Trigger – unhappy: that is me. The DSM-IV Criterion 1 for Borderline Personality Disorder has really been getting me down recently, and has been firing up the synapses in my brain left, right and centre (or maybe that should be just left and right).
Criterion 1, ‘Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagine abandonment’ is manifesting itself as hypersensitivity to anything that might be construed (or misconstrued) as rejection, being ignored, misunderstood, sidelined, or not being cared for. And as usual, it’s some of those who I feel closest to, those who I have ‘let in’ and confided in, who are setting off these chain reactions in me. I observe those reactions and responses within myself, and I find them on the one hand self-centred, irrational and abhorrent, and on the other hand completely irrefutable. ‘Intellectual knowledge’ of the reality of the situation doesn’t seem to affect how I feel about it, or the way in which I interpret it. I know one thing – but I feel another.
Triggered: A school friend who I told about my blog several weeks ago, has not yet mentioned it, and seems to be oblivious to the fact that I’m reliving the pain and grief of losing my ex-therapist all over again. I know that she hasn’t had a great deal of time to read it recently, as she has been away, and at my own request is reading posts in chronological order and may not have encountered the relevant entries. But I cannot feel what I know. Instead, I feel hurt and resentful. Instead, I regret ever telling her about my blog, or about my mental health difficulties in general, and I see this as just another reason why my pain should be kept private after all.
Triggered: Another school friend, who also has BPD, was meant to call last week for a chat but didn’t, because she was numbing her own pain with alcohol. A few days later she failed to call again, because she was taking a friend in trouble to the Minor Injuries Unit. I know that she had received some bad news on that first occasion, and that she could not have foreseen the situation with her friend, who obviously needed her. But I cannot feel what I know. Instead, I feel as though it’s just another example of how she responds to others and is emotionally available to them when they need her, but not to me. Instead, I feel angry at myself and at her for needing her, and for feeling helpless in the face of that need.
Triggered: My husband came back from a weekend away, and didn’t give me a hug or any indication that he cared or wanted to know how I had got on while he was gone. I know that he was just reacting to the fact that I was withdrawn and silent. I know that each one of us was waiting for the other person to act and speak first, and that the months and years of inadvertently misunderstanding and hurting each other, has led us each to try and protect ourselves first and foremost, from further hurt. Instead, I felt suicidal – utterly desolate and alone. I felt unreal and unloved and unworthy. I felt rejected and I retreated further into myself. He thought I was ignoring him and that I didn’t care. I was trying to cope with wanting to die, because I felt he didn’t care.
Triggered: My therapist took what felt like an age of silence to think and phrase an answer to the fact that I had just told her that I had been experiencing difficulties with our therapy for some time, and that I had a decision to make about whether we should continue. I know that she was just thinking, and trying to assimilate what I had revealed, and reply in the way she thought best. But I cannot feel what I know. Instead, I felt as though I was on the knife-edge of abandonment – that as I had just revealed that I was thinking of leaving her, she would decide that she could no longer see me. It took every ounce of effort not to break the silence and tell her how unbearable the knife-edge was. How I was both shattering inwardly and at the same trying to burst out of my skin to escape the feelings of rejection, disapproval, and uncertainty of what was coming next.
Triggered: My ex-therapist, Jane, responded to my frantic efforts to avoid the very real ‘abandonment’ of never seeing her again, by saying that she did not think it was advisable to have just a couple of sessions without the prospect of ongoing work, and did not maintain contact or have friendships with those she had seen in a professional capacity. I had followed ‘numbness and denial’ with a desperate plea for something more, though with the very real fear and expectation that it would come to nothing.
I know that Jane had to reply the way she did. I know that her reply, though devastating in its finality, was necessary, and everything I have come to expect from her. It was professional, maintained boundaries, and was written in the spirit of keeping us both safe. I asked her to be honest – and she was. But I also asked her to be gentle – and she was. Her reply was reassuring, validating, clear, and above all, caring. Not in any obvious way – I can only wish that she would come out and say it! But it was there, in every other way – in the things that she didn’t say, as well as in the things that she did. And here’s the curious thing. I do feel what I know.
