Asking Your Advice About This Blog

A Wish for Everybody

It’s been one storm after another here on the West Coast. Saturated soil, flooding, emergency evacuations, and almost a dozen deaths from the storms. And I read about similar weather throughout the United States and Canada. One good friend was in an earthquake and another had to evacuate because of a hurricane. 

I wish you and everybody you love safety in this crazy weather. If the present-day threat brings flashbacks, my wish includes that you handle them with gentleness and compassion for the frightened child you once were. 

Spencer’s News

I have been mystified about the lack of hair in the brush every time I brush his long, thick fur. Today, I discovered the reason for this. 

His cat tree is upholstered in a dark carpet material that latches on to loose hair like Velcro. I glanced at the top platform and noticed that it had turned from black to white. So I brushed the cat tree instead of the cat! After about an hour, the wastebasket was filled with fur. Now I can, without guilt, stop feeling I am neglecting him if I don’t brush him every day.

I had lunch with Baker’s previous owner, who told me something very reassuring. (Baker was the Turkish Van mix I adopted before getting Spencer. He got sick just as soon as I adopted him and died of cancer within two months.) She said that Baker was timid for the first few years of his too-short life. If somebody he didn’t know well entered the house, he hid until the intruder was gone. By the time I met him, he was fearless and very social. Hopefully, Spencer is following in his footsteps.

Asking Your Advice About This Blog

When I started the blog, I just wanted a place to publish the short articles I had written for the Survivorship newsletter so that they would be all in one place and unlikely to get lost. 

I then started writing informative articles on various aspects of ritual abuse. There were articles on the background of major Satanic holidays, flashbacks, personal safety, choosing a therapist and evaluating therapy, and DID and defenses. There were guest articles, book reviews, articles about survivors/artists, and some of my poetry and artwork. Not much of anything about my personal life.

Recently, I have been sharing a lot more about myself. At first, I thought I would continue sharing information and just use myself as an example. Gradually, my life today became the focus. Of course, ritual abuse is an ever-present issue for me; it is present in everything I write and everything I do. 

I noticed that I have fewer readers than I used to, fewer new viewers, and fewer return viewers. This is also true for my website, ra-info.org. I thought this was because ra-info hasn’t been updated in a long time and people aren’t reading the blog because they aren’t interested in me. So much of it is about illness and cats, both of which can get tedious.

However, I heard from a friend that neither the website nor the blog appears on the first page of a Google search. They used to be near the top. Google’s algorithm changed, and I didn’t. Guess I need to study SEO (search engine optimization).

(I just checked and found that the sites Google selects are sort of weird. There are a lot of resources in the United Kingdom and lots of material from the 1990s. The top hit is a short article by the Brisbane Rape and Incest Survivors Support Centre in Australia describing ritual abuse and its effects on survivors and giving Australian resources. I wonder what factors made it the first choice when they applied the current algorithm.)

Another friend told me that she thought she had subscribed to the blog, but she didn’t get a copy of new posts or an announcement of any kind. If people who subscribed aren’t getting anything, that surely lowers readership considerably.  

Another friend said that WordPress was too complicated, and so she blogs on SquareSpace, which is becoming popular. Simplicity is very appealing to me. WordPress is so complicated! It drives me nuts three times a month. I write and proof the entry and then spend about 4 – 5 hours just formatting it on WordPress. The draft often vanishes when I am almost ready to publish it, and I have to start over again.  

I’m turning to you all for advice. To make sure subscribers see this request, I’ll send it individually to people I believe have recently subscribed. My questions are –

1. Do you like that I share the struggles of my present life? Would you prefer more information about RA/MC and healing? Do you like the short items about conferences, holidays, my cat, etc.?

2. What do you think of the idea of leaving this WordPress blog up for reference, but starting up anew on SquareSpace?

3. Does anybody know anything about SEO? Would you be willing to coach me? I warn you – I do better if you communicate in regular old English. I’m not fluent in GeekSpeak.

