My Safe Space

A few months ago, my former behavior specialist introduced a kind of visualization exercise to me called something like “A safe space” It doesn’t necessarily involve just visualizations though. Rather, the idea is to imagine your safe space, real or imaginary, in as much detail as you can. For today’s blog post, I’m going to describe mine.

I am in a kind of artificial forest surrounded by trees. The ground, however, is smooth, so that I can walk on it. When I want to rest, I can sit on a soft, cushioned bench in the forest. It feels like moss, but smoother and velveter. I can pull a weighted blanket over me when I want to fully relax. Of course, it’s always comfortably warm here.

I smell the scent of various plants and trees in the forest, such as lavender, sweet orange, pine, etc. They vary with the time of day or week and with the seasons, creating ever-changing combinations of aromas.

There are, of course, unicorns in the forest. The unicorns have all kinds of colors and sparkly or shimmery or glow-in-the-dark mane, creating a beautiful sight. Since my safe space is imaginary, I can see well enough to actually perceive these colors and sparkles and everything. When I feel like it, I can ride one of the unicorns. I can also cuddle with the colts and fillies. The unicorns comfort me.

There’s water in my safe space too. It has all the pros of a swimming pool (the cleanliness, smooth surface to stand on at the shallow end, etc.) but is still natural in a way. There are dolphins in the water that I can do dolphin therapy with.

I hear calm harp music and birdsong in the background when I’m in my safe space. Sometimes, the birdsong is replaced by dolphin sounds.

All combined, the unicorns and dolphins with the music, scents, and comfortable feel of the weighted blanket, will calm me.

Of course, aside from the real dolphins and the unicorns, everything I have in my imaginary safe space, I either have in my real room at the care facility or could somehow create elsewhere. I mean, I have a weighted blanket, an essential oil diffuser, a music pillow and a Spotify account to create the soothing music. The staff also offered to take me swimming once in a while again and I could obviously find a real forest (though that does not have the smooth ground to stand on). I can still imagine many colors in my mind, so this visualization exercise may help me create the colorful experience of the unicorns I described above. In truth, though merely imagining a safe space isn’t necessarily going to make me feel any calmer, it does get me closer to realizing the things I have right here in order to create it.

loopyloulaura

The Wednesday HodgePodge (May 18, 2022)

Hi everyone. Joyce has prepared some fun questions for the Wednesday HodgePodge this week, so I’m joining in again. Here goes.

1. What’s something that makes you feel stressed? How do you cope?
Uhm, me, stressed? 😉 Seriously though, there are a lot of things that make me stressed. The most likely stressors for me are when my routine gets disrupted and when I get frustrated during a craft project or other activity that’s important to me.

As for how I cope, well, usually, uhm, I don’t. I do try to calm down by reminding myself that whatever’s going on isn’t the end of the world. However, most of the time I need someone else to sort out the problem I’m facing for me before I can calm down.

2. What’s a food you eat that evokes a memory? Explain.
I honestly don’t know, since I don’t eat most foods from my childhood anymore (or at least not in the form my parents used to cook them). I also don’t have many memories attached to foods I do currently eat. I mean, I clearly remember the licorice “pie” my staff and fellow patients at the psych hospital made for my wedding, but I haven’t eaten that brand of licorice in years.

3. This week’s Hodgepodge lands on National Visit Your Relatives Day. Will you celebrate by visiting a relative? If so is travel involved? Geographically, who is your nearest relative (not counting those living in your own house)?
I had no idea this holiday even existed, so no, I won’t be celebrating and no, I didn’t happen to visit a relative today anyway.

I am not sure whether in-laws count as relatives. If they don’t, my parents are my closest relatives geographically. They live a little over an hour’s drive and about 100km away. If in-laws count too, my sisters-in-law are probably my nearest relatives geographically. They are about an hour’s drive but only about 60km away. Both live in the same town but not in the same house.

4. What’s your most frequently used emoji? Do you make more phone calls, send more emails, or mainly text to communicate with friends and family?
My most frequently used emoji is the slightly smiling emoji followed by either the purple heart or the laughing emoji.

I mainly text to communicate with my husband, although we do talk on the phone nearly everyday too. With other family, well, I call or text them every once in a while but I wouldn’t say either is frequent. E-mail is used for discussion lists and contact with my staff mostly.

5. Tell us the story behind a favorite piece of furniture.
Okay, I’m going with the desk I have my computer and phone on right now. This one, my father bought for me on a marketplace site in like 2006. I think the person selling it was located in Fryslân in the north of the country, about a two-hour drive from my family home. The desk isn’t too large, but it cannot be taken apart. My father drove an older Nissan Micra, so a small car. The desk just about exactly fit inside the back of the car. Or actually, just about exactly didn’t fit. As a result, my father had to drive while the back of his car was open. This was quite an interesting ride. That being said, I’ll still have to ask my father how he got my tandem bike from their home to the psych hospital in Nijmegen, either in or on that same Nissan Micra or on a train.

