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.


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Update and a story by 12 year old me

I haven’t been managing to stick to my usual ‘posting schedule’  – and for some reason I feel I’m letting myself down, even though I know that that’s not the case. The ‘schedule’ has gone awry because of huge pressures of time, and sheer mental and physical exhaustion and low mood and motivation.

Things continue to be very difficult on the marriage front, and they continue to deteriorate. Following on from the situation described in my post ‘What now, marriage?‘, my husband and I are at an impasse. I have written a response to his ‘letter’ describing his fears for the future and the person he thinks I am becoming; but it is very long, I haven’t quite finished it, and so I haven’t yet given it to him. And so as we wait for the next hand (my own) to be played, I sink further into sadness and I think we’ve both stopped trying. It’s hard to try when you’re in limbo and you don’t know where you’re going.

Though work is a survival tool and a distraction, it’s been incredibly stressful and is about to get worse, in the worst possible way – I find personnel issues harder to cope with than big deadlines or volume of work. And I feel stuck in therapy, unable to really access the adult part of me that relates in a really positive way to my therapist. Either the ‘child’ or the ‘teenager’ in me have been more at the forefront, and given everything that’s going on at home which is triggering in a host of different ways, they are feeling a great sadness and a lack of love. There have been a few wonderful and connecting sessions, mainly involving the ‘child’; but on the whole I’m in that ‘teenage space’ where I’m struggling to know what to do or say, struggling to know where I’m heading in therapy, and struggling to know how to feel connected to my therapist while I feel so ‘stuck’.

On the positive side, I feel as though I’m managing to find new ways to make connections with my children, and I feel as though I’m more actively looking for those opportunities. I am still a much much ‘shoutier’ parent than I would like to be, but I hope that is balanced out by moments of fun, spontaneity, and affirmation. I am learning how to relate to them in ways that wouldn’t have been possible before I started therapy, because I wouldn’t have had the words, or concepts, or understanding (either of them, or of me). I’m also managing to exercise a bit more self-care – which unfortunately has resulted in less time to write! Though I’m still very undisciplined when it comes to getting enough sleep, I’m managing to book in events or treats for me or for the family, to add to my collection of ‘positive memories’ to hang onto, and to simply create space to be more myself.

I also try and respond creatively to opportunities to ‘do something different’ and be kinder to myself than I might have been in the past. After a painful therapy session a few days ago in which I was in a very ‘young’ and vulnerable state, I hung around the river near my therapist’s house watching and listening to a large group of swans in the peaceful quiet of the night. Somehow the sounds they were making were comforting and made me feel in good company – I wasn’t the only one being non-verbal and making strange little noises (as I had done in session, when I felt unable to speak).

Amongst all of this, I discovered some more early writings in an old box in the roof. As a child I wrote the opening chapter of many many ‘novels’ – I rarely made it past chapter two before becoming disillusioned or moving onto another story. Looking back on them now, I think they served the same function as the poetry of my teenage years – they were an expression of how I was feeling, a way of processing the emotions I kept hidden, or perhaps even the emotions I didn’t really know were there. This time, I found the very short first chapter of a book called ‘Anna’s paradise‘. Though there is no date on it, for various reasons I suspect it was written when I was around twelve years old, though it could have been earlier. The language and the style make me cringe – I wrote in the style of what I was reading, and so ‘frock’, ‘parlour’ and ‘eiderdown’ make an appearance, despite the incongruence in terms of times and culture!

When I look back on some of the things I wrote when I was younger, what strikes me most are the emotions I no longer remember, and the extent to which it seems I felt alone. I know intellectually that I dealt with all of my emotions myself, including those relating to loss and death, change and bullying. But I don’t know to what extent I thought of myself as alone at the time; I don’t remember what it felt like not just to deal with those emotions (or not to deal with them), but to deal with them with no support. I don’t know if I was self-aware or aware enough to know that that was a problem, rather than just accepting it as the way things had to be. Loss, sadness, and feeling alone – Anna’s tale is full of those things, but there is a perplexing note of hope at the end of the short first chapter. Perplexing because I have no idea what was about to happen next, and my twelve year old self is not around to tell me. I wonder what story I came up with, then, to deal with that sadness – and I wonder if it would help me to deal with my sadness now…..

