Polyvagal theory has become an integral part of my healing journey as I learn to accept and cope with my trauma. But what is polyvagal theory? Let's talk about it.
Recovering from Mental Illness
I can't connect with people anymore. There are so many people in my life who I love so dearly, but lately, I haven't been able to feel connected to them in any meaningful way. Even though part of my brain is telling me that something is horribly wrong with me because I can't connect with others, I think this may actually be affecting lots of other people in recovery. So I think we should talk about some of the real reasons why I can't connect with people right now.
At the beginning of 2021, I started a new form of self-care: using tarot cards for recovery. Specifically, I am learning how to read tarot cards to help me heal from the effects of childhood trauma. I don't necessarily believe that tarot cards can tell the future, but I do believe that interpreting tarot cards requires a strong sense of intuition, and that's what I hope to build by using tarot cards for recovery.
This month, I've had some serious challenges with my mental health, but I've responded to these challenges in much healthier ways than I have in the past, which means I am celebrating small recovery wins. Even if these things might not seem worth celebrating to others, I know that for me, they are a big deal, and I'm going to treat them that way.
I've come up with many different mantras for recovery in the past few years, and even though it might feel like they're just words, I've noticed that they actually make a huge difference in how I feel about myself and my recovery journey. Today I want to share some of those mantras with you, and I hope at least one of them strikes a chord with you. If you find one you like, try repeating it to yourself any time your recovery is challenged, or even just when you get up in the morning and go to bed at night. These mantras for recovery are now yours; use them however you need.
For most of my childhood, I used reading to cope with trauma. This might not sound like a bad thing, and it wasn't entirely, but it came with a couple of big problems. Coping mechanisms develop as a way for us to protect ourselves, to survive despite threats to our wellbeing or identity. However, these coping mechanisms can get in the way of real connection.
If you're finding yourself needing more rest -- taking more naps or going to bed earlier than you used to ever since you started your journey toward recovery -- don't worry. It's normal. The truth is, most people need more rest in recovery because emotional work is hard work, and it tires us out.
Recently, my therapist suggested that I look into how to use emotional freedom technique (EFT) tapping in recovery to see if it was something I might be interested in trying. Now, it's one of my favorite coping techniques and I think it's going to make a big difference in my trauma work. If you haven't heard of EFT tapping, it involves tapping on specific points while speaking phrases of acceptance.
Rapid weight change due to mental illness is challenging enough without dealing with people's reactions. I've experienced rapid weight loss and gain on three separate occasions. The most dramatic weight change I survived was a 30-pound loss that left me looking like a skeleton with dark circles under my eyes. The only thing more shocking was people telling me how great I looked.
Medical trauma is an underrepresented form of trauma that happens all too often to people with mental illness. For example, when I was 19, I sought treatment for what I then thought was bipolar disorder, and the reactions I got from doctors left a psychological wound that still affects me today.