Life in a Bind – BPD and me

Borderline Personality Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and my therapy journey. Listed in Top Ten Resources for BPD in 2016 by goodtherapy.org. I write for welldoing.org under the name Clara Bridges.

Uncensored: jumbled thoughts, post-therapy pain

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[Usually, I like my posts to have a structure – a beginning, middle and an end. This post is a departure. It has a great many beginnings, some middles and no real end. It’s mostly failed beginnings, as I tried to start over and over and over again. At some point I gave up and simply started writing down thoughts as they came to mind. Paragraphs. Single sentences. At another point I started writing aborted beginnings again. There is no logical structure – and a fair amount of repetition.

It was a few days ago – and three hours after my last therapy session. I was hurting and I was very confused. For the last few sessions as well as dealing with the ‘content of therapy’, we kept coming back to the ‘process of therapy’ itself, which for me, was rapidly becoming a major part of the content. It felt as though almost every thought, feeling or conversation I was having, was coming up against a way in which I was wanting therapy or my therapist to be something other than what they were. I was finding it difficult to accept them, and therefore to be open to what they could give me. 

I know there is no ‘route map’ for therapy. That some of the most renowned therapists have no idea how the process actually works – they just know that it does. And so I have always tried to accept the uncertainty of not really knowing how therapy was going to unfold or what my precise destination was. But recently, and particularly at my last session, I felt completely lost, with absolutely no sense of what I was meant to be doing, of how I should behave, or of what might constitute progress; while at the same time feeling that those thoughts were ‘wrong’ because there was no ‘right way’ of proceeding in these matters.

So these, for what they’re worth, are my jumbled thoughts and feelings, as they were at the time. I share them not because they are particularly helpful or insightful, or explanatory – but only in case someone else may be feeling exactly the same way, and may want to know that they have company in those feelings, and that some of them, at least, may be short-lived. I no longer wish to undo what I have been doing; I don’t regret trusting (to whatever extent I may have done that), taking risks, loving. But I’m still confused – about many things. And I’m still not sure how to ‘do therapy’ – if not ‘better’, then at least in a way that is more helpful to me. But, as my therapist said, the more I can simply experience it rather than analyse how I’m doing it, the more we can work on together. Including what that ‘togetherness’ actually means.]

I feel horribly confused. Nothing makes sense. I feel diminished. Hopelessly diminished. Or hopeless and diminished, or both.

***

Maybe I should try and see her as my doctor. As just a professional who’s there to help me. But that is what she is, isn’t she? And maybe not constantly reminding myself of that is the biggest part of the problem.

***

I feel as though I want to undo everything that I have done or that has happened since I entered therapy. All the progress I thought I’d made, all the things I thought I’d realised. The way I thought I’d trusted and opened myself up. The acceptance I thought I’d felt. It all feels like a lie or a massive self-deception.

***

I feel numb with a dense ball of pain inside my chest. Squeezed up so tight, so that the rest of me can just be unfeeling and still, while a little part sits still and hurts.

***

If this is all just material for therapy, how does therapy work? I can emotionally disengage from the emotion – that’s fine. I can treat it as ‘material’ – but that involves even greater compartmentalisation, not less.

***

The world was safer before therapy. I may have been dysfunctional but I understood my dysfunction. It worked, it kept me safe. I knew what the end goal was – protection and survival. Now I have no idea what I’m striving for.

***

I feel diminished. As if everything I thought I’d understood was a lie or a convenient piece of self-deception. As if every time I felt a sense of acceptance it was based on an error. My error. It feels as though I can never get it right.

***

I don’t want to be a bother. All I ever wanted to do was the right thing.

***

I feel as though everything I thought I’d understood or achieved over the last two years was a make-believe story – a convenient piece of self-deception. Every little piece of ‘acceptance’ feels empty, illusory, based on a misunderstanding or misapprehension about what was going on. I feel diminished. Utterly diminished.

***

So the goal of therapy is to understand where these feelings come from. But who’s going to pay attention to the experience of the feelings themselves? What do I do with them? How do they go away? Are they even real? Or am I simply my own interpreter? Who experiences me? Are the feelings only the instrument of understanding?

***

I can’t write and it’s driving me crazy. I feel gagged, bound up, trussed by an inability to express myself to myself.

***

I feel diminished. I don’t understand. I feel like there is nothing of me left, except the edifice that I knocked down and that now needs to be built up again. I wish I’d never trusted. I wish I’d never let myself feel.

***

I feel as though nothing I say, do or feel is right. I’m not even right to think and feel that there is a right way to think and feel. I am caught up in vicious circles that it seems impossible to escape. I’m trying to step outside my worldview to put it right, but just like stepping outside of language, that’s impossible. It’s a task that can only happen from within – but I have no idea where to start.

