Coping Strategies: Quotes, Affirmations & subscriptions

  
I saw this quote on my Facebook feed today.  It sparked hope and joy inside of me in spite of the overhwelming numbness that takes over when the nightmares and anxiety subside.

Most times, I am not fond of subscriptions.  The volume and content annoy me even though O want to be part of whatever I subscribed to.  Maybe it is triggering too.  Being part of something…even a club or professional group…is difficult.  But Web of Benefit is different. 

But this quote, it got me dreaming again.  I always wanted to fly.  And lately, my past has been bogging me down with fear and insecurity. Taking a risk or two seems less interesting than it did before.  And that is not me.

Yes, I like to be well informed and have backup strategies in place before I make a choice, but I still make the choice and do something.

So I hope this affirmation or quote or whatever you want to call it helps you fly too.

Coping Challenge: Body Memories, Pain, and Triggers

Today’s Quote

I learned a lesson about doubt this week.

As mentioned in previous posts, August is a trigger month for me.  The first half of the month has to do with family reunions, get togethers with friends and connections, and camps.  The second half of the month is birthdays – egg donor and her mother’s birthdays to be exact.  With my therapist on vacation and an unusual increase in remembering, I and my alters doubted we would be able to get through the last week on our own.

But, I forgot about all of the wonderful people in my life now.  And my alters forgot about the toolbox of shared coping strategies in our memory banks.  But most important, we forgot about how far we’ve come since those first baby steps.  Doubt, fear, shame, and pain clouded our senses and distorted reality for a while.  So we hope this quote helps you the way it helped us.

Body Memories

With remembering comes pain.  Sometimes the pain is physical; other times it is emotional or spiritual.  Often the pain is a combination of sensations that trigger other memories, thoughts, or feelings.  I am always in pain; what level of pain I experience determines how functional I will be throughout the day.  My body hurts from the damage I did with anorexia and from the damage done to me when I was abused.  Pain management without drugs, alcohol, and other chemicals has been one of my long-standing quests.

Working with my therapist and reading about trauma has taught me that trauma lives in my body as much as or more than it lives in my mind.  Talk therapy helps with my emotional and spiritual (mental) symptoms – i.e. nightmares, panic attacks, anxiety, feeling emotionally unsafe, dissociation – but not so much with my physical symptoms – i.e. panic attacks, body memories, somatic symptoms masking as colds, allergies, asthma, muscle pain, migraines, joint stiffness, lack of coordination. We have both been searching for more resources to help cope with the body memories and physical pain that worsens or lessens depending on the amount of triggers and anxiety occurring at the time.

Pain

Pain is our constant companion.  It comes in many forms: soreness; aches in muscles and joints; discomfort; bruises; tendon and cartilage stiffness; cramps, etc.  And it manifests in different places at different times.  The scary part comes when the pain is triggered by body memories.  For anyone who is not comfortable reading descriptions about physical or sexual body memories, please skip to the next section.


Some of our best friends are of varied and different sexual orientations.  That does not matter to us.  What matters is that they are amazing, unique, compassionate, wonderful, reliable friends and connections.  Please remember that we strive to celebrate and accept all individuals as they are as you read this section.

I’ve been plagued with body memories where I relive sexual abuse.  My body gets aroused, flushed, goes cold, calms down, feels sensitive in places I did not know could feel sensitive, and so on when I am asleep or get triggered by a sensation that reminds me of past experiences.  It scares different alters, wakes everyone up, causes sleep paralysis, nightmares, night sweats, and a whole host of other problems.

During the day, at work or outside the home, it gets embarrassing sometimes because my body re-enacts the trauma when triggered.  I and my parts are not homosexual, but we were sexually abused by many females.  So when certain kinds of interactions between us and other females take place, triggers occur and sexual feelings get aroused.  Sexual behaviors sometimes get expressed even though none of us are experiencing sexual interest in the female(s).  That causes misinterpretations and other problems along with feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion.  We are heterosexual; this was discovered late in high school and in college.  But arousal feelings scare us because were sexually abused by males.  They trigger similar memories as described earlier and cause us to panic and hide or get angry to push the interested / interesting males away.

