Saturday, January 25, 2014

Neglect of Self

I’ve been doing something extremely odd lately. Odd for me anyways.  I haven’t been taking exceptionally good care of myself or my space. Well, I’ve been pulling myself out of steadily this last week. But the first few weeks of January had not been my best.  For someone as high functioning as myself I’m usually very careful about keeping myself together and looking the part.


Lately however. I’ve been sleeping an abnormal amount. Any amount of sleep beyond what is absolutely necessary would technically be considered abnormal for me. I was an insomniac for most of my life. Living off of 1-2 hours of sleep for years, through most of high school, off and on through college, whenever I’m going through stressful periods, then crashing for a day.  Typically I’ll get a good 6-7 hours on a work night now which is healthy. 8-9 hours on weekends. Lately I’ve been sleep 12-14 hours a day. Everyday. And just not getting out of bed at all after that. It takes all of my energy to just pull myself up.


I don’t leave my bedroom. My room itself is a disaster area. It typically has something of an air of clutter of it’s usually very organized. I’m an artist and everything actually has a place, but I have many things and a lot of creative projects going on. Lately though, I just haven’t felt a need to clean, or bother with anything. Where it hits the floor is where it needs to be.


The state of my bedroom often reflects the state of my mental space.



I haven’t bothered to do my hair or make up at all lately, except what is absolutely minimal for work and company (if I can be brought to have any). Usually I’ll look nice to go out and run errands, but I haven’t been bothering. Not that I need to wear make-up, and my personal politics believe that a woman should in no way /have/ to wear make-up if she doesn’t want to, but for me this is a sign of personal neglect.  I love make-up and getting dolled up. The body is just another canvas for me, but I’ve been too tired and too sad to play with the colors and my personal canvas.


I haven’t been painting or drawing.  I simply haven’t had my usual creative spark.


I haven’t been able to exercise the way I usually do. Don’t get me wrong. I keep trying but my workouts have been a bit lackluster.


Oh yeah, and I’ve basically stopped eating. Amusingly, in complete contrast to my eating disordered riddled history, I’ve actually had to force myself to eat because I know I needed to.  


This is all indicative of a larger problem that many of you can probably pinpoint without me having to even say it. That big black rain cloud over your head called Depression.


I’ve talked about Depression before so I won’t beat that horse into the ground. It’s weird though, because I’ve been depressed pretty much my entire life.  Because of my medication (and after I talked to Therapist) I haven’t /felt/ depressed, but the signs have been there. It’s like my body is depressed but it hasn’t told my mood. Therapist really helped my mind, but my body hasn’t quite caught up. Before I talked to therapist, my moods were all over the place and I was definitely depressed. Medication can really only do so much because life, and triggers, still happen. This is important to remember. It can be a bit daunting sometimes to be constantly on the lookout for your own life.


However!  There is a bright side to all of this! After unloading to Therapist everything that’s happened the weight on my mind lightened considerably and gave me a much better perspective. I’ve been in a much better mental space. The ridiculous downward spiral that I’ve found myself in has been steadily going back up.


I was embarrassed that I fell so far and felt so bad about it (even for just a couple weeks). Even though I had just had this same exact conversation with Zoe. She had also h


ad a bad spot herself (which I’ll get to because it’s important) and she was feeling the same. What I told her was:


Just because you slip back for a little while does not in any way erase all of the progress you have made. It doesn’t suddenly erase everything you’ve learned. Everyone has bad days, everyone has bad weeks, everyone has bad months. It doesn’t stay bad though. We know this. Even though it feels like it will, we know it doesn’t. Nothing lasts forever. And it doesn’t make you bad! Things eventually start to go back to a better place, and you have to work towards this, but you then you’re still you! You’re still that same wonderful person that has put in all of that hard work to become a healthier, stronger person.


Always easier to give advice than to internalize advice, aye?


The point is: It's okay. 
Looking back, I had a couple rough weeks. I haven’t a period like that in years. YEARS! As opposed to living like that as a constant state of being my entire life. I’d say that’s a ridiculous amount of progress. My Therapist agrees. I’m pulling myself out of it like a champ too. I’m actively pushing myself to workout harder. This pumps up my endorphins and actually gives me more energy. I did a majoring cleaning of my room and my space. This actually puts my mind in a better place. I made plans to visit my Sister, which is a surefire way to put me in a better mental and emotional place (read: Surround yourself with people that love and care about you, if possible). 


Most importantly: Don’t bottle up and carry the weight of your emotional burdens if you don’t have to. Ideally, talk to an impartial, trustworthy source like a Therapist, but don’t let those bad thoughts eat away at you. 


