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 and for Muse Magazine Australia, under the name Clara Bridges.

Waiting revisited

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little rabbit waits for the moonWhy are you carrying a copy of ‘Little Rabbit Waits for the Moon’? asked my husband a couple of weeks ago, as I came home after therapy. ‘I lent it to my therapist’ I said. ‘Why did you lend your therapist a children’s book?’ he asked, puzzled, then thought better of it, gave me a strange looks as if to say ‘this therapy lark is really weird’, and walked away….

Ever since my therapist quoted T. S. Eliot at me this time last year, the concept of ‘Waiting’ has had a special sort of significance for me. But I never expected to find it embodied in a children’s book about a little rabbit waiting for the moon to come out and watch over him, before he could go to sleep. My pre-schooler came across the book at a children’s group, and the parallels grabbed me as soon as I started reading. I went home and ordered it from Amazon straight away. It’s my book, not my children’s – and it’s quite hard to convince them to let me read it to them. I don’t think Little Rabbit’s ‘waiting’ is exciting enough for them – well, I can relate to their impatience, at least…..

When my therapist referred me to those six lines from T. S. Eliot last year, I wrote about them in my post ‘Waiting’. It was very short, so I will reproduce it in its entirety here:

waiting 3

I told my therapist I was thinking about leaving because I didn’t feel cared for or understood. My therapist told me that establishing a therapy takes time. I told my therapist that I couldn’t just wait for someone to come along and understand and care about me. She said that it was about waiting to come to the realisation that I was cared for. 

She asked me if I knew T.S. Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. She said that part of it was about waiting. This is that part.”

At the time, I appreciated the beauty of the words, but I felt I was missing their point. It was as if I knew they should be having an impact, but they weren’t. I wasn’t quite sure what they were trying to say – or rather, I felt fairly sure that I didn’t want to understand or take on board what they were trying to say. I have never been a patient person – I’ll always go for the two squares of chocolate now, rather than wait for ten squares of chocolate later. That is no reflection on how much I love chocolate – delayed gratification is just not my thing. But wanting to feel loved and understood is not about gratification – it feels like a desperate, basic need; like survival. And the idea of waiting for that was very difficult indeed to get my head around.

As time went on, the words were no less beautiful, but they became more meaningful. I got a little more used to ‘waiting’. A little more used to my therapist not providing me with reassurance all the time – particularly reassurance as to whether I was cared for or understood. And I became a little more used to the idea that the two things – lack of reassurance, and waiting – went hand in hand. The former provided a space in which the later could, eventually, lead to an appreciation of what was actually there.

I’m no expert in poetry interpretation – and I haven’t read any commentaries on these lines from T. S. Eliot. But the way I interpret them in relation to myself, is that quite often, what I feel as though I desperately want or need, is not necessarily what is best for me, or what I actually need in the long run. Or, it may be the complete opposite of something else I that I long for. When I look at how things have turned out for me in the past, many of my decisions show evidence of ‘hope for the wrong thing’ or ‘love of the wrong thing’ – however desperately right and necessary those things felt at the time.

I asked my therapist last year, whether she hadn’t said she cared about me because it wasn’t true, or because she didn’t think it was within the boundaries of therapy to say it. She said that it would be ‘premature’ – and referred me to these lines. It was, in its ambiguity, a reply very much in keeping with the idea of ‘waiting’. Was it premature to feel that way, or premature to speak it?

The closest thing to those words I wanted to hear, came in December, after a couple of very emotionally tough sessions, and my post ‘My borderline mind’. I had finally realised the extent to which I saw everything through the lens of a strong desire to belong to someone who loved me and understood me perfectly and completely. Going through this in session involved some painfully hard-hitting but necessary realisations about the boundaries of therapy. I felt crushed, confused, vulnerable, but wanted to stay close. Having become conscious of that ‘lens’ I had no idea how I ‘should’ be seeing, or how to proceed with the therapy relationship. My therapist said that at the moment, maybe I just needed to accept that I found it hard to accept. ‘Accept what?’ I asked. ‘Accept that I care; that I’m here; that you matter.

Just like that, un-remarked on in any way by either of us – but what I’d been longing for all along. It happened again, a few months later – as equally unexpected, as equally wonderful, as equally cherished. In a strange way it’s hard to explain, although I wanted to share how wonderful it felt, it also felt too private, too intimate, too special a moment to write about at the time. I held it close, very close to my heart. I still do.

But what was interesting about the first time that it happened, was how ‘soberly’ special it felt, if that’s the right phrase. The fact that it came after my realisation about how my life had revolved around the unrealistic expectation of a perfect relationship, gave it a completely different feel. A weightier feel, in some ways. I think that if it had happened before, it would have ‘gone to my head’, for lack of a better phrase. I may have tried to turn it into something it wasn’t. It might have fuelled those pictures of the ideal, and my pushing at those therapy boundaries. As it is, the ‘waiting’ that had transpired, meant that when the words came, the way in which I saw what I hoped for and what I longer for, had started to change. I felt more open to hoping and longing for something different. To loving someone a bit less perfect and a bit more real.

