Alter Post: Scared myself into almost shutting down

The Stream of Consciousness aka processing Tuesday’s fear

I’m still thinking about it.  We are still wondering what happened.

Maybe the pressure has been building up for a while.  A lot has happened in less than two years.

Not since 2010/2011 have all parts of me unanimously wanted to run and hide.  To disappear or sleep and never come back or wake up.  That was the year before I wrote a manifesto and walked away from my family.  In 2012, it became permanent.  In 2015/2016, I started talking with some family again.  In 2016, I moved across the country and started a different life.

Now, it’s 2017, and I have a real home.  I have neighbors and friends.  A life full of interesting and frustrating and fun and sad and happy and scary moments.  A life in transition.

Something big is going to happen.  Something inside is pushing me to make changes.  Something else is pushing me to stop and hide, go backwards.  And yet, for all of these feelings inside, the rest of me is lacking direction.

The need to DO SOMETHING is so strong it feels reckless.  It also feels scary and triggering.  So many parts of me are crying right now.  The rest are reliving some of their worst nightmares on purpose.

All because we want our body to get better.  We want to get rid of the last remnants of toxicity (stuff carried forward from before) in our lives.  It keeps sneaking up in the most unexpected places.

Some examples:

  • Knitting needles and yarn bought pre-move make completing a project almost impossible.  But new needles and yarns bought in the last two weeks have rekindled the joy and relaxation feelings again.
  • My emergency savings account has money earned or gifted to me from lingering past experiences.  Every time I try to add more and save, something happens and all that’s left is what I started with when I came here.  What to do?  Use the money to pay off debts in advance and zero out the account.  Then start refunding it with money earned in the present.
  • Need a new phone because the existing one is over 4 years old and the battery is starting to die.  Yet the idea of getting a new phone (and paying full price for it) fills me with anxiety.  All parts of me.  It’s like saying goodbye to a phase in life.
  • My bedding doesn’t fit the new bed.  My blankets don’t either.  They are warm and comforting, but bring on memories too.

Other Fears & Blocks to progress

  • I’ve almost completely swapped out all of my clothes and shoes so that none of the lingering memories trigger flashbacks.  But I still fear putting clothes away, doing laundry in the basement, and transitioning from season to season.  What do I fear?  That my clothes will disappear or get ruined if they are not always in my sight.
  • I want to put up organizational hooks, but fear putting things on the walls.  What do I fear?  Shaming, punishment, humiliation, making mistakes.
  • I want to write to my parents and other family members – ones that are no-contact – and tell them goodbye forever.  But another part of me says don’t because what if forever isn’t forever?  I want to be able to accept gifts from relatives, yet have trouble because of the invisible strings attached (imagined or real – they exist in my mind and make me want to avoid using what they give me).
  • My inner voice is telling me big things will happen.  My body is humming all the time as it gets balance out and heals from the inside.  The blockages, the muscle cramps, the body memories are connecting with feelings and spirit.
  • The cold weather here triggers feelings of abandonment and fear.  Wind blowing against my skin doesn’t feel safe.  Waking up in the dark after hearing noises at night or my neighbors unexpectedly, feels like waking up in the compound again.  Most of me knows I am safe.  But a small part of me is waiting for all of this to be taken away.
  • Using my credit card reward points to fly out of state and see a different cousin for the first time in 7 years is also scary.  But it feels like the right thing to do.  And I’m only staying for a few hours.  But it will help with the letter-writing decision.  And with the closure too.
  • And exploring my interests in New Age ideas feels scary as well.  But my love of crystals and plants, my curiosity about life & living won’t allow me to ignore that part anymore.  So I spend money on new experiences there too.  And surprisingly, all of the information from these sessions is remarkably consistent.

So here I am at midnight writing a post.  I still have to work in the morning.  I still have counseling after work.  I still have chores to do and food to cook.  Lucky for me, I had people to talk to when the paralysis hit.

They helped me get perspective.  They helped me move out of the paralysis and not give in to the “run & hide” urge.  3 errands, an unexpected snuggle with a dog, two phone calls, a text conversation with my counselor, dinner out, and 2 Netflix movies later combined with some knitting and finance stuff have helped a little.

It almost feels like a circle is closing.  One chapter ends, and another begins?  Or maybe I’m feeling anxious about turning 35?  Thirty had me doing mental cartwheels.  Every year after that brought the same kind of joy.  Until this year.

Many of my girls (female alters) have been healing so well, I am happy for them.  My boys (male alters) struggle so much more right now.  They are more connected to Pip’s world and our physical body that these current changes affect them more.

And the dreams are changing again.  Still vivid and sometimes scary, but not nightmares.  The Chinese medicine practitioners want to give me herbs to help with all that.  But all of us are reluctant to give up the dreams right now.  Dreams are one way we communicate and process the past together.