I knew Jane for weeks, not years. I have had virtually no contact with her for months. But, despite all the odds, and despite the difficulty that I (and many others with BPD) have with object constancy, and holding on to the reality of another individual, in their absence – I still believe that she understood and cared about me. That she cares about me. Perhaps almost as much as being abandoned by her in the present, I was terrified her reply would shatter my perfect and idealised view of her. That I would be abandoned by that sense of caring and the reality of the work we did together. The sense of self-acceptance that she gave me has vanished. But the sense that I was cared for by her, is, miraculously, still there.
I’m not oblivious to the fact that I may be particularly trigger-unhappy at the moment because I could be splitting off any negative emotions I may have had about Jane’s ‘abandonment’ and am transferring them onto others. I have always been passionate about ‘protecting Jane from myself’ and from any possibility of devaluing her, or reducing the height of her pedestal even by a millimetre. I don’t feel angry at her. I don’t feel rejected by her.
But do I know what I feel?
May 25, 2014 at 4:24 pm
No words. 😦 Being able to relate to these feelings so well, I know that there is virtually nothing anyone can say to make them better. I wish I could send the world’s biggest hug across the Atlantic though. I mean I know what part of me wants to hear at these times but even when I hear it (on those rare occasions), I’m usually so far gone that I just instantly jump to some invalidation of it (“they’re just saying that and it means nothing” etc.). DBT is helping me to realize that I can’t fight what I feel, no matter what I know – the part of me that is feeling it just needs to be felt, understood and soothed. Unfortunately that means I need to turn into a person who can feel, understand and soothe my own feelings. Damn. Wishing you some relief from these things and lots of strength to bear them too xxxxxxxx
May 25, 2014 at 10:40 pm
Hi Cat, I think I might have more luck communicating with you via WordPress comments than through Gmail which appears to be very temperamental right now!!! The more I hear about DBT skills, the more I think I need to do it…I think you’re right, fighting how you feel, and judging yourself for it, will not help. It’s interesting, my first instinctual response to the phrase ‘feel, understand and soothe my own feelings’ was the sense that ‘the answer’ was simply to have to deal with it all myself as usual. But of course, that’s not what the phrase said, and it’s not what it meant. Feeling, understanding and soothing my feelings was never something I did when I was ‘dealing with things on my own’. Dealing just meant burying or hiding – a very very far cry from feeling, understanding and soothing. So although I’m the only one who can do those things for myself, that doesn’t mean I have to do them alone. Ok. I sort of feel like that was a bit of a ‘revelatory moment’ while typing…..! I hadn’t thought of it that way before…….It’s all very scary and ‘damn’ is just right. But maybe it doesn’t have quite the connotations I thought it did…..though it’s so hard to fight the feeling that I depend on other people for those things…..Urgh. Thank you so much for the massive hug, and the insights. I always know you can relate, and it’s always a big comfort to know that you know, and that you understand….. xxx
May 26, 2014 at 3:23 am
I can relate with your concern in telling your friend about your blog and having no response. I have experienced that quite a few times with my blog and it is frustrating and I do feel a bit abandoned by the concept. Sending hugs and hope you find your own ways to reach out despite the apparent insensitivity of others.
May 27, 2014 at 9:51 pm
Thank you so much – hugs much appreciated! I must admit to feeling guilty and passive aggressive about the fact that the first time she will probably realise how I feel about it, is by reading this! Cringe. How do you move past it happening a few times, and still being brave enough to share it with others you know? I really admire that! I intend to write a post at some point about communication, because I’m realising more and more how very bad I am at it, and so ‘reaching out’ becomes very difficult, because I can’t just come out and say how I feel and what I think. I guess that’s one of the reasons why blogging is so great – it enables me to communicate what’s going on, and in some small way, being able to do that here, puts me in a slightly better place to start communicating again (even about ‘little things’!) in ‘real life’….But first I will need to get out from under this fog and ‘being weighed-down-ness’ that I’m in at the moment. I have spent weeks surviving on between 5 and 6 hours sleep a night (much less than I used to need), and I think I’m crashing a bit….
May 28, 2014 at 2:44 am
Other responses I have had make up for the non-responders. I just figure that certain people will say something and others won’t. It’s actually still really hard for me. My husband is really encouraging and urges me to keep doing it.
