Life in a Bind – BPD and me

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

This thing that I have done – Part 1


[This is a two-part post – Part 2 will follow next weekend and will speak about how my reasons for ‘This thing that I have done’, have changed.]

I’ve done something. And I was nervous about sharing it with you because I don’t know if it was a bad thing or a good thing or a somewhere-in-between thing to have done. And I wouldn’t want you to think about doing it, before I really know how it turns out.

I went on the internet and typed in “Should I…..[do this thing that I have done]”? Out of fifteen responses to a similar question on a forum, all but one said “No“. Why would you do it? What could you gain? Leave it alone. I haven’t left it alone though I still have opportunity to let it lie. But, hidden underneath my bed, the temptation is stronger than I thought it would be.

A few months ago I approached the service through which I saw my ex-therapist, Jane, to ask them if and when they destroyed ex-client notes. It turns out that they did, and that I had a few months left before Jane’s notes would be gone. A few weeks ago I put in a request for those notes; a few days ago I picked them up. For some reason I had always imagined receiving them in a brown, sealed envelope; one that I didn’t intend to open for a very long time, if at all. Instead, they came in a yellow loose-leaf folder; a quick flick through (frantically trying to avoid reading the contents), showed me that they were longer than I expected. I had imagined a few lines, a short paragraph; little time for Jane to write much more, during the ten minutes following our fifty minute session. I think I was relying on that envelope to be my biggest ally against temptation; the glue reinforcing my willpower a hundred fold. But now my willpower struggles on alone; a tiny, weakling part of me, whose main ally now is the fear of disappointing my therapist and doing something she would disapprove of.

I told my therapist months ago, that I was thinking about asking for Jane’s notes. Though she would never say it directly, I know she thinks this thing I’ve done is not a good idea. I know she doesn’t really understand it, though she really wants to work with me to understand me and why this is important to me. There has been a generational shift – from a time when a therapist’s notes, unlike other medical records, were made for the professional’s eyes only, written with the client in mind, but never as the intended reader; to a time when your records belong to you because they are about you, and you are the ‘owner’ of your data. At the service where I saw Jane, some therapists go through their notes with their clients at the end of treatment; these days some therapists even put their notes and resources on secure websites for their clients to access after every session.

But this isn’t really about a change in culture, it’s about me. It’s about me and trying to figure out why I did what I have done, and what it means. I didn’t ask for Jane’s notes because I am the owner of my data. I didn’t even ask for them so that I could read them; part of me felt very strongly that I shouldn’t read them, at least for many years, and certainly well beyond the end of my current therapy. I asked so that I would have the option of reading them, should I want to in future. I asked so that I could postpone making the decision about whether I should ever read them, rather than having that decision made for me.

My therapist asked me what I would gain by reading the notes. And like the responses on the website that I found, I have to say that in some ways I see far more potential for loss than for gain. I have wonderful, warm memories of Jane and our sessions together, and I can’t see how anything in the notes could add to that. It seems far more likely that they might detract from those memories, and leave me unsettled. What if the notes feel clinical and cold? What if the way she comes across in writing is very different to the way she came across in person? What if I read something I don’t like, either about me or about the way she thought about me? But then I try and remind myself that this is Jane we’re talking about – someone I trusted and someone that I trusted cared about me. Could the notes really contain something that might hurt me, particularly as she knew it was possible for me to have access to them? And why are my reasons for wanting them, so difficult to understand?


I want to guard against forgetting. All along, this is what the notes have been about. Right now, I remember Jane: how she looked, how she sounded, some of the things she said. She still feels real, though absent. I have more than just a ‘sense’ of her left; and that is very special. But I’m scared that it won’t always be so – that one day, I won’t be able to recall those things. I’m scared that one day she won’t feel real, or substantial; that all I will have left is a vague memory and a concept that she existed, that we interacted, and that she was important. If that is the shape that my memories of key figures in my childhood have taken, why should the same not happen to my memories of Jane?

My therapist says that we remember who and what is important; and that we never know how and when memories might come back to us. During my very first session with her, when I was in floods of tears over losing Jane, she told me that Jane was still with me; and she makes the same point now. When someone is important, we absorb the relationship into ourselves so that it becomes a part of us. I think she would say that if all we have left is a ‘sense’ of someone, then that is more than we think it is and it is also all that we need.

