Posts Tagged ‘staying present’

I am not typically one for making a New Year’s Resolution. Quite frankly, I don’t need the pressure – I don’t need one more thing to make me feel badly about myself when I mess up. So, I am not going to call this my New Year’s Resolution. Instead, it will be my “goal” for 2011.

My New Year’s “Goal” for 2011 is mindfulness. I want to make a conscious effort to “stay present” as much as I can throughout the year. I know I am going to mess up, so this isn’t a New Year’s Resolution. I recognize that after living most of my life in a dissociated state, it is not going to be possible to “flip a switch” in my head and suddenly be mindful all of the time. In fact, I am not sure if being mindful 100% of the time is even possible.

Instead, this is just a goal I have for myself in 2011 (and hopefully beyond that). I want to get in the habit of returning my focus to the present moment. I want to stop spending my time fretting about the past and worrying about the future. Of course, there is always time for reflection as well as planning, but I don’t want that to be my “normal” state of being.

This is a big leap for me after the weeks I had during the holidays. I was constantly triggered and doing everything I could to stay away from the present. However, the holidays are now over, and it is time for me to get back to living in my body again.

As I write this, I am recovering from a cold, so staying in my body is more of a challenge right now. I really need to be able to do yoga, exercise, and engage in other activities that help me want to be in my body. However, I have to start somewhere, so I am doing the best I can until I can physically engage in these activities again. I am reaching toward this goal through self-love, not through self-hatred.

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution or goal this year? If so, what was it? Have you built in room for falling down and getting back up again?

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I have shared that I now have a prescription for Xanax to help me with my anxiety. I try not to take it more than once a day, and I sometimes can go the whole day without it. I have noticed that I am experiencing much more anxiety than I ever appreciated now that I have been trying not to lean on my eating disorder of binge and compulsive overeating.

I have been trying to pay attention to the times that I feel the need to medicate myself with the Xanax. This frequently happens in the evenings or at night when my son (who has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD) is running around like a loud, crazed Energizer bunny. However, I have begun noticing my anxiety level rising at other times, too.

Hub and I went to dinner at a local pizza parlor. The place was crowded with a large group seated right next to us. A customer was seated at the end of a group of tables pushed together, which put him in the aisle. People were coming and going around him. Waitresses were bustling around the tables. Children were making noise. I felt overloaded by all of the stimuli and just wanted to crawl under a rock to get away from it all.

It was then that it hit me – I don’t know how to process all of this stimulation! I have lived most of my life with dissociative identity disorder (DID), so I had a way of escaping overstimulation. Whenever things got too “crazy,” I would simply dissociate. However, as I am becoming more whole and have now stopped using food to help me stay dissociated, I am living more in my body. I am staying present, and I don’t quite know how to handle overstimulation because I never had to deal with it before!
This is quite an epiphany for me, and I am relieved to understand this about myself. My sister has been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, but I never had any trouble being in a crowd or surrounded by chaos. I now recognize that this is because I was “checking out” in my own head. Now that I have chosen to give that up, I am finding myself reacting in a very similar manner as my sister when confronted with chaos and crowds.

Now that I know this about myself, I will start taking steps to deal with it. Half the battle for me is always identifying the issue. Now that I recognize that this is a problem, I can take steps to deal with it (including taking a Xanax, if needed).

I am encouraged because this is another sign that I really am integrating. I really am becoming more whole. In some ways, I am giving up a “super power” by letting go of dissociating, but I am giving myself the gift of presence.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have been reading the book The Shack by William Paul Young. This week, I am focusing upon different words of wisdom in the book that can be applied to survivors of child abuse. See my first post for more information about the book.

Unfortunately, there is no way around religion in today’s blog entry, so I’ll post a trigger warning:

******** Religious Triggers **********

One of the issues that my therapist addressed over and over again was that I needed to learn how to stay present. I spend most of my life either reliving the past or worrying about the future. It is rare that I simply enjoy the beauty of the moment. Now, I have improved upon this since therapy, but I am very susceptible to falling back into old patterns.

