Recovery: 2018 Reflections – family & life

What a year it’s been…

So many changes and discoveries. Reconnecting with family. Enjoying time with family.

Creating new paths. Learning different ways to live and thrive beyond survival. Opening up to the wonders of the universe.

Finding a spiritual path & a way to make dreams come true.

CATCHING UP…

Last Week with Family

Other than typical air travel issues, the visit went well. My family and I spent quality time together enjoying each other’s company, giving gifts, and eating great food. My dad and I got to spend some alone time together and with the rest of the family. My brother and sister-in-law are happy; we hugged and talked and laughed on Christmas.

As for time with mom, we carefully started rebuilding the bridge again. It got tense at times, but someone was always around to help smooth things over. In the end, we shared contact information; this way she can reach me if she feels like it.

My mom’s side and I didn’t get to meet after all. Between the flight delay and busy schedules, 4 days became 3 days full of other activities. In the end, we promised to see each other next time I travel back east.

My dad’s side of the family hosted Christmas this year. Seeing my younger cousins for the first time in a while was filled with anxiety on both sides. We weren’t sure how to interact at first, but things got easier with time. We ended up laughing and talking by the end of the visit – that felt great.

My aunts and uncle and I spent some quality time together too. We talked and caught up with life before giving gifts. Things got a little tense with one aunt, but that was expected. Her way of coping with fear is to push people away. Some time apart (and maybe conversations with others) helped both of us work it out for a pleasant rest of the visit.

Finally, I got to spend some quality time with my grandmother. She wasn’t doing well on Monday – my first day visiting – and spent a lot of ¬†time sleeping. On Christmas Day (Tuesday), she was awake and more present – enough to enjoy opening gifts, talk, and eat dinner with us.

We had a chance to talk in private. I told her how much I love her and that she doesn’t have to worry so much about me anymore. I’m healthy and happy and safe, so she can focus on taking care of herself and doing what she needs to do to feel healthy and pain-free.

Milestones, Changes & Goals

For the first time, maybe ever, I completed all of my goals for 2018. That felt good and acts as a symbol of the many positive changes that happened this year.

Of the many changes that occurred this year, the biggest ones have to do with the transition from survival mode to living to thriving. Here are 3 on my list:

  • Open up to others in the outside world – making friends & connections; going to workshops; participating in events & activities at work – because I feel safe on every level of being (spiritual, emotional/mental, physical)
  • Change my self-image in order to be assertive at work and act on my dreams – job changes, go back to school, continue writing this blog, work on my spiritual practice
  • Find closure with my past by embracing my shadows and connecting face-to-face with family again

As for milestones, my biggest one is letting go of the fear that held me back for so long by finding my faith again and choosing to live a life rooted in unconditional love and acceptance. For every individual, finding that faith in a higher power; believing she or he is deserving of unconditional love and acceptance; then opening up to receive those gifts is a unique and difficult journey.

The New Website & Aromatherapy

My other web site and blog is in progress, but on hold for right now. Other priorities got in the way of completing the pages and starting the new blog, so it’s empty and will be for another few months.

As for aromatherapy, I’m still taking the online classes in between work and life. It’s slow going, but lesson 1 of 7 is finally finished. The aromatherapy blends work well and smell great. I used them to help with some cold and sinus problems that affect me every fall/winter season. Lesson 2 is in progress.

Questions for Guests

What will/do you reflect on for 2018?

How do you feel about the milestones, changes, successes, or lessons learned?

What will you leave behind or take with you into 2019?

Final Thoughts

2018 was an incredibly positive year. Many unexpected successes and positive changes tempered by some losses, more than a few lessons learned, and much confusion. I’ve discovered a spiritual practice that suits my solitary nature and allows me to believe in God and other wise beings or deities without having to choose a specific religion. The openness of this spiritual practice helps me develop my other gifts instead of fearing them and teaches me how to listen to my intuition too.

