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

The kindness of strangers


I’ll be glad when this day is over.

My marriage is at a new low where our Christmas cards now simply read ‘To…….’. Whereas they used to contain a paragraph or two, now even a brief ‘I love you’ is missing.

Though I’m profoundly grateful for the insight and self-awareness therapy has brought me, being with my parents-in-law now brings new triggers in the form of my awareness of every nuance of behaviour and interaction which echoes (indeed moulded) the behaviour and interactions I find so triggering in my husband.

I miss my therapist, and I wonder how Christmas with her family is going. I know she is not a perfect mother, but I believe she is a ‘good enough’ mother, and I envy her daughters that; and I know I need to grieve the lack of ‘good enough mothering’ in my own past, but it’s hard.

Last night I went to midnight mass, alone. Doing things alone is not a problem for me, and I enjoy it as I’m naturally an introvert. But when the Bishop’s address started off on the subject of loneliness, I felt the tears rise all too quickly to the surface. When he spoke about feeling all alone when surrounded by people, it hit home. I felt alone – not because I had come to midnight mass unaccompanied, but because other than in therapy (and to some extent within myself), I have no emotional home, no family (other than my children) in any sense other than because of a ‘technical’ connection through blood or marriage.

After the address, we stood to sing ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’; I was still in a daze, and though it was clearly marked in the order of service, I didn’t realise it was the offertory hymn and a collection basket was about to be passed around. As I was at the start of an aisle it came to me first, and I reacted in complete surprise, suddenly coming up out of my introspection and that place within my head. The church warden who came to me with the basket must have been bemused by my reaction, because he put his arm around me and gave me a big hug, as if to say, affectionately, ‘come here you silly thing, what are you like?!’. He was considerably taller than me and when he pulled me in against him my glasses smudged against his chest and his smart suit jacket. I fumbled in my pocket and pulled out whatever change I had, and he, and the basket, moved on.

But that hug shook me and I found it harder and harder to keep it together, until the beauty of the last verse, the cathedral choir and organ, the sheer volume of sound and being part of it, broke my defenses and I was crying rather openly, but as discreetly as I could; as relieved at letting go, as I was embarrassed at the tears.

He was a stranger – and I know that for many people, what happened might have seemed inappropriate, or unwelcome, or unwise. And though it probably meant little to the man who gave it, to me the hug felt warm, genuine, affectionate, and compassionate. And what hit me forcefully was the thought that this was the only hug or physical contact I would receive from any adult over this Christmas period, with the exception of my parents (and in that instance the contact is not something I want or like, and I try to minimize it as much as possible). In that hug I felt an odd sort of fleeting (but powerful) closeness – though we were strangers and knew nothing of each other, we shared that one moment of my surprise and his amusement, and that briefest moment felt more genuine and revealing of each other than any moment I’ve had with my husband, parents-in-law, or parents today.

The absence of closeness, and the presence of loneliness, is one present that I would rather have given back this Christmas. But that one moment in the very early hours of this morning stands out for me as an example of the well-known and simple truth that the kindness of strangers can make a real difference, whether they are aware of what they do, or not – ‘for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts’ (Middlemarch, George Eliot).


16 thoughts on “The kindness of strangers

  1. Christmas does seem to heighten all emotions, pleasant and unpleasant. Glad that stranger was able to reach out to you. Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whilst you write, you are not alone. I and lots of others are here reading and understanding your pain (I certainly felt the part about missing your therapist extra deeply as I am bereft without mine this week). Keep writing. Supporting you x

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much, and thinking of and supporting you too. When are your therapist again? x


      • 9 sleeps. Starting to lose the ability to cope without her so not sure I will manage much longer without emailing her. Pathetic really.


      • Not at all pathetic, though I understand this as I used to feel like this. If she has given you the option of contacting her, reaching out when you need to, and when you have already gone some time and tried and have kept her in mind, is a sign of healthy dependence and trust, in my view. Contact can mean so many things and be done in so many different contexts – only you know how you feel, and what this contact would ‘mean’ for you, but I truly believe that reaching out can be a sign of strength and trust and a sign we’re doing well, and the very opposite of pathetic. Take care, you’re in my thoughts x


  3. Eliot, like Shakespeare, seemed to know everything. I’m guessing many of us, your concerned readers, wish we could hug you and hold your hand.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I too understand the loneliness in must of people. My therapist is also on break. He promised he’d be available for me, yet hasn’t been. I feel a bit broken and alone. I applaud you for still doing things important to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for that….and I’m sorry you too are feeling so alone. With regard to your therapist, I can only offer, in case it helps, the fact that my therapist often says to me there are lots of reasons why she may not be able to reply, and I never know at the time, what those things might be, and so it’s tempting to think it’s something to do with me, or her attitude to me (whereas she might have been ill, had a broken computer, a car break down and been really busy etc….). If you don’t hear from him, I hope this is something you can discuss together when you next see him, and I hope it’s helpful to do that….as for carrying on doing things that are important to me, I’ve been pondering the fact that as with all self-care, I think it often only becomes possible to do it once you’re feeling better, and it’s hardest to do it (or accept it might be useful to try) when one needs it most. I think it was one of the signs I was ‘getting better’ when I started to be able to do these things. When I was at my lowest, any suggestions of the sorts of things I now try and do to look after myself, would have seemed a little ridiculous and even a little offensive – things felt so horrendous that the thought there might be ‘small things’ that could help, was unacceptable, as was the thought of ‘looking after myself’, when all I wanted to do, often, was destroy myself…..keep going and hold on, and take care over this holiday season….


      • “things felt so horrendous that the thought there might be ‘small things’ that could help, was unacceptable, as was the thought of ‘looking after myself’, when all I wanted to do, often, was destroy myself”

        That is so spot on. My therapist did respond early this morning. I know a bit of his travel schedule, so I know he is busy. I’m appalled at myself for even bothering him during his much needed break. People keep telling me that it is okay since he said it was and that I have to trust him to take care of himself appropriately. I did reach out and ask if he could call my phone and leave me a voicemail. He has given me a few transitional objects but they have lost all meaning in such a short time. I’m in such a hole that it doesn’t seem that I can do anything. You have given me a lot to think about in terms of self care. We’ve never really addressed self care in session, so maybe I’ll research that more this week. Thank you.


      • I’m so glad he responded, and I agree that if he said it’s okay, then it’s fine to trust him on that, and he would not have offered if it was not okay. Did you talk about any of these objects in session, before you took them away? I was just wondering if knowing something more about them, would help them to keep their meaning. Though I also think it’s the meaning that you yourself invest in them, that makes them most helpful….thank you for your kind words, and good luck with the research! Keep in touch!


  5. Sometimes a stranger just gets it so right that, for a moment, it’s as if they’re not a stranger at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautifully written, went straight to my heart. Thank you ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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