Coping Method #4

Image by mariachily

This is so fundamental that I almost decided not to do a post about it.

Don’t forget to breathe.

Taking deep breaths and concentrating on regulating your breathing can go a long way toward helping you calm down, whether it’s from a flashback, panic attack, caffeine overdose, or the anxiety caused by recovering an awful memory.

There are lots of breathing exercises out there. It’s a good idea to learn one now so that you have it in your coping methods for when you need it.

The one I do I developed on my own, but I’m sure there are things like it out there.

I start by finding a place where I can sit with a nice, straight back. I hold my hands in front of me, bringing them toward my shoulders when I breathe in, and pushing them away from me and touching my fingers together as I breathe out. I also kind of blow the breath out, like I’m about to whistle. Something about the sighing sound it makes is calming. I don’t know why the hand motions help me, but they do. There are lots of good, scientific reasons that breathing like that can help you calm down. They’re easy to find, so I don’t think I need to talk about them here.

Sometimes it can be hard to find the time or the location to do breathing exercises like that. Fortunately, we’re always breathing and we can always work on regulating ourselves so that we can calm down.

Coping Method #3

Image by InsEyedout

This one is big for me, though I didn’t start doing it until recently. It’s not as much an immediate way of handling the feelings that come with a flashback or after being triggered, but it helps when a memory just won’t leave me alone.

Write it out.

For a long time, I was in denial that the memories coming back to me were real. It took having a bunch of them slot together into a disturbingly clear picture of what had gone on before I finally allowed myself to acknowledge that I’d been sexually abused.

After that, the specifics of it all were too painful to think about in an orderly way. Now, after several years of this, I can write/type about some of it, and I get a certain amount of relief from doing so. I think that relief comes from putting the memory into a more ordered, logical form which helps me process the emotions. I also think that it helps that I’m in control when I write it down. The memories and the way that I express them in words are totally under my power. Last, and most dubious, I feel like the memories lose an aspect of their reality when I write them down this way, like I’m telling someone else’s story,  as I often do in my other writing. I don’t know if that’s entirely good, but it helps, so I don’t mind it.

Alas, I’m not to the point that I can have a flashback or recover a memory and then immediately write about it. Usually the shame and self loathing are too strong for a while. I have to wrestle myself out of that state a bit before I can handle writing. It gets easier every time.

Just yesterday, I woke from a nightmare and there were a few lines of writing in my head. I got them down on paper, not thinking that anything else would come from it. I ended up pouring out the story of what caused the nightmare onto six sheets of paper. I felt so much better after that. Usually, those kinds of nightmares ruin my mornings as I feel sick and vulnerable after them. Yesterday wasn’t like that. Just writing it out made all the difference.

I do recommend that you be careful about where you keep or how you dispose of this writing. I’m not ready for my family or friends to know anything about this, so I make sure that they can never stumble across any of it when they’re around and learn my story before I’m ready to tell them. Some of you, who are in therapy (not an option for me just now), might find that what you write could be really useful for your therapist, and that you can relate certain things that happened to you more easily that way than by telling them out loud.

Christmas Eve

Image from ChristmasStockImages.com

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone!

It’s early morning, and I’m getting myself mentally ready to help my mother with the flood of people who will be here in a few hours for breakfast.

Welcome to some of the most difficult days of the year. I understand that a lot of survivors struggle over the holidays, like I do. Even though they’re supposed to be fun, the holidays are also stressful. And that’s for folks who had normal childhoods. I remember some pretty bad Christmases. Coping with painful associations over the holidays is also compounded by being back in contact with family, or with being alone for the holidays, both of which can be painful.

This year, I’m going into Christmas with a different attitude. I mean to reclaim the holidays for myself. I deserve to enjoy them.

Instead of trying to avoid conflicts with my family, I’m going to enforce my boundaries. I’m not going to be bullied. I’m not going to be ignored. I’m going to hold tight to the knowledge that Christmas is about giving gifts, so the fact that I will give a lot more than I receive means that I win. Lol, okay, maybe seeing it as a contest isn’t entirely healthy either. Instead of saying “win” in my head, I’ll say succeed. 😉

Since I’m easily overwhelmed by having a bunch of people around me (I’m extremely introverted, thus get my fill of people a lot faster than most do), I will make sure that there is a clean, quiet space available to me so that I can take breaks from everyone when I need to.

I’m going to enjoy the food, the cookies, and the company of the people who want me around.

I’m also going to have as many of my coping plans in place ahead of time as I can manage.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

Coping Method #1

IMG_1959

Image by Katie King

***Warning — Self Harm ***

A few days ago, I had a new, well not new, an old forgotten memory, pop into my head. This has actually happened a lot to me. Usually, I get signs that I’m remembering something before it happens. Often, I have bad dreams ahead of time, feel anxious and depressed. This time around, I was just kind of “down” for a few days. Being “down” or “having gray days” as I call them, isn’t uncommon for me, so without the other indicators, I wasn’t bracing for impact. And it hit me like a bus.

I’m not ready to talk about (read: type up) what came back to me. In some ways it wasn’t as bad as other things I’ve remembered, in others it was a doozy. It has me mixed up and conflicted, depressed, anxious, full to the brim with shame and self loathing.

Yet, I’m doing much better today than I was then. Over the last couple years, I’ve learned how to begin letting go of the negative feelings that come up with these hellish memories. But, before I get into the bigger process of how I started healing from all this, I want to talk about the more short term ways of coping with having one’s world rocked by the sudden retrieval of painful memories. I’m sure the list that I keep in my head would be good for other things too, but keeping myself from doing anything stupid right after I’m forced to relive moments of childhood trauma tends to be my reason for going to my list.

So, I shall talk about my short term coping methods in no particular order.

First:
Make a cup of tea.

It’s a simple thing, easy to accomplish even during a panic attack, shaking body, what have you. DON’T put water on to boil. Use the microwave. I say this for several reasons. First off, the microwave can get a single cup of water hot about eight times faster than heating up a kettle of water. The sooner you can be sitting down with a cup of tea to sip, the better. Second, if you’re at all like me, it would be easy to forget about a kettle on the stove (unless you have a whistling kettle, which mine isn’t) because of the torrent of dark emotions passing through you. Third, a hot kettle is a really great way to hurt yourself if you aren’t paying attention. I accidentally steam burned the back of my left hand a year ago, and still don’t have the feeling in it back entirely. Fourth, a hot kettle might be a very convenient means of self injuring when in such a state. Stick to the microwave.

Make a ritual out of preparing your cup of tea. Focus on every aspect of what you’re doing. Dip the tea bag up and down while it’s steeping. Add milk and sugar (i.e. make it taste good. I like maple syrup in my tea). Watch the milk swirl into the tea. Focus on what’s happening with what you are doing in the present.Then sit and sip your tea. Try not to dwell on what’s freaked you out/triggered you/stressed you out. There will be plenty of time for that later when you’ve calmed down.

I usually use an herbal tea during times like this. It seems like a good idea not to add caffeine to a freaked out, shaking, hyperventilating body. That doesn’t mean you can’t make coffee or a stronger tea. This is just what I do. I suppose you could even pour yourself a glass of milk or juice, or even some water.

I recommend against alcohol. My grandfather always says that the minute you drink for the way it makes you feel rather than for the taste, you’re entering into alcoholism. This makes good sense to me, so I choose not to use alcohol for anything that smacks of coping or self medicating. When I drink a glass of wine, I want it to be because I enjoy a good Merlot  and not because I’m hating myself.

I hope this helps!