Feelings still confuse me. Being in crowds still has a negative effect on my memory. I am not (nor will I ever be) 100% comfortable or relaxed outside of my home, but I can utilize coping strategies to get at least 80% comfortable or relaxed now. Most important, I feel safe interacting with other people even when triggered or feeling severely anxious.

Personally, I’m looking forward to many surprises and possibilities in 2019 ūüôā

I wish all of you a happy, healthy, prosperous 2019!

Thanks for reading

DID Posts: Seasonal memory loss started again…

I haven’t written a post about DID in a while. It’s so much a part of me and my chosen lifestyle that I forget how much of a struggle it was to get here sometimes.

Every year something unique happens in my life. It can start any time between the first day of school and Halloween.  It ends some time between March and May the next year. Average length of time is six months.

During this time period, my symptoms increase to an overwhelming level; my body memories activate and never stop or slow down; and all of my  typical patterns (sleep, exercise, eating/hydrating habits, work) change.

It starts with a feeling of sadness that permeates all parts of my consciousness. The sadness is followed by hyper-vigilance, paranoia, and lethargy. ¬†I stop sleeping. I dissociate more often. ¬†My hunger decreases, and I’m tired all the time. Everything feels like a challenge. ¬†Nothing brings joy. Staying at home feels safe.

Time slows down or speeds up without my realizing it. I feel like I am moving through a fog. Fear makes fun activities like cooking and going out too scary to contemplate. Lack of appetite = weight loss = more body memories and body-related symptoms.

Worst of all, I start forgetting every day things and not recognizing my surroundings.

How do I know this happens? Why can I describe it so well?

The awareness started after I got a real job that required me to remember routines and processes, so probably 2006/2007. Shortly after I walked away from my family, I experimented with self-training a service animal to help with the PTSD. While that story is for another post (maybe), the whole experience brought the lost time issue into present reality.

It started in August with meeting, hiring, and learning basic dog care and dog information from a professional dog trainer. By October, I had a puppy and was working with him and ¬†the trainer through a 4-level dog training program. One Saturday in February, I woke up and couldn’t remember any of the training exercises and activities we had been working on since October.

Luckily, I did remember having a dog and how to take care of him. Reflecting on that experience, though, showed me a similar pattern of remembering and forgetting that spanned decades. My counselor at the time was not surprised when I shared this with her in session. She explained to me that many people with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) have such experiences.

A full switch (my term, not  the professional one) between alter personalities means a full consciousness switch Рas in one personality leaves or goes dormant while the other takes over completely Рand whoever is in charge retains the memories of those experiences. Alter personalities in a non-integrated system often are not aware of each other and do not communicate or share memories if  they are aware of each other.

close up of pictures
Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

My counselor reassured me that the memories weren’t lost or stolen. Instead, they were stored someplace in my mind that the present me (or me in charge) couldn’t access. ¬†If and when I did need that information, it would become available. By this time, we had been working together for almost two years. She was familiar with my patterns of increased and decreased symptoms, triggers, etc. more than I was.

When my counselor realized how much  this bothered me, she offered to help me create a plan to minimize the negative effects of my seasonal memory loss. The first (and most effective to me) was focusing on Internal Family Systems therapy to foster communication within my alter personality system.

The coping strategies and techniques I have discussed in the past are all part of this plans so I’m not going to describe them again here.

Who is in charge? And what will I remember next May?

Back then, it was me or Pip or a combination of our four dominant personalities in charge unless something triggered one of the others into taking over. I ¬†didn’t know about my two simultaneous lives, so couldn’t factor that into the equation. But that mattered less because the memories still disappeared and often didn’t come back again for years.

These days, we all work together and are all “in charge”. ¬†Sounds weird, but that is the truth. Each personality or part of me has a specific set of tasks to do in order to keep our system running smoothly. We have others trained to perform multiple tasks or act as back up if someone isn’t feeling well or needs extra help, but all of us are needed if we want to be at our best.

