Quotes & Affirmations: Tara Brach about “Shoulds”

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This week I had to put aside many “shoulds”.  Life felt too overwhelming, yet not overwhelming at all.

All the typical stuff from this time of year occurred.  But my reactions were different.  My mind felt different.  My body felt different.

The body memories were intense, but not painful.

The flashbacks and nightmares felt scary, but did not fade back into amnesia like they normally did.  I woke up remembering why my body was paralyzed with fear or shaking with adrenaline.

ALL PARTS OF ME had to step back and act like scientists.  Yes scientists.

Observe from a distance.  Use logic to find a way into our tool box.  Analyze our symptoms – anxiety, depression, anger management, emotional overload, numbness, etc. Figure out what coping strategies and techniques to try next.

instead of…

I should feel this way but I’m not.

I should do this even though it feels wrong.

I should not react this way; it’s not “normal”.

I should not use this strategy because ____

THROW OUT THE SHOULDS or SHOULD NOTS….

and let my authentic self with natural/instinctive reactions and choices for effective coping strategies take charge

Maybe this will help you remember to give yourself space too.

Thanks for reading.

Anniversaries: Remembering but not remembering

Anniversaries & Holidays (no special order)

  • Rape begets an unwanted pregnancy
  • Parents find out about pregnancy
  • Live somewhere else for a few months
  • School??? memory blank
  • Hair grows back / body starts changing; new/different sensations
  • Women’s History month
  • Good Friday
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • Passover
  • Daylight Savings change
  • Spring Equinox

Normally, I spend February through beginning of May in a state of partial dissociation.  I am functional, but not aware of anything long term.

This year is different.

Yesterday was hard.

Felt like the world tumbled down on me and time stood still.

I can’t remember what happened.  I think I worked.  I am pretty sure I ate something.  Beyond that, no idea.

It happens.  And I am grateful that the lost time occurs less often every year.

One day is better than one week.  One week better than one month.  And so on.

This month is the month I found out I was pregnant 20 years ago.  Not the month I conceived, but the month I discovered I was pregnant.  The month my parents discovered the pregnancy too.

Something else happened.  Something that affected my sinuses and ear-nose-throat area.

How do I know?

The Body Memories are active in 2 specific areas this time of year

  • My face/neck/throat area
  • My abdominal area

Makes sleeping and moving interesting for sure.  The nightmares keep me awake.  My body relives the sensations from being pregnant along with whatever else happened then.

I am stuck living in 2 time periods with the urge to sleep all day and stay up all night.

I am homebound when the disorientation gets really bad…I get lost in my own apartment building.

On the good side…

I’ve only lost one day so far.

The pain has gone down from 10+ to about 3.5 on an average day.

And, in spite of the memories confusing me, I can go out for short periods of time without getting disoriented.

Coping Strategies

The usual tool box exists.  My ability to access said toolbox depends on how disoriented I am on the inside.

What seems to help the most right now:

  • Children’s movies
  • murder mysteries
  • Fantasy and Science fiction books
  • Aromatherapy diffuser with Eucalyptus Globulus essential oil
  • Gratitude practice
  • Eating more nuts and fruit, less animal products
  • Letting myself relax instead of sleep

How do you cope with something that feels new and different while still being grounded in the present?

Thanks for reading

Recovery: Trusting the inner self

A thoughtful, discussion type post today.  Everything is inter-related so no subtitles.

Sometimes I get caught up in the stories my mind creates.  The emotional stress from fear or anxiety combine to drown out what my instincts or inner self is trying to say, especially when they are on opposite sides.  If I only listened to the feelings generated by the nightmares and flashbacks, would I have the courage to keep getting involved in life?  Or to develop healthy relationships?  Or accept that some “negative symptoms” or “coping strategies” are healthy, natural inclinations instead?

Do you, guests, also question whether or not your habits are healthy or unhealthy?  Positive or negative?  Useful or interfering?  If so, you are not alone.  Many survivors and others who are not survivors tend to question/challenge everything at one point or another.  It’s part of growing and adapting to both change – life, recovery, personality, work, inner/outer self – in order to become closer to our authentic selves.  I say closer because becoming one’s authentic self is a lifelong journey.

At this point in my journey, I am remembering more and more of the past in order to take the next step to trusting guidance from my inner voice instead of letting reality or perspective get distorted when my instincts trigger “danger” signals.  My inner voice is different from my instincts in the same way that emotions are different from intuition.

  • Instincts are based on sensory information – sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, proprioception
  • Inner voice is based on an interpretation of what my senses are telling me based on knowledge, experience, and perception of the present situation

e.g. my instincts tell me that a certain set of sounds could mean danger.
My inner voice(s) look in the direction of the sound, take in the surroundings as a group of boisterous people enjoying outdoor music and drinks, and decide it’s wise to be cautious when going past them.
My trigger reacts like this: flashback to the past and tell me to defend myself and/or avoid the sounds because I’m in danger from the sound maker(s).

