I made an unedited “live” video for tonight, but don’t know how to compress the video enough to make it look good here on WordPress. Every time I upload, it looks fuzzy and blurry and takes forever. Not sure you’d even be able to watch it. So I’m going back to the thinking board tomorrow to try again. Today, though, I’ll share some thoughts about coronavirus:Movement Challenge – I tried to make a video and can’t get it to work on WordPress; will try again soon — Scent Reflections LLC
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.
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.
The many voices of me
This year, my guests got to know the many voices of me in a way different from years past. They read well-written, articulate posts with few grammatical errors. They read off-the-cuff first drafts written by single or groups of alters. Some shared affirmations or quotes; reviews about resources; stories about themselves; and a variety of interests or revelations that changed how coping techniques and strategies were utilized. The voices of children, adolescents, and adults colored every post.
That made reading or following a lot of what’s been on here difficult for some guests, scary for others, triggering for many (us included), and frustrating for all of us. Several times this year, each one of us got writer’s block or simply didn’t know what to write here. It’s supposed to be about resources, but no one has had a lot of time to follow up on that since moving and working through a variety of difficult situations in our new home.
Plus, no one was sure if anyone wanted to read about how different alters coped with the same situation or different situations at the same time. We were scared to put our voices out there and change the tone of this website and blog.
But we’re happy we did. In sharing our voices here, more of us have been able to share in the outside world too. So thanks for giving us a safe space to share ourselves and express out feelings or opinions or thoughts and explore.
Over the years, different alters have instituted their own personal gratitude practices as coping strategies. This year, all 88 of us agreed to use a morning and evening gratitude practice every day to see how reminders of the positives in life helped us stay grounded. Sometimes we all meditated together. Other times we practiced alone or in groups.
We might hear everyone communicating or no one – sometimes our thoughts and wishes occurred on a sub-conscious level. Either way, each of us expressed gratitude for something before going to bed each evening and after waking up each morning. We also asked for guidance, protection, and to meet others who can teach us how to help ourselves continue to move forward.
This year’s big goal was about practicing and improving our interpersonal skills – especially the voice and face-to-face kind – for better communication and relationships. The focus was for work mostly because a lack of verbal skills means trouble for my reviews.
In terms of personal relationships, I wanted to be able to engage in conversations and understand the cues without feeling upset, shamed, frustrated, or confused every time one ended. I also wanted to be able to remember conversations even if there was switching or dissociation ASAP instead of hours/days/weeks/months/years later.
It’s hard to participate in a conversation when you are not always present or able to follow what the other person(s) is saying whether in a personal or professional setting.
But if I can accept my limitations and turn them into strengths, then maybe, just maybe I will also be able to face my family again without fear choking me.
Family vs Loved Ones
Family are the people whose blood I share. Loved ones are the people in the family we created together with bonds of friendship, acceptance, respect, love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness and trust. I love my family, but do not trust/am not friends with all of them. Some of my family are included in the group of Loved Ones; we share blood as well as the other bonds.
This year felt so scary because I reconnected with 5 more members of my family. Each one offered acceptance, love, and respect – all things I hoped for, but did not expect. As some loved ones reminded me – keep expectations low and hopes high. Meeting with them either over email/text or in person felt like parts of my heart mended together again. The hole is shrinking or maybe being emptied of toxic emotional wounds and healing with a balm of love and acceptance.
Either way, having family again feels really good. The situation is still complex. The ties between them and my parents or the others from my past still exist. And finding a solution for reconnecting and staying safe is in the beginner stages. We have hope though. Hope and a lot of people willing to work on it.
My alters and I learned we had feelings at 27 years of age. That was 8 years ago. Since then, it’s been a BIG learning curve to acknowledge, understand, express, and accept our feelings. That was what the partial programs and non-trauma specialist counselors taught us the first time around. What they shared and taught us helped a lot in many ways.
But it didn’t help any of us understand how to express or cope with those feelings when one or many or all of us felt overwhelmed. Nor did it help us understand what to do with those feelings once they were expressed or coped with. Observing many other people and how they coped with or expressed their feelings taught us that many people struggle with this too.
