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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Book pre-review: When Marnie was there

I was going to say ‘no blog post from me this weekend’ – but of course, this is a blog post! I am taking the night off from writing, so that I can spend it reading. Not just for pleasure, though it will be that – but for therapy.

The book I will be reading is a children’s book called ‘When Marnie was there’, by Joan G Robinson. The reason I am reading it is because I read it once, and it has never left me.

Before I tracked down an old copy on Amazon, I remembered nothing about it except that I read it somewhere between the ages of eight and eleven, it had the name ‘Marnie’ in the title, and it was frightening. I couldn’t have told you what the story was about, save that I knew there was something about it that was scary and disturbing. Not in a way that put me off reading it, or gave me nightmares. But in a way that left a deep and lasting impression, but in a completely indescribable way. I cannot explain to you what it is that makes me absolutely sure the book was significant and settled somewhere deep in my psyche and in my whole being – leaving me only with a memory of what it felt like to read it, or rather what it felt like to have read it. I have no memories so concrete as of actually reading it.

I know that deep down I have always wanted to go back and re-read it – and I remembered only as much as was needed, in order to ensure that I could find it again. And luckily there appear to very few books with ‘Marnie’ in the title! Though I know I never forgot it, I cannot honestly say I thought about it very much (if at all) until a few years ago. I think that over the last few years, either because of having children, or more likely, because of the process of therapy, the book has come to mind on a number of occasions. My therapist and I have often talked about children’s books; and I have found them (and children’s films) invaluable sources of comfort and support during therapy breaks, particularly the long summer break. I have found that they often convey simply and powerfully, important life lessons that we need to learn and keep with us, but that as adults we have somehow forgotten how to internalize – if we ever knew.

I have always wanted to go back and re-read it – but for some reason, a week ago, I actually looked for it and bought it. My therapist asked me an important question: “why now“? Why now, when I could have sought it out at any other time over the past few years? I think the answer will come with reading the book. I think that my subconscious knows – that it has always remembered the story and knows why it was powerful and important. Perhaps it made a link with the current material of therapy, and perhaps, as I read, I will discover what that link is.

I have already realised something interesting, just by reading the back cover. It seems that the main protagonist is not Marnie, but a girl called Anna. Which made me immediately think of the start of a story I wrote when younger, that I discovered in an old box of papers recently. I wrote about it in a post called ‘Update and a story by 12 year old me‘. The girl in my story is called Anna too, and at that time, the only link I could think of to the name Anna, led me to believe I might have written it at around the age of 12, even though the style of writing and the handwriting, felt ‘younger’. But now I feel absolutely sure that the link with the name ‘Anna’ comes from ‘When Marnie was there’.

I feel a fair amount of apprehension. There is always the possibility of disappointment: that the book will not be as interesting or as powerful as when I first read it; that I won’t be able to understand why it made such an impression; that I won’t be able to make a link to my therapy. But there is also the possibility of so much more – not least a calm and pleasurable few hours immersed in a story, a luxury I rarely have time for these days.

So enough of writing – for now – I’m off to read about Anna and Marnie! I will write more about them, when I know what there is to tell…..


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A lesson in love

This weekend my therapist is at a residential conference – strangely enough at a conference centre I have stayed in myself. I have been dreading this weekend for months, remembering how I felt last time she went to a similar event. I have been dreading the feelings of exclusion, of jealousy, of knowing that she will be interacting with strangers who for these three days will have a greater insight into the minutiae of her life – what does she have for breakfast? – than I will ever have. They will be in company without the company of the clock; they will talk and laugh uninterruptedly; they will take a walk and talk – or not. They will capture the moment, in a picture. Oh to be a fly on the wall and to be able to observe her interacting in a carefree way with those around her. And yet, I know the irrationality of my fears and hopes. I have a very different – the opposite of care free –  and more valuable kind of access to her than most of them will ever have ; and being a fly on the wall would be unbearable for precisely that reason. I’ve never had to ‘share her’  – I wouldn’t want to have to try.

After this, we only have two more sessions before a two-week Easter break, and I was worried we wouldn’t have time to process the fall-out from this weekend. Yet somehow, as always seems to happen, we have arrived at the point just before the break – despite my fears over this weekend – with a lovely sense of security and connection. It’s been an incredibly difficult few weeks, and I have found myself treating her in ways I have hated myself for. I have caused her to feel coerced, manipulated, and intruded upon; she’s had to wade through the mire of counter-transference and my resistance. But she is my therapist – and she continues to amaze me and to show me, through her example, what love really looks like.

What has struck me deeply, through all of this, is that she keeps on giving. She holds the space; she holds firm against the resistance; we work through the pain, the tears and the tantrums (all mine). But she keeps on giving, and she does not withhold. Yes, she withholds therapeutically, for the benefit of the work, but she does not withhold of herself in retaliation. I am so used to the tautology that misbehaviour equals punishment; that resistance leads to consequence; and that if I try and ‘win’, something will be taken away and lost. It’s why, each time she shows me her unwavering nature and her generosity, there is always the internalised voice that says ‘this time….this time, I have really blown it, she will never be the same with me again, a part of her is lost to me’.

But every time, I’m wrong; and I’m so thankful that I’m wrong. There is no retribution; and she doesn’t see herself as wronged. She knows me, and that whatever mess I bring from one week to the next is only part of me, and not the whole. She cares for the whole, and reminds me that it is there, even when I have forgotten. She responds to what I bring – without bringing up the past and without conditionality. She gives, as if I’d never tried to take what wasn’t mine to have; and that is both humbling and overwhelming.

The night before she left I sent her a brief email saying I would miss her, and I wished her an interesting time and an enjoyable walk around the gardens (replete with poems and quotes hidden amongst the trees). I also said that I hoped a poem or two might come out of this weekend – it’s been my way, recently, of trying to cope with difficult or intense emotions. I didn’t think I would receive a reply until after the weekend, but she wrote back saying she would think of me at the house and in the gardens; and she shared something (a poem and a picture) of the material she would be thinking about over the weekend. Her giving was a wonderful and deeply touching surprise. She included me, when she knew I would be feeling excluded; and she told me she would think of me, when she knew I would worry about being kept in mind, when she had so much on her mind.

And so I have drawn together my thoughts and feelings into a poem; grateful for her giving, trying not to dwell too deeply on the missing, but reminding myself of what I have. I have tried to capture a lessons in love – a moment of being together at a distance, in a picture of words, timelessly unhampered by the clock.

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The stranger who has loved you

A wonderful poem by Nobel Laureate, poet and playwright Derek Walcott, who died today. Many, when despairing, have found this helpful. It is the opposite of where I’m at today, but I have to believe that I’ll feel like this one day….

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

I feel like such a long, long way from this. But my therapist is helping me to take down the letters from the bookshelf. She has my heart – until I can give it back to the stranger who has loved me.

Loving yourself

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Book reviews – two of my favourite reads about relationships

This is my second contribution to the Wise Words series on the welldoing.org therapy website – it covers a book on transactional analysis (which I’ve blogged about before), and a book on marriage. I read them sequentially, and I think they form a logical coupling; giving both tools and food for thought, in the struggle to better understand how we relate to ourselves and to others, and where our struggles to connect, can go wrong:

https://welldoing.org/article/wise-words-16-self-relationships-marriage