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

Sometimes progress is in the small things


Sometimes progress shows itself in really really small ways.

Living by your values can mean making significant decisions such as standing up for human rights, or acting in accordance with religious principles, or putting honesty before career or progression. But it can also mean buying a kettle just because you like it and because you value beauty over utility. It can mean valuing yourself enough to give weight to your own preferences and opinions.

Today my husband and I were looking at kettles on Amazon. I liked the aesthetically pleasing ones and he liked the practical ones. He pointed out the downsides of the ones I liked. Normally, I would have given in and gone with his ‘better judgment’, and then regretted it later. Today I just said that that was the type of kettle I’d always wanted, and I asked him to look into the different models with similar features, and order one that he thought had the best reviews and was not too expensive. So the pretty but impractical kettle will be arriving tomorrow.

This small thing is a big deal. I’m the person who, in the canteen at work in my early twenties, paid for a chocolate bar that I’d brought from home, because I was so conflict-averse I couldn’t bring myself to challenge the person who was charging me. I’m the person who gave in to having a more ‘practical’ engagement ring than the one I’d dreamed of all my life (there was little difference in cost, but my husband thought that the one I wanted would damage more easily). I agreed to a fruit cake at my wedding because it was ‘traditional’ even though I hate fruit cake and I didn’t eat any of it. Two years running I’ve got an air brush tattoo on holiday and both times I came away with a different colour to the one I wanted, just because the tattoo artist kindly made some suggestions about what might look good, and I went with her judgment over my instinct.

I know what I want – but all my life I’ve been used to being told that what I want is not right, or not sensible, or immature, or silly, or fanciful, or unwise, or impractical, or not traditional, or not well regarded. I’m so used to being told that I am easily led and follow others, by people who don’t see the contradiction in the fact that they just want me to follow what they want. And so I side-line what I want – I doubt it. Is it really what I want? Should it be what I want? Is it the right thing, the best thing, does it make sense? How do I really know what I want, anyway? Perhaps they are right, and I am wrong. In any case, I don’t feel strong enough, or self-assured enough, to stand up for my point of view. That is the route to conflict and invalidation, or at best to a lengthy debate in which I feel I have to justify everything I say, and to ‘make the case’ for my opinion. That’s how it’s always been – until very recently.

But I’m starting to see that there is a third option between ignoring my viewpoint, and getting involved in a lengthy argument. There is the option to not buy into a worldview which requires this kind of justification in the first place. A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were having a different debate, in which he wanted me to state which I though was more important, the intention behind a statement, or how it was interpreted. He couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t make a choice and he didn’t want to settle for my answer that I thought both were important. So in the end I simply told him that I refused to buy into his way of thinking that required categorising things in that way; that is not my way of thinking, and that’s okay.

So today I stood up for myself without engaging in debate. I refused to buy into the worldview that everything must be justified and that efficiency and practicality are more important than how the look of something makes me feel. I refused to buy into that worldview, and so I bought a kettle. And by God I’m going to enjoy watching it boil, and knowing that it’s a symbol of progress, and of valuing myself enough to live according to my values.

Simple pleasures; small step; big deal.

[I should add that none of this is about refusing to compromise, or wanting to ‘get my own way’ without any consideration of what someone else wants. In this particular instance, other than generally always favouring practicality, my husband had no strong feelings about, or interest in, the type of kettle we have. If this had been a matter about which he felt strongly, we would, I hope, have had a different sort of conversation about it. This is about acknowledging and valuing difference, and valuing ourselves enough to think our opinions can have validity, even in the face of disagreement. It is about not getting drawn into a debate carried out entirely on someone else’s terms and according to their own rules of engagement – if you disagree with those terms and those rules. It is about speaking up if there is something that is important to you – even if you are afraid of how it will be received, or whether it will be thought worthwhile; and even if you can’t exactly explain why it is important, but you just know that it is. ]

10 thoughts on “Sometimes progress is in the small things

  1. Again your writing expresses feelings so well, but I cant find the words to explain it better. Paragraph 5 resonates so much with me, its comforting to know that others feel the same. I find it helpful to follow your blog, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you got the kettle you really really like – huge progress! Love stuff like that – little stuff that makes you feel good. Good work standing up to your husband’s views firmly and without anger. I too find it hard to listen to my inner voice, though I live alone now. I needed a toaster, really liked a red one that was a little pricier than the cheapest, but got one on sale instead. Wish I’d gotten the red one – next time I will.

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  3. We are truly living parallel lives!!!! I am soooooooooo happy and proud of you my tummy is churning!!!! I too in the last 3 years have been practicing this new way of thinking for myself and advocating for myself and knowing, believing, and FEELING that what I want is important and worthy without having to “fight” for it all the time and giving in to what the other person wants. What a journey!!!! I sent you a private email a little while ago because our journey’s are so similar – and reading this tonight just makes me feel more connected to you! THANK YOU so much for sharing all your posts….you have no idea how much of a positive impact you have on my life!!!! ❤ WE ARE WORTHY!!!!! ❤

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  4. Oh yes, definitely progress! Well done! I couldn’t agree with you more… It’s the little things, the little steps in the right direction, that make a huge impact on our lives. It all adds up in the end. I was (and still am) a lot like you when it comes to always giving in to what others want and need, at the expense of myself. So what you wrote here, basically about how your values are also important is so very true. Sending love and hugs. ❤

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  5. Love this post. Happy Tea-making!! – P.S I have a beautful kettle and I have no idea if it’s impractical or not lol

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  6. So much of this post made me think, “Yes, THIS!”. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is really quite extraordinary, both as a piece of writing and a therapeutic step. It is liberating to discover that you don’t have to get another’s permission or agreement in order to do what you want, believe what you want. We become hostages when we believe we must persuade others of the rightness of all our actions. Sometimes you don’t have to give reasons at all. Their disapproval, if it comes, need not be a mortal wound.

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  8. I’m behind the blogging curve here, but just wanted to say that I love this post! ❤ xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A google search for “BPD and values” brought me here. Great blog post. This echoes pretty much exactly the realizations I’ve been coming to over the last couple of weeks (and 7 months into DBT treatment). My therapist tried to get me to do an exercise on values a while ago, and I couldn’t see why it was important or relevant at all. Then, an exercise we did in group therapy about shame and identity, led me to being smacked in the face with the person values I’ve been betraying and ignoring this whole time. Remembering that things like competence, efficiency, productivity, practicality (and other super capitalist/masculine traits) are not things that I value, has been a game changer for me, I am slowly letting go of the need to ‘perform’ recovery well or be a ‘responsible’ adult. It’s all bullshit! Thank you for sharing ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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