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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Why The Use Of Imagination in Psychotherapy Matters

This is a really thought provoking and important article by psychotherapist Joshua Miles, on the importance and power of imagination (and metaphor) in therapy. The article points out that “some people in therapy benefit more from working within the world of metaphor and imagination, than exploring what is more factual or ‘real’….. it can be in abstract or creative patterns of thinking, which can lead us down meaningful avenues of self-exploration and growth”. It took me a while to see this; in the earlier stages of my therapy I was dubious of using ‘non-factual’ aids as facilitators of internal change. However, the longer I have been in therapy the more vital imagination and metaphor have become, and, aside from the therapeutic relationship itself, I would say that for me they have been the biggest agents of change. As this article highlights, I think that the power of imagination and metaphor rests in their inherently personal nature and malleability. To quote: “Through imagination, we can add or remove meaning as necessary, and there are no wrong or right answers.”

I think this is an interesting and important post for any therapy client to read – for me, it is particularly key at this time as I am currently on a six week ‘therapy break’, and using imagination and metaphor will be crucial in helping me to deal with the ‘gap’. They will enable me to keep the memory of my therapist alive; to challenge and re-interpet any internal resistance and counter-productive feelings; and to think of creative ways to make the best use of this time, so that I can learn from it and have interesting ‘stories’ to tell my therapist when we resume!

I know that I will re-read this article a number of times over the coming weeks, and hope you will find it helpful too!

Joshua Miles

People enter into therapy for different reasons, whether to understand bereavement and loss, or to explore a recent spate of anxiety. In therapy there are many aspects of our lives, experiences and relationships which can be explored. Therapy emphasises the importance of exploring our minds, seeking truth or clarity and uncovering our past. This exploratory process takes place in the hope that we may unburden ourselves from a myriad of complex thoughts or feelings.

This is why imagination becomes so important in therapy, because it allows us to explore thoughts and experiences, which if shared in the outside world, may not be understood. Imagination enables us to view or interpret experiences with a variety of different lenses which we can alter, change or shift as our mind explores concepts further.

Why Imagination Matters

All of us hold the potential for imagination, creativity and reflective thought, and can benefit from thinking…

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Laughter in therapy

In relationships, therapy included, laughter can be an incredibly bonding and connecting experience…

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

laughter in therapy

Therapy is not a matter of milestones, but of moments*. Those moments can be: awkward; intense; heart-warming; painful; shocking; surprising; happy; exhausting; revelatory; uncomfortable; thought-provoking; mundane; interesting; angry; fearful; beautiful.

But there is nothing so lovely in therapy, I think, as moments of laughter. Particularly where that laughter is at an ‘in-joke’- amusing to the two of you by virtue of the intimate work you share in.

I told my therapist that I had asked one of my children how he felt about a particular situation. He told me, and then said “was that the right answer?”. I replied that there was no right or wrong answer.

As I related this story, I caught my therapist’s eye and we both burst out laughing, a split second apart. The irony hit me, as it hit her, and there was no need for either of us to explain what we found so…

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Connection

A wonderful song on the theme of relationships, for Mental Health Awareness Week. The quote I posted yesterday was about how difficult connection with others can be; this song is an uplifting reminder both of how wonderful that connecting can be, but also how simple.

I’m aware that unfortunately it can often take something very small to tip me into feeling bad about myself and for me to feel as though I am not cared for. At the same time, however, I’m aware that it can take very little to help me feel loved. Sometimes all it takes is a few words, a small but clear sign of someone reaching out to me, to light that spark of connection and warmth in my heart.

This is a real ‘feel-good’ song for me and the video is full of images of different types of connections and relationships. It’s a wonderful musical and visual world to lose yourself in for three minutes, and I hope it lifts your spirits, just as it has done mine.