***

Anna’s Paradise – Chapter 1

The evening sunset stretched out its long arms and embraced the cold grey stony building with its shattered glass and destroyed walls, which was Anna’s home. Usually when you look at such a building you get the feeling that the people living there are moody, unfeeling, sad. This was the case at Greyhall House.

Anna was a thin, short child of eight years old. If her green eyes had contained a sparkle, she could have been called beautiful, since she had a frame of wavy auburn hair round her face. Her cheeks were pale and you could see that her mouth had forgotten how to smile. Her clothes matched her mood; she wore dark colours, unbecoming of her. She rarely got a new frock, maybe once in three years. Anna had once been a happy child, full of laughter and overflowing happiness which she shared with her father, once…..but her father was now dead and she was living with her father’s sister, Aunt Elmira – sour, strict, old-fashioned Aunt Elmira. I can’t say Aunt Elmira was happy, being called out to look after Anna, and Anna felt it. It was really the mood of the people that changed the look of the house.

Greyhall House had once been called Flower Vale House. It used to be Anna’s Paradise, her dream place of delights. The gardens were always full of flowers and the forest behind the house was her chief delight. But now, even the little tree house in the forest had lost its charm and dream-like look and the thrill it used to give her every time she saw it. All Anna did nowadays was to sit in the long grey parlour with its covered furniture and china…..and think. There wasn’t much to think about, either, but Anna, blessed with an imagination that helped her at the worst of times, found plenty of things to think about, or dream about. Sometimes she might lie on her bed in her room, basking in the morning sunlight, which filtered through the shutters early on in the day. Her room was the only one in the house that was not painted grey – it was painted pink. She had a pink eiderdown and soft rosy pink curtains to match. She felt happier gazing at the pink around her and imagining she was living on the pink road of the rainbow. Altogether, Anna led a very sad and lonely life…..until….


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The Wrong House

I love this A A Milne poem – thank you to ‘Journey Toward Healing‘ for sharing it! It immediately resonated with various aspects of my experience of therapy. For a long time I have though of a ‘house’ or ‘home’ as a metaphor for therapy, my ‘safe space’. This poem reminded me of all the times when I expected or wanted therapy to be a particular way, and and it ‘fell short’ of those expectations. I found it hard to accept that there were boundaries, that there was a person in front of me whose responses I couldn’t control, and that just because I felt I needed something, that didn’t mean that the need had to be met in the way I imagined it should be.

The poem also reminded me of all the times when therapy was giving me exactly what I needed, but I didn’t realise it because I wasn’t open to receiving it. It came later than I wanted, or was delivered in a different way to the one I was expecting.

My therapist quoted a different A A Milne poem to me a couple of weeks ago. We had an unexpected and lovely session talking about children’s literature, poems that we liked, and what we used to read. It was wonderfully connecting and moved me to tears. For many weeks I have been feeling trapped in a young, vulnerable, sad and unloved state, and a few days before that session I had written that I just wanted to feel loved and free. Somehow the session achieved just that, in a creative and spontaneous way, and I am thankful that somehow I was open to receiving what it had to give.

It was the joy of someone taking a free, genuine and ‘no-strings-attached’ interest in who I was and what I enjoyed, without any expectation that I would conform to a particular way of being; and without any danger of me failing to measure up or being interested in ‘the wrong things’ (or not interested enough, in the right ones). It was also the joy of discovering ‘the other’ – again, without any sense that ‘the other’ demanded to be known, or expected to be mirrored, copied or agreed with.