But still I feel the need to guard against forgetting, and I have a great fear of destroying the notes (or allowing them to be destroyed) and then regretting it. I find it very difficult to live with regret and wrong decisions, and will do anything I can to avoid them. None of this is unique to this situation – it is how I live my life, every day. Worrying about not making notes after sessions, in case I forget; anxious about missing moments and not making memories; scared I will lose the memories I have.

And so I did what many of us do when we want something to remember someone by – I acquired an object that would help to connect me to them. A tangible reminder of Jane, and what she meant. This is really just another way of guarding against forgetting, and trying to keep her real. I asked my therapist why having Jane’s notes was any different to the many objects that she has in her ‘therapy room’ that are clearly important to her, and that remind her of people or of places. She said that the difference was that those things were given and received in the context of a relationship; I think she is saying that although Jane’s notes might be about our relationship, they were not really a part of it, or significant within it.

Neither of these related reasons for wanting the notes, actually require me to read them – at least, not for a long time. Simply having them can provide a sense of connection; and as I haven’t yet forgotten, there is no need to read to remember. In some ways these reasons are motivated primarily by fear: fear of forgetting; fear of regret; fear of the uncertainty of whether I will regret or forget.

I felt so strongly that I should not read the notes; that they would even be an ‘intrusion’ into my current therapy. I worried about the possibility of bringing back intense feelings from the past, and what effect that might have on my current therapeutic relationship, which I very much want to protect. But now I feel just as strongly that I want to read them. And who can tell whether our judgment, if motivated by fear, is any sounder than our judgment in the face of temptation? I don’t know how to tell what the right thing is. All I know, is that this is what my head is telling me: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear”*.


*Quote by Jack Canfield



17 thoughts on “This thing that I have done – Part 1

  1. I have often contemplated doing the same thing, and may yet do so. Difficult decision!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed – and one not to be taken lightly, not just because of the potential consequences in terms of how one might feel as a result, but also, as highlighted in another comment, because of the potential opportunities for growth (or not) that this decision presents….very best of luck with your own decision on this and many thanks for reading and commenting….


  2. Whether it was wise to get them is really for you to discover. I think people are triggered by anniversaries. Connections are important for all of us. It may be the fear of being abandoned, left, or forgotten, is still a part of you wanting to hold on to, instead of learning to let go. Sometimes it entails wanting what we can’t have, and some times its about trying to fix things you wanted to end differently.

    What is true, whether we like it or not, is relationships change. Who we are, and who we are becoming, changes. What is important is discovering why you now have a dialectical dilemma and how are you going to effectively deal with it. Even more important is asking yourself why it is happening now, what do I want to be the outcome, and is that realistic or more hurtful in the end? Perhaps another question may be: Am I fighting acceptance of what is? If the search is to find out whether or not you were special, what was real or not in the therapeutic relationship, the notes may not tell you that. Notes and what is put down is different for everyone. Mostly they reflect diagnoses, a treatment plan, a list of goals and objectives, and whether or not they are being met or what obstacles are getting in the way of progress and how to address them and help you effectively cope with them. You risk disappointment, misunderstandings, and it may create more problems than solving them. Jane will not be able, probably,, to explain, interpret what you find. That would leave you in another dilemma. If you had a good relationship, remember the good memories. When it is all said and done, what we truly remember years later is the essence of someone and that is what matters. When you are old, good memories do come back on their own when you least expect them too. The task at had is learning acceptance, not fighting it, and learning to let go of what was and cherish that as well as moving into the present, day by day and to keep learning and growing. It is never easy. Nature teaches us this is the pattern- the seasons come and they go. That doesn’t mean there has to be forgetting. It just means there is only so much we can deal with effectively in the present or enjoy. I hope this may be helpful in some way. I usually don’t do this, but I feel you are at a crossroads in your growth. Take care. Listen to your therapist. She seems to be a good therapist.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, thank you. I’m not sure what to say because I know that you don’t normally comment in detail, and so the fact that you have done so now is really significant. I have always always appreciated your very steadfast and constant presence and support for my posts, and your words of encouragement always made me smile and were important to me. But this comment really brings home to me how incredibly lucky I am in you and others who do read and comment, and who give me the benefit of your views, wisdom and experience. In addition, because you have been reading for a while you are able to comment in a way that is really based on a knowledge of me, and what I have shared in my posts. It may be that your words here are based primarily on your own experience- but I was staggered by the extent to which they reflected thoughts I’ve had which are in Part 2 of this post and which you could not have known, and also thoughts that I only fleetingly had but then dismissed, as I didn’t really appreciate their significance at the time. Easter is in fact an anniversary – it may be happening earlier this year than usual, but it is the time when I found out definitively that I would not be going back into therapy with Jane (and also the time, last year, when I realised I wouldn’t now go back, even if I had the choice). And my therapist herself has said that all of this feels as though it is connected to what has been in the air between us – difficulty accepting the boundaries of therapy, wanting what I can’t have….In fact your entire response could have been written by her – I am sure that she would agree with all of it, and it makes many of the very same points that she has made. You are right – she is a very good therapist, and one of the very very important effects of your comment, is that it has really brought home to me the great difficulties I have trusting and believing the views of those closest to me. My husband used to complain that if he said something I wouldn’t listen but if a friend of mine said it, I would take it on board. My therapist has made similar comments about me batting back feedback or comments. I used to joke about this as if I were somehow being ‘bloody-minded’, or wanted a second opinion. But it seems to me now that it might actually be a real problem – and at the same time it’s easy to see the cause in terms of my past and my upbringing. Your comment has given me very very great pause for thought and it’s absolutely spot-on. Your questions are just the right questions, and they’re immensely helpful. I will really need to think about Jane’s noted very carefully, and take my time, but I really wanted you to know how much I appreciate the time you have taken, and your thoughtful and helpful words. I do feel very fortunate indeed to have your support and your thoughts, and as mentioned earlier, I do understand the significance of your ‘departure’ from usual comments, and what that says about how important you feel this crossroads is….Huge thanks….