But sleep is important too.  And what happened Tuesday is serious enough that the herbs might be necessary.  If I can’t sleep tonight, then probably go tomorrow and get the herbs.  Thursday at the latest.

Did I mention the urge still exists?  It’s not as strong, but wanting to hide & run?  The feelings still exist.  So now it’s time for all of us to dig deep and figure out why.  Because, it doesn’t make sense.  Now is different from then.  Still scary and full of change, but different.

Thanks for reading.

DID Posts: Working through food issues with my alters

Background

Something not often mentioned is that different alters (or parts) have different experiences in the same body.  It’s why doctors and medical professionals could have trouble diagnosing illnesses or interpreting lab tests.  Or why nurses have trouble finding veins to take blood or give IVs.  This can even explain why one person can be sick with the flu, but not exhibit any physical symptoms except through a blood test.  Sometimes, it also changes physical appearance and healing rates.

Personal Experience

For me, some of my alter personalities don’t have to eat.  Other alter personalities (mostly my child parts) love eating meat, dairy, poultry, fish/seafood, and eggs (aka animal products) because they bring back good memories with family.  Most of my adolescent and adult alter personalities (me included) prefer a nutrient-focused, vegetarian or vegan (whole foods, plant based) eating style.  None of us really enjoy eating processed or fast food except for a treat once in a while; usually it tastes too salty, too sweet, or too much like chemicals.

The nutrient-focused, whole foods path works because plants are easy for our body to digest, bring a variety of pleasurable flavors & textures to meals, and are fun to cook.  Eating animal products and even some processed foods

  • When I eat meat and animal products, the vegetarian and vegan alters don’t get involved in digesting those meals.
  • When I eat plant based meals, everyone except the alters who don’t eat help with digestion.
  • My child parts and adolescent parts (up to mid-twenties probably) were anorexic and still struggle with triggers and the possibility of relapse.
  • My adult parts struggle with weight fluctuations and finding a diet with a label that helps the system stay healthy, tastes good, and limits potential triggers and small lapses.
  • We all struggle with making good food and hydration choices about 4-5 times a year when these triggers appear.  Past experiences with shaming and lack of support make this more difficult than it has to be.

The Challenge

Right now, the challenge is maintaining an interest in eating and hydrating.  I feel frustrated with my food options and hydration options.  I do not feel hungry or thirsty or interested in eating.  And by “I”, I mean everyone in my system.  No one wants to cook or get delivery or visit a restaurant or purchase takeout.

The first internal conflict: is the choice to eat mostly plant-based, whole foods style

  1.  rebellion against family
  2.  the beginning of a relapse for anorexia
  3. A personal choice that makes everyone in the system happy?

The second internal conflict: is the choice to animal products

  1. A self-harm compulsion triggered by obsessive thoughts about having to eat according to family and cultural/societal rules
  2. A self-harm compulsion to hurt myself and make myself sick as punishment for feeling happy and getting healthier
  3. A personal choice that makes the minor discomfort manageable because it helps younger alter personalities feel grounded and connected to happier times?

Side note: I use hydrating because “drinking” can sometimes trigger negative feelings – something I hope to avoid for any guests who read this post – or be misinterpreted.  Maybe it’s over-explaining, but that distinction is as much for my benefit as it is for the readers’ benefit.

Epiphany

Part 1

The first week after my dental surgery, I ate 100% whole foods, plant based meals.  With the exception of serious gas and constipation issues from the anesthesia and first few days of antibiotics, my digestion was fine.  I am grateful for acupuncture and food medicine for that turnaround.  What surprised me most was:

  1. how great I felt physically in spite of the pain
  2. how emotionally stable I felt in spite of the triggering experiences
  3. how rapidly my body healed with minimal pain killers with lots of rest & minimal activity
  4. how well I slept in spite of the pain and anxiety that came from flashbacks and food triggers
  5. the root of my food triggers centered around
  6. fear that this choice is based on PTSD food fears and anorexia nervosa relapse symptoms
  7. food and diet shaming
  8. lack of support from past medical and mental health professionals along with family members and friends

Part 2

  1. all alter parts feeling frustrated by these conflicting internal thoughts and feelings
  2. fear that that each time I ate animal products was giving into self-harm compulsions because of obsessive internal thoughts
  3. we all justified eating those meals as experiments to help child alters understand and experience the negative reaction our body has to eating animal products
  4. helping our system make peace with the conflict by explaining that eating animal products is fine as long as we are willing to accept the consequences – gas, constipation, slow digestion, nausea/stomachaches, backaches, lethargy – for a limited time
  5. acknowledging that the frustration stems from wanting to cook and eat a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle 90% of the time
  6. acknowledging that nothing is being excluded – we can eat animal products & processed food any time as long as we are willing to feel physically ill for a little while afterwards
  7. Alcohol is not included here because it’s in a different category – none of us like the taste of alcohol, but we do enjoy drinking once in a while with close friends.
    1. Problem is: we metabolize alcohol fast like with most other drugs and get drunk really easily.
    2. So 1 alcoholic beverage drunk over an hour = a drunk me for about 2-3 hours.  Then I’m fine except for the hangover headache.  If I fall asleep within the 2-3 hours, I wake up hungover.
    3. Very perplexing and makes drinking hard to enjoy…
  8. Processed foods are something I happily live without most of the time because they do not satisfy my hunger anymore.  When I do make an exception, it’s because of a craving for comfort food.  And then we all can enjoy the treat.