A lot of the self help books and books about anxiety or PTSD or healing, etc. skim over this too. Not on purpose. But the immediate issue is often learning how to calm down, relax, ground oneself, etc. What do do after that is not as important in the moment. And maybe other people don’t struggle the way we in our system have with what to do with the energy and feelings that still exist after coping, grounding, expressing etc.
This year taught all of us how to let go of those feelings once they’ve been acknowledged/expressed/accepted (any of these or other words work too) and we’re grounded or calm again. Letting go is like learning not to hold grudges. But the lesson applies to all feelings, especially the neutral and positive ones. Feelings are supposed to come and go. They are meant to be expressed and let out not held in.
Holding in feelings is like holding in toxic secrets. They eat you and hurt you from the inside out. Personal experience – my anorexia was all about self-hate and self- harm. I couldn’t kill myself – some alter part of me refused to let it happen – so I held in all of those feelings and destroyed my body from the inside out.
Now, letting go of those feelings allows space for the body memories to surface and be expressed. Then those memories are acknowledged, the feelings expressed, experiences accepted and let go. Each time this happens, our pain lessens. Our confidence and feelings of safety/security increase. Our foundation strengthens. And living in the past & present during trigger periods is less scary.
Thanks for reading
My birthday was last weekend.
I turned 35. Oddly, I felt a lot of anxiety along with the usual joy and gratitude that comes from being alive one more year. Why this year instead of past years? Honestly no one in our system can answer that.
35 just feels like a big year. A turning point. A crossroads perhaps. So much good is happening that the memories are flooding in fast & furious. Body memories connecting with emotional or cognitive memory fragments create complete memories of past experiences. Those memories come in dreams and immense pain from my neck down.
In spite of all that, waking up to birthday wishes from friends and family made me feel blessed. The warm messages brightened my morning and had me excited to start the day. And it was an amazing day in spite of the pain.
I did not do anything special. It was a day for self care and exploring spent in blissful solitude broken up with visits to appointments and interesting people in different stores. Time did not manage me that day. After my appointments, I took my time enjoying the beautiful day as I headed back home.
For the first time that I can remember, my birthday was spent in an enjoyable way with full awareness of everything that occurred. Not one of us (the alters or myself) dissociated, split, switched, or forgot anything that happened. We laughed and played and watched movies or read books or knitted while relaxing and waiting for the stew to finish.
The pain did not stop any of us from enjoying the day. We simply adjusted to the physical limitations of neck/shoulder pain by carrying the shoulder bag on the other arm and using both hands to cook. Took a lot of breaks in between our travels. And remembered to eat or drink fluids throughout the day.
And maybe that is what made us all feel so anxious. A birthday without expectations or obligations to anyone. Pure joy. Simple fun. Interesting, kind people. Yummy food. A good night’s rest.
The joy and peaceful feelings continue even now. A different set of Chinese herbs are helping with triggers, sleep, and pain issues. I did not expect help with the pain, but it’s been helping. The herbs have made everyone sleep a lot, but that’s okay. We needed the rest. And something has changed inside too because the adults finally managed to do laundry!
Plus, the colder temperatures are not bringing up scary feelings or memories for the children as much this week. It helps that many of the shopping packages were delivered over the last few days. But really, the herbs are working with our body and mind this time instead of trying to manipulate changes. And that feels really good.
Maybe even good enough that mornings will stop being scary too someday. And maybe good enough that bathrooms and small dark spaces like under sink cabinets will also feel safer too.
Thanks for reading.
So this is a very personal post with a lot of triggers. It’s being written freestyle using the stream of consciousness method. No one is exactly sure what will come out or how long the post will be. Or what secrets will come out.
All we know is that it’s time to tell you about how we were raised. So thanks in advance for reading
As with any triggering content, please read with care. We seriously hope the “Read More” tag works this time. To be sure though, some extra spaces between this content and everything else.