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.

Vividly

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Post-session poem

I arrived at therapy this morning all prepared to plunge straight into where we left off at the last session. But my therapist’s daughter’s car was parked outside – and so something rather different happened.

I’m used to there being other people in the house when I have my sessions – my therapist’s husband, her daughter. But on Friday mornings they’re both usually at work, and I love how it feels knowing the house is empty, and it’s just the two of us. There’s this feeling of ‘having her to myself’, of feeling somehow that we are both more free to be who we are. There’s the sense that when I leave the house we can linger at the front door a little longer than a split second, that we can exchange casual words without being ‘overheard’. For a split second, leaving, I feel less like a patient, and more like – I guess, a daughter.

There was an immediate sense of having that taken away today. Utterly unexpectedly, all those feelings I know so well, of exclusion and of loss, came flooding into the session, taking over. It was about this morning – and I was aware that the experience was bringing in aspects of my childhood, when I ‘shared’ my mother with various others in the house. But it was also about the weekends, and about holidays and therapy breaks, and about the end of therapy and after – it was about all the times, now and in the future, when others will be there, and I won’t.

In a way, I’m glad that she got to see. Since returning to therapy after Christmas, I’ve felt secure enough to share a number of feelings I was too afraid to share before. That experience has been wonderfully connecting, up-building, and sustaining, and I love where we have got to in our relationship. And so the experience today felt like being able to share a level of grief and pain with her, that so far I have only been able to experience at home, alone. It was more contained, a bit quieter, a bit less messy, shorter-lasting, than it is at home. But it was physically and emotionally painful, and strong, and present. Most of all, it was shared. And for that, I am thankful.

I’m at a coffee shop, trying to ‘recover’ before I have to go into work. I know that by the time I’ve ‘written it out’ I will be calmer, and ready to face others and be a ‘different me’. I wrote this poem in a couple of minutes, in the middle of trying to write my ‘therapy journal’, so that I don’t forget everything that’s happened in therapy this week. It’s rough around the edges, and in the middle, and it’s missing words here and there. A bit like how I feel.

 


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This work is hard

Not for the first time, a quote from the TV series ‘Dexter’, really hit home. Earlier today I’d been talking in therapy about my marriage, and the fact that I have no idea how to proceed. I’m not after an ideal – but now that I understand what relationship is, I want to love and be loved in a way that honors that, and the person I am becoming. I don’t believe the grass is always greener – but perhaps sometimes, it is.

I ran from a parental home into a married home, taking the damage of my childhood with me. Not seeing that, then; but being unable to see through it, now. Nowhere feels safe, apart from the refuge of my therapeutic relationship that feels more like home than anywhere else. I know that there I am accepted, and there I can be who I am. It’s the only place where I can think clearly; where my sense of self does not feel under threat.

Outside that relationship, I’m not sure which way to run. But I think my therapist would say that ultimately, whether the marriage survives or not, there is no need to run. If I can internalise that place where I feel accepted unconditionally and where I can be who I am, then my sense of self is not really under threat. It can bear with the past, stand in the present, and be open to the future.

But right now I’m just too scared and confused. This work is hard.

 


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The funniest moment of my week

I’m so glad that art psychotherapist Emma Cameron posted a link on Facebook to this hilarious song about attachment to one’s therapist. Of course, as with some of the best comedy, it’s funny partly because it’s so uncomfortably spot-on!

I hope you enjoy it! I’ll be playing it to my therapist at my next session – will you? 😉


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Constant shifts and comforting words

I wrote this almost three weeks ago, over a weekend, and meant to take it to the first therapy session of the week with me and show it to my therapist. It was during the very early days of our ‘new approach’ of trying to restrict (or cut out) email contact outside of sessions. And so in that spirit, I wanted to show her the poem in person, rather than send it electronically.

However, my mood and attitude in session were different to how I had been feeling when I wrote the poem, even though there was no obvious reason behind the change. The change wasn’t even apparent until I was in the room – perhaps something that happened very close to the start of the session (and which I now can’t remember), triggered my defenses, or perhaps it was something else entirely.

By the end of the week, things had recovered, but there was a similar replay the following week; and by the time I hit a short therapy break (which I’m nearing the end of), I still hadn’t managed to show her the poem. I now suspect I simply won’t get the chance as there will be too much else to cover before we then hit a longer, four-week break.

The break itself has followed a similar pattern to those previous two weeks – a few ‘good days’ where I feel connected, vulnerable, open, and determined, followed by a fairly sudden change where it’s almost as if a switch is flipped. I then suddenly see everything through a lens of fear, self-hatred, and potential judgment, which closes me off and puts up my defenses. Whichever lens I’m looking through, it colours everything from my perceptions, to my thoughts, to my feelings, to my behaviour. It feels as though my worldview shifts into a different state, and that the changes in thoughts and feelings are symptoms, rather than causes of that shift. Which still leaves me searching for an explanation as to why this happens, and that in turn leaves me feeling incredibly frustrated and demoralised. It feels as though I have little control over these shifts; they are regular, and unpredictable, and I feel completely at their mercy. That is difficult at the best of times; but during a therapy break, when I need to try and maintain my equilibrium, it is even more problematic.