Conclusion

I and everyone in my system feel conflicted still.  It’s going to take a long time to sort out.  This time around, though, I have a mental health and a medical professional supporting me in the transition.  I also have many friends who support me as I try to stay healthy and make good coping strategy choices.

With knowledge comes power to make informed choices.  With trust comes the benefit of a real support network that can/will/does lift me up when I fall, encourage me when I doubt myself, and kick my ass when needed.  As for coping strategies, I’m not sure what to try or what will work.  If I find anything that helps, I will share in a future post.

If any of you are struggling with food choices, food addiction, or an eating disorder, I encourage you to learn more about different kinds of nutrition and diets, explore eating styles, and ask lots of questions.  Then (and I know this can be triggering) if you feel ready, listen to your body and how it feels before, during, and after you eat or hydrate.  My body always finds a way to tell me if it likes or dislikes something; maybe yours will too.

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.

Coping Challenge: Being kind to myself during a coping lapse

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I think about my life often this time of year.  It’s a time of overwhelming feelings and the urge to belong somewhere.

For a couple weeks, I did great with the dietary changes my body felt amazing.  My mind felt wonderful.  And then I had this scary experience with a Uber driver that sent me on a tailspin of flashbacks – being trapped in cars with reckless or anxious drivers and feeling out of control – that pushed me to eat foods that would make me feel physically uncomfortable and/or sick.

I  tried to find alternatives.  I tried to use other grounding and coping skills.  I reached out for help on the hotline and spoke with my therapist.  I talked with my acupuncturist too.  But in the end I gave in and ate the foods that made me bloated, gassy, nauseous, and cramped.

Why?  Partly because I feel mixed emotions about reconnecting with more family members.  Partly because my body is physically changing and healing and becoming the body it’s supposed to be instead of the body it was turned into by past experience.  Partly because one way for me to cope successfully with overwhelming body sensations is to leave my body.  But I can’t leave unless my body is in pain or discomfort; the 2 triggers that allow me to disassociate from my physical self.

Do I feel guilty about harming myself with food?  Not really

Do I feel ashamed of harming myself with food? a little bit

Do I wish I could find an alternative to this?  Absolutely yes

How am I dealing with the minimal guilt and shame?  By being kind to myself and doing what I can to minimize the consequences of eating food that is difficult to digest.

Will I do this again in the future?  Probably.  It’s hard to let go of something that works and drowns out the uncomfortable sensations with familiar ones – even if those familiar ones are harmful and negative.

What next?  keep trying to find a substitute coping strategy that doesn’t involve self harm by food.

Hence the quote above…

Thanks for reading

 

Coping Challenge: Unexpected Triggers, cars, panic attacks, safety

What does a person do when stuck in a car with a stranger and triggered?  How does one cope with the pain that comes from a panic attack waiting to happen while taking a Uber home?  When is the right time to call for assistance without having the driver listen in?  Where does the person go to feel safe and still be present enough to pay attention to the ride?

Since moving, I’ve taken advantage of Uber and its safe driver policy a lot.  Taking a Uber allows me to participate in activities across town that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.  The driver safely gets me to and from doctor’s offices and new-to-me neighborhoods with low levels of anxiety.  We sometimes have interesting chats during the drive.  Other times, we’re both quiet and focused on other things.

I’m still coping with my worst trigger yet.  A doctor’s appointment that didn’t happen and brought me back to my childhood.  In another post, I might analyze what automatic strategies kicked in and how I got home safely, but not today.

All I can tell you is that getting home safely without causing anyone harm during the coping to not have a panic attack or lash out at others is possible.  Maintaining safety after that is possible too.

For me, I put a safety plan into place – one that I never had to use before:

  • Acknowledge the feelings
  • If possible (aka feel safe with the driver), inform the driver that I am feeling upset and not to take my words/actions personally if I lash out by accident
  • Quietly focus on who can be contacted via email or text for a distraction (I texted two therapists and emailed another one)
  • Focus on maintaining internal calm so that the anxiety does not become a panic attack
  • Get home safely
  • Use any coping strategies that make sense and can be remembered

Thanks for reading