Life in a Bind – BPD and me

My therapy journey, recovering from Borderline Personality Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I write for welldoing.org , for Planet Mindful magazine, and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org.


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The Answers to More Questions You’d Like to Ask your Therapist

This is a fantastic follow-up post to Dr Stein’s “Five things you wanted to know about your therapist but were afraid to ask: The answers”, which I reblogged in November 2014. In the November post, Dr Stein wrote a response to blogger SpaceFreedomLove, who had written about the questions she really wanted to ask her therapist. Those questions prompted a whole host of questions by other bloggers who really related to her words, and in this post, Dr Stein addresses some of those further questions.

I find it fascinating – and I wonder, cheekily, if Dr Stein does too(!) – that different bloggers, myself included, posed quite a different set of questions. The questions we ask can be quite revealing of ourselves, our circumstances and our preoccupations. Dr Stein’s posts have revealed aspects of how he felt about his work as a therapist and how he felt about his clients. What have our questions revealed about us? Despite their apparent differences, are there some obvious threads? Is there one key question or concern, or perhaps a small set of them, underlying all of these other questions?

Dr Stein has tantalisingly said that he will be addressing more of those questions in future, and I am very much looking forward to the next post. In the meantime, I hope you find this instalment as fascinating and informative as I did!

Dr. Gerald Stein

psych-supp-peanuts

Last autumn I wrote a post in response to Spacefreedomlove’s five questions she’d love to ask her therapist. I will try to answer a few more now, those from Jay at Who are You Calling Sensitive?

1) Do you ever dream about me like I dream about you? 2) Is it really easy to limit your thoughts and feelings (both positive and negative) about me to our one weekly session or do these spill over? 3) What do you most love and loathe about our therapy relationship? 4) Is being a therapist just a job or is it a big part of who you are? 5) How on earth do you manage to get all your needs met outside therapy with long working hours and don’t you just want to chat the ears off your friends and family because you’ve been relatively quiet during the day? 6) Do you feel…

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Depression is like…..struggling to breathe

A couple of days ago I was honoured to have a guest post published by the brilliantly talented and inspiringly honest Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers. In the introduction to the post, she described me as “a blogger who at times seems to be reading my mind“. The feeling is entirely mutual! I am so glad I discovered her award-winning blog and I want to thank her for her for writing and for sharing her struggles, and for her understanding.

My guest post was inspired by one of her own pieces, called ‘What do you mean you can’t breathe? There’s loads of air in here, which I shared through my most recent post on this site. Her own post was itself inspired by an image comparing depression with asthma. The image made a big impression on me, just as it had on her and on her readers, and my guest post grew out of me pondering why it was so much more powerful (in my opinion) than other images of its kind. The guest post can be found here, and while you’re on her site, please do check out some of her excellent writing!

http://sunnyspellsandscatteredshowers.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/guest-post.html

 


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Depression is like….Reblog-ish

A few days ago, well-known blogger and mental health campaigner Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, shared an image through her Facebook page which clearly (given the number of ‘likes’ it received!) made a big impression on her readers. The image, from Minds Like Ours, compared Depression with asthma, but, to quote Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers, “we often see images comparing depression to diabetes or other chronic illnesses, but this one seemed to pack more of a punch”. 

Inspired by the response to the image, she wrote an excellent and thought-provoking post called ‘What do you mean you can’t breathe? There’s loads of air in here‘. It’s an impassioned plea for more research into mental illness. Fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns are hugely important, but as the post itself concludes, “so much more is needed“.

The post can be found here – please do check it out (as well as some of her other fantastic writing!):

http://sunnyspellsandscatteredshowers.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/what-do-you-mean-you-cant-breathe.html

 


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Why all therapists should shop in IKEA

POANG IKEA ARMCHAIREvery therapist should have one of these for their clients.

It’s the fabulously named POÄNG armchair, from IKEA. I know of at least two other therapists (in addition to my own) who has at least one of these in their consulting room/office, and a friend of mine jokingly suggested that perhaps they are endorsed by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). I suspect that their popularity is due primarily to price and comfort, but my own recommendation is based on something quite different.

The POÄNG is certainly comfortable, but it is also rather flexible. When you sit down, it has ‘a bit of give’. This may be because of the way the back is suspended and there is upright support only at the front. Or it may be because of the “layer-glued bent birch frame” which, according to the IKEA website, gives “comfortable resilience”. An apt description for a chair to be used for therapy, I feel. Or even an apt description for a therapist. Or maybe an aspirational description for a client – I would like to be “comfortably resilient” one day.