Thank you so much for your feedback. If you tell me what works for you and what falls flat, I can make the posts more helpful to everybody. And if I get some advice on SEO and which platform to use, we can reach more people with less hassle.

Using Gratitude to Adapt to a Newly Diagnosed Condition: Dysautonomia

We Made it Through Another Year

Well, we did it! We made it through another year! 365 days. 8,760 hours. 525,600 minutes. 315,360,000 seconds. Quite an accomplishment, in my opinion, especially when a good many of us could only get through some of those seconds and minutes with clenched fists and clenched teeth. But we did it!

I hesitate to wish my survivor friends a happy new year because I know 2023 is going to be difficult, even if there are happy times. And it could be a terrible year, worse than 2022. So I compromise and say, “I wish you a safe, healthy(er), happy(er) new year.”

That wish is now going out to all of you reading this!

So Cute

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2023/jan/07/balloon-animals-beyond-the-poodle-in-pictures

Spencer is Fine 

For those of you who have just started reading my blog, I adopted the beautiful cat you see lounging in the header. We have been together now for three months. He is still very timid and spends a lot of time hiding. Once, I couldn’t find him for four whole days. He still spends so much time out of sight that his nickname is “Invisible Cat.”

Slowly, he’s getting used to being here. Baby step by baby step, he is getting to know his way around the apartment. He is also becoming more social. If he wants to be petted, he’ll let me know by putting his front paws on my knee as I sit at the computer. One day, he even jumped onto my lap – and then instantly exited on the other side. Oh well, maybe he will try again in a couple of weeks.

And I Am Fine – Even Grateful

Well, sort of. I’m old and creaky to start with, and I keep collecting diseases the way some old ladies collect cats.

I recently acquired a new diagnosis: dysautonomia, or autonomic nervous system failure. It’s unpredictable; it comes and goes, gets progressively worse, or mysteriously goes into remission after years. All the things that the body does without conscious thought can be affected. And it can’t be fixed, at least by Western medicine, and at least not quite yet.

These are the symptoms that most affect my quality of life:
     wide blood pressure variations
     inability to adapt to temperature changes
     loss of ability to smell and taste things
     poor balance

So far, I don’t feel rotten. I have to spend more time taking care of myself, which is a drag. But I am happy to say that I have discovered CBD. (I am not an early adopter.) So I bitch about having another disease, another specialist, and new symptoms to adapt to. I also sing with happiness because CBD works on all the different kinds of pain I have. And it is natural, herbal, vegan, and gluten-free. Many brands are non-GMO and organic, too. It has no side effects, as far as I can tell. My doctors all say, “Go for it.”

I imagine that it’s going to be challenging to adapt to this condition. The symptoms can change from day to day, and just as soon as I accept one configuration of symptoms, more will surely pop up.

I don’t know anybody with dysautonomia and therefore have nobody to turn to for information, advice, and comfort. I do know one person who had it, but her experience was very different from mine. She was stung by thousands of tiny jellyfish while swimming in Indonesian waters. The damaged nerves slowly repaired themselves, and, after 5-10 years, she was able to return to work. She even got pregnant and had a healthy baby! That is not going to be my story.

I did find two online support groups, but the members were a lot sicker than I am. I decided I needed a beginners’ group because reading the entries on these groups filled me with anxiety and dread. If I get that sick on down the road, I know those groups are available to me. But for now, there is no point in looking ahead – I need to concentrate on getting used to the present.

I have read that saying positive affirmations can ease the process of adapting to a new disease. It makes sense. The affirmations don’t erase the critical ways of thinking about oneself, but they do create a new set of neural pathways. I could then choose between old cult messages and the newly created ones, which hopefully will be more accurate and helpful. 

I can’t just start telling myself I am fantastic. I have to do it in a way that doesn’t enrage my Inner Cynic, who would argue long and loud and reinforce the old tapes.

Most affirmations, however, feel like bald-faced lies to me. Lying makes me very uncomfortable because, as a child, I had to lie about so many things.  I’m all for laying down new neural pathways, but I have to do it without lying.