Right now, the trigger is louder than the inner voice and hijacks control over all reactions.

The goal is to build more trust in the inner voice and allow that to guide reactions and actions to my/our instincts.

Another way to look at this is through coping strategies & habits.  Some of my questionable coping strategies & habits include:

  • preference for solitude & quiet
  • need for privacy & limited social relationships
  • Urge to “reset” my sleep cycles every few months by staying up 24+ hours or not sleeping much for days/weeks at a time until I crash for as many hours as needed to recuperate
  • Compulsion to use a “resting meditation” technique that allows all alters to be active at the same time and communicate to work through large amounts of memories/feelings/flashbacks/stress in an 8+ hour period of time throughout the year.

The solitude is questionable because almost every self-help guide, program, and counselor I’ve talked to or worked with has warned about the dangers of isolation and loneliness.  They’ve also talked about the importance of making connections with people, having a support system, emotion regulation/tolerance, and importance of interpersonal communication in recovery.  But no one has discussed how some people, whether more towards introversion or extraversion, are more naturally inclined towards solitude than others.

These people may or may not be highly sensitive, but they have found other ways of creating meaningful connections and relationships with people, animals, plants, etc. that don’t necessarily require a lot of social interaction.  Not exactly hermits, but not interested in an expansive social life either.  That’s me, and something I am learning to accept instead of question or worry about.

As for privacy & trust, well I didn’t have a lot of that growing up.  And while I am good at making it appear to others that I am an open book by sharing some information about myself, in reality those people only see/know/understand what I allow them to see.  Less than 5 people in the world know all parts of me, and I’m perfectly happy with that.  Many 20 or less people know most parts of me.  Everyone else gets to meet the “survivor”, “insecure”, “grumpy”, “social”, “professional”, or “ambivert” me; maybe a combination of them too.

More stuff than I can put words to happens inside on a daily basis.  That takes up more than 50% of my energy (mental, physical, spiritual) right now.  The other 50% is used to go to work, do chores, cope with external symptoms, and enjoy life.  Sometimes, I get overstimulated into an adrenaline state that makes sleep difficult to impossible – it’s a combination of flashbacks & nightmares with body memories and fear responses working their way through all parts of me.

Other times, my energy gets used up too fast, and I can’t replenish in time; not just food energy, but mental and spiritual too.  “Being normal” or focusing on life outside of my inner worlds becomes too much.  I need to take a break and let my inner world settle down after all of the changes.  That means more or less sleep and lying down meditation to allow everyone a chance be involved in the coping strategy.

The sleep & meditation used to cause untold amounts of shame and self-hate because that’s what mom did to escape the world.  She slept for hours or days at a time with the excuse of being sick.  Then there was the family shame of “being lazy” by sleeping too much.  Or the label “just like your mom” because I didn’t do enough (from outsiders point of view) to help my parents and brother.

Now, getting enough sleep & practicing meditation is part of my self-care routine.  I feel less shame and guilt about taking care of myself because self-care means I can do more with life and stay healthy.  I feel more empowered to resist the negative voices and keep going in spite of the flashbacks, fear, anxiety, body memories, pain, or nightmares that trigger panic attacks.  Sure, I may need an extra hour or two in the morning or have to take a break and work later, but at least I don’t have to take the whole day off and sleep through the anxiety anymore.

Why?
Because now I and all of my parts can hear, trust, and listen to the inner voice interpreting our instincts with a balance of emotion and logic that is based in the present reality instead of the past one.

Is it easy?  Medium?  Difficult?
Yes and no.  Like any challenge, some parts are easier than others.  It depends on the individual and her or his perspective on life, willingness to change, reactions to stress, resilience, courage, and persistence.

Wait, what if I don’t have an inner voice?
Everyone has an inner voice and instincts.  Not everyone chooses to believe in or listen to the inner voice or instincts.  And some people who do might decide that the inner voice and instincts are wrong because the short term outcome is unexpected or unwanted so choose not to listen.  As with hindsight being 20/20, so is listening to one’s inner voice.  Learning how to interpret what the inner voice is communicating takes time, practice, and mistakes.

Is this like a conscience or a moral compass?
Maybe.  For some people, their inner voices and instincts align with their values and moral compass or ethics.  For others, the conscience could be separate.  For me, they are separate.  My instincts and inner voice are non-judgemental and neutral.  They share information and guidance that I can accept or refuse or interpret in different ways.

Either way, whether you (guests) choose to explore your inner voice or instincts, I hope you all find a path to self-acceptance through recovery.  Self-acceptance makes living and enjoying life that much more interesting.

Thanks for reading.

Resources: Headphones for sleeping and noise cancelling

A quick post today.  You can find these links on the Resources page too.

I’ve been looking into different types of headphones for sleeping since I like to fall asleep listening to nature sounds, music, meditation recordings, or audio books.  The headphones help block out street and neighbor noises that wake me up at night.