***

“Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass!
He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold,
Than we who wake, and waking say Alas! “ *

***

Therapy means always thinking about what the feelings mean and what they’re telling me. If I’m missing her it has to be because of ‘this’ or ‘that’ or because she’s representing ‘so-and-so’ or ‘a.n. other’. Is there no room for me just missing her? Is there no room for the experience being meaningful and not just its interpretation? I can bring the feeling to therapy and we can talk about it. But who deals with the feeling in the moment? What deals with it? Do I just file it away for future reference? As I have always filed feelings away? Oh look, I miss her. Isn’t that interesting. Let’s talk about it in two days time. Won’t that be nice. The fact is I miss her and it’s visceral and it’s real and the only antidote feels like some comfort, a sense of her presence or some simple words.

***

Is she only ever a representation? Not real within herself? At least, not to me? Only ever a projection?

***

I need to get my head around the fact that she shouldn’t mean this much to me. That she should be like a doctor or a colleague. Someone there to help me with a problem but not to get emotionally invested in.

***

I dreamed that I had a building made of white lego, with a white terrace at the top with lots of tables and chairs on it. I dreamed that I started to dismantle the lego and take the supporting bricks out from under the terrace. In the end, it was like a letter ‘U’ laying on its side. A bottom, and a top, with nothing in between. It looked and felt fragile, with no underpinning. What would happen to that terrace?

***

I feel like that lego structure. I feel diminished. As if everything I thought I’d understood and felt in connection with therapy, has been dismantled. Over the last two years I thought I was building something – but now I realise it’s all just air.

***

I felt accepted at least partly due to a sense of freedom to express myself and make myself and my needs known, in the moment, rather than being held back always by politeness, or fear, or propriety, or wanting to protect her from myself. Spontaneity and freedom as opposed to constant questioning, over-thinking, rumination, self-doubt, anxiety. And all without judgment. But that was a mistake.

***

I don’t want to be any trouble. All I ever wanted to do was the right thing.

***

Maybe it would work better if I saw her just as a professional who is there to help me with something. But that is exactly what she is. And perhaps that is the heart of the matter.

***

She is just a professional there to help me. Repeat after me. Endless times, please. Until I can believe it. Until I can act on it.

***

But for me professional means unemotional and unattached. No connectedness. If she is just a professional there to help me I should be able to go in, talk about how I’m feeling, have a conversation, leave, feel better or perhaps not feel better. But not think about her. Not dream about her. Not want to be close to her. Not miss her. Not want to share everything with her. I wouldn’t feel that way about my doctor – so why should I feel that way about her? It feels like I’m trying to talk myself into something and I don’t even know if it makes any sense.

[* quote from ‘Asleep’ by Wilfred Owen]

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14 thoughts on “Uncensored: jumbled thoughts, post-therapy pain

  1. You’re absolutely not alone in these thoughts. I’ve not had them for a therapist yet, but for others that I shouldn’t feel that way towards. That I can’t bare the thought of them not being there. Then the sheer devastation when they aren’t. I know it will happen with future therapists, I’m in no doubt. Yet even tho I know, I won’t be able to stop it. At the time I need them, knowing that I shouldn’t doesn’t help.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry you’ve felt this way too – you’re right, it’s simply impossible to stop those thoughts and feelings developing, even when we can see them coming. Sometimes I think I’ve pre-empted them, but then they show up when I least expect them, and via an unexpected route. I think I’m starting to realise a few things about these emotions that might help me, and I think an important thing might be to not see those emotions as wrong. We may not be able to have what we want, but that doesn’t necessarily make the wanting, wrong. If we think of it as wrong we immediately give ourselves grounds for recrimination and guilt, whereas giving ourselves permission to feel that way, even if we have to accept the feelings won’t be satisfied, is kinder, and can feel quite liberating….Thank you again for your comment…

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  2. Just wanted to say I found this to be one of your most honest posts. I really get a good sense of your struggle. I struggle in therapy also, with somewhat different issues, but I can relate to this. I think we are actually most helpful to others when we are trying to be as honest as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – you have no idea how much I value your comment and how important it is to me. I really strive to be honest, but at the same time I know I tend to write in a particular way, and sometimes at a little ‘distance’ from the events (and following self-reflection) which can mean that perhaps it comes across as not quite as immediate, or not quite as much ‘from the heart’. But I always want to put everything I feel into what I write – and your comment has encouraged me not to shy away from sharing something, just because it feels formless or as if it doesn’t make sense. I tend to feel I should have tried to reach some sort of insight before I write – but you’re right, helpfulness comes in many forms, and showing raw emotion can be just as helpful if not more so, than making sense of that emotion. Honesty and directness are hugely important to me – and so your comments are an immense compliment, thank you so much…..

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  3. I can relate to almost every one of these on every single level. In fact a couple of them brought tears to my eyes because I’m going through a lot of them right now. I’m having a lot of difficulty expressing my feelings to my friends and my partner and it’s driving all of us crazy because I’m so sensitive and emotional. I’ve been going all “borderline” on them which of course has been hard on them as well as me. I feel like a horrible partner as well as a friend and that I’ve let them both down because I can’t seem to control myself lately at all.

