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.


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A lesson in love

This weekend, my therapist is at the same conference, at the same place, as she was when I wrote this post. So much has changed in the last couple of years – for one thing, email correspondence is no longer a part of our therapy – but she hasn’t changed. Her love, and her giving, haven’t changed. My appreciation and gratitude for that love and that giving, grow every day. It’s a privilege to know her and to do this work together….
And since I wrote this post, her love of gardens and gardening has led me into this area for myself – a gift of herself and her influence that will last a lifetime, and makes life more beautiful, for all the hours that that life affords.

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

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…

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To write is to reveal, to battle, and to heal

I’m honoured and excited to have had a guest blog published on Rachel Kelly’s website towards the end of November, on the subject of writing, and in particular on how writing poetry has been so significant for my well-being. I’m immensely grateful to Rachel for her support and her kind words, and for her inspiration and motivation to keep going both with self-care and with writing! And I’m grateful for the opportunity she gave me to share this – I hope you enjoy it!

https://www.rachel-kelly.net/writing-honestly-and-openly-changed-my-life/


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World Mental Health Day 2018

I’m sharing a link to a post I wrote for World Mental Health Day four years ago. I love the words of this song, and I’m still so grateful for the online community in which we share our darkness and become a light for each other…

https://lifeinabind.com/2014/10/10/world-mental-health-day/

If the shadow falls

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I wrote this poem four years ago, as I was emerging from a period of deep depression and suicidal feelings. I’m reblogging it for World Suicide Prevention Day today, as I hope it might bring some light to those who are struggling in the shadows. It was the kind words and support of other people in the blogging and Twitter community, who started to bring light into my own shadows, during that time.

We are a complex mix of forces – of strength, and air, and light. But when darkness threatens to overtake us and those internal forces don’t seem strong enough, we need to wait, just long enough for the shadows to pass us by. We need to say ‘not tonight’. Please reach out if you need help in waiting, and in saying ‘not tonight’. x

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

when shadows fall final

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The road less traveled by

There is both a weighty and a light-hearted point to this post.

The weighty part is this. The way in which we are cared for in therapy, if we have a deep and trusting relationship with our therapist, changes our cells. It protects us in the sense of keeping us connected to our selves and to a richer and more complex understanding of the world. Though I haven’t thought of myself in terms of my diagnosis for a long time, this quote reminds me of Marsha Linehan’s words, that “people with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement”. Being cared for in therapy gives us a protective, emotional skin. The world has less power to hurt us – not just because our greater sense of self and self-worth can withstand it, but because the way in which we see the world has changed. We see it through the eyes of someone who loves us and sees the ways in which we add to the world and are at home in it, rather than through the distorted lens of those who could not validate us and never really knew us.

As an aside, I find the image of my therapist’s caring being ‘in my skin’, particularly poignant. It is a way of experiencing her touch – something I have often wished for, but which, in its physical sense, is outside our therapeutic framework.

The light-hearted point is this. I discovered this quote because I finally got round to starting Harry Potter (having watched the films but never read the books). My therapist has, on a number of occasions, used examples or metaphors from Harry Potter, and she has often encouraged me (particularly for the sake of my kids!) to try the audio book versions, read by the wonderful Stephen Fry. But it was the recommendation of a different audio book, from another wise someone (you know who you are!), at the start of the Easter therapy break, that finally convinced me to try audio books, having previously had my reservations about them. I love reading – looking at words, absorbing them and savouring them in my own time, immersing myself in them – and it was difficult to imagine having the same experience listening to a book being read. I was right in one sense – it is not the same experience –  but it can be a fantastic one nonetheless!

Having listened to a handful of other books, I took up my therapist’s recommendation (though for myself, rather than the children!) and started listening to the first Harry Potter. I’m moving through the books and loving them – not just the stories and words themselves, but the wonderful way in which Stephen Fry conveys them, changing voices for all the characters, and moving (seemingly) effortlessly between them.

But even this light-hearted discovery has a weighty side to it. In discovering audio books, I have discovered something that I think will be vital not just to recovery, but to ongoing well-being and looking after my mental health. The Easter therapy break ended up being incredibly fruitful for me, in terms of new realisations, internalisation of new ways of seeing,and deepening of my relationship with my therapist. It felt as though I made numerous small but very significant shifts in my understanding and perceptions. Looking back, I believe that without realising it, I gave myself a break from rumination and down-spiraling thoughts for long enough that I was able to remain on a fairly even keel emotionally. The lack of ‘distraction’ from negative emotions and perceptions, then allowed a period of growth to take place. And the key way in which I gave myself a break from rumination and down-spiraling thoughts, was by filling the time and space when I would usually be engaged in those ‘activities’, with listening to audio books instead.

I tend to think of driving and cooking as being my ‘processing periods’ – but in reality, there is little ‘processing’ and much ruminating going on during those times. By giving my mind something else to do and concentrate on, I am essentially trying to rewire my brain so that the well-worn pathways of rumination and negative thoughts have a chance to start to ‘grow over’, and new pathways can begin to be laid down instead. My therapist likened it to walkers wearing a deep scar into the face of a mountain, by treading the same ground that has already been visibly worn down. It’s much easier to stick to the (literally and metaphorically) down-trodden paths, than to carve out new ones. However, if traveled on enough, the new paths become easier and easier to tread, and the old ones lose their visibility and appeal. I’m not sure there is enough Harry Potter (even with the later books!) to take me through that rewiring process, so I will have to find a new literary immersion, later. But for now, they are a great joy, and I can thoroughly recommend them! Metaphor and stories are great allies in the work of psychotherapy, and particularly in the later books, it is clear that J.K. Rowling has a deep and nuanced understanding of the demons of the mind….

 


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My subconscious – an anecdote

As if any further evidence were needed of the state of my subconscious, following yesterday’s post ‘Fear and fantasy’, here is a lighthearted little anecdote (in a dark sort of way) which made me smile (in hindsight), and I hope might make you smile too 🙂

I was listening to the audio book of ‘The beginner’s guide to dream interpretation’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes , in which, amongst other things, there was a description of the process of Jungian dream analysis, which involves identifying the nouns in a dream, and making associations to those nouns. In order to illustrate this, Dr Pinkola Estes used an example.

In her dream-example, she said that she “went out into a field, and in the field there lay the body of a woman, and out of her body grew flowers”. She then proceeded to talk about her own associations to the nouns ‘field’, ‘woman’, ‘body’, and ‘flowers’. Here is what went on inside my head as I listened to her words….

Her: What do I associate to the body of a woman? What do you associate?

Me: Death.

Her: My association is curvaceous, beautiful, soft, yielding…..

Me: That’s strange and disturbing, and a little disgusting – that can’t be right……

Me: Wait………..what? Is this body ALIVE? Ohhhh……

Me: Hang on, did she not say the body was dead? Let’s try and remember. Nope. She never said that it was a dead body – just that it was a body.

Her: What do I associate to flowers…..? Flowers to me are extremely healing…..

Me: Great. I just thought they were grave flowers, flowers of DEATH, because they were growing from or close to a DEAD BODY….

Me: My subconscious is. Clearly. F****d [retrospective editing]