Back to Basics: Sleep heals many wounds

An odd thing happened earlier this week.

I was late meeting the Uber and ended up in the wrong car.  My lateness triggered a panic attack that increased when I realized I was in the wrong car.  The driver couldn’t wait to get me out even though he was polite and courteous.  The panic attack led me to being late for my acupuncture appointment.

Lucky for me, my practitioner and the people in reception knew me well and helped calm the attack.  Our treatment focused on easing the anxiety through grounding and balancing my chi.  We didn’t have time for the bodywork and massage, but I left feeling calmer and more clearheaded.  This time, I got the right Uber and home on time.

One thing I always have to remember is that these treatments take a lot out of my body.  In stimulating my chi and forcing stagnant blockages to move, the acupuncture and bodywork promote internal healing of my organs too.  That means more sleep, more liquids, more food and more movement are needed to replenish what’s being used.  Sometimes meditation can be substituted for sleep.  Sometimes not.

But this week especially, I realized something was different.  When I lay down at night, my body buzzed on the inside from toes to head.  I wasn’t shaking or trembling.  My external self (skin, arms, legs, torso, head, neck, toes, fingers) wasn’t moving.  But I was trembling on the inside.  I could feel my blood circulating, my chi moving along the veins and through muscle.

It scared me.  And it made calming into a sleep state feel wrong.  But I was so tired.  Reading books didn’t help.  My eyes and head were tired.  Music was too stimulating.  Audio books came to my rescue.  I listened to them as I fell asleep.  Thank technology for wireless headphones.

Audio books also drowned out the trauma memory voices telling me to hurt and punish myself.  They distracted my alters and my body from reliving those experiences through backlash and shame until all of us were ready to cope with the new set of memories unleashed by the slow balancing of my chi.

I mentioned a lot of needles on my abdomen; needles also went into my legs, neck, and head to help clear stagnant chi from my mind, spirit and digestive system.  By forcing those blocked up places to move and clear out, the pain in my back and along my spine eased too.  And the swelling/water retention around my abdominal/lower back areas lessened too.  Nausea faded.  And other issues related to that improved.

As my body heals, the memories held there reveal themselves in fragments.  The fragments travel to my subconscious self and appear in dreams.  Dreams come in sleep and in meditation.  Alters switch during the sleep state, but not waking anyone up unless absolutely necessary.  I’m lucky they feel secure and safe enough here to wake up get things (like showering, getting a drink, etc.) done and then go back to sleep without disturbing anyone else.

It’s too bad that all the switching and dreaming makes for less than restful sleep.  Instead, whoever is involved spends the time processing, categorizing, and storing the fragments in bubbles until the rest appear.  The focus seems to be on what happened between ages 10 and 17; relationships, ownership, possession, secret friendships, survival, feelings vs. numbness, and loss.

So I spent most of my time not working in a state of rest.  Either sleeping or eating or doing something relaxing/meditative while drinking as much fluids and massaging my abdomen and back as much as possible to stimulate movement.  Last weekend’s panic attack taught me (and everyone else too) that massaging the abdominal area, sides, and lower back promotes movement, detoxifying, cleansing, and ease of pain.

I’m not sure what is in my future.  I’m not sure if I will ever rebuild relationships with family and people from my past into something meaningful.  I’m not sure (even if my new counselor is) whether or not my body will catch up to my mind in terms of recovery/healing health.

But I’m going to stay open to the possibilities.

I am going to stay positive.

I am going to do everything I can to promote wellness and integration for my mind/body/spirit.

How do you promote a slow detoxification of memories and illness from your self?

Thanks for reading

Coping Challenge: Agoraphobia

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.

Description

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.

 

Body Memories: Reflecting on Coping techniques for pain management

Body Memories

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

Coping Techniques – a short analysis

 

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

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

Expenses and Scheduling

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

For example:

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

Recovery: From Survival Mode to Long-Term Care Mode

Survival Mode

Since moving out-of-state, my alters and I have moved out of survival mode.  Most of the every day triggers are gone.  All of us feel emotionally and physically safe here.  We are integrating with each other to create an “I” on the inside and integrating with our new community on the outside.