These conclusions came at a high cost of working through many tangled memories and fragments.  And now, we struggle to cope with the memories as they come together to narrate mind/body experiences that deserved to be honored and understood in order to move forward.


Alternative Coping Techniques and Strategies

I added a new Pinterest link with images and videos of some alternative coping techniques you might be interested in learning about to my Resources page.  Yes, the page still says it is under construction.  We have decided to leave it up there for now because the page will be evolving as more links and information gets added.

Some of the coping techniques on the Pinterest page are:

  • Qigong
  • Tai Chi
  • Sound healing
  • Chiropractic
  • Massage therapy with trauma trained professionals
  • Bodywork therapy with trauma trained professionals
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture

I have tried almost all of these with different degrees of success.  The ones I go back to most are qigong, sound healing, massage, and acupuncture.  Chiropractic helped me at the beginning of my recovery when I stopped being able to exercise because of serious knee pain that physical therapy couldn’t fix and the specialist said required knee replacement surgery; the MRIs, X-rays, etc. couldn’t find anything wrong.  But I was 22 at the time, and no one wanted me to have replacement surgery; instead the specialist told me I had to stop exercising and live with the limited movement caused by the pain.

Yoga is amazing and wonderful in so many ways.  I wish I could practice it, but my body memories surface and cause panic attacks/flashbacks that make me physically and emotionally ill.  Someday, when I am more comfortable in my body, I will practice yoga on a regular basis.  Not everyone has this strong a reaction to yoga.  And I tried yoga in regular classes, not trauma-sensitive classes.  So please do not be discouraged.  It may work for someone in similar situation with different body reactions.

Qigong is a form of energy healing that combines sound healing, meditation, and movement.  I am not sure how to describe it.  All I can tell you is that the meditation practices combined with standing and moving exercises are not as triggering as yoga and still effective at calming my internal systems when I can use them.  Tai Chi is a martial art that has its roots in qigong and is good for people who want something more like yoga – a routine and set of movements in a pattern and rhythm that also teach individuals how to protect themselves physically.

Acupuncture is relatively new to all of us.  When we tried it, the needling helped manage the pain and anxiety so that everything was calm and quiet for a time.  But the backlash was too hard to handle.  And the commute after work was very triggering.  So we stopped for now.

If any of you readers and guest suffer from body memories or pain, I hope some of these resources offer you some new avenues to explore.  Be well.

Resource Spotlight: Web of Benefit

****for my safety and security, I do not put any personally identifying information on the website or in the posts.  This includes organization names; I use acronyms or provide web links as appropriate.*****

Introduction

Web of Benefit is a non-profit organization that provides grants to adult female survivors of domestic violence who meet the application criteria.  The organization also writes a blog and a Facebook page for anyone who wants to learn more about survivors changing their lives for the better, positive affirmations, resources, and coping strategies.

This is from their website:

Established in 2004, Web of Benefit, Inc. is a non-profit organization created by women affected by domestic violence for women escaping domestic violence. Our mission is to promote liberation from domestic violence and ensure the personal and financial independence of survivors, while breaking the inter-generational cycle of abuse. We accomplish this by awarding Self-Sufficiency Grants to women who need to create a plan for economic independence as they leave a shelter or transitional living program. Self-Sufficiency Grants provide: housing and housing stabilization; college classes; General Educational Development (GED) certification; English as a Second Language (ESL) classes; laptops for job searches and educational work; micro-business start-up costs; and transportation to attend school or job training. Upon recieving a grant, each recipient is required to “pay it forward” to three other survivors. 

Web of Benefit’s goals are:

  • To empower survivors to advance from safety, to stability, to self-sufficiency and economic independence.

  • To mentor survivors in order for them to rebuild their dreams by dreaming big and focusing small.

  • To create a realistic plan to reach each goal.

  • To create and strengthen partnerships and collaborations with agencies, foundations, corporations and private individuals to achieve our goals.