Also, learn to recognize the signs of any behaviors that might not be normal for you that indicate something may be wrong. This is especially important if you’re on medication for your mood. Just because your chemicals are balanced that doesn’t mean that something isn’t still off mentally. I think this is why I haven’t necessarily been feeling depressed, but have some of the behaviors of depression.  






Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding a Safe Place – Therapeutic Visualization

Today I want to talk about another therapeutic technique that Therapist wants me to practice. This is something she thinks is important for when I go home to see my family and when I talk with Roman because we talk about high school and we were friends when I was dating The One, which is especially triggering for me. Know your triggers!


First of all, Therapist thinks it’s important to set personal boundaries. Sometimes you want to open up and share with a person, but in doing so, it’s triggering, because it’s too soon, or you’re not necessarily comfortable doing so. This is okay. It’s okay to take a step back and express that the subject is okay for you to not talk about right now. That you don’t feel that you can talk about those things at the moment without going to bad place mentally or emotionally. Feel free to express this and change the subject. This is well within your right to taking care of your mental health!


If you do feel that you want to try and open up, or even if you don’t, but because the subject was broached and you need to ground yourself this is the cognitive therapeutic technique that Therapist suggested for practice.


Find your Safe Place:


Try to remember a place in your life where you have felt safe. Ideally a place that corresponds to the time period associated with what you are being triggered by. (You may not have that many safe places in your life, so don’t worry about limiting yourself if you can’t.) It’s important to begin visualizing your safe place now. Recreate it in your mind. Solidify it there. How it looks, how it made you feel, how it smells even.
It’s important to practice now, so that when triggers pop up when you’re with someone, you can take a deep breath, and then a moment or two of visualization placing yourself in that safe space where you know nothing can touch you. It’s a place those things that happened to you in the real world never encroached, so when you can place yourself there in your mind’s eye, breathing deeply, it should allow you to regain a sense of calm, easing your anxiety.


For me: It actually took me a while to think of a place. I didn’t feel that my home was a safe space for me growing up. However, I did have a climbing tree growing up. Very few people ever even knew about it very far back in the woods (except my childhood best friend and all my memories with her were exceptionally happy ones). I certainly never brought The One there or my parents, or anyone that brought me severe harm. I would go there every now and again when I just needed to get away and sit on the lowest branch that was huge and perfect for reading a book on. It was secluded and peaceful. Just for me.


For some of us this place may not even be a real place. It may be a safe place we lost ourselves to in a book, or a made up mental space that no one else could touch us in. Maybe an ideal place that we hope to have. A place of peace.


Once you have your safe place firmly established in your mind, when those triggering conversations, people or times come up, it becomes easier to recall that safe place, remind yourself that those things are no longer happening, they’re in the past, and to find a place of calm within your Self.  



Have you ever tried anything like this? 




Monday, January 20, 2014

The Vault Method

After talking to Therapist I’ve been in a much better head space ::deep sigh of relief::.


Today I wanted to talk about a cognitive visualization method of therapy that my Therapist wants me to work on called The Vault Method.


In the past I’ve mentioned the Abandoned/Wounded Child mode of the psyche. This is often the aspect of a person that has been wounded to the core since childhood. Where a person holds their deepest vulnerabilities. In the Abandoned Child mode people appear fragile and childlike. They seem sorrowful, frantic, frightened, unloved, and lost. Often for good reason.


Now, I’ve been in therapy for a few years at this point and I’ve dealt with most of these issues at certain points, but as new experiences happen, you may run into new trigger experiences. Because I have a history of sexual violence I have post-traumatic stress and abuse that keeps flashing back for me. I keep ruminating and getting lost in racing and circular thoughts. I don’t have a place to put these thoughts.


It’s important to acknowledge these thoughts. Don’t try to ignore them and bottle or repress them.


Instead Therapist says to:


            The Vault Method

Imagine a Vault. Something deep, strong, and secure. Next imagine a young Abandoned Child version of you holding hands with strong Protector version of you.

Envision yourselves standing in front of your open vault. As you have each of these unpleasant, destructive, ruminating, or traumatic thoughts - picture your Abandoned Child Self releasing these thoughts into the Vault. Acknowledge them and put them away. If at any time your Abandoned Child Self feels overwhelmed, allow your Protector Self to provide comfort and soothing. Self-soothing is very important.When you have acknowledged all of the destructive thoughts you have at that time, allow your Abandoned Child to slam the door shut. Let your strong Protector Self lock the door. The strong Protector aspect of your Self should always have the key to this Vault.  

Sometimes you’ll find that these thoughts creep back. Therapist said that this is when the Vault is “leaking”. Revisit the Vault with your Abandoned child and Protector Self and put those thoughts back in the Vault. Locking them back away. Don’t let them remain loose.



It takes practice to allow these thoughts to stop “leaking” back out into your day to day life. I find things with strong visual imagery help me the most.



What do you think? 



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