Category Archives: reflections

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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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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life is an airplane ride

Life is an airplane ride — You never have to think about it. I’m terrified of flying, but it’s therapeutic for me to do it anyway when I have the opportunity (plus, then I get to go neat places.) I always dread the moment when I have to think about the airplane leveling out, when I have to process the feeling. But then I remember the lesson I learned one day when I (terrified) stepped out in blind, delusional faith and got a drink from the drink cart. The act of speaking to the flight attendant, taking the cup, sipping the drink — these tiny interruptions in my vigilance were enough to make me realize that I didn’t have to think about the flight at all. I could read SkyMall and arrange my carry-on items and fluff my paper pillow and never, ever think about being on an airplane. But if my brain clicked over and I did feel happy and safe, I could look out the window — I could think about it and enjoy it if I wanted to. If it were safe for me.

So these days when I’m alternating between distractions and utter emotional breakdowns, I just need to remember that while the distractions aren’t solving the problem, they are letting time and the confidence I gain by willfully diverting my energy solve the problem. My problem. Which, right now, is that I can’t solve anyone else’s.

Life is eating a bagel — Speaking of distractions, I had an extremely low day last week, followed by an extremely programmed day where I had to (ineffectively; I’m not as good at faking it as I used to be) go through the motions. I was very tired. Very tired of life in general. But I kind of wanted a bagel. An everything bagel with lox, lettuce, tomato, and a heap of smoked whitefish salad.

I’ve tried to switch over into a survivor mindset lately whenever possible: “I could be dead, so I might as well!” which sounds morbid because of the ‘dead’ part, but if you think about it, it’s really freeing. I might as well take risks, do what I want, stop doing what I don’t want. I have borrowed time. I might as well make a little monument with it, a little altar to remember what God has given me. And I guess it sounds silly for that to be a bagel. But in the old testament it was a pile of rocks, so maybe not.

Anyway, I got up the next day and with my brain switched firmly into the ‘off’ position, I went and got my bagel. And I sat with nothing to do — no book or computer — and just focused on my bagel. I focused on the smoky taste and how the poppyseeds hurt the pizza-burned roof of my mouth. I focused on the bite and then chew of the bagel’s texture. I focused on eating each bit of whitefish salad before it fell out of the back of the sandwich. And I looked around: at the hipster guy across from me jamming to the music to show that he knew what it was, the girl beside me eating with her earbuds in her ears, the chubby girl in the exercise outfit with her boyfriend laughing beside her. And things might not have been okay before then, and things definitely weren’t going to be okay after then, but while I sat and ate my bagel, things were nice.

And I could eat bagels all the time, in a manner of speaking. I’ve been trying. Going to the little French bakery in town and eating a macaron or two. Walking around the city. Eating dinner at my favorite deli and staying until they close. Taking a bath. Looking at funny pictures. Watching stand-up comedian after stand-up comedian, hoping that there’s still another on Netflix after each one. But then every now and then I stop, because it feels like a band-aid. I tongue the tooth that’s been hurting, so to speak, and the pain is as bad as I’ve ever felt. And suddenly I’m under waves again. I can’t even imagine a bagel.

So. I say it sometimes with sarcasm and sadness: I guess I’ll just eat a bagel! But really, I need to keep eating bagels, one at a time, and never ever stop to check the ache. Until maybe one day my solid, happy heart will surprise me.

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on labels: has borderline personality disorder become code for ‘crazy’?

I’ve discussed how I originally resisted the label of borderline personality disorder due to the horrendous things I’d read about it on the internet. On the other hand, being diagnosed with it allowed me to be introduced to dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), which has been immensely useful. It also led me to characterize one issue — identity disturbance, which I’ll write more about soon — that I’ve been dealing with years but have felt unable to accurately describe. In short, the diagnosis has proven really helpful.

At least, I think it has. I’m writing a post right now on a negative experience I had with my (now ex) therapist, who I’ll call Dr. Deville, that made me wonder. Before being labeled as having BPD, I’d had very nice relationships with the two therapists I’d been to. I was treated like a competent peer who needed to make some changes and was perfectly capable of understanding and doing so.  Dr. Deville, however, who is the one who diagnosed me with BPD, treated me like a child towards the end of our time together. I’ll go into more details in my post about her, but in short, she treated me like I was crazy and did not understand my actions and their consequences.

This was unsettling to me. I’m not crazy; in fact, I’m insightful and lucid. I know some folks with BPD might be in denial about how poorly they handle their emotions (and they’re not “crazy,” either!), but even when I’m in the throes of pain, I know what’s happening (and I’m starting to know what to do about it.) I’m competent. I’m an adult. I have a problem with how I react to things and process certain kinds of information, but I’m capable of learning skills the same way any other adult could learn to make a casserole or knit a scarf. I’m a whole, sane person. I’m also quite amiable, a hard worker, and genuine to a fault.

Dealing with Dr. Deville made quite an impression on me. I was thankful that John visited with me and agreed with my assessment of her. I started to worry about whether or not everyone I mentioned my BPD to would treat me like she had. Would everyone start handling me with kid gloves, like I might lash out at any moment? Would they start taking my thoughts and feelings less seriously?

In searching for a new therapist, several mentioned they didn’t have appointments available. I hadn’t mentioned BPD, only that I was looking for someone who did DBT, but I still worried: had they read between the lines? Were they deciding not to work with me because of my BPD? Finally, I mentioned to one therapist on the phone that I had some symptoms of BPD, but that I was afraid to even mention it because of the stigma attached to it. She sympathized, saying, “You’re right about the stigma, and I honestly would be careful who you mention that to. I personally hate that label; it’s only used to give psychologists an idea of what symptoms you’re facing, but honestly, everyone is on that spectrum somewhere. I like to think about those symptoms more in light of attachment theory and treat them that way, and get rid of the label.”

I cried when she said it, and even thanked her. I worried that was a weird thing to do, but actually, I’m sure she wasn’t surprised. It sounds like she knew exactly how hard it was in this society to carry a label that essentially told people to run away from you. I decided then and there that I wouldn’t use the label, either. I have the symptoms, but I’m not so many of the things that seem to spring to mind when people think about BPD.

I actually have continued to use the BPD label to search for resources, and I do think given a trustworthy therapist, it might be a good shorthand way to characterize my symptoms, but I won’t use it as a general descriptor for myself anymore. I’m not crazy. I’m not a psycho. I’m not borderline. I’m a human being.

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