a codependent and a borderline walk into a bar… (a video journal on my relationship)

In some ways, it feels like finding out you have borderline personality disorder is like finding out you’re a bad person. I know if you’ve been diagnosed (or are frantically resisting diagnosis) you know just what I mean. You realize you’ve accidentally been affecting others in ways that you haven’t meant to, you’ve been a tremendous emotional burden, etc. Giving into the guilt and pain of this realization would lead to self-pity that again makes it All About You just like it always has to be, so you can’t go that direction. You have to forgive yourself (radical acceptance) and also decide you’re going to do the work it takes to change. This is the basis of dialectical behavior therapy, and where I am right now.

Man, it’s hard. Here’s a video journal about the ways in which John and I have mirror-image problems in our relationship. I don’t think his problems are 100% because of my disorder — I think he’s predisposed to seek out girls who need fixing, in a way, and to want to put himself in that role — but the fact that I helped put him in the position he’s in and helped to create a relationship that restricted him instead of supported him is really awful for me. Saying I’m sorry is an understatement. And I’m really hoping he still chooses me — freely.

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words to live by, ideas to hang onto

If anyone can do this, I can do this!

If anyone can get through this, I can get through this!

I have something worth fighting for: my relationship with John, the most important thing in the world to me besides my faith. He means everything to me.

BUT, if that falls apart, God forbid, I have something worth fighting for: MYSELF. Sometimes I feel like I’m a mess, that I don’t want to save myself. I’ve destroyed everything and I deserve to die. Well, maybe I have destroyed myself. But God Himself said, “O Israel, you have destroyed yourself; but in me is your help” (Hosea 13:9). I know He is saying the same to me. I know inasmuch as anyone deserves to live, I do.

More words:

“The trauma of the whole thing [splitting with her husband of 8 years] has been humbling, and for the first time, I’m a little bit wobbly [...] I’m a case of arrested development, in a way – from spending your 20s with someone who really loves to take care of you, as my husband did. But I think it’s very healthy to spend time alone. You need to know how to be alone and not be defined by another person.” – Olivia Wilde

images via 1, 2

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back from the borderline documentary

This has been a very helpful video for me.

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a different kind of inner view: working through thoughts on identity and manipulation

Just a warning: this is a “thinking aloud” post. While it’s organized, there are progressions/changes in thought as you read along. I think I made some important discoveries for myself as I went along, though. Ramble with me if you’d like…

There’s a line in one of my favorite songs, Nightminds by Missy Higgins, that says, “you were blessed by a different kind of inner view / it’s so magnified. the highs will make you fly / but the lows make you want to die.” For obvious reasons, I really identify with that description.

As I mentioned in my video journal, my little brother shares a lot of the same BPD (for lack of a better term, good grief) symptoms as me. We were talking about identity disturbance the other day, though, and he has a different view of it. While I tended to view my inability to naturally fit with any “type” or “group” of people as a personal failing, a personal emptiness that others didn’t have, he seemed to view emptiness as the default human state, and our “BPD” recognition of it as privileged knowledge. Basically, he thinks we are able to see the scaffolding behind anyone’s identity, to realize that identity is totally constructed for everyone, while most people just don’t realize that. When you think of it this way, this understanding of how people work and what they’re doing when they’re choosing the ideas, clothing, bumper stickers, books, hairstyle, etc. that make up their identity gives us a lot of inappropriate power. We know who they want to be. We know what makes them feel good or feel bad. I never really realized this before, but I think it becomes currency for manipulation (though we don’t have to use it.)

Another way of looking at it is this. Identity is a contract people enter into with the world and society. A person might say, “I’m going to dress in skinny jeans and thick glasses, listen to new music, create artwork, and have a tattoo. I’m going to hang out in the artsy part of town.” The world responds by accepting him as a “hipster”: other people who want to do those same things flock to him, people who see him mentally accept his self-created image. He may not realize he’s created an identity for himself, though: those outfits, songs, and artwork might’ve just resonated with him. But someone who feels they have no identity and is keenly aware that they have to create one (e.g. someone with identity disturbance) will look at him and see the contract. They’ll see his identity creation and the world’s acceptance of it. In some ways, this undermines the legitimacy of his identity in their eyes, because they can see the man behind the curtain.

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but who am i really? (a video journal on identity disturbance)

Discovering that identity disturbance was a real thing that other people experienced too was a pivotal moment in my life. It happened only a few short weeks ago, and I can’t tell you what a simultaneous relief and frustration it’s been to discover why I’ve never “fit in.”

In this video journal, I share my experiences with identity disturbance, how I realized that’s what I was going through, and also my theory (remember I’m not a psychologist or anything fancy — just a person with ideas) about identity disturbance being the core issue in borderline personality disorder instead of just another symptom.

This is the webpage I mention in the video journal.

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medication thoughts (part 2)

In my post yesterday I mentioned that some of the negative side effects of my medication, Seroquel, had subsided, but that I was still waiting to see if any therapeutic benefit kicked in. Unfortunately, after yesterday’s bout of crying for hours, today I’m feeling paranoid and scared. I believe it’s time to stop the medication to protect my mental health. I guess it’s not going to work for me.