6. Insert your own random thought here.
All this talk of relatives and family makes me want to talk to my sister. She’s expecting a baby. That is, unless she’s left me out of the loop, the baby’s still inside of her even though she’s past her due date. She said she’d probably let loose what she’ll be calling the child already. I’ve heard two names so far, one of which I like and one of which I, well, dislike quite a bit. I’m just hoping mother and baby will be well and that my sister can have a home birth, as that’s what she’s wished for all along. With her other daughter (she’s expecting a girl again), she did give birth at home but the child had to be taken to hospital a few hours later anyway.

All this is making me feel all sorts of feelings. In a sense, I wish I were closer to my family of origin, but I know they don’t agree with the choices I needed to make (ie. going into long-term care). My sister also lives about two hours and 180km away from me. It’s all rather sad really.

Deadlines: How I Cope with Time Pressure As a Creative #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter D post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I was a little uninspired, so I looked to The Year of You for Creatives by Hannah Braime for inspiration. Several of her prompts ask about dealing with deadlines.

Of course, I usually create what I want to create when I want to create it, so I don’t have that many deadlines. I also don’t usually have that many unfinished projects lying around, except for polymer clay pieces waiting to go in the oven. After all, most of my projects can be done within one morning, afternoon or evening.

That being said, even small projects may have deadlines, for example when I want to create something for someone’s birthday or when a staff is leaving. Then, though I do usually start planning for my projects a while in advance, I prefer to finish them close to the deadline.

Deadlines for larger projects are both motivating and stressful for me in my creative process. I sometimes cope with the stress by having a smaller back-up project ready to finish should I not be able to meet my deadline for the larger project. For example, when I wanted to make a necklace with polymer clay beads for a fellow client’s birthday, I started months in advance, but, as the deadline approached, I got stressed. Then, I decided to have store-bought plastic beads for another necklace ready that I could string on a wire should I not be able to finish all my polymer clay beads on time. I finished the project I’d originally intended right on time though.

Most of my current larger projects don’t have deadlines. One though, in particular, does: the mobile I’m creating for the baby my sister is expecting. My sister is due in mid-May, so I don’t really have forever anymore. I tend to procrastinate about creating pieces for that one a lot, even though creating the pieces themselves should be fairly easy. Maybe, like with the necklace for the fellow client’s birthday, I won’t be truly motivated until the baby’s due date comes real close.

With my blogging, too, I don’t usually write my blog posts in advance and today didn’t even have a topic in mind until the actual day the post was due. I usually don’t, but then again normally I can write what I want when I want to. Not so with the A-to-Z. After all, I committed to writing 26 posts in the month of April and at least right now fully intend on completing the challenge. I have many challenges in the past that I gave up on, such as #Write28Days and the 31-day writing challenge (even though I actually paid $10 to participate). With the A-to-Z, the situation, somehow, feels different.

A Few Really Intense Days

Last Thursday was a weird day. I had to have my mammogram at 11:45AM at the hospital in the nearest city, which is half an hour’s drive away. We arrived about fifteen minutes early, which was good, since I still needed to get an ID label. Normally, the hospital give you an ID card with your first visit, but the receptionist said I should already have one since my ID was in their system. It probably was from when I had my abdominal X-ray at the outpatient clinic here in town, where apparently they don’t do ID cards. Oh well, he printed off a label and sent me on my way.

The mammogram people were running a bit late, so I got a little stressed. As it turned out, the person doing my mammogram was also a guy, which made me feel slightly uncomfortable. I tried to reassure myself that it’s his job. The mammogram was painful but thankfully it was over with quickly and I knew that it being painful said nothing about possible results.

In the evening, a male I initially didn’t recognize was in the care home. As it turned out, he was our GP. I was already distresssed from my schedule going to pieces due to the mammogram. It was getting even worse, because it turned out a fellow client had to go to the hospital. She had Down Syndrome with severe heart complications and the doctor suspected her heart was acting up again.

Later, it turned out she had RSV, a type of pneumonia that normally only affects babies and small children. She was tested for COVID too but was negative. As she was moved from cardiac care to the lung unit, she seemed to improve over Friday and Saturday, but wouldn’t be discharged until Monday as there are no doctors to do that over the weekend.