The book The Shack had an interesting take upon staying present. The main character, Mack, is having a conversation with God about worrying about the future:

Mack, do you realize that your imagination of the future, which is almost always dictated by fear of some kind, rarely, if ever, pictures me there with you? … You try to play God, imagining the evil that you fear becoming reality, and then you try to make plans and contingencies to avoid what you fear. ~ The Shack, page 144

This comment hit me hard. I never thought out it in this way, but this definitely describes me. I have all sorts of contingency plans for all sorts of horrors that could befall me, but none of my scenarios involves God being present if these things ever actually happened to me.

This is not consistent with my past. I can look back over my life and see the many ways that things looked bleak in the present but then, in retrospect, worked out for the best.

For example, nothing could have convinced me that anything good could come out of my infertility. Today, as a direct result of my infertility, I have adopted a wonderful child, own a website that promotes adoption, and ran an infertility support group that led to a friend adopting her own child. My closest friends today would not be in my life if I had not gone through infertility because our children would be different ages, so we never would have met.

In fact, writing about adoption is what got me into blogging, so I probably would not have started blogging if I had not adopted a child, and I would not have adopted a child if I had not been infertile. So, you can actually thank my infertility for this blog.

So, I am going to try to stop envisioning all sorts of horrors in my future and trust that God will be with me. I know I will be okay in the future because I am okay now in my present. Also, the future is just an illusion. All we ever really have is right now.

Of course, we need to plan for the future, such as saving money for retirement and such. But I don’t need to “live” in the future.

This is all the same stuff that my therapist told me for years. Sometimes I just need to hear the same message in a different way.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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Plant (c) Lynda BernhardtOver on my professional blog, I write about adoption topics. My favorite topics to write about are trauma-related. I have several readers who have adopted traumatized children. They appreciate the insights that I can provide into the way their traumatized children’s minds work.

I have launched a new feature over there this week called “Trauma Tuesday” and “Trauma Thursday.” On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I will always write about trauma-related topics. (I write two blog entries a day on those days.) Many of those topics can be helpful to adult survivors of child abuse as well, so feel free to check them out.

Last week, I wrote a series explaining eating disorders and how to help a traumatized child heal from them. One reader (an adoptive parent of traumatized children) posted the following insightful comment:

Our children came out of foster care, and have never really suffered deprivation…at least like children in orphanages. But they definitely have food issues. I see it as being non-food related. They are very unaware of their own bodies. They talk too loud, crash into things, seem unaware of how to choose clothing for the temperature outdoors. They don’t know when they are tired, they fret over minor injuries, but can’t distinguish real ones. And they eat with no shut off valve. It’s like they can’t read it. It takes lots of time and work, to get them more in tune with their own selves, and that means on every level…emotional, mental, physical. Our children don’t over eat because of fear and trauma, at least directly, but because they have “shut down”, or maybe never “turned on”. My young teens still look to me and ask if what they have on their plate is appropriate, because they struggle to know. They ask before they take seconds, because they now fear misjudging and making themselves sick. I encourage them to wait a few minutes, and “let it settle”. Usually they will decide against the extra portion. – Scrapsbynobody at Other Types Of Eating Disorders And The Adopted Child

There is so much insight in this comment that I thought I would talk about it on this blog as well.

I have struggled with the eating disorder of binge eating for most of my life. I have also struggled with feeling disconnected from my body. In fact, I used to “live” in only a tiny sliver of my head before I started healing from the child abuse. However, I never connected the two issues the way that Scrapsbynobody did in her comment. Reading her comment was a major “aha” moment for me.

I do so many of the things she mentions. I routinely find bruises on my body – sometimes large ones – and have no explanation for where they came from. I don’t think this is about losing time (I am pretty sure I don’t do that anymore) but about not being in my body enough to notice when it is harmed. I routinely ignore my body’s signals to use the bathroom until my bladder truly cannot take another minute. I had to relearn the difference between hunger pangs that signal hunger versus signaling a need for processing emotions.

I am becoming better about staying present, but what she wrote resonated so deeply with me that it drove home how much work I still have to do. Oh, joy.

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Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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