Tag Archives: self mutilation

The appropriateness of tears

I was journaling to De, and the topic of crying snuck its way in.  I don’t remember if I have talked about it here yet.  It’s not an easy thing for me (crying).  There has to be a really damn good reason to cry “legit” tears (not the ones that seem to spill uncontrollably from my eyes at random commercials or sappy stories, but tears that are backed by deeper emotion, tears that actually mean something or are connected to something).  It’s never appropriate in front of another human being.

Crying was not accepted growing up.  It was never soothed, only discouraged (and in some cases punished).  The only exception to this was when K died; then it was ok to legitimately cry (though only up until the funeral and burial in my recollection).  It wasn’t ok to cry for T though, “because he wasn’t real family” (G hated T and refused to consider him a relative because he “wasn’t blood”… I think love makes a family, not genetic material.  I will never consider Bitch family though she is my father’s biological sister).  T married K.  He was kind to her (mostly), and to us.  He will always be family to me and I have a right to cry when I miss him… But I digress. G never allowed crying.  Mom looks down on it also, though she was more consoling about it than G ever was.  Regardless, crying was like a sick day: hell froze over before it was allowed (or the school kicked us out because we were contagious).

Despite new learning and a cognitive understanding of the benefits of crying, I still have a lot of trouble allowing myself to cry in front of anyone else. That rarely happens.  It has taken me over a decade to learn to talk myself into crying when I need it, not just when it falls under the “ok” column set by my early experiences.  I have to have a drawn-out conversation with myself to convince that gate-keeper to let the tears fall.  Sometimes I can’t convince her to let go, but a few times every few years, I can actually manage to cry as an emotional release.  Most of the time, blood had taken the place of tears… I haven’t cut in months, but I haven’t cried either (except maybe twice in the ER or the hospital).  Tears tumble forth at stupid sappy stories, or emotional moments in movies, but there’s nothing really behind them.  It’s not a full-fledged cry, but just leaking eyes.  I wish I could bring myself to release through crying more often.  I think it might do me some good, but the keys needed to open that gate are stashed away somewhere “safe” from my prying.

One of the few things I remember from my childhood is a recurring nightmare.  I would be crying, and Skeletor would yell at me to stop.  He would tell me that if I didn’t stop right then, he would kill me.  He would grab me and physically threaten until the dream me stopped crying… I think the dream me, conditioned by Skeletor, is the gate-keeper to allowing the adult me to cry.  She’s terrified though, and repeats Skeletor’s words over and over again even when I try to tell her it’s ok to cry.

The other fear of crying comes from the fear of being overwhelmed by it.  If I start to cry, will I ever be able to stop?  I’m reminded of one day in 2007 when I cried hysterically for about 8 hours straight.  I would stop only long enough to catch my breath for a few seconds, then the choking sobs would start again.  I remember calling 211 because I hoped talking to someone would help me stop.  They sent out an ambulance without telling me and I was hospitalized (I cried hysterically the whole time until they drugged me up enough to put me to sleep for a few hours before they admitted me upstairs)… Kinda shitty experience.  Similar in “turn-off” factor as the Skeletor dream.

Anyway, I’m not really sure what the purpose of this post is… We all learn different things growing up (many of us learn really warped stuff), and it tends to affect us into adulthood even when we try our best to shake the lessons.  I look forward to the day that I can cry “as needed” without having to go through a 30 minute back-and-forth with the old tapes.

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quick and effective breathing exercise

I found this on a forum last night (or maybe it was this morning? I’m not 100% sure) and liked it a lot.

I learned this in a hospital so it is based on science and has to do with the vagal nerve which has a connection to the sympathetic nervous system, that fight or flight anxiety feeling.

So best to do this standing. Only 3 breaths so take your time. Open your mouth slightly and breathe deeply in through your nose. Pull the breath so the diaphragm goes as far down as possible. Visualize pulling it all the way into the pelvic floor and at the end when you can’t hold it any more, squeeze the pelvic muscles like a keegle.

Then slowly blow the air out through your mouth until you are almost not breathing. Then start a new in breath. Repeat 2 more times. Careful not to get dizzy. I don’t but some do. It is important to focus on the pelvic region and pull the breath down as deeply as possible. The vagal nerve ends at the pelvic floor and the muscles contracting help stop the panicky reaction.