I figured out how to contort myself in order to recast affirmations into a form I can tolerate, even if I cannot wholeheartedly embrace them. “Some other people think I am the greatest person in the world.” “I wish that I could honestly say that I am filled with love for my beautiful body.” 

I think I have found a way to solve the problem. I don’t have to choose – I can see different facets of a situation. Negative aspects and positive aspects can exist side-by-side. All I am trying to do is strengthen one set of neural pathways while leaving the other alone.

I can have mixed feelings about things – hate part of them, but also love part of them. Love the rose, hate the thorns.

Look at this:

Situation: I experience wide blood pressure variations.
I am so grateful that they have finally found a diagnosis.
(That’s completely true,  even though it is a sucky diagnosis.)

Situation: inability to adapt to temperature changes.
I have wonderfully warm tee shirts, sweaters, and hoodies.
(Even though it’s annoying to wear layers in the house.)

Situation: loss of much of my ability to smell and taste things.
I am grateful I can easily feel textures and taste salty, sweet, and acid foods.
It is nice not to have to smell the kitty litter box.
(At the same time, I want to smell the roses! and the sweetpeas, basil, tarragon, hand soap, laundry detergent, and my clean hair.)

Situation: poor balance .
I am grateful for physical therapy.
(It had better work. PT is time-consuming, and the exercises are boring.)

I was surprised at how easy it is to find true, nice, kind things to say to myself. There are no long discussions with the Inner Cynic, no worrying about whether I am being dishonest or not, and no getting sick and tired of the whole damn thing. I wish I had discovered how to do this in high school.

I think it’s time to learn more about the process of forming a new neural pathway. Should I say the positive statement out loud? Do I have to use the same words each time? How often should it be said? At what intervals? How can you tell when the brain has made a new pathway? 

Is there a way to train the brain to go directly to positive thoughts, bypassing the negative ones? Is there an instruction manual available? A workbook?

I’m so glad I thought of using affirmations and gratitude statements, made especially for me, to learn to live with dysautonomia symptoms. And symptoms of everything else in life, too. If it works, why not?

A Hard Christmas Season for RA/MC Survivors

 

I have heard from way more than one RA/MC survivor that the 2022 Solstice/Yule/Christmas/New Year’s season has been harder than usual.

It was for me. I have been spoiled by the last two years. To my amazement, I sailed through all the holidays just as if I were not an RA survivor. I still was aware of memories and feelings about my family of origin – dislike of holiday feasts and other forms of jollity and deep disappointment in presents. Of course, all my childhood memories of holidays were tainted by cult experiences. Many gifts were triggers (like taxidermy baby chicks at Easter) or chosen to make me feel fat, stupid, unacceptable, unheard, misunderstood, and unloved.

This year, I was caught unawares around the middle of December. Suddenly, my senses were dulled and it was extremely difficult to enjoy anything whatsoever. Not my friends, not the cat, not even coffee or chocolate. I felt unconnected to others and to everything inside and outside myself. 

For about two weeks, I felt like a half-ghost, floating through the days, not thinking about what was coming. Not connected to much of anything, certainly not to my fear. I was in flashback, a feelings-flashback, a flashback to childhood dissociation.

I told myself I would get my energy back after the first of the year, but I woke up on the 28th feeling “normal.” I have more energy and I once more care about my friends and my projects. I have no idea why there was a two-week flashback this year and not last year or the year before. I have no idea if I will greet all the holidays in 2023 with flashbacks or whether I will once again shrug them off.

But I do know that whatever happens, I will cope. 

On Comparing Myself to Others

I subscribe to Anu Garg’s “A.Word.A.Day,” along with almost 4,000,000 other people. You can subscribe here: http://wordsmith.org/.  Archives are here https://wordsmith.org/words/today.html. It’s free.

Today’s email starts with these words:

“I’m such an underachiever.

“I don’t have a single world record to my name. Not only that, I have not even attempted one.

“Make it, underachiever and unambitious.

