Any good practical philosophy must start out with the recognition of our having a body

Alter Post: When Fear Tries To Take Over

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

*Trigger Warning: This post may contain triggers; read at your own pace*

This is not an easy post to write. Or share. I struggled with what to put in today’s post and almost did an ADMIN – nothing to write post instead.

But I’m here. And I just finished writing about crystal grids and environmental self protection on the other blog. So I decided to try and give you something more here too.

FEAR

Out of all the emotions I struggle with, fear is in the top 3. Right now, in spite of all the change from COVID-19, I feel joyful. My life has been impacted in subtle ways, not obvious ones. And it’s the subtle changes that scare me.

Now that I don’t have to think about and plan for going out of my apartment, a huge amount of internal energy is being re-directed to improve physical health – i.e. cope with body memories. The “cage” of restrictions brought me freedom from spending 25% or more energy on planning ways to cope with being around people and other beings whenever I leave my apartment.

The benefit is that my “self” continues to heal from the inside out. Internal changes are occurring at a fast pace. Spaces formerly occupied by trauma memories and past experiences are opening up/emptying out. Everything feels different. I move different. My tastes and preferences for food and beverages have changed. Some of my interests have changed.

But my energy levels have not changed much. All parts of me agree that if there wasn’t so much internal healing to do, that energy would be directed outward to more activities and physical movement instead. But since none of us are ready for that, the energy has been directed inside.

And I fear what is filling up those empty spaces that open up way to fast for me to fill them up. Will other triggers move and take over the spaces? If I have too many nightmares and flashbacks, will the past traumas come back and refill the empty spaces; then take over again, leaving me back to what and where I was in the past?

What can I fill those spaces with? Memories? Experiences? Positive energy? Unconditional love? Fear? Anger? Hate? And if I fill them with something temporarily, will that temporary stuff get stuck and turn into something harmful? Will it move out easily once the “right” stuff is found and moved in?

I haven’t remembered more of my past. And I haven’t forgotten anything this year (win for me), but I still struggle with remembering and recognizing people. And that scares me too. What if I never am able to remember people outside of a specific group – and even with them I struggled long and hard to remember specific sensory details and clues associated with each person to recognize them – and go through my life continuously offending people because I can’t remember meeting them and talking with them from one hour or week or class to another?

Yes, trauma changes memory in significant ways. But I never considered that this type of memory loss or challenge could be a permanent side effect of my trauma. How did I learn about this? Well, first I spoke about it out loud with my counselor.

Photo by Tobe Roberts on Pexels.com

Then I was browsing Pinterest for interesting pins about trauma and mental health to put in my board. And came across an interesting graphic explaining how trauma affects the four different types of human memory. Four types of memory. I was aware of 2, and the other two were a complete mystery.

So I pinned the graphic and decided to think more about it before reading the rest of the article. You can find links to my Pinterest boards in the Resources page if you are interested. Before I go off on a tangent with the potential to trigger a shame spiral, I decided to practice an exercise my counselor taught me to help cope with fear.

It starts by writing down what I am afraid of on a blank piece of paper. Then creating a down arrow to the next line.

After the arrow, I say to myself I am afraid of (above fear) because I am afraid of (and write that fear down).

And keep doing that until I drill down to what really scares me.

Then I can reflect on the source of my other fears. aka the BIG FEAR and use other coping strategies to work with it.

Will that work? I don’t know. But I’m trying it out now using the example from our last session.

Thanks for reading.

Life Changing Moments: When Emotional Self-Harm stops working…

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.

Body Memories: the fragments are connecting…what happens next?

I’ve been practicing self care since the last post.  A lot of sleeping and a lot of cooking have brought my energy levels back up.  One load of laundry, a potential new apartment interview, taking care of taxes, knitting, and essay writing rounded out the rest of my physical self care strategies this weekend.  Meditation, deep breathing, a mindful walk, sensory grounding, and a call to the hotline rounded out my mental self care.

What I’m still struggling with:

Body memory and body self care.  In the last post, I mentioned how much the treatment impacted my body.  What I didn’t realize was the consequences of that impact.

