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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Who is that girl I see?

I have recently given in to letting my children play Christmas songs in the car, but before that, ‘Now Disney’ was frequently on repeat (though I banned disc 4, the Christmas album – I draw the line at cartoon characters singing Jingle Bells)! I remember the Disney songs of my own childhood, and I know tracks from the latest films, as my children are now old enough to enjoy the cinema. ‘Let it Go’ is still a firm favourite, but it took me a while to figure out what my children were doing, when they started singing the ‘Banana’ song from the Minions movie!

However, there are a couple of decades in between , where I have missed out on a swathe of wonderful Disney films and beautiful songs, which I am now gradually coming to know through my children’s music and DVDs. I have a soft-spot for ‘Tangled’, an interesting retelling of the Rapunzel story, with a wonderful soundtrack that is both moving and disturbing – for anyone who has experienced an intrusive, controlling or narcissistic mother, it is hard to listen to the reprise of ‘Mother knows best’ without feeling extremely uncomfortable.

But recently, I have been particularly struck by the words to ‘Reflection’, a song from the 1998 film ‘Mulan’. It was covered by Christina Aguilera, and it became her debut adult contemporary single. Though the lyrics are about questions of identity and acceptance for a young girl struggling to find her true self in a male dominated and culturally restrictive China of times past, they are in other ways universal, and they are certainly relevant to questions of identity and acceptance in mental health.

Although I am becoming more open about my mental health difficulties, I do still need to hide them from work and from family, and I often come up against an intense internal frustration at the fact that I am so routinely ‘in hiding’ and that in most contexts, I cannot be ‘seen’ and therefore accepted, for who I am. And that sense of lack of acceptance goes right back to before the development of my BPD, and to the feeling that I was expected by my parents to be a particular way, and that acceptance, therefore, was in some sense conditional, and that I had to hide a great deal about how I really thought and felt.

If you have not come across this song before, I hope it resonates with you, as it did with me. These verses, in particular, stand out for me:

“Look at me
You may think you see
Who I really am
But you’ll never know me
Every day
It’s as if I play a part
Now I see
If I wear a mask
I can fool the world
But I cannot fool my heart….

…..Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
Why is my reflection
Someone I don’t know?
Must I pretend that I’m
Someone else for all time?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside? ….

…..Why must we all conceal
What we think, how we feel?
Must there be a secret me
I’m forced to hide?
I won’t pretend that I’m
Someone else for all time
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?”

[From ‘Reflection’ – written and produced by Wilder and Zippel, recorded by Christina Aguilera]

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