And so the words didn’t make me giddy – they weren’t like a rush of blood to the head. They stunned me, they blew me away – but they were like a warm, softly-burning fire in my heart.

Since then, I have come to link those six lines from T. S. Eliot with other ‘revelations’ – situations in which I realised that what I actually needed was the complete opposite of what I felt desperate for. I have always had a huge longing to be loved and accepted unconditionally. But at the same time, as had become increasingly obvious in therapy, I have an overwhelming desire to please – to do things to make ‘the other’ happy and to ‘gain favour’. But my desire to please pulls in the opposite direction to my longing for unconditional acceptance and is therefore counter-productive. If I always seek to gain favour, love and acceptance through pleasing, it is never going to feel unconditional. I am never going to see what may be right in front of me, if it hasn’t been gained by the method in which I feel desperate to pursue it.

Equally, I am very resistant to the idea of ‘short-term’ fixes for my mental difficulties – in many ways, it’s why I almost actively deny myself some things (e.g. recourse to religious faith, or meditation) which have helped me in the past. I don’t want to put a ‘sticking plaster’ over my problems this time – I don’t want to ‘recover’ only to find that I ‘relapse’ the next time my life hits a bump, boulder or mountain in the road. It’s why I am committed to the idea of psychotherapy and looking at the past, as well as trying to deal with issues in the present. And yet, a few weeks ago, when I felt as though I’d taken an enormous backwards step in therapy and was doubting my therapist’s caring all over again, I felt incredibly strongly that ‘all I wanted’ was for her to use a few simple and direct words to make it crystal clear that she cared about me. I was in such pain and it felt like such a simple solution, that I couldn’t understand why she would not do it. ‘It would be such an easy fix….’ I thought. Ah – that’s when the penny dropped.

Such an easy fix – yes, it would be. But I was also adamant I didn’t want quick fixes. I didn’t want a sticking plaster. My longing for instant reassurance pulled in completely the opposite direction to my desire for lasting understanding and change. That thought was crystallised even further when I read the quote that resulted in my post ‘Seeking reassurance – when the story in your own head changes’. I had to wait to realise that what I thought wanted was not really what I wanted. That often, what may feel like darkness is actually the light, and ‘the stillness the dancing’.

When I first read ‘Little Rabbit Waits for the Moon’, I felt that it was an incredibly sad story. Having waited, and waited and waited for the moon, Little Rabbit eventually gets so tired he falls asleep before it appears. The moon slides into the night sky, but Little Rabbit is sleeping – dreaming of the moon that will watch over him during the night. All I could think, was that he’d missed it. Missed what he had been waiting for – he couldn’t see it when it appeared.

Little Rabbit had waited a long time – and he had asked a flower, a lake, a winding path, the wind, and the great, rolling hills, how long he would have to wait. Each time he asked, he got an answer he didn’t like – an answer that made it sound as though it would be a very long time until the moon would appear. The flower may have grown into a tree by the time the moon came; the moon may have fallen into the lake; the wind might have turned into a storm by the time the moon arrived; and the hills, which had such a good view, couldn’t see it yet. And so Little Rabbit kept asking someone else, and someone else – ‘just to be sure’.

I had felt an immediate connection with my own impatience over waiting to feel ‘watched over’ and cared for. A connection to asking and not liking the answers I was receiving. A connection to the difficulty of waiting, and the sheer exhaustion (emotional, in my case) of that wait. But what I hadn’t picked up on, until my therapist mentioned it, was the connection between Little Rabbit’s constant asking – ‘just to be sure’ – and my own frequent reassurance seeking.

What I did eventually realise, was that I didn’t have to view it as a sad story. It wasn’t about Little Rabbit missing the moon, or Little Rabbit not knowing he was watched over. The moon was always there, in the sky, and when it finally ‘made an appearance’, it was no less real just because Little Rabbit was asleep and couldn’t physically see it. Not only that, but Little Rabbit had internalised the object that he was longing for – he had created his own representation of the moon that was watching over him, and that, presumably, gave him a sense of safety while he slept. A sense of safety that he could take with wherever and whenever he went (to sleep), irrespective of whether the actual moon was ‘in evidence’ or not. Little Rabbit waited and waited, and eventually found out that what he actually needed, was not what he though he needed at all.

A T. S. Eliot poem and a child’s story about an impatient little bunny may seem like odd texts to put side by side and to compare. But I think they share a similar meaning, and have a similar message to give – at least to me. I’m sure my children are oblivious to it. I’m sure my husband is perplexed – and a little bemused. But my therapist understands what T. S. Eliot and Little Rabbit have in common  – and finally, after a lot of waiting, so do I.