My Story

Last March I was working hard to help myself feel emotionally and physically safe.  My therapist and I had been talking about my other, more extreme, options in session; the costs and benefits of moving again, changing my name, etc. and figuring out how to disappear when my family, connections, and I lived in the same state.
One weekend before an anniversary, I was looking up resources and grants for women and survivors.  The searches left me feeling frustrated because I appeared to not meet any of the criteria for them.  So I looked up some of the key words and phrases that appeared on the criteria list again and again: victim, domestic violence, child neglect, partner rape, etc.
As I read the definitions, I thought to myself how can I meet this criteria?  I am not a victim anymore.  Does domestic violence match my situation?  It’s been over a year since I separated from my family.  I am not in a domestic violence situation anymore.  Is what they did considered domestic violence?  I am an adult, not a child.  I don’t have any proof other than my memories.  I am not a victim.
And then it hit me.  I am not a victim now.  I am a survivor.  But I was a victim.  Therefore I qualified for this help.  And the language from these grants and organizations might focus on the victim part of the equation, but victims become survivors.  So they probably help survivors too, right?
Before I could ask for help, the epiphany told me, I have to acknowledge the truth: I was a victim, and the parts of me still stuck in the past are victims.  We deserve assistance.  It’s there waiting for me, for us to reach out and ask.
inally, the criteria made sense.  And I realized there were more resources than grants available to me.  That is how I re-discovered BARCC, the organization and hotline.  Through BARCC, my advocate told me about a grant for women to help them take the first steps in achieving  their dreams.  I qualified, and my advocate filled in the program management part.
We put in the application.  I met with the organization representative for the interview.  After an hour, the representative accepted my application.  Then she explained the contract and what I had to complete within one year to keep the money.  There was only one task: to help 3 other women in similar positions (survivors trying to make a new start) with some kind of non-monetary assistance.
Part of the money went to legal fees for my name change and related paperwork.  The rest went to career counseling sessions to help me find a different career path and job that took me one step closer to achieving my dream career.

Approximate timeline

  • July 2013 I started designing this website
  • September 2013 marked my official name change, entry into the state-run address confidentiality program, and move to the new apartment
  • November 2013 marked a change in my career counseling focus: the company I work for got acquired.  The new parent company offered many opportunities, so I stayed
  • March 2015, I had all of my new identification and paperwork changed to my new name
  • May 2015, I started joining social media and decided to stop hiding
  • June 2015, I launched this website and blog – the first real step to achieving my dream
All this because the Web of Benefits representative believed in the plan I described during our interview.

More than a grant-giving organization

I provide the name of this organization because any woman in the United States who meets the criteria and has an advocate to verify the application, is eligible to receive a grant.
And while the grant-giving part of the organization is for female survivors of domestic violence (and dependents if any), the other resources are free to anyone with an Internet connection.  I have found some of my favorite affirmations and mantras on their blog and Facebook page.  And when I feel down, viewing the success stories, the poems, the artwork, and the quotes inspires me to keep moving on.

I am thankful for organizations like this.  In accepting the terms of that contract, I

  • learned to accept being a victim and a survivor; these labels are not mutually exclusive
  • became aware of how many people I encounter every day who struggle with similar obstacles
  • Realized how easily I could help someone without the fear and anxiety that came with joining an organization
Next month, is the one year anniversary and end of my contract.  More than the money, the people I met through this experience enriched my life and offered me choices I never had before.

F

Thank you so much for being there when I needed you most Web of Benefit.
If any of the readers are interested, here is the website:

Reader’s Digest

Before I could take the next steps toward my goal, I had to accept being a victim as much as being a survivor.  Because victims become survivors and vice versa.  Once I got past the denial of being a victim, I was able to look at these resources from a different perspective.  One that allowed me to reach out and ask for help.  But more importantly, listen and accept that help.  Because (at least for me), finding help is the easy part.  Asking for help is not that difficult.  But accepting help, and the fact that I need help, seems impossible sometimes.  Working with these organizations has opened my eyes to the fact that many of the people who work in places like this are compassionate, accepting, and supportive of survivors and their struggles to live full lives.
Are you willing to ask for help?  Accept help?  Do you struggle with labels and not feeling like you deserve assistance?  I hope this post helps you realize that you deserve assistance and to live the life you want instead of accepting something less.