This is very disheartening, because I feel like I’m in a very rough spot and really hoped this medicine was some sort of answer — just something to help get my footing so that I could do DBT and become safe. I have doctor and psychiatrist appointments coming up soon, though, and I will keep trying. I’ve also made an appointment with a new therapist.

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finding a big country

Tonight this song was playing in the deli where I eat dinner sometimes. I like the song, but I’ve never paid attention to the words before. They seemed to jump out at me tonight, though. Listen for yourself.

So take that look out of here; it doesn’t fit you.
Because it’s happened doesn’t mean you’ve been discarded.
Pull up your head off the floor, come up screaming.
Cry out for everything you ever might have wanted.

I thought that pain and truth were things that really mattered,
But you can’t stay here with every single hope you had shattered.

I’m not expecting to grow flowers in the desert,
But I can live and breathe and see the sun in wintertime.

(Big Country)

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medication thoughts (part 1)

The medicine I was prescribed in the emergency room was a mood stabilizer called Seroquel. The doctor started me at 50 mg. The first day after taking it (at bedtime) I was very groggy. My peripheral vision seemed less acute and I felt muted, slow, and foggy all day. I didn’t mind so much at the time because it was much preferable to emotional pain, but I knew that wasn’t sustainable.

The second day (today), however, was much better. I still felt a little wonky but I was much more alert and awake. I have had two instances of self-harm recently, though, and quite a hard day today. I just felt heartbroken for much of the day. I’m holding onto hope that even though I’m feeling the side effects now, the medicine still needs a few days to impart its medicinal /therapeutic benefit.

I’ve resisted taking medicine for much of my life because I was coping well (because I was secure!) and because I’ve been terrified of weight gain (I’ve dealt with eating disorders during my teenage and adult years). But this time it’s just too urgent a need to ignore. I’ll keep you posted. I hope my determination to establish a doctor and a healthcare routine might be inspiring to you if you haven’t done so yet.

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hard times: the emergency room

I need to mention this so I can talk about it, because it was one of those surreal experiences my heart wants to dissect in a million different ways, but I’ve been waiting until I can look back on it from a positive place.

Monday was my therapist appointment with the new therapist, but Sunday night and Monday morning was when I found out more about the undergrad John had a crush on who kind of kicked off all of his doubts and his midlife crisis type thing. While he didn’t cross any physical lines and didn’t engage with her romantically as far as I can tell, they did have really inappropriate flirty/sexual conversations. They also hung out more (and differently) than he’d let on — I’d thought he was just tutoring her, but their meetings weren’t all academic. He seemed hugely affected by this interaction with this girl.

To say I was a mess is a huge understatement. I felt old, ugly, worthless. If he knew he could get girls like that, why would he want me? And since he’s already been wondering aloud if he stayed with me during the hard times in the past because of a dysfunctional need to take care of me, what if he realizes that’s the only reason he’s here now?  My abandonment meter was just going bonkers.

I showed up in my therapist’s office with unwashed hair, no makeup, no bra, no forms. I sat down trying to hold my I’m-a-sane-person look together (uh, good luck?) but just immediately started sobbing, because I had to say, “I don’t know if I should be here or if this is an emergency and I need to go to the hospital. So I might need your help figuring that out.”

(possible triggering information behind the jump to the rest of this post: mentions of self-harm, suicide, etc.)

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making a life worth living (part 3 of an ongoing conversation)

Mindfulness is a part of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) that I’m still learning about. From what I can tell, there are different ways of practicing mindfulness, but at its core, mindfulness’s goal is to allow you to observe and describe your feelings, to recognize them without being driven by them (and without forming myriad secondary and tertiary feelings about your feelings.)

Mindfulness exercises are often meditative in nature. For instance, you can observe and describe an object. The goal is to focus on the simple facts and avoid judgments or feelings about those facts. You can also observe your breathing to ensure you’re breathing deeply (which is calming) instead of from your chest (which can tire you and reinforce your anxiety). For me, though, my mind is so hyperactive that it’s hard to focus on breathing for any length of time. Maybe that just means I’m a novice.

I was in a cute little shop the other week, though, and the cashier came over and demonstrated a handheld Tibetan Singing Bowl for me. I didn’t ask her to — she just came right over! And then she was so deliberate and careful in her demonstration, not seeming to mind that it took awhile to show me. When things like that happen, I always consider that it might be God-appointed. I don’t jump to conclusions, but I do get ready just in case. Sure enough, this seemed divine. The Tibetan Singing Bowl is a meditation tool: you run the wooden striker around the rim of the bowl to make the bowl “sing” louder and louder. The catch is that you have to be mindful! You have to move the striker consistently around, apply consistent pressure, modulate your speed to change the sound. I immediately knew it would be helpful for my mindfulness exercises.

After thinking about it for a couple of weeks (I hate impulse buys — they make me feel guilty!), I went back to the store. The bowl I wanted was gone! There were others, but they weren’t quite as loud and nice. Thankfully, though, the cashier was helpful again! She showed me bells with a similar idea — and a much louder singing “voice”! You held the bells like normal, but instead of striking them or tilting them to ring them, you again ran the striker around the outside to make them sing. I bought the loudest bell and now I practice with it every day. My brain is still hyperactive, but I feel more able to focus on creating the sound than just on my breathing (something I still hope to put in place later!)

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