 

 

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Waiting revisited

  1. Again, I feel like you could have been writing about me. Thank you so much for writing this beautiful post! I love the way you explained the significance of the T. S. Eliot poem, and the children’s story, and I especially relate to the following contradiction in behaviour and needs:
    “I have an overwhelming desire to please – to do things to make ‘the other’ happy and to ‘gain favour’. But my desire to please pulls in the opposite direction to my longing for unconditional acceptance and is therefore counter-productive. If I always seek to gain favour, love and acceptance through pleasing, it is never going to feel unconditional.”
    Thank you so, so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Okay, so I’m pretty sure I haven’t replied to this one already 😉 I’m really glad this was helpful for you – it’s amazing how much power some lines of poetry, or a short story like that, can have. And when you think how almost all of these things happen by chance – it’s quite staggering. I almost think “what would I have done if I had never heard those T S Eliot lines’? I have linked and related so much to them, what if my therapist had never read them or been reminded of them? Therapy is such a mysterious and awesome process – the way it is completely uncharted as far as any individual’s own journey goes, and yet reaches such a transformative destination (I hope!). I guess that’s why it’s so important to be open to the process and to use whatever comes up – because it’s not always obvious at the time, what is going to end up being so important…….xxx

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  2. Reblogged this on Musings of a Creative Spirit and commented:
    Both the poem and the description of the rabbit story are great metaphors and the writer shares her experience with living out these ideas; it may be sort of a cliche that “Good things come to those who wait” but it is really true. In my own life I have been trying to “slow down and breathe”…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bravo. This is the best you have written so far of what I’ve read. Keep growing and learning more about you and how you connect to others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so so much – that means a great deal. These lines of poetry are so important to me, and the therapy moments I spoke about are so significant – the post had been waiting months to be written, and when it finally happened, it’s good to know it came across as ‘significant’ as those moments felt….I hope I can keep growing and learning – connecting in a more ‘grown up’, adult way is so hard, but I do feel like I’m learning all the time. It’s the putting into practice that’s the hard bit! Thank you for reading so many of my posts, and ‘liking’ and commenting so often – I appreciate it very much. Take care….

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  5. I’ve been following you for awhile and THIS post is just perfect…you so often put into words things I wish I could, but can’t seem to. this part especially “I have an overwhelming desire to please – to do things to make ‘the other’ happy and to ‘gain favour’. But my desire to please pulls in the opposite direction to my longing for unconditional acceptance and is therefore counter-productive. “If I always seek to gain favour, love and acceptance through pleasing, it is never going to feel unconditional.” I must order this rabbit book. These things give me so much comfort, books, quotes, poetry. Thank you so very much for sharing this.

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    • Thank you so so much for your kind words and I’m really glad this post resonated with you and that you found it helpful. And yes, I take comfort from books, poetry and quotes as well – though in some ways, less than I used to now that so much of my energy is focused on therapy. Which is another reason why it’s great when something turns up that has such power. I hope you find the rabbit book – it was be difficult to track down as I think it’s not published much anymore (I can’t understand why!). As for putting things into words….in this case, I think what was so difficult was coming to that realisation in the first place. Sometimes, once we understand, it’s easier to give voice to the understanding, and use words to describe it. But coming to that understanding….I’m not really sure how it happens, and why sometimes it’s just like a light switch going on, and other times it feels like a slow and painful process….thank you for following, and in particular for commenting – it’s good to hear from you 🙂

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  6. This is beyond words. So, of course, I have to say something! I sometimes think, when I go to a concert and am moved by a quiet ending, that people are too quick to jump in and applaud. I have attended a couple of performances, both of Mahler’s Symphony #9, that ended with about 45 seconds of silence. The music was still there (its effect, that is) in the silence. Perhaps we expect — both therapists and patients — too much from words. Your lovely essay suggests it was not in your therapist’s words, or your conversations with her about those words (and the words she didn’t say) that the healing message came. It came over time as you processed those words and the feelings connected to them. “Doing” something, saying something, isn’t always the answer. And, I should say, those short-term fixes including mindfulness meditation and engaging in life, are necessary to rewire the brain, and help you find what you are looking for. For myself, I believe I must call on whatever tools are within reach to survive, manage, partake, and glory in living. The comments you receive suggest that readers believe you are a treasure. Include me on the list of admirers. But remember, sometimes we have to wait for the applause, all the more to appreciate and understand the music!

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    • Thank you so much for the lovely words and the link 🙂 But much more importantly, I’m really pleased these lines have come to mean something to you as well. I hope, as has been the case with me, that they stay with you and continue to bring new meaning and new insights and new comfort 🙂 I loved your post and what a lovely lovely ending and realisation…..xxxx

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  10. Yes, I’m still going through your archives. Haven’t had much time to read it, but I’m glad I’ve still got lots more to read. So far this is my favourite of your posts. It’s absolutely beautiful beyond words.

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  11. I stumbled across this post earlier today, and I just want to tell you how helpful it has been – like so many of your posts! I recognise what you re describing so well, my therapist is refusing me the reassurance I want, and I’m desperate for just a smile. He has just asked me to change our regular slot to another day, and it has been agony: I’m struggling to arrange childcare, but I so badly want to give him what he wants, it feels utterly humiliating. Therapy is so much harder than I’d expected, and I often struggle badly with feelings I find impossible to accept. Your openness and courage in sharing your own feelings has been incredibly encouraging, thank you so much for doing this!

    PS: my favourite children’s book is Michael Rosen’s Bear Hunt: we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we have to go through it!

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