Thursday night, I myself started experiencing nausea and bad stomach pain and could hardly sleep. I vomited a few times in the morning, then was exhausted and lay in bed most of the late morning and early afternoon Friday. Thankfully, by Saturday, most of my symptoms were gone.

Then on Sunday morning, I got the news that the fellow client who’d gone into hospital Thursday evening, had passed away after all. My first thought was: “This won’t affect staffing, will it?” I quickly silenced those thoughts, knowing they are selfish. When the manager came by to support the staff, she did pay a quick visit to my room though and I asked her whether the vacant room would be filled quickly now. She reassured me that the staff and clients will have time to process this loss first.

I have been busy all of yesterday evening and today thinking about how to make something for the client out of polymer clay to go with her to the funeral. Yesterday, I initially made a butterfly using a mold, but I did it all wrong and it turned out rather rubbish. Then I decided to create a multicolor flower. However, one of the staff who knows the family’s wishes about the funeral etc., told me a butterfly would be especially fitting. So I stressed all day about how to make a butterfly using my rather inflexible mold. I might’ve found a way. My nurse practitioner, with whom I had an appointment this morning, did reassure me that I am well-intentioned regardless and that’s what matters.

This afternoon, I got the results of the mammogram. Thankfully, there are no abnormalities! At least that’s something to be happy about.

#IWSG: Writing Stressors and Delights

IWSG

Hi everyone. Can you believe it’s December already? I in a way can’t, but in another sense am so grateful November is finally over! It’s the first Wednesday of the month and this means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (#IWSG) to meet. The past month was pretty good as far as writing goes. I published 21 posts again, which I considered “okay” in August but now am rather content with. I also actually did some creative writing, which I am really happy about. I am striving for 300 blog posts in 2021 and am pretty sure I can make this happen. After all, I’ll need to publish 20 posts for that this month and December is a longer month than November and a less stressful one at that (for me at least). Wish me luck!

Now on to this month’s optional question. This month, we are asked to write about what stresses us the most in our writing and what delights us. My main stressor is the pressure I put onto myself, for instance of having to write a certain number of posts (okay, okay, I know, I just did that!).

Another big and related stressor is the comparison trap. I mean, I compare myself to more successful writers and bloggers and see how much they get done and I get stressed out about it. For example, I’ve always wanted to write a book but cannot get myself to write this many words at all even during NaNoWriMo. It probably doesn’t help that NaNoWriMo is in November, but then again I couldn’t do it during any month. I probably won’t ever write a book.

Of course, there are a lot of less successful writers and bloggers out there too. Bloggers who barely post once a week, for example. And how do you define success, anyway? I mean, I’ve never wanted to earn money with my blog and I still delight in every comment I receive.

This brings me to the delights of writing. My main reason for writing is to express myself, but I definitely find huge joy when I feel I’ve touched someone else’s heart. I don’t write for my stats, regardless of my inner critic’s attempts to make me do so. Rather, if I find that I’ve genuinely been an inspiration to one person, that’s far more important than a dozen generic comments.

How I Cope With Stress

Today in her Sunday Poser, Sadje asks how we cope with stress. We all face stress in our lives, yes, even the most laid-back people out there. Maybe they’ve just found better ways of coping with it.

I for one find that a major stressor for me is frustration with my disabilities. For this reason, it may be that my parents thought I was very laid-back until I became aware of my blindness when I was around seven. Now, frustration in general, such as with failing technology, can set me off, but really so can frustrations when trying to accomplish something.

So how do I cope? Over the years, I’ve found several ways to ride the waves of frustration. Dialectical behavior therapy and in particular the ACCEPTS skill set has helped.

I find that distracting myself by focusing on something other than the frustrating situation or thing helps. This is hard with my autistic tendency to perseverate. For example, when I get frustrated with a polymer clay project, it’s currently hard to let go and focus on something else. But it is necessary. This is why my staff encourage me to take regular breaks and also do other activities, such as walking, besides polymer clay.

I also find that talking through my problems sometimes helps. Then, I may realize I’m catastrophizing or using other cognitive distortions. Often though, to get rid of a stressor, I need someone to take over part of the problem, or all of it, from me. After all, my problem-solving skills are practically nonexistent.

Other things I do to cope with stress include finding relaxing activities, such as diffusing an essential oil blend or lying under my weighted blanket. Lastly, writing about my stressors, problems or frustrations also helps.

What helps you cope with stress?

Breathe: Using Meditation for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

I originally intended to write today’s post for the #AtoZChallenge yesterday and schedule it for this morning, but somehow I didn’t get down to writing it at all. I hadn’t even decided on a topic yet, although several floated through my mind. Eventually, I decided to continue with the self-care theme. B is for “breathe”.