I know breathing exercises are really helpful, but I tend to get frustrated with ones that are too long, or don’t work immediately.  From what others were saying on the forum, this one works really well and really quickly (seeing as you only have to do it 3 times).  I have not yet tried it myself, but I have not needed to as of yet.  I wanted to share it here not only for easy reference for later, but in case anyone else was looking for a quick and effective breathing exercise.


Grounding objects

A long time ago, I realized that certain objects helped me ground or de-stress.  As long as I can remember, I have always had a squishy toy, a small bean bag, a beanie baby (they are good for something other than collecting dust!!), a lavender eye pillow (the sound of the insides swooshing as I rotate it around my hands is incredibly calming, as is the lavender scent), spinning rings, things to meticulously shred, Tangle toys, objects of various different textures (I tend to prefer smooth & soft, but sometimes I go for rougher things), things to peel, etc.  Throughout college, I was known to hoard stress toys in my bag, at work, and in my dorm room.  I still carry at least 1, if not 5, stress objects with me daily.  Heck, even our wedding rings serve as stress objects (they are 3 interconnected rings that I can either take off to play with, or easily roll up and down my finger if I need my other hand for something like driving or writing).  I try to keep most things unobtrusive, as I’m supposed to be an adult now, and carrying around a beanie baby just gets me a whole bunch of weird looks (I rarely carry anything I cannot fit in my pockets, and lately they happen to be “girly jean” pockets, so space is at a premium).

I realized I have a piece of jewelry that I use quite a bit, but had no concept of it until I wound up at The Center (a dedicated Trauma Psych unit in DC).  They did a lot with creative expression and making tools to help ground.  One of the things I made while there was a “grounding bracelet”.  It’s pretty much a single enclosed loop of beads with an additional length of beads – long enough to wrap again around my wrist a second time.  When I have it on, it looks like a double-stand beaded bracelet.  If I need something to fidget with however, I can unwrap the long strand and play with it.  It’s really easy to make, and has come in handy when I need a way to ground or calm myself.  Some of the girls I had worked with in the past really liked the concept (though I never disclosed it’s purpose to them) of having something they could wear that they could also play with.  I remember one night sitting down with a handful of them and everyone making a bracelet.

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To make a grounding bracelet you will need: (see also here)

  • thicker stretchy jewelry string
  • beads of your choice (I used glass beads but you can use any beads you like)
  1. cut a length of jewelry string long enough to wrap around your wrist twice, plus about 3 inches (to allow for knots and a length to tuck under the loop when not in use)
  2. tie a temporary knot at one end and string your beads (can also loop the string back through the bead so it stays in place while you add the others). Make sure you do not string them too tight because it will make the next step difficult. I used a larger bead at the loose end help keep it in place when not in use (doesn’t slide out as easily.  It is also a nice “focal bead” to fiddle with – slightly bumpy in texture for when I want to feel something a little more rough).  I used a variety of shapes and colors, but kept to colors I find soothing.  Some of the beads used to have a sand-blasted texture, but that has since worn off from too much fiddling.
  3. tie one end (without the large “end bead”) back onto the string so that you have the closed loop portion of the bracelet (once around your wrist). Make sure you tie a solid knot at both ends, but especially the loose end. Voila! You have a grounding bracelet!

To wear, simply slide the loop over your wrist, wrap the long portion around a second time, then tuck a length of it underneath the closed-loop portion of the bracelet.  I found mine slips loose if I only tuck it under once, so I loop it back onto itself again and tuck under a second time.  It looks just like any other piece of jewelry, but can double as a therapeutic tool when needed without advertising what it actually is.

wpid-PicsArt_1388899069631.jpgI also made a keychain there with similar intent.  It is a “tassel” of different glass beads attached to a larger bead on a silver ring.  There are about 5 or 6 different strings, each with different colors, textures, and shapes of beads.  I do not use it quite as often as the bracelet (it’s a bit bulky), but I carry it with me when I need extra choices for stress toys.  If I have my backpack with me, my current selection offering of stress relief is: 3 different scented lotions, a squishy ball, a sandalwood scented travel candle, a squeezable ghost, a tangle toy, my stress keychain, my iPod, silly putty, and a glass heart given to me by my first ever therapist.  When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, Beary, my stuffed bear, will make her way into the bag.  If I only have pocket-space, then I take my heart, the candle, and my iPod. I have taken to wearing the bracelet daily regardless of space for other things to bring.  It has come in very handy while shopping (holiday crowds can be crazy!), in therapy, and any other time I need help reducing anxiety.  I even find myself playing with it randomly when there’s no anxiety or stress present.  I’m really glad I was given the opportunity to make it.