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

“The song [Bonfire Heart] is about no matter who you are no matter where you’re from, it’s about the human condition which is we need to connect with people.” James Blunt

So often, the need for connection feels like an overwhelming and distressing burden to bear. For me, this song lightens the load. At the heart of BPD (and of us all) is a need to be loved. How incredibly complicated the absence or presence of that love can make our lives. For me, the joy of this song is that for just over three minutes, it makes the need for love and connection feel incredibly simple, and uplifting.

“People like us, we don’t need that much; just some one that starts – starts the spark in our bonfire hearts…..”

 

[This post is dedicated to two beautiful borderline blogger friends of mine, who have found love and connection over…

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The Important Connection Between Creativity And Therapy

I hadn’t seen a blog post on the connection between creativity and therapy before, and so was really excited when I came across this one, by therapist Joshua Miles.
The longer I have been in therapy, the more important creativity has become to me. That’s not simply creativity in terms of writing, though that has been a key part of my therapy journey; but also the creative process of using dreams, quotes, music, landscapes, metaphors, and shared memories, to build a new narrative for my life, one that involves greater acceptance, freedom and significance. On a purely practical level, therapy is in some ways such a ‘narrow space’ – one room, two people, and a very particular sort of interaction. And yet this setting is the context for one of the most liberating experiences there can be, and it can give rise to the most extraordinary creativity and exploration of thought. It is that creative process, a joint endeavour between therapist and client, that I have found is one of the greatest agents  – along with the power of therapeutic relationship itself – of lasting change.

I hope you enjoy the post as much as I did!

Joshua Miles

In this article, I am to discuss the important connection between creativity and therapy, and why being creative in therapy matters. I will then look at the importance of letting our minds wander and why it is valuable to nourish our creative avenues in life. Lastly I will explore how therapy can promote and develop creativity.

The connection between creativity and therapy

There is a meaningful and real connection between the creative and therapeutic processes. These processes share commonalities and can often work in tandem and share many of the same structures. In therapy, clients share, explore and think about their thoughts, feelings and ideas. This process of self-exploration can often yield surprising results, or uncover to us some feelings or thoughts we once thought we had forgotten, or in fact thoughts or feelings we did not know we had. Like the creative process in arts, music or writing, we open…

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Twitter chat: #therapybreak – what does it mean to you?

Only a few hours to go! Please do join me and psychotherapist Alison Crosthwait for a Twitter chat today 25 April at 9pm BST/4pm EST, on the subject of therapy breaks. Use hashtag #therapybreak – see you there!

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

I am very excited about the fact that Alison Crosthwait (from ‘The Good Therapists‘) and I will be hosting a Twitter chat next Monday 25 April, at 9pm BST/4pm EST, on the subject of therapy breaks, and we would love it if you could join us – whether you are a therapist, a therapy client, both or neither! The hashtag we will be using for the chat is #therapybreak (nothing beats obvious!).

We chose the subject of therapy breaks for a number of reasons, including the fact that many people will recently have experienced such a break over the Easter holidays. We were looking for a subject that would be of interest both to therapists and clients, and was broad enough to allow discussion to range over a number of different themes. We thought about our most popular blog posts, which for Alison centre around change

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Getting the most out of therapy

I am a big fan of welldoing.org, an “independent psychotherapist and counsellor directory and information resource for people who want to enhance their health and wellbeing“. I wish I had known about them when I was first looking to start therapy and had no idea what the (sometimes subtle) differences were between the numerous different types of therapy. I wish I had known about them in the early months when the process of open-ended psychoanalytic therapy made little sense and was not quite what I had expected. However, better late than never, as they say! I am now a follower and regular reader and gain a great deal from the varied and interesting articles by therapists from different ‘traditions’ as well as by clients facing particular difficulties or dilemmas. I was fortunate enough to have received referrals to three potential therapists (of which my current therapist is one) from my ex-therapist, just before we finished our sessions together. However, for those who have made the difficult decision to enter therapy but do not know how to find a therapist or what type of therapist they should be looking for, welldoing.org can get you started by matching you with someone, based on a short questionnaire.