The Positive

  • Less physical pain around my face, neck, and spine
  • Less swelling around my sinuses, ears, neck, and abdomen
  • More yucky stuff (aka toxins) getting released
  • More feeling in my legs and other muscle groups that have been numb for a while
  • Improved temperature regulation
  • Improved sleep

The Scary

  • Odd tingling pain and discomfort from hips (and are between) to toes that is starting to go away
  • Extreme tiredness and lack of energy immediately after treatment
  • Lots of recovered memories and memory fragments piecing together while awake and asleep
  • Had to take a “mental health day”
  • Tenderness in private parts that feels uncomfortable and triggering – don’t know how to cope with it
  • Increased visits to the bathroom that interrupt my sleep and feel oddly uncomfortable because the previously mentioned tender parts are affected.

Conclusion

I really need to talk with my intern practitioner about these sensations; glad Tuesday is only two days away.  And after that conversation, I may break my rule and ask my counselor to call me between sessions.  This discomfort is not something I’ve ever had to cope with long term and starting to distress me.

Other than that, I’m feeling pretty good about the self care.

Thanks for reading.

Coping Challenge: How do I Cope with happy, positive feelings? Part 1 – Background

Background:

Since I was thirteen, I dreamed about getting a tattoo.  When I was sixteen, I got my first henna tattoo at a fair in Canada (high school field trip).  It caused an uproar within my family – not in a good way.  But that was my rebellious year   the year after the forced abortion – when I acted out and got into all kinds of trouble.  A few months later (summer), my younger brother convinced his friends to help him get a real tattoo (something he lorded over me for years and used to make fun of me when I got other henna tattoos).

In college, I learned discovered a severe nickel allergy through a bacterial infection (nickel plated earrings) and a rash (metal-framed glasses and buttons on denim jeans).  Some research told me that people with nickel allergies couldn’t get tattoos because a) most of the inks had traces of nickel in them; and b) the stainless steel needles had high levels of nickel in them.  That was between 2000 and 2004.  Between then and now, various cosmetic permanent makeup artists and tattoo artists refused to talk to me about either option because of my nickel allergy.

On the good side, there had been improvements to inks and needles so that people with minor to moderate nickel allergies could get tattoos as long as they didn’t mind the increased risk of allergic reaction and infection.  That was about 3 years ago.  And yes obsessing about getting a tattoo helped keep me sane when life got really bad.  I even tried contacting Native American and other cultural societies that had different ways of tattooing (not using metal needles/inks, etc.) without success.

Two years ago, I moved to my new apartment in a small city/town southwest of where I grew up.  On my first visit to look at the building, I got lost.  Instead of apartments, I found a 1950’s diner inspired storefront that looked interesting.  It turned out to be a tattoo studio.  Then, the realtor found me and helped me to the apartment building.  Not perfect, but it had everything I was looking for at the time.  After 2 weeks of consideration, I signed a lease.  And kept thinking about tattoos in a diner.  Eventually, I looked up the tattoo studio.  The owner had 30 plus years of experience and only did tattoos – old school style.  We exchanged emails; I met him face-to-face once.

But I had a downswing in finances and physical health just as I got ready to make the appointment.

Event 1

Last Saturday, I finally got my two tattoos in black/gray ink: a turtle and a Tibetan Endless Knot aka Chinese Wisdom Knot.  Turtle on left inner forearm near elbow.  Endless Knot on opposite position.  My dream finally came true.  Since then, I’ve been so happy that I managed to sleep every night – real sleep through most of the night.

Event 2

Then I went to work today and shared my tattoos with friends and close co-workers who know my story.  They were happy for me; full of acceptance, joy, respect even though some did not like tattoos (especially on females).  Some asked me what they meant and listened with appreciation as I described the meaning.   The head of our division even told me to wear my tattoos with pride in the office too.  i.e. I won’t get in trouble for leaving my arms uncovered at work.

The Dilemma

I was and am overwhelmed.  I feel happy, sad, anxious, guilty, shamed, unworthy, joyous, content, safe and unsure how to cope with the happy feelings inside of me (hence the negative feelings worming in).  I know how to cope with negative, neutral, and mildly positive feelings.  I don’t know how to cope with this, and it’s making me feel edgy.  Especially with an extra heavy workload and other big things coming up.