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    • I’m so sorry things are so difficult for you at the moment, and that this was difficult for you to read. I hope things have got a little better since you wrote this, and that you have all been able to be kind to each other. I know from experience what a vicious circle it can be, when things are particularly difficult for the person with BPD and when partners find it hard to cope and then this feeds into triggering the person with BPD some more, and so on….please take care, sending warm wishes your way….

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, I appreciate your warm wishes. Our communication has been getting a bit better and we are able to at least talk to one another without feeling like we are “walking on eggshells” around one another. I think the heat and the stress of everything going on with the economy and other things are the major culprits to our short fuses, especially my own. The heat is the worst one for me and I have a hard time controlling my temper and my short fuse when I’m miserable. I hope all is well on your end.

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      • Thank you so much for your reply – things are definitely better at the moment, so I’m trying to enjoy the relative stability instead of worrying when it will end, particularly as I am absolutely dreading the August therapy break and know that things tend to go rapidly dowhill during breaks. I agree that the heat makes things worse, and finance is a big bone of contention with my husband as well. Having lots of therapy is great, but it doesn’t help with finance 😦 I hope your communication has continued to improve – thinking of you…

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  4. Sometimes the confines of therapy are too much. Your struggle is apparent. Only a few comments:

    “I don’t want to be a bother. All I ever wanted to do was the right thing.” The best of us only get it “right” some of the time. Who even knows what is “right? Part of the problem of living is doing “right” without a constant pre and post review of doing right.

    ***

    “Therapy means always thinking about what the feelings mean and what they’re telling me. If I’m missing her it has to be because of ‘this’ or ‘that’ or because she’s representing ‘so-and-so’ or ‘a.n. other’. Is there no room for me just missing her? Is there no room for the experience being meaningful and not just its interpretation? I can bring the feeling to therapy and we can talk about it. But who deals with the feeling in the moment? What deals with it? Do I just file it away for future reference? As I have always filed feelings away? Oh look, I miss her. Isn’t that interesting. Let’s talk about it in two days time. Won’t that be nice. The fact is I miss her and it’s visceral and it’s real and the only antidote feels like some comfort, a sense of her presence or some simple words.” There is, or should be, room for the experience being meaningful without being explicable. You have lots of company among patients who, due to the limits of the psychotherapy model, must put things in a box and wait until the session for the unveiling. Indeed, waiting for the proper moment to express ourselves is a challenge in therapy and out.

    ***

    “Is she only ever a representation? Not real within herself? At least, not to me? Only ever a projection?” She is real.

    ***

    “I need to get my head around the fact that she shouldn’t mean this much to me. That she should be like a doctor or a colleague. Someone there to help me with a problem but not to get emotionally invested in.” The emotional investment is inevitable and a part of the treatment, as you know. I wish it were easier. None of us get to make the rules about our feelings.

    Very sorry about your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Some of your posts feel like someone peered into my mind, and then projected the contents onto a screen for me to look at. I really relate to what you write here. I also deeply feel the pain of feeling that she isn’t real; that her care for me isn’t real, that the love I feel isn’t real, that the love I think she feels for me isn’t real. That none of it is real at all, she is only playing the part I am paying her to play. Because if it truly were real, why would it be so painful and confusing? And I wonder, will it ever feel real or not so confusing and painful?
    I think that therapy is really, really hard for people like us. And although it helps us, it is also like chemotherapy for cancer. It poisons us too. The love that we never received at much younger ages, coming to us now from our therapists, is like poison because we just don’t have context for it and we just can’t believe it. So it hurts. I don’t know if that resonates for you, but it is how I am starting to make sense of such similar feelings in myself. I hope you take good care of yourself, because you certainly are worthy of that care. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Rachel – I want to come back to your comment because there’s a lot in there for me to think about, and I’d like to respond some more. But in the meantime, I wanted to say thank you so much and apologies for the delay. You really made me smile and brightened up my day with your last sentence. I am so grateful for this blogging community, and I am grateful for you and for others who say those things I find it hard to believe about myself. You take care too, and please do keep in touch xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I think that most of my blog posts are jumbled up and I never know if they make sense to anyone else but me. I thought that this was a great post.

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    • Thank you so much Joyce! I think many of us have a much more negative view of our own writing or verbal communication, than others do. I often feel like I’m making no sense in therapy – although, to be frank, sometimes that is _actually_ true, and even my therapist will tell me she’s not sure what I’m getting at! But sometimes my head feels more jumbled and incoherent than what comes out in reality. Perhaps because what comes out is filtered to some extent (as described in latest post….). I have certainly never thought your posts jumbled, and they DO make sense, at least to me 🙂 Thank you so much for reading and commenting….

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Knowing | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

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