource centers) for help, recovery, coping, and survival.  These resources come from my personal library or are recommended to me by trusted medical professionals.

The Reader’s Digest Version:

Welcome to the blog and website.  It offers a safe place for trauma survivors looking for help and resources related to recovery and life after recovery.  I am a survivor, not a medical professional, so these resources are options to be used in conjunction with professional help, not medical advice and therapy.  In the blog, I share my personal experiences with recovery and life after recovery from complex posttraumatic stress disorder, dissociative identity disorder and related topics.  Some might help, some might not.  Please use what you can and disregard the rest.