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.

Who is that girl I see?

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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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6 thoughts on “Who is that girl I see?

  1. I feel for you ❤ I pray that the day will come when you feel you are able to show all sides of who you are (((hugs))) Never easy with a lot of the stigma still out there…that being said I think it's awesome that you have found a safe haven in blogging about your personal journey with mental illness….there are many others who need to hear your voice and others like it 🙂 If you're interested in sharing, please feel free to stop by my meet and greet that's going on today 🙂 I've been catching up with bloggers and meeting new ones. Always a great time. Hope to see you there! ❤

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    • Thank you so much and MANY apologies for my enormous delay in replying….things were very tough for a while….part of which was related to the complications of showing all sides while still maintaining boundaries and and avoiding swinging from one extreme to another….thank so for reading and commenting and apologies I wasn’t able to stop by your meet and greet- but let me know if you do another one! 🙂

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  2. This song just came on the radio a couple of days ago and I felt the exact same way! Thank you for bringing it up. I also felt it resonated with the lack of identity that comes with BPD and the confusion about who I really am (“Who is that girl I see staring straight back at me? Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?”), even the question of who I am without BPD.

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    • Many many apologies for my delay in replying…..and yes, I’m so glad you mentioned the identity point – it had exactly the same resonances for me as well. I’m impressed the song came up on the radio – I don’t think I’ve ever heard it there, though maybe I don’t listen to the right stations 🙂

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  3. I am so glad to hear your starting to coming into acceptance. I have mental health issues also. Acceptance really set me free. I don’t know how much it has to do with age. I’m assuming you’re a lot younger than me since your kids are still into Disney and now my grandchildren are into Disney. My oldest son is 32 and my youngest is 23 and I am 52. I just got to a point in my life where I’ve decided to become totally transparent. I’m not suggesting you do this it’s not the easiest decision I’ve ever made. I’m saying within yourself once you come to terms and deal with what you need to deal with the way you need to deal with it, we all differ in that aspect. But eventually I learned to resolve issues within. Anyway not to get off the subject I could go on forever with this. I’m trying to help you skip a couple steps by complete acceptance. Accepting your mother for who she is and maybe your father and maybe your siblings and your third-grade teacher (actually I hated my third-grade teacher until fairly recently). Anyway, I’m saying it’s pretty much about letting the negative go. You will settle into a profound peace. I’m not saying it will happen overnight it is a process, as they say, you didn’t get where you are in a day and you won’t evolve overnight. I just wanted to share with you what acceptance did for me. It really set me free. I understand the hiding. Pretending to be “normal” and that everything is fine. I was in denial for a long time. I made some bad choices. I didn’t deal with my feelings. It’s scary I understand. I hope I didn’t offend you. If you ever feel a need to talk I’m here.

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  4. Love your blog. I am also in hiding from friends and family. It is hard to do it on my own. My husband also know nothing of my turmoil inside, self harm, attachment issues etc etc. Your posts resonate so much with me! We must be twins.

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