Thinking back, I think these shifts have always been there, but they are more noticeable in the context of no contact outside of sessions, where I cannot seek reassurance and try to reconnect ‘in absentia’. It also means that whatever is going on, the changes are much more clearly something to do with me and my own thoughts, as they are not happening in connection with anything my therapist might have said or not said, over email (or even my expectations of what she might have said, or not said). That is both a consolation (as it means I still feel secure in who she is) and a concern (as I have no easily identifiable trigger or explanation for what is going on).

As I was writing this poem, some of the language evoked images and memories of self-harm. Though initially it was unconsciously done, as I worked on the poem it became more intentional. Some of the images felt a little incongruous with the subject matter, which is essentially a positive statement about my determination, despite these mood/worldview shifts that I appear to be caught up in, to be open to everything my therapist has to give me, including the tough lessons that preparing to lose her, and then losing her (at the end of therapy), will bring. However, something about the images also felt right; if they are a little radical or a little unsettling, well, so is complete openness and vulnerability – at least for someone who is used to the very opposite of those things. They are unsettling because to someone who is not used to them, exercising them can feel like leaving one-self wide open to hurt and harm. And so it seemed fitting that the poem should somehow be a kind of re-interpretation of self-harm; that its words should give a different meaning to the images that they invoked.

Thoughts and images of self-harm have resurfaced more frequently since my therapist and I have virtually stopped email contact. However, I’m hoping that now, when that happens, the words of this poem will come to mind. And that instead of feeling desperate and afraid, I will remember that openness may hurt, but – just as oxygen binds to blood and keeps my body alive, the internal bond with my therapist and the love that I carry for her, sustains me. If she’s reading, I want her to know that I know that – even when that knowledge is a little buried or veiled from view, and even when that knowledge is difficult to feel.

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Marnie Uncovered

On Friday I heard Zara Larsson’s ‘Uncover’ sung by a boy soprano. Somehow, I’d never heard the song before, and the combination of the music and the amazing tone of his voice, left me with tears streaming down my face. Once I ‘get into’ a song, I tend to listen to it on repeat, and so I have been playing it almost constantly on Youtube since then.

As I was listening to it today, with the words of yesterday’s post on the book ‘When Marnie was there’, still very much in my mind, I found myself thinking of this as Anna and Marnie’s song, at least in the beginning phases of their friendship, before they started, together, to change. They were each other’s secret, and in the safety of their friendship, they started to uncover their real selves and reveal things that neither of them had spoken about before.

Anna moved nearer and the girl said, still in a half-whisper. ‘You remember I said last night that you were my secret?’ Anna nodded ‘I knew just what you meant. You’re mine.’

‘There are all sorts of things I want to know about you……. – and yet, in a way, I don’t want to know them all – …….No, that’s wrong! I do want to know. But I want to find them out slowly, by myself, as we go along….’

‘I’ve been so lonely’, said Anna, surprised to hear herself saying it- it was so rare for her to confide in anyone.

Here, when the tide was out, they spent hours altering the course of steams, and making tiny villages out of mud and sand.

Running back across the fields with Marnie, she felt as light as air.

I like this version of the video because, unlike later versions, Zara Larsson looks like the teenage girl that she is, a young girl with long blonde hair, only a few years older than Marnie would have been in the story. The song lyrics follow below…..

Nobody sees, Nobody knows
We are a secret, can’t be exposed
That’s how it is, That’s how it goes
Far from the others
Close to each other

In the daylight, in the daylight
When the sun is shining
On a late night, on a late night
When the moon is blinding
In plain sight, plain sight
Like stars in hiding
You and I burn on, on

Put 2 and 2gether – 4ever
We’ll never change
2 and 2gether
We’ll never change

Nobody sees, Nobody knows
We are a secret, can’t be exposed
That’s how it is, That’s how it goes
Far from the others
Close to each other
That’s when we uncover, cover, cover [x2]

My asylum, My asylum
Is in your arms
When the world gives heavy burdens
I can bare a thousand tons
On your shoulder, on your shoulder
I can reach an endless sky
Feels like paradise

Put 2 and 2gether – 4ever
We’ll never change
2 and 2gether
We’ll never change

Nobody sees, Nobody knows
We are a secret, can’t be exposed
That’s how it is, That’s how it goes
Far from the others
Close to each other
That’s when we uncover, cover, cover [x2]

We could build a universe right here
All the world could disappear
Wouldn’t notice, wouldn’t care

We could build a universe right here
The world could disappear
Yeah I just need you near

Nobody sees, Nobody knows
We are a secret, can’t be exposed
That’s how it is, That’s how it goes
Far from the others
Close to each other
That’s when we uncover, cover, cover [x2]
That’s when we uncover