  3. I received my case notes from my first therapist and although it took me a while to feel ready to read them, i found it beneficial. I learned a lot about myself because i had forgotten certain things we spoke about. Good luck with your decision!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have copies of the notes from my sessions from before my therapist left her old position to her current one. To me they represent that I have a little piece of “her” with me. I have her thoughts, her words and her interpretations of our interactions…but mostly, it is really to ensure that in the future I have proof of my important relationship with her and keep this very personal piece of her with me.
    We have gone over them together so if I had any concerns or questions we could process it together. I was impressed with the detail and also our connection that came through her writing about the session.


    • Thank you so much for your comment – your own feelings really do represent and echo my own at the moment. Having a ‘piece’ of her with me, having ‘proof’ of the relationship, making sure I don’t forget – all of these are powerful motivators. But they have to be balanced against other things – not least the trajectory of my current therapy. I’m glad it worked well for you and I think it’s important you were able to go through them together – that is something I wouldn’t have with Jane, and so perhaps that should be another major consideration in my decision-making…..


  5. There is a large literature of narrative medicine and parallel charts that you might check out– I am not sure if the same terms in UK as in the states. I was thinking of a similar experiment for myself and was glad to read your post. I have a tendency to hold on to the negative and let go of the good memories. I appreciate your singular voice and look forward to hearing more about “your experiment.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting! You may yet regret saying you are looking forward to hearing more 😉 I have since realised that the 2-part post should probably be a 3 or 4 part post, as the subject just keeps on ‘giving’! There is so much more I’m realising as I carry on thinking about the subject, not just about my motivations but also about the patterns of behaviour that all of this reveals….I am hoping to write more about it all, soon! Thank you again, and keep in touch!


  6. I am a therapist who also has BPD. I can fully relate to the feelings you share as I have felt something similar myself when I was in therapy. A therapist is not writing notes for you though. She is writing to the insurance company, her supervisor, other professionals and even for the law so that she is covered and not sued. I don’t think you will be happy with the notes as they do not reflect her relationship with you. I remind myself that boundaries are there for a reason. Just because the law has changed and you can view the notes doesn’t mean it is healthy for you. These kind of thoughts also seem a part of my addictive thinking. I feel a need to control things at times which has resulted in disastrous consequences for me. I have not asked for my own therapy notes for this reason. I try to let go of my need to control things.


    • Thank you so much for your comment, which is particularly interesting as it comes from someone who both has BPD and is a therapist! I completely agree with your point about control, and definitely think this is at least partly at the root of what is going on with me getting the notes. I think I want some sort of control over the note’s ‘ending’ , particularly given my lack of control over how things ended with Jane. I have long had a worry that my desire for the notes might somehow be unhealthy or at least unhelpful, and given my therapist’s questions and the comments of everyone on here, I am definitely determined to understand much more about what is going on and why, before I make a decision about what to do! Thank you so much for reading and commenting…


  7. Pingback: This thing that I have done – Part 2 | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

  8. Pingback: A twist in the tale of this thing that I have done | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

  9. Pingback: Acceptance (changes) | Life in a Bind - BPD and me

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