So what will I remember? I honestly don’t know. And at this point in my life, I am not sure if I would want to know. One of the best lessons therapy taught me was that I don’t have to remember everything that happened. And I will remember what I do need to remember at the exact time that information is required to help us:

  • achieve a goal
  • maintain safety
  • not make the same mistake again
  • something else I can’t describe with words

Conclusion

While memory loss is scary and often feels uncomfortable, I can now accept it as another part of my life. Sure, I miss being able to remember everything and sometimes mourn the loss of those memories. But at the same time, I trust all parts of me to find and share memories, skills, and experiences as we want or need them to thrive in our present life.

Thanks for reading

RECOVERY: Reflections & A New Phase in My Recovery

The One Month Break

Taking a month off was healing in some ways and enlightening in others.  Not posting allowed me to focus on self care and moving to a better living situation.  I spent more time packing, planning, focused on work, resting when I could, apartment hunting, and eventually moving too.

NEW APARTMENT YAY!

My living situation is much improved.  I love the new apartment and am getting used to living in/near a college again.  As much as I love old buildings with their creaky noises, eccentric quirks, and character, the new space is a challenge for unpacking and settling in.  Beyond that, the building is run by an excellent (so far) management team that really cares about its tenants.  And I finally have a bath tub!

And now there’s space for me to set up a craft/learning space – knitting, sewing, aromatherapy, etc. – in my living room while the other room is reserved for work & sleeping. ¬†Plus there’s the challenge of unpacking and decorating to make this space home. ¬†But at least no one will be criticizing me for it or accusing me of hoarding because of my slow methods.

Unpacking and decorating has also inspired me to start using Pinterest again. ¬†I’ve added some new boards and new pins to existing boards if you’re interested. ¬†You can find links to Pinterest on the Resources page.

BYE BYE TOXIC LIVING SITUATION

The toxic living situation kept taking up more and more of my mental space as the upstairs neighbor escalated.  At some point, I stopped sleeping and started meditating/resting instead.  Cooking saved me from bursts of anger.  Packing did too.

But my survival instincts and automatic defenses were roused. ¬†Some of them, I’ve talked about in the past. ¬†Others I haven’t, not yet, because those memories were hidden or caused too much pain when triggered. ¬†But now, those instincts are close to the surface. ¬†And with them, come the memories too.

Instead of having to cope with a lot of emotional/mental triggers, I’m working through physical and environmental triggers that make me want to protect myself with violence.

If my past experiences taught me one thing really well, it was that anyone who ¬†tried to make physical contact or get close to me was attacking me. ¬†And I had to protect myself in any and every way possible. ¬†When running didn’t work, fighting back did. ¬†Doesn’t matter how much pain I feel or what condition my body/health is in.

If these instincts are triggered or I am put in a position of having to defend/protect myself, I fight to survive at any cost. ¬†With that knowledge in my mind, I’ve spent a lot of time alone or around “safe” people for limited time periods lately. ¬†Without a mechanism to make me stop and pause, it’s not safe for me to be around other people like this.

Luckily, my body and other alters have some awareness of when these instincts are triggered.  They give the rest of us advance notice so that we can plan to say inside instead of going out.

Questioning My Ability to Share Useful Resources

The time away also provided time to reflect on my current mental space and ability to share useful resources here.

While telling parts of my history here is part of what makes this blog authentic, it’s not the main reason I started sharing here. ¬†Lately, I’ve struggled to come up with new ideas and posts, useful information and resources that might be helpful or useful to others beginning their journey or struggling at a complex/difficult place in recovery. ¬†People who are learning how to live and cope after surviving or getting out of toxic situations that made them question everything and not trust anything at first glance.

What I’m learning now, the resources opening up to me, are coming from a different place now. ¬† It’s a different phase of recovery, a scary (to me) one where my past coping strategies are useful, but not as helpful as before because the challenges are different. ¬†I”m sharing my authentic self with the world. ¬†And I’m finally able to accept all parts of myself – violent/nonviolent, male/female, victim/survivor/individual – with compassion and love.