I will be reading a lot more A A Milne over the coming weeks – part of my task of connecting more with those younger parts of me, and deriving simple benefit and joy from childlike things…..

Journey Toward Healing

When I struggle with my own words, I’ve found that the words of others can say that which I’m unable to truly express. Whether it’s through a song, a blog post by someone else, or a poem, it doesn’t matter… As long as it speaks to the deeper parts within me. As this poem does. What I love about poetry is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. Maybe this one will speak to you too.

I went into a house, and it wasn’t a house,
It has big steps and a great big hall;
But it hasn’t got a garden,
A garden,
A garden,
It isn’t like a house at all.

I went into a house, and it wasn’t a house,
It has a big garden and great high wall;
But it hasn’t got a may-tree,
A may-tree,
A may-tree,
It isn’t like a house at…

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My ordinary day

dickinson-4

My therapist has always encouraged me to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. When I used to crave intensity or powerful therapeutic revelations, or emotional climaxes, she tried to point me in the direction of the beauty of the every-day, ever gentle in her encouragement to try open my arms to happiness and joy from where it could more easily be found, if I could perceive it and then receive it.

Today was an ordinary day, but it was lovely to remember my therapist as I sat in church listening to a sermon on the powerful words of the 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, who was preoccupied, we were told, by finding the extraordinary within the ordinary. You could say she was driven to it – for much of her life she suffered from agoraphobia and was completely house-bound.

Today was an ordinary day, but I discovered a poet I didn’t really know, and a poem I don’t yet understand but really love. I had time and space for myself, for beautiful music, and for moving words.

Today was an ordinary day but I spent a part of it with my children doing something we hadn’t done before – attending a show in which we and the other families got to draw on a massive sheet of paper stuck to the auditorium floor. We drew as a story was told to us through words and dance, our illustrations bringing it to life. My children were a bit puzzled about why we were there – we don’t often go to shows, particularly not ‘participatory’ ones like this. I explained that it would be a nice ‘family thing’ to do. They liked that idea, and repeated it. My youngest said: “ah, family….I wish we could all draw naked….“?! I have no idea what was going through his extraordinary young mind, but it was a lovely, funny, moment to treasure – somehow, it was just so ….him.

Today was an ordinary day but at the theatre, during the show, I was reminded of my ability to still be childlike and to get carried away by performance, storytelling and simple creative expression. I was grateful for my ability to feel, uncomplicatedly but deeply; my inner child and adult experiencing the moment side by side, rather than trying to negate each other. A juxtaposition that added meaning to ‘both of us’.

Emily Dickinson often used juxtaposition – the better to draw out the extraordinary from within the ordinary. The light which oppresses, which should be heavenly but hurts, which leaves no visible mark, but shakes up our internal world of meaning. I read an article recently that said that as we get older we also become happier, even though that happiness is tinged much more with nostalgia and the anticipation of loss, than in our younger years.

This post is a ramble through my day – an ordinary day, but extraordinary enough to warrant a ramble in this way.

 

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This house

I rediscovered this song recently and have been playing it over and over. I loved it as a teenager but never owned it; and so when it disappeared from the obscurity of number 40 in the UK charts to even greater obscurity, I sort of lost track of it (pun intended), though it still occasionally entered my mind. Someone on Facebook recently shared another Alison Moyet song and it suddenly occurred to me that this is the 21st century and there is such a thing as YouTube and I could finally listen to it again.

So much of this still strikes a chord and though I can’t remember how I felt when I first heard it, I can imagine now, why it must have struck such a chord then. Often when I share songs or poems I try and say something about why they are important to me and why they resonate at this particular time. On this occasion, however, I think I’d rather leave that to the imagination; I also don’t want to say anything that might get in the way of your own interpretation. Someone on YouTube described the song as ‘hauntingly beautiful’, and I would agree, particularly with regard to these lines: “Later as day descends, I’ll shout from my window to anyone listening, I’m losing….Who will shelter me  – it’s cold in here, cover me…”