Life in a Bind – BPD and me

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

Writing procrastination

11 Comments

Sigh. I am procrastinating. I feel a great need to write about a number of major aspects of my therapy over the last few months, and in particular the mass of swirling thoughts and ideas that have been gathering, drawing together, pulling apart, coalescing, over the last couple of weeks of the Easter therapy break. But there is so much I want to say, I have no idea where to start, or how to make it all hang together. I have written far less over the last few months, for a number of reasons, but in large part because I have been trying to work with my therapist to keep more of the material of therapy within the sessions themselves, and therefore to deepen and increase the spontaneity and vitality of our face to face time. In that sense, I have seen the decrease in writing as going hand in hand with the cessation of email contact between sessions.

For me, writing serves a number of purposes, and I need to be conscious of those purposes which may no longer be appropriate, or which may even be counter-productive. Writing is one of my escapes from the world, and it is my attempt to process things alone, internally, and without reference to, or support from, anyone else. This was incredibly helpful for me in the past; but where there is a temptation to let it function as a substitute for talking things through with my therapist and allowing her to support me in figuring things out, I am trying to do something different instead. I have been trying to make brief notes and then to tell my story verbally, within relationship, rather than in writing, in front of my screen.

Writing can be helpful in gaining perspective and in reducing the intensity of emotion, because it enables us to externalise a situation and set of feelings. I often have the sensation that I am ‘writing something out’, in the sense of ‘getting it out of my system’. And often once I have poured something onto the page, I feel more detached from it – it feels much less a part of me. But it is precisely for all those reasons that writing can also be unhelpful for my work in therapy sessions. Once I’ve written about something, I feel like I have already told my story. Which in one sense, is true – but I have told it in a way that completely misses out any interactivity and response from another person, and any experience of what it feels like not just to tell my story to another, but to have it open-heartedly heard and received.

I find it very difficult to feel motivated to ‘re-tell’ a story I have already written, and when I do, it invariably feels flat, and as though I am reciting a series of events, rather than being engaged – both emotionally and intellectually – with what I am describing. There is no immediacy of feeling; I’m not re-experiencing emotions in the way I often am when I am writing. I remember an occasion a few months ago, when I tried to talk about an experience in session, which I had already written about in a blog post. I remember how grateful I was to my therapist for persevering in asking numerous questions (unlike her usual style!) to try and keep me talking and keep me on topic. It must have felt rather like dragging blood out of a stone, but it ended up being a really positive and helpful experience, and much more beneficial than the writing process had been.

But – creativity is hugely important in healing and wellbeing, and when your main creative outlet is writing, you cannot simply stop. And so I think I have been pulling back from it too much, or rather not pushing myself enough, to keep it as a regular part of my life. Perhaps I am feeling this so strongly now, because I am in a therapy break without my usual three sessions a week and, as often happens during a break, my brain is trying to process and consolidate a huge amount of information and experience. And without my therapist to talk to, the outcome of that processing and consolidation has to manifest outside myself, in some other way. If I cannot experience the ordering of that internal experience via a relational conversation, I have to create something on the page that gives it form.

But I’ll have to do it another time. Right now – I’m not quite sure where to begin…..!

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11 thoughts on “Writing procrastination

  1. I have absolutely no idea how you did that but you just wrote about my entire experience of writing! There was nothing in that blog I did not relate to! Did you step inside my mind??! It’s why I have stepped away from overly blogging about my sessions and about therapeutic processing. It pissed off one of my friends that she no longer had access to those thoughts, but I was moving into a deeper relationship with my therapist and it happened really naturally and had next to nothing to do with my friend. I expressed it as wanting to just take my therapist into a blanket fort and be alone with her, nobody else, just her. I no longer needed to overly process everything and get support for it all because I had support in it all, from her! And there was everything you also said above too. That needed to happen because I needed a deeper bond and level of trust in order to work out some of the things I am currently going through. That’s my journey to take, irrespective of everyone else.
    I would say though – I don’t know if you are TRYING to make this happen actively or if it has happened quite naturally (that wasn’t clear) but sometimes when I read your posts I hear conflict within you and that’s what I sense when I read this (so that’s why I’m responding in this way). You know you need to stop emailing/writing but obviously, a little part of you is scared or unhappy about that. It’s right to be scared or unsure, it’s a new thing and change is scary, especially to little parts. But my therapist said something to me this week that makes sense when I look back. She was basically saying ‘stop trying so hard, my experience of therapy both as a therapist and someone who has been in therapy is that one day you will look back and realise that quite without trying, you no longer do xyz or feel a certain way in the face of a specific situation. You don’t need to try, it will come’ If there is no conflict within you then quite without trying you will naturally begin to stop without having to try. If it doesn’t and a part of you still needs it, just have faith that it will happen when that part is ready too. Also, be accepting that even if you stop, there may be things you will feel the need to write about and that’s fine too. Let change happen naturally and it will be more lasting. Forcing yourself to do something because you know it is healthy and the right thing to do is not really being very accepting of where you are right now. You’ve just had a big change in therapy with the removal of emails. That was fairly recent. You don’t need to force more change on yourself in order to test or prove your own strength to yourself, your therapist or anyone else. Just be gentle and aware.
    Take care hunny x

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    • You’re making me cry (not a bad thing…) and you are absolutely right, there is so much conflict and I am so afraid…..I don’t have time….I want to let it happen but I feel I don’t have enough time and since it became clear before Christmas that the end of therapy pretty much means no contact afterwards, it feels like that has been a game changer I can’t get away from. I feel frozen and under pressure and so scared that it won’t all just happen and then I will have a lifetime of losing her slowly because I won’t have internalised her fully. I am so frightened 😦 I have no idea how long before she retires and it all ends

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      • Oh hunny 😦 I know. It IS horrible and scary. I feel the same way whenever I think of my therapist not being there. There’s not much I can say to ease that fear which I could be sure would happen for you.