Deep breathing is often hard for people at the best of times. It can be a real challenge if you’re anxious. That’s why you may benefit from breathing exercises while you’re calm. Then you will train your body to breathe properly, so that it comes more naturally when you’re stressed.

That being said, the first step to learning to breathe deeply into your belly is to be aware of your breathing. You can use meditation for this.

Beginner’s guided meditations often focus on being aware of your breathing without the need to change anything about it. You will learn to notice each inhale and exhale without judgment.

Once you are aware of your breathing, you can learn to control your breathing more consciously. Often, it is recommended that you take a long, but not too long, inbreath through your nose. Then you are advised to hold your breath for a few seconds and then do a long outbreath through your mouth.

Another common meditation practice is the body scan. This allows you to feel each sensation in your body systematically without judgment. Start by feeling your toes, feet and ankles. Then gradually move up through your legs, lower abdomen, upper abdomen and chest, hands and arms, shoulders, neck and finally your head. Most body scan meditations have you check in with your mental processes at the end. Remember, this is a check-in. You don’t need to change anything.

You can add other aspects of meditation to your practice, such as mantras or visualizations. I like to use affirmations as mantras. I also love visualizations, such as visualizing the colors of the rainbow.

There are tons of good meditation apps out there that offer guided meditations and often a timer to practise on your own. I have tried a few and must say my favorite is Insight Timer. This app has thousands of guided meditations by a variety of teachers. Most guided meditations are free. The premium plan offers additional content, such as courses. Right now, the app has a specific category called For Uncertain Times that’s geared towards coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

What Emotions Drive Me to Bad Habits? #Write31Days

Welcome to day eight in #Write31Days. Today’s post, like last week Monday’s, is yet again focused on emotions. I took another prompt from The Self-Exploration Journal. It asks what emotions drive me to bad habits.

I have a few self-destructive habits, some of which I engage more regularly in than others. For example, I overeat on average at least once a week, but only self-injure by cutting occasionally. Then there are these little habits that I engage in so often that I barely even notice them anymore, such as nail-biting or most recently teeth-grinding. Just a few minutes ago, my husband asked me to stop grinding my teeth.

Basically, I can be pretty sure that the type of emotional state that drives me to engage in all of these bad habits is stress. Stress is usually thought of as a type of anxiety, but it is not necessarily fear that drives it.

I tend mostly to engage in the little bad habits, like nail-biting or teeth-grinding, when not feeling much of a clear emotion at all. Rather, I tend to be in a state of worry, thinking in circles.

When emotions do reach the point where I notice them, they are pretty close to boiling point already. When this happens I may engage in self-harm behaviors or overeat.

When I look closely at what emotion causes me to engage in these self-destructive behaviors, I see that it is usually a sense of loneliness. Loneliness is not an emotion or so I’m told. At least it isn’t a primary emotion. Sadness is and that’s often what’s underneath this sense of loneliness.

Anger can also drive me to engage in self-destructive habits. Usually though, I am angry at something too minor to matter. The emotion underlying this anger is once again sadness.

What emotions drive you to bad habits?

Embracing My Neuroses

A lot has been on my mind lately, but for whatever reason, I can’t get it out onto the screen. As such, I keep reverting back to standard, mundane blogging features such as #TToT and the like. I don’t mean these aren’t important to me and they are among my most popular posts, but I intended this blog for myself, not (primarily) for my readers. Of course, now that my blog is off to a start, I do worry about my stats.

As I was browsing Paperblanks, a journal writing prompts app on my iPhone, I came across an interesting prompt in this respect. It is: “This year, I’ll learn to embrace my neuroses, such as ___”.

Embracing neurosis. That seems like quite a counterproductive thing to do, as neurosis often is seen as something negative, something we need to overcome. Then again, in dialectical behavior therapy (I think), it is said that you cann’t change something without accepting it.

This year, I will learn to embrace my neuroses. I will learn to accept them as they are and move on from there. I have several neuroses that I need to embrace.

My main neurosis is my heighteneed response to being triggered or criticized. Pete Walker calls this the fight-flight-freeze-fawn response. I tend to lean towards fight. As such, I tend to perceive an outer critic as more severe than it is intended as due to my own inner critic chiming in. I am to an extent aware of it, but not usually when it happens. By practising mindfulness, I hope to become more aware of this response.

I also want to embrace my freeze response of retreating into my inner world. I am often judgmental of myself and my alters when not online, but this doesn’t seem to do us well. I am going to learn to validate myselves.

I have a lot of little “neuroses” that I’ll want to embrace and not change much at all. These include my stims, such as twirling my hair. I will write more about stimming on the upcoming International Day of the Stim.

What is a neurosis you need to embrace?