Does anyone else have a “portable stress kit” they use?  What’s in it? Do you find it helpful?


Friday Night on Repeat

I was organizing our art stuff and started playing the music on my phone in shuffle.  I hit Miranda Lambert’s “Over You” and it has gotten stuck on infinite repeat.  There are just some songs that are worth the incessant playing.  I’m not 100% sure what I like about it.  I think it’s a combination of the lyrics and the way she sings parts of it. There’s a desperation and… “something” in her voice at times that just triggers something in my brain.  It latches on and holds it.

The last few days have been ok.  I don’t think I wrote much recently, but that may be because a lot of effort is being exerted on visual expression.  I wish I was better at it, but I need to practice again to get back to my drawing level from several years ago.  It’s definitely something you lose if you don’t use… I’m also playing a lot with mediums I’ve never worked with (or did so only a very few times).  I really want to work more with water colors.  They have a feel to them that other paints can’t quite achieve.  I just seriously need more practice.  I would like to take a class, but we don’t really have the extra cash.  I could try learning on my own through videos, but there’s something about being able to ask questions that makes it work better for me. One day…

In the mean time, I will be fooling around with other random stuff.  There’s a lot I want to be able to put on paper, but I’m not quite sure how.  I guess it will take a lot of trial and error.

Random “weird” thought of the moment: I was getting gas and checking a stack of lottery tickets from the last few weeks.  The guy asked if I had felt lucky.  I responded with “No, life hates me…”  The woman at the next register said that I was still alive and breathing, so life must not hate me that much.  My automatic response was “Exactly! Life hates me.”  I didn’t realize what I had said until I saw the look on his face (combination of pity and disgust I think).  It wasn’t even like I have been depressed all that much lately.  I think all those years of living in the dark makes dark things a habit.  I’m not suicidal right now.  I have no desire to die right now.  I might even go so far as to say I have been “happy” lately (ok, maybe that’s more of just “disconnected and slightly hypo-manic” but since I don’t really have bipolar, I will just call it happy and disconnected).  The words just tumbled out of my mouth without me realizing.  I said them laughingly and with a smile on my face that had been there when I walked into the store… It’s weird how “habits” can carry through even the good times.


More for the 2014 100 Theme Challenge

I was messing around with water colors today. I have a LOT of practice to do before I’m reasonable versed in the techniques, but I think these came out ok. The first is a “practice” piece that came out better than the one on the intended painting…
55) Comfort

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The next is the painting I wanted to have the dog in… It’s still in the works, as it’s bottom-heavy.  I need to figure out what to put on the top portion to make it feel more balanced.

60) Superpowers – there’s comfort in the dog’s protection and the wings and the bear.  There’s comfort in the blackness also.  It’s a place to hide and blend in to avoid attention.  Sometimes kids need superpowers to get through the darkness, even the inner kids.

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Meditation via Nature

The other day, we went back to the Japanese gardens.  I have yet to do any of the prescribed meditations for the program, but I really enjoy wandering and finding interesting things to draw or photograph.  I took a few that I really liked this time around, and one in particular that speaks to me, but I can’t figure out what it is saying.  There’s just something hopeful about it: striving and reaching and… persevering.  

b&w tree

2014 100-Theme Challenge – 6) Reaching Up (out)


almost forgot to show you the card I made for L!

I was glancing back at my entries from the last 2 weeks and noticed that I forgot to show you the card I had made for L (that was the top-secret one).  I’m actually really pretty proud of it, though I have issues with the way the mouth came out…  Either way, she liked it a lot too, so here it is:

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Cute, no?  I could have done a better job with the mistletoe, but whatever.  I like the little guy.