Instead of surviving or putting my toe in the shallow pool of living, I’m wading into the deeper waters where my feet don’t always touch the ground. ¬†I’m living and thriving and using my flashbacks/triggers as reminders or guides to help me learn from past mistakes to make better choices now. ¬†I’m being vulnerable and moving forward with personal, professional, and academic goals. ¬†Sometimes even achieving them.

But how relevant is that to my guests?

How will reading books about personal finance or minimalism, or personal style, or training in skills help them cope with the internal and external struggles that come with trauma and recovery?

How will going to lectures, taking classes, challenging oneself to meet new people, or learning about resilience/vulnerability and shame via many channels give my  guests the hope and courage or inspiration to keep on going?

I’m not asking for answers or reassurance that this resource website and blog is useful. ¬†If anyone wants to comment, you are welcome to do so. ¬†Feedback is always welcome.

Conclusion

If the last 5 months have taught me anything, it’s that life will always be full of challenges and triggers. ¬†How we react and act to meet those challenges defines how interesting, fun, boring, miserable, joyful, or blah our life becomes as time passes. ¬†And sometimes life throws one a curve because it knows that individual has what it takes to succeed this time around.

But people also grow and change in unexpected ways.  Their lives, thought processes, goals, and beliefs change too.  People sometimes move on or move in a different direction as experience and perspective open up different paths.

Whatever happens, if I stop posting or adding new articles, this site will stay up and available to anyone searching for help.  The Resource page and Home Page will be updated to reflect this.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Recovery: Writer’s Block, Frustration, Cycles end & begin

Yes, I have writer’s block right now. ¬†Plenty of ideas, but nothing much that forms into words.

Recovery ends and begins in cycles as symptoms change with life.  My life is in flux right now.  People entering; people leaving.  Family gets more complicated instead of less complicated.

My child and adolescent alters facing their fears.  Learning to self-soothe and rehabilitate my body for less pain and more freedom.

But now I question what resources this blog offers guests.  I question whether or not my posts help others or give them nightmares.

And frustration overwhelms me sometimes.  Keeping in touch with some family feels good.  But keeping in touch with others brings on more stress.  The ropes of obligation are trying to wind themselves around me again.

This isn’t my last post. ¬†I have at least 2 more drafted and waiting for editing. ¬†But after that, I have some serious thinking to do about what direction this website and blog will take for next year.

Thanks for reading.

Shame: A letter to my shame

In past posts, I’ve talked about how journaling triggers anger and other negative feelings inside me instead of helping me cope.

Journaling also felt scary and overwhelming because it brought out thoughts, feelings, memories, and sensations I wasn’t ready to acknowledge or accept about myself. ¬†Stuff that made me feel like a monster or an alien or out of place in this world because my sensory perception and intuition are different from “normal” or “average” people.

I didn’t want to put those words on paper. ¬†Not again. ¬†Because putting words on paper makes them real. ¬†And gives others a glimpse into my private world. ¬†Or an excuse to manipulate/abuse/control/shame/hurt me.

But something happened in the last few weeks. ¬†Something inside me has shifted. ¬†Maybe it’s living in a more open and accepting city. ¬†Maybe it’s the next cycle in my recovery. ¬†Or maybe I am finally ready to accept the parts of me that attracted the monsters back then.

Either way, I started journaling again.  And collecting crystals.  And inviting plants into my home as roommates.  The crystals help me feel safe and protected.  The plants bring joy and clean energy into my apartment.  The journaling helps me gain closure with the monsters in my past without having to confront them physically or over the phone.

So, here is the letter I wrote to my shame. ¬†Maybe it will inspire you to accept that whatever trauma happened to you wasn’t your fault either.

Dear Shame,

You think you are still ingrained in me.  But you are not.  That shivery, shaking feeling you experience is the moors connecting us falling apart.  You go home.  To the ones who created you.  To the ones you belong to.

Not me.  Not us.

Them.  The monsters.

As such, you are also a monster.

Monster #23 ->beyond (past, present, future)

When your cause is just, your purpose to educate and inform, you are welcome, valued, respected and accepted by all of us.  Otherwise, shame, please go home and leave us alone.

Thanks for reading