The coping challenges are different.  The strategies that help are not quite the same either.  We all have more down time between panic attacks and other escalating symptoms now.  No one is worried about maintaining calm and sanity every moment of every day.

None of us feel crazy or insane or bad anymore.  We go for days without major dissociation and lost time.  We can focus better and be slightly more active.  We can cook and do some basic housekeeping with better self-care too.

Present Care Mode

Problem-solving and working on issues that cause problems every day:

  • physical pain from body memories
  • internal body injuries related to spine and muscles
  • digestion problems
  • dental care and rehabilitation
  • lack of energy
  • mild agoraphobia
  • hygiene

These issues focus on different kinds of strategies and self-care that have not yet been explored on this blog.

The other issues and mental coping strategies will not be ignored or abandoned.

If at any time someone wants me to re-visit a mental coping strategy or some other issue, please let me know in the comments.

But there will be more focus on strategies and techniques for physical coping and related issues as our recovery moves to different phases.

Some of the issues being discussed this year include:

  • Pain management without medicine
  • Chiropractic medicine
  • Massage therapy
  • Financial planning and strategies for repayment
  • Dental-related coping strategies
  • Working to find providers with and without insurance
  • Oral hygiene in spite of panic attack level triggers
  • And planning a timeline for all of this to happen before I go back to graduate school

Conclusion

I am grateful for my job, my co-workers and colleagues, my early lessons in financial planning and debt repayment, and medical/dental insurance.  I am grateful for a support network of mental health and physical health providers that will expand this year.  And I am grateful for you guests who visit this website and blog.

You are part of a different kind of support network and community that I never thought I could be part of.

And while many of you might wonder how advanced planning and being financially savvy are coping techniques for physical and body related issues, I do know how important knowledge in both areas are from personal experience.  Maybe these tips and experiences will help.  Maybe not.

All I ask is that you read with an open mind.  Use what helps, and ignore the rest.

Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments

At least three times every year, I think about what life would be like if I got a companion, a pet cat or dog.  And each time, I get flashbacks to all of my “failures” in trying to care for myself and a pet.  Money is a big factor.  Nutrition, grooming, and physical activity are also factors.  I’ve convinced myself that I can’t successfully adopt a pet because of my limitations in being able to do basic cleaning, exercise, and home care for myself let alone another living being dependent on my being able to clean a litter box, clean up messes, prepare food, play with, leave alone for self-play, take on walks, and so on.

But the truth is I am scared.  As much as I want to have a companion, I am afraid I won’t be able to properly care for him or her.  Then the companion will die/disappear/get sick or injured because of my inadequacy and inferiority.  I won’t be able to keep my companion safe or trust my companion in my space unsupervised or discipline said companion without causing harm or getting physically hurt by the animal.  I don’t trust myself or the lessons I’ve learned about being a caretaker to do this alone.

And who would be willing to guide and teach me and be patient with the questions I have the fears that manifest when I have someone or something new in my environment that is out of my control?  And who can help both of us learn to trust the other when the dogs and cats can sense when I switch personalities.  And the switch scares most dogs and cats I come into contact with.  Personal experience talking there.

These thoughts and fears come up now because my Christmas wish has been the same for the last 20 years or so: to have someone or something in my life who loves me unconditionally, a companion to watch movies with, cuddle with, play with, and just be around sharing space while also being independent enough to understand and require alone time.  A cat or a dog sounds great right?

But right now, as much as I want a companion, I want to learn to sew and start graduate school more.  A busy lifestyle and a companion plus dealing with recovery issues make life very complicated.

I hope that someday my parts and I will feel very comfortable with each other and our self as a whole so that we can have at least one companion.  No one is ready for human roommates now (or maybe ever), so this would be the compromise.

Thanks for reading.