This week, I wanted to share the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of an excellent article on welldoing.org by therapist Joshua Miles, called ‘How to get the most out of therapy‘. These are easily amongst my favourite posts on the site; they are helpful now, and I know that they would have been even more so had I come across them in the early stages of my therapy. I think that there are numerous misconceptions about therapy ‘out there’ amongst those who have never taken part in the process; as well as simply a lack of information about what it is really like, and about how ‘change happens’. As Joshua Miles points out, it is not always about giant discoveries. As he also points out, the process is not simple or easy, and although the benefits are enormous and the process can be beautiful and fulfilling, it can also involve “a great deal of upheaval and change”. I have been in therapy for three years now, and try as I might to address his misconceptions, my husband still tends to think of my therapy evening as a ‘night out’ and is surprised when I don’t always come home feeling better and happier!

Joshua Miles’s excellent post covers some key components of therapy which, if understood and taken on board, can really help clients to ‘get the most out of therapy’. In Part 1 he addresses the vital area of trust: in our therapist, in the therapeutic process, and in ourselves; and he also talks about the importance of prioritising therapy, and of using the time between sessions to ‘process’ the material. In Part 2 he discusses another vital area and what some might say is the key agent of change in therapy – the therapeutic relationship. He also talks more broadly about the importance of communication, and being as open and honest as possible.

I can highly recommend both parts of this article for anyone looking for an excellent summary of the key components of the process of therapy, and how to get the most out of it. I think it is helpful not just for clients (particularly in the first few months), but also for those (such as my husband!) who are not in therapy but who may be interested in finding out more, or in supporting someone who has taken the courageous and important step to commit to this difficult but exhilarating journey…..

 


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Why Patients Deserve Special Respect

I love this article because it is immensely validating of those who decide to take the difficult – and often tortuous – path of therapy. I have a friend who used to complain that people often thought of therapy as ‘tea and sympathy’ – this couldn’t be further from the truth, and Dr Stein’s post makes that plain.
I have another friend who is keen to point out that there is no such thing as ‘the hardship Olympics’ – and that though it may be the case that there is always someone else ‘worse off’ than you, that in no no way diminishes your own pain and your own experiences. Just because someone else may have ‘got through’ without therapy, that does not mean that it is ‘weak’ to seek help. Dr Stein’s post also highlights this important point.
Personally, I would love to ‘proclaim the benefits of therapy from the rooftops’ – I genuinely believe that at one point or another in our lives, we could all benefit from taking a closer look at ourselves, and the ways in which we interact with the world. However, as Dr Stein points out, going to therapy carries with it its own stigma, and it is hard to ‘own up to’.
For me, one of the key points of this post is that in therapy we learn to deal not just with our own imperfections, but with those of ‘life’ in general. We learn to accept not just ourselves, but others; to start to relinquish the need for control over every aspect of our lives and the actions of others; and we learn to spot our unconscious expectations of ourselves, of how others ‘should’ be treating us, and of what we have a ‘right to expect’ from our lives.
These are hard lessons – therapy is hard. It is exhausting, breathtaking and yes, I think patients (and therapists!) are to be respected for doing the messy, painful but ultimately rewarding work of helping to create a freer and more fulfilling way of living. Therapy is worth it – and I think that this wonderful post helps to show why.

Dr. Gerald Stein

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The stigma of mental illness lingers despite the carloads of Xanax-filled vials in the pockets and purses of America. The notion of life as an easily mastered enterprise persists. When the going gets tough, the tough get going — so we are told. Those who cannot, by force of will, get through difficult events unaided are thought to lack the right stuff.

I disagree. There is a quiet heroism in admitting you need help. Opening yourself to a stranger requires courage.  Awareness of your limitations is humbling. If all this were easy, therapists would observe lines leading to our turnstiled offices. Traffic pile-ups would slow the route.

Don’t get the wrong idea. The people who seek treatment are indistinguishable from everyone else. They range from rich, famous, and gorgeous to a more unremarkable lot. They are your neighbor and your friend. They might have been you and they may yet…

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