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.


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This was my #therapybreak

Since the 2016 summer therapy break, I have been posting daily #therapybreak tweets during my therapy breaks, as a form of self-care, and also as a record of the breaks. It started simply as a way of trying to count down the days and to self-distract, but it ended up as somewhat of my own personal take on a ‘gratitude journal’. I found that as well as posting about difficult times, I also ended up capturing, and then actively seeking to capture, the small little positive steps or events that kept me going, and lifted me up.

That is, until this summer’s therapy break, the #therapybreak tweets of which, can be found here:

https://storify.com/lifeinabind/summer-therapy-break-2017

In my previous post I talked about some of the reasons why this was my worst therapy break in a while. On a very practical level, I realised how valuable it is for me to be at work for the first parts of a therapy break. I am a different person when at work, and the distraction and interaction with other people forces me into a place outside my head, where I can appear competent and content, and can leave my ‘other selves’ at the door. Work also means a familiar routine, and that, in combination with my ability to compartmentalize and put on ‘work me’, places me on a more familiar and even keel. That even keel helps me to deal with the start of a therapy break and for me, a break that starts well, has a better chance of continuing well.

This time, however, the start of my therapy break coincided with my summer holidays, and therefore time off work. It had never occurred to me that that might be a problem, but in hindsight I can see how the sudden loss of both my therapy routine and my work routine, led into a rapid decline in mood and an inability to lift myself out of that place. Everything described in my previous post – in terms of poor decision making, the setting in of fear and anxiety, and difficulty in feeling connected to my therapist – crept in so much more easily and quickly. Low mood meant I had fewer resources to fight those feelings off, and giving in to them affected my mood even more, so that it became a very difficult circle to try and break out of.

My #therapybreak tweets stop fairly abruptly on Day 30, two days earlier than I had meant to stop them. I have thought about going back and retrospectively adding those days in, but it would feel somehow dishonest, and I think leaving the story as is, is a more accurate portrayal of what happened. I will pick up on that in a future post, tying it in with resuming therapy after the break. In summary, on Day 31 I received a brief email reply from my therapist to a long update I had sent her a few days before; and on Day 32 I had my first session back. In that session we spent most of the time talking about my reaction to that brief email, and how it had felt as though it reinforced all my fears from the previous four weeks. But by the end of Day 32 I also knew that all my fears belonged to the past, and that my therapist was the same as she had always been. I’ve been back in therapy for a week – my deep depression has persisted, but at the same time I feel the safety, security, caring, and metaphorical warm embrace that I was so missing and unable to feel, during those four long weeks. I feel I’ve come back home.

 

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Approaching the end of the therapy break

When I returned to therapy last month after a short one week break, it was with a sense of excitement to be able to talk to my therapist about how things had been, and a sense of safety and relief at being ‘home’ again. I’m returning to therapy in a couple of days, after my therapist’s four week summer break, and it’s with the knowledge that this has been the worst break for a while. I’m nervous, afraid, in need of reassurance, low and sad – in that sense, we will be picking up from how things were for several weeks leading up to the break. It was a tough summer of sessions, with a horrendous ‘muddle’ (as my therapist called it – rupture, in other words) back in June. I muddled through after that, but I don’t think I fully recovered. And my big worry, of course, is that in some sense, perhaps neither did she, or our relationship.

In these last few days before I go back, I’ve been trying hard to ‘give myself a talking to’, to clear my head of all the scare-mongering, worrying, and self-critical thinking, and to remind myself of the good sessions that we had in the run up to the break, and the close moments; but much more than that, of the fact that this is a four year relationship with a history and a solid basis , with deep trust and genuine caring, that doesn’t just get wiped out or set back by a few difficult months, or the seemingly real fears in my head. It’s what I should have been doing for the last four weeks, not just the last four days. But I didn’t. And I was in a bad place. And I can put part of the blame on lots of things, some of them external, and others also external but more within my control. But I did not exercise control – over what I read, or allowed to influence my thoughts. I made poor choices, or no choices. I didn’t feel very much, because I was completely overwhelmed by feeling too much – too much filthy, contaminating, miring, all-consuming unhappiness and hopelessness; unhappiness that covered so much ground it ate up everything else. Unhappiness born of being unreconciled – to myself, and to my past, present, and future.

‘There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life, every one of them sufficient’ – this was by far the most challenging thing I read during the break. There were many more that were far more depressing, but even this challenge, rather than becoming an inspiration, turned into a self-judgment – a pinnacle I couldn’t scale, a personal quality I was too flawed to possess. In a book full of challenging passages on humility, forgiveness, vulnerability – this was the one that hit me hardest at the time. There are a thousand thousand reasons to live this life; yet during the last four weeks only one of them seemed sufficient – my children.

I think what I have learned during the last four weeks, from a range of different sources, is that it’s hard to be reconciled – to yourself, to others, and to your circumstances – when you are under judgment – your own, and the perceived judgment of others. If you pray – as autumn approaches, pray for me that like the trees, I will be able to let things go. I don’t want to be or to feel under judgment. I want to be reconciled – I want to feel at home.

 

[Quote is from ‘Gilead’, by Marilynne Robinson, the first book in a trilogy, with the other two being ‘Home’ and ‘Lila’.]