        I think what I get from your comment is the same kind of feeling that someone with a terminal illness feels about a bucket list? Like before it ends you need to have achieved xyz so it can be thought of as a good ending? Deadlines make us feel like that. But what if rather than focusing on what you’ve yet to do, you remind yourself of what you have already accomplished with her? Take a look back through your blog – there’s stacks.

        I often feel that if therapy ends before I am fully healed then it counts as a failure. If it ends prematurely then I have to start back at square 1. It puts me under pressure when my constant fear of abandonment feels like at any moment she will disappear so I must heal TOMORROW. I once wrote about it. I said it was like holding a blob of playdoh in your hand. If you play gently with it, you can make all kinds of wonderful things with it. If you take it in your hand and put it under pressure, it oozes out of your hand in a way you don’t intend, causing a big squidgy, unpredictable (albeit FUN) mess. That’s what happens with me when I put myself under pressure in, therapy. Chaos, confusion, ENDLESS dilemmas.

        If you could reframe the end of therapy so that if you haven’t done xyz then it will STILL be a success and try to let go of the need to rush to be healed, maybe the fear would ease a little? Maybe what you need to do (rather than what you feel you should be doing) will become clearer and the expectations and pressure will ease off. Nobody is a perfectly healed individual… I’ve become aware that my therapist is beautifully flawed with her own issues (if it’s not obvious her humanity is endearing in my eyes) and I’m not expecting to be a therapist without issue either. If most therapists go through their own therapy and still come out and practice as flawed individuals with their own traumas, phobias, hang-ups, issues, isn’t it a tad unreasonable that we expect therapy to heal US totally? If they get to be ‘good enough’ therapists, can we not also allow ourselves to be ‘good enough’ clients with ‘good enough’ healing?

        I think you’ve internalised her a lot more than you realise. That shows in your wisdom and gentleness. The way you can accept and nurture your little parts and be gentle with them. It’s not perfect, but then nobody is. It is there though. Hun, you have her with you even when you don’t realise it. She has gradually infected your personality with acceptance, nurturance, care, time, wisdom, patience… in a way you might not even be aware of because the change was so gradual. It’s like asking a child ‘so, little girl, how has your mummy helped you grow up?’ they’d never be able to answer it till they are older and can look back and see all the ways their good enough mum helped them grow into a good enough adult. It’s so difficult when we did not have good enough mums to know what exactly the result of ‘good enough’ therapy looks like. I have no clue! My therapist says it’s a sense of internal resilience that ‘you’ll be OK come what may’. Not that life won’t ever get you down, but that you will become a weeble. You get knocked over but wobble back up again.

        Besides all that, something else occurs. Yes you need an internalised therapist to help guide you. But what about your internal sense of self? That’s (I think) MORE important. Is that getting there? How is your inner weebliness :-D?

        I really hope that SOME of this has been of help to you and brought you comfort. If you are feeling vulnerable and small, it’s no good answering or trying to process what I’ve said, wait till you feel stronger because all that will happen is that a fear of the end will make your little parts refuse to see any growth or change as they cling to ‘mum’. Bless them.

        I do want to end with a bucket load more validation and empathy. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see the end approaching. You have every right to be scared and upset, really you do. I wish I could come and see you and give you a hug, you deserve it. If you ever need to talk, you can always message me and I will try my best.

        Me xx

        PS. So sorry for the stupidly long comment!!

        Liked by 3 people

      • Will say more later but…..thank you so so much….I do need to process more of it later , and reread again and again ….I am indeed wanting mum very much, and refusing to let her go….and like you, I love her flawed humanity too 🙂 thank you, big hugs xxx

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  2. Ironically, your writing about procrastinating writing and your purposes for writing look like a great place to begin! You took the first steps with this post – yay! I know online support is nothing near the level of support a therapist can offer – esp. a therapist whom you trust and are bonded to. In-person (non-therapeutic) support (including emotional support) is great, too, but it’s harder to find emotional support in the general population (most people just want to offer instrumental support, which is great, but it doesn’t offer the kind of bonding that you find in “best friends,” romantic relationships, family, or strong teammates such as those who join the military and are deeply connected with their unit). In treatment, it’s pretty much one-sided (where the client is the focus), but in the real world, it’s a balance of give-and-take (reciprocity). Writing alone can feel lonely at times, but it can also be an outlet for deep emotions you’re not ready to talk about yet with anyone. Writing online is a huge step toward seeking support from others, and to know you’re not alone and/or are supported by others reading your words and your heart. Writing online is not as lonely as writing in a journal alone, but you can still feel loneliness online or in person if you’re not getting the responses you’re hoping for, or if you feel like you can’t share what you want to share due to privacy issues. You are your best judge at what you are ready to write about and when. It looks like you’re off to a great start! (For me, I babble more than I write, and I’m not necessarily looking for an audience, though I generally love an audience on occasion. Writing with a purpose, now that is tough.) By the way, you write really well, and I admire your writing style! You’re very coherent and articulate, and you really get at the heart of the matter. 🙂

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  3. I wonder if there is some activity you might enjoy, say swimming or dancing (not the “movement” in both of these), that would serve as a break from the work, household, therapy, therapy processing. Something totally freeing and fairly anonymous to help relieve and distract. Perhaps you already have that, I’m hoping.

    Liked by 1 person

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