Traditional headphones are not comfortable for sleeping.  The traditional styles are too bulky for side sleepers.  The wireless options need to be re-charged often.  And the wired options could be a choking hazard.

I thought maybe wireless exercise headphones might work, but the style I chose had many of the same issues listed above.  And the blue tooth is not reliable in my sleeping space.

Instead of continuing a search for wireless headphones, noise cancelling headphones or exercise headphones, I searched for headphones for sleeping and meditation.  That brought up two interesting articles.

This article reviews several styles of headphones, ear plugs, and combination headphone/face masks.

This article reviews headphones only.

I chose the CozyPhones Sleep Headphones; it’s #2 on both lists.  I’ve been using it for 2 nights so far and like it a lot.  With the sound on medium and my windows open at night, the headphones do reduce the noise.  And if the headband slides, I lose sound.  Otherwise, the headband is comfortable, and the sound quality is decent.  And the headband comes in many colors.

If you decide to try sleep headphones, please let me know how they work for you.

Thanks for reading

Survival Mode: A different kind of survival part 2 – DID

Late again.  Unexpected business with taxes and such yesterday.  Will try to be more on time this week.

Introduction

Last post discussed how survival mode affects my PTSD.  This post discusses how it affects the DID and alters in the system.  Survival mode feels different to children, adolsecents, and adults.  Each group reacts and responds to the stress differently.  Now imagine all that in the same body happening at the same time.

A word of warning…my therpaist tells me that my experience of DID is different from many because I “grew up” with my alters so to speak.  They were my playmates and imaginary friends; then appeared in my day dreams; finally began to take over and manage some parts of life without my realizing it until we reunited four years ago.  This can make our co-consciousness and ability to cooperate/integrate much easier and more frustrating for others to read about or understand.

The rest of the blog is Q&A from here.

Questions & Answers

Q: do all of the alters have PTSD?

A: yes.

Q: is everyone good at coping and handling triggers?

A: no.  Everyone is at different levels of recovery and has different skill sets to pull from.  Some strategies work better for adults while otherd work better for children, adolescents, toddlers, babies.

Q: how does everyone react to survival mode?

A: not sleeping; increased hyper-vigilance and feeling suspicious of everything; increased sensitivity to anxiety; confusion; coordination and concentration problems; use less cognitive and more instinctive defense mechanisms; feeling over-protective and worrying about hurting others with reactions to triggers; sleep in shifts or not at all; feel scared all the time; decreased appetite; increased switching and headaches/face pain; finally inability to relax and lower the adrenaline levels back to our normal.

Q: what triggers this kind of survival mode?  How is it different from before?

A: CAUSES: floods of memories; increased body memories; mind and body making connections between memory fragments to recall past experiences as nighhtmares and flashbacks; encpuntering people from the past who trigger overwhelming feelings; all of the above without any down time to process and move through the remembered experiences in a safe way.

DIFFERENCES: before, some alters were still hiding and unable to join with the rest of the system.  They were caught in the past; trapped and unable to reach out for help.  When the experiences they held came as nighhtmares, these alters switched and caused dissociation to protect us; the result being traumatic memory loss or amnesia for extended periods of time.  Could be minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, sometimes longer.

Now, all of us are free and valued members of the system.  When these memories come back, they stay.  No one switches.  No one dissociates.  No one forgets again.  Everyone relives or re-experiences the memories as they cascade through mind and body.  This is especially hard for the child and adolescent alters who are also growing/maturing through missed developmental stages as part of their recovery.  These “growing pains” and sexual feelings/thoughts/sensations triggger anxiety, fear, wonder, and past memories at the same time.

It is an endless cycle feeding into itself.

Q: how do you cope?

A:By learning to be a good caretaker/guardian for ourselves and each other.  That includes self care, boundaries, safe spaces, and coping strategies for every age group, developmental stage, and gender in the system.  Sometimes it means being a parent.  Sometimes it means being parented.  Sometimes I take care of the alters.  Sometimes they take care of me.  And ALWAYS we do our best not to use the negative, but guaranteed to work, harmful coping strategies of the past.

Q: any last words?

A: yes.  It really sucks when all of the reliable routines and strategies stop working or are less effective.  Worse is trying to use something that goes against what the mind and body are doing to protect us by trying to use the coping skills anyways.

Just remember you are not alone.

some experiences are kid only experiences; some are adolsecent only; some are adult only.  My alters and I constantly wort that we are going to hurt or trigger others in the system by letting our memories out, so we try to protect by repressing them.  This causes untold levels of pain amd distress and triggers.

Now we try to use boundaries and safe spaces instead.  It’s a work in prgogress that is less than 10% effective right now.  But we keep on trying to make it work.  Also, it helps to figure out some good parenting skills and comforting techniques; they help calm child and adolescent parts to lower adrenaline like nothing else we have tried so far.

This will pass like it always does.  No matter how difficult it feels right now, we all will survive.