June 1, 2014 at 12:02 am
You’re right, thank you, and I think I need to try and keep remembering that 🙂 It’s great that your husband is supportive and encouraging, I think that must make a big difference. x
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June 4, 2014 at 6:47 am
Found your blog this morning. I have been doing some reading around BPD recently, having found some identification with the disorder. Reading your blog has blown me away.
Recently I have been having SO many triggers…….. Begging my husband to just love me because he seems different with me, he is probably just sick of my insecurities. Second guessing my friends reactions to me to the point of paranoia and then feeling bad if I voice these thoughts cos no one else appears to see it. I have always struggled to trust my feelings about situations as they change so regularly but still the feelings are so intense that I am powerless to do anything but react to them. Thank you for sharing yourself….I am hoping I may find some acceptance of me now.
June 4, 2014 at 9:52 pm
Thank you so very very much for your comment,it means a lot to me. I’m so glad the post (and others) helped. I know, from my own reading of others’ posts, how it really can take your breath away when you read something you can really relate to and you realise that you’re not the only person who feels that way. At the same time, I’m so sorry that things are so difficult and triggering for you right now, but I completely see where you’re coming from, and paranoia about others is something that affects me frequently as well. I also relate to the difficulties with your husband – it is such a painful situation to be in. Please know that you will always find acceptance here, and I do hope you receive it from those closest to you. I am far from being a mine of either information or advice, but if you ever want to reach out or have questions, do just ask. Blogging is about so many things for me, but it is definitely about mutual support. Thanks again so much, for commenting. x
June 10, 2014 at 10:47 pm
Reblogged this on Marci, Mental Health, & More and commented:
I can relate.
June 12, 2014 at 11:35 pm
Thank you SO much for commenting, and reblogging (again!).
October 10, 2017 at 9:12 pm
Gosh I can relate to you so much. I always find myself coming back to your blog at certain times in my therapy to make sense of this strange illness? Diagnosis? Extreme way of thinking? I know this post is ages old so you may not want to revisit but I find so much clarity in your writing and honesty about the bpd mind. The context is always different but I think the triggers and responses and feelings are . It’s such a reprieve from my mind to read your blog – I have suffered in silence for as long as I can remember atleast since my second attachment relationship, a boyfriend at 17 – my first *love*, and I totally fell apart. It’s so exhausting to carry all of these thoughts, internal drama, walk the mental line of suicide and hope for a better tomorrow on pretty much a daily basis. It feels good to be free atleast for today if it’s only in here.
Right now I am struggling in therapy. I’m completely and fully ‘devaluing’ my therapist. I’m totally paranoid about her intentions and trust. We were in a space where we spoke everyday via email once/day outside of therapy. I was completely enmeshed dependent thought I was learning to trust but just totally out of control fluctuating between my 6yr old self sending her pictures of animals saying I love you and then totally lambasting her for my dependency. She ended this communication completely outside of the therapy and I have not been able to get over it. I have been completely traumatized, having panic attacks and was put on a medication for these that made me lose some of my hair. (Never take klonopin ever). I am unable to let go of this and trust again, move forward. At a standstill sad and confused.
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October 14, 2017 at 9:42 pm
Thank you so much for your lovely comments and I’m so glad what I’ve written is helpful…..I’m so sorry for what you are going through as it sounds very very painful, and I can understand the confusion. I used to have panic disorder, and it’s a real sign of how distressing this is for you….I always find it very difficult to comment when it comes to others’ therapy because my key concern is never to undermine and to always bear in mind that it’s the two individuals involved that know the situation best and who have all the details. Without detailed knowledge, I would still say that however painful it is and however impossible it might feel to do so, try and keep a little room for the thought that she may be trying to do her best for you, and act in accordance with what she believes is in the long-term best interest of the therapy. You may believe she is wrong in the decision she has made, and ultimately, only time will tell, but her intention is important, and based purely on the previous regular correspondence you had, to me (with no other knowledge), it seems that her intentions are likely to be positive, and if you can make room for that possibility, and the possibility that she too is hurting in hurting you, then I think the therapy can only benefit. I have found that the most painful times in my own therapy have also ended up being the most significant in the long run….knowing that I know doesn’t make it any easier at all for you now, but I hope it helps if only to know I’m thinking of your situation and know you can get through it….Take care….