My own appreciation for the POÄNG is directly related to its flexibility and “comfortable resilience”, though not in a metaphysical sense. Although it is not a rocking chair, the fact that the back does have some ‘give in it’, means that you can easily generate a small rocking motion by leaning back and very gently pushing against the floor with your foot.

The longer I am in therapy, the more I find I am aware of the ‘context’ in which therapy happens, and of the aspects of therapy which are not related to talking, but which can still convey a great deal. I suppose it’s a sort of ‘mindfulness’ about the therapy process. Without necessarily using my awareness to change what I do, I find that I am noticing what I wear to therapy; what I choose to take with me; how I open the conversation; how much eye contact I maintain; how I’m sitting; what my body language is doing at any one time.

It was during a recent intense and emotional session, that I noticed that I was rocking backwards and forwards in the chair, and that it had an almost immediate soothing and calming effect. It didn’t reduce the distress, but it calmed down my breathing and I could actually feel my emotions slightly settling – as if I were taking a deep breath to steady myself. I caught myself doing this at several points during the session, although each time I stopped quite quickly once I became conscious (and self-conscious) about what I was doing. Thinking back, I realised that I had done the same on a number of previous occasions.

Rocking is a universal soothing technique – as any carer of a small child will know! Children experience it from the very beginning of life inside the womb, and as adults many people still retain a fondness for rocking motions, whether that is expressed through a love of rocking chairs, a hammock, or sailing on a gentle sea. It’s no surprise that for some, the experience of distress results in an unconscious attempt to self-soothe by the earliest experienced means.

I will ask my therapist why she chose to purchase the POÄNG. I suspect that she will ask “why do you want to know – what does it mean to you?”. After I’ve given her my answer, she may even give me hers – and I’m willing to bet it has more to do with the chair’s aforementioned cost and comfort, than the soothing nature of its “layer-glued bent birch frame”.

However, if the BACP needs any further persuasion to consider awarding a POÄNG to all new counsellors and psychotherapists upon the occasion of their accreditation, they should consider this. “POÄNG”, according to my trusty source “the internet”, means ‘a point‘ – as in ‘the salient point of a discussion‘. Now, if that’s not a sign that this comfortably resilient chair was built for therapy, I don’t know what is.

[Image taken from IKEA website at http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/S29825195/]


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Memory Monday – “The new therapy: from house to home?”

As I engage more and more with the therapy process and try and learn from what it has to teach me, I find myself thinking back to pivotal points in my past relationship with my therapist. It’s both an encouragement to see how much our relationship has developed and my trust has increased, and also a reminder of the fact that therapy can’t be ‘scripted’. It may feel aimless at times or as if I’m groping in the dark; and I still can’t even imagine what ‘the end point’ looks like for me. But I’m quietly amazed when I look back at the twists and turns of our therapeutic journey, and realise how much all those different stages (including the dreaded ‘therapy breaks’) have had to teach me -not always straight away or at the time, but cumulatively, and in retrospect.

Here then, is the post that signalled a real change for me, in how I saw and related to my therapist. This is where our real work began.

https://lifeinabind.com/2014/06/13/the-new-therapy-from-house-to-home/

After months and months of grieving the loss of my ex-therapist and hoping that I might return into therapy with her, it finally became clear that that was no longer a possibility, and I could ‘hold out’ on my therapist no longer. I could no longer see her (albeit subconsciously) as a ‘stop-gap’ – I either had to start to emotionally commit to her, or decide that she wasn’t the right therapist for me, and try and find someone else. I’m so glad I listened to the ‘gut instinct’ that had drawn me to her, and that I chose the former.

As for the image of therapy as a ‘house’ or a ‘home’ – that still very much continues for me. The image has become a fundamental and frequent part of my dream life, and it develops and evolves. Where, as a child, my dreams were dominated by flying, these days they are dominated either by ‘houses’ or by ‘journeys’ – and I feel strongly that both images are very much connected with the therapy process. One of my most poignant dreams was of a journey ‘through’ a house -moving from room to room. The rooms started off completely bare, but as I walked through they started to fill with furniture, and became more and more warm and comfortable and homely. The last room was at the back of the house, and looking out, I saw a wonderful view over a beautiful and gently sloping garden. I was overcome with emotion at what was ‘out there’ for me to enjoy. Perhaps that ‘end-point’ of therapy, that I cannot even imagine – will feel something like gazing out at the view of that garden.