“I was reminded of this when I read about a man named Ashrita Furman. (https://www.ashrita.com/) He has made more than 700 world records. Imagine when the number of records you have made needs to be rounded. To the nearest hundreds!

“Furman has another record I had not even thought about: Having made the largest number of world records.

“That makes me: underachiever, unambitious, and unimaginative.

“…. well, I sit here in my corner of the world, playing with words.

“This week we introduce you to five words that make a record of sorts, let’s call them word records.”

I love this guy, who gives me a word every morning for six days and on the seventh gives me readers’ comments, limericks, and puns on the week’s words. 

Today’s word is eunoia, the shortest word in English with all five vowels. (A word record!) It means “a feeling of goodwill” and has inspired a really odd book. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1552452255/ws00-20. Peek inside: you will be amazed.

At the moment, I am not ashamed to say I am an underachiever, unambitious, and unimaginative. Everybody I know is. I may have met a few people in Ashrita Furman’s league, but I can’t recall who or when. And yet I keep scolding myself for not being perfect…yet.

One of my core beliefs is that I am incompetent, not good enough. No matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough. Unless I am the best in the world, I am second-rate. 

With standards that high, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. How would I even know I was the best in the world at something? If somebody told me I was, I would assume it was a trick and they were lying so they could laugh at me when I believed them. And even if it were true, and I knew for sure it was true, I would also know that somebody better than me would come along, and I would once again be second-rate. One little moment of success, snatched away almost immediately.

Looking at this situation with a jaundiced eye, I conclude that it is ridiculous to compare myself to others. It’s a no-win situation, a waste of time and energy, and a drain on my life force. I’ll never be the prettiest, the smartest, the best educated, the most accomplished, the most original thinker, the best dancer. If that is to be my life’s goal, I will fail dismally. It is better to be content with being mediocre.

It’s no secret how I came to believe I was doomed to fail over and over. In the cult, children were set up to fail and then blamed and shamed for not succeeding. We were placed in double binds, and whatever path we took, we were punished for taking the wrong one. Stripped of all self-confidence, our minds were ready to unquestionably obey any order given. We were trained to obey without thought or resistance.

At home, the methods were different, but the message was the same. My mother had a beautiful, accomplished older sister, and, on a good day, she felt second-best. I was supposed to have the life she should have had – or rather, her sister’s life. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. My genetic makeup was different and I was not born in 1895.

There was less pressure at school – until I got to college. I had chosen an Ivy League co-ed school with a ratio of ten boys to every girl. Standards were high, and competition was fierce. Girls didn’t shine in that atmosphere.

Over the years, I learned to let go of perfectionism. If a job was worth doing, it was still worthwhile, even if it had errors. A typo was not the end of the world. It was good enough, and good enough was good enough for me.

Now that I have lowered my standards, I find I am far less anxious. Instead of being mortified by everything I do, I can take pleasure in it. I enjoy the process and care much less about the finished product. And the finished product seems better to me because it is created in a calm atmosphere, not an anxious, chaotic rush.

And guess what? Now that I don’t compete with others, I enjoy them a lot more. I appreciate who they are and am happy for their success. I like myself more, and I like other people more, too.

Spencer’s News

In the olden days, I would blame myself for neglecting my cat. If I only paid enough attention to him, he wouldn’t be invisible most of the time. Now I enjoy discovering his personality in the few moments he makes a guest appearance. 

He comes up to me while I am at the computer, stands up on his hind legs, puts his front paws on my knees, and waits for me to scratch his chin. Today, for the first time, he jumped up on my lap. He stayed only long enough to jump down off the other side. I took that as a great compliment.

Some nights he comes and licks my neck for a moment. Now and then, he adds love bites. Last night, he crawled under the covers and settled next to me with one paw on my arm. He didn’t stay long, and he was completely invisible under the covers, but it made me happy.

My timid, invisible cat with soft shiny fur and pale yellow eyes is showing more and more affection. It’s slow-going, but that’s good enough. Actually, it’s great.