Thanks for reading

Life Changing Moments: External Expressions of Internal Changes

Early last week, a friend emailed me with an invitation to her holiday party.  In the invitation, she mentioned that one of my paternal aunts might attend too.  This friend is retired, a member of my knitting circle, and someone who’s known me since I was five years old.  We reconnected about 2-3 years ago through a mutual friend I ran into before moving to my current residence.

It took a few months, up to a year, before I really began to trust them both and open up.  They were still connected to my family and had been (continue to be) the paternal aunt’s friend before I met them.  But they protected my privacy; accepted my differences; worked with me to help me learn better coping strategies so I could attend knitting circles and go out more; and always supported me with their actions.  Because of them and my friends in the knitting circle, I’ve become more social and more comfortable with socializing.

Back to the invitation.  She lives about 2.5 hours away from me, so I wrote back telling her that I’d try to make it.  Sundays are difficult because there are less trains and buses operating throughout the city.  On Thursday, I decided to go to the party and wrote an RSVP Friday morning.  She wrote back with her address and also confirmed that my paternal aunt would be there.  It was considerate and caring of her to warn me.

A month ago, I might not have attended the party.  3 months ago, I definitely would not have gone and might have experienced some negative flashbacks thinking about the event.  One year ago, I would be having flashbacks and panic attacks about being invited to a party with few friends and many strangers.  The travel arrangements alone would have scared me enough to make an excuse not to go.  And forget it if there was a hint of snow on the ground.

This time, though, I decided that I was going to go.  I would dress up in an outfit that felt and looked good (gave me confidence) and take my time traveling there.  Since many of my knitting friends were going, I’d also have a built-in support network and people to hang out with.  And with my phone handy, I could easily find many ways to leave if I wanted to leave.

At the party, I would be polite if she approached me and then ignore her the rest of the time.  If not, I’d ignore her.  But I wasn’t going to hide.  And I didn’t hide.  Spending time with my friends, meeting new people, chatting with them was way too much fun to miss out on.  My friend’s friends are wonderful and unique – think United Nations – and made me feel comfortable even though I was the youngest one there.

In the end, I heard my aunt come in (her voice is loud and recognizable) before she saw me and moved to be with a group of friends, my back to her.  We chatted and laughed in our corner; my friends were facing the other way and kept an eye on her for me.  But she didn’t approach.  Instead, she hid until I left.  Not very long since my ride was getting ready to leave 20-40 minutes after “auntie” arrived.

But seeing her silhouette, the back of her head did not bother me like I thought it would.  I had a moment of fear before I realized that there was nothing to be afraid of.  I was warm and safe and supported among friends.  And shocked that she would hide from me.  She who always was loud-spoken and brash, displaying confidence and being pushy with criticism and set-downs ready.

Instead, I felt at peace inside.  Confident, self-assured, and comfortable enough with myself to cope with whatever happened.  I wasn’t afraid of her anymore.  And that is big.  Because I’ve spent decades being afraid of her and everyone else in my family.  Intimidated, less than, all of it around them.  And now, I feel equal to them.  Not more, not less; equal to them as a human, a woman, an individual.

I am smart, successful, independent, female, and able to cope with my past and present.  I control myself and influence my choices.  My past and the people who shaped it do not control me or my choices anymore.  I have strategies and plans to help me feel in control of stressful situations.  The planning itself is a wonderful coping technique.  Building in flexibility allows me to adapt to changes easier.  Finally, having options allows me to make choices and ground myself when I start to feel out of control.

Thinking about them still brings on flashbacks sometimes.  This time of year; certain scents and sounds; images and crowds still trigger me into feeling uncomfortable.  Until after January 1, I have to cope with encountering higher than normal amounts of rude and insulting people from the past who know or recognize me without my being able to return the favor.

So this is my life changing moment.  I went to a holiday party knowing I’d see family.  Instead of being scared and panicking, I enjoyed myself.  Instead of hiding from her and being invisible, she ran and hid from me.  Without all of the hard work from before, I’d not be here now.

We all hope that someday, the guests here will do the same at least once.