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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Return to therapy (and semi-gratuitous animal photos)

I return to therapy shortly, after a break of almost six weeks. During the last few weeks I have wondered, countless times, what that first session back will be like. My feelings about it have changed, many times. During the first couple of weeks of the break, when I started to see how much things had changed since this time last year, and the ‘progress’ I had made; when I was feeling overwhelmed by that progress, and even scared and resentful of it – I felt a like this:

catCats know how to show you when they have a bone to pick with you – perhaps because you have left them alone for too long, or have not let them sleep on your bed – and sitting with their backs to you can be effective sign of displeasure! I have managed to stay feeling connected to my therapist during this break, and I have continued to believe in her caring. In an email to me she also noted the contrast with this time last year, when part of me had seen her as the ‘bad therapist’ who had abandoned me and had ceased to think of me. Nevertheless, as a large part of and contributor to that progress that I have been making, I did ‘blame’ her to some degree for how that made me feel. I was hugely grateful to her, and still am, for everything that we have achieved – but she wasn’t there to help me to deal with my fear of change, and in as much as she was clearly helping me, she was also leading me to a place which ultimately involved being without her. And part of me resented her for that.

As the weeks wore on and I started to cling onto the idea of her even more strongly, I allowed myself to feel more confidence and excitement about seeing her again; being close to her; exploring my ‘surroundings’ with her.

two catscats exploring

But the closer the end of the break came, the more my anxieties started to manifest in my dreams.

cat iceDreams about not being wanted and being frozen out. Dreams about missing the start of sessions and turning up late. Dreams about running out of time or running out of space. Dreams of being in a room with her but feeling very far away; of being with her but then losing her and running through corridors in great distress, calling out her name and trying to find her again. Dreams about inclement weather – torrential rain, tornados, snow. Dreams about trying desperately to hold onto something.

And over the last few days, with less than a week to go, I feel very alone. I’m trying not to, because nothing’s changed.

She’s still there, and I know that she still cares. But it feels somehow harder to hold onto that – perhaps because I know I will have confirmation of her presence very soon. Or perhaps because at the start of the break I almost felt as if my survival depended on ‘keeping her alive’, but now that she’s within arm’s reach, I know that she will catch me if (or rather when) I stumble. On the one hand I feel ‘boxed in’ by life – helpless and powerless. At the same time I feel surrounded by empty space  – and just hope that it doesn’t feel that way when we are finally face to face in a matter of hours.

 

[As you might have guessed, and despite the last photo, I am definitely a ‘cat person’!]

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You know you’re borderline when….

.……you take automated WordPress emails personally and feel criticized and upset by them….

Yes, at the risk of seeming to take BPD lightheartedly – sometimes you just have to laugh after you’ve cried – this was me, a few weeks ago.

I was in the middle of my six week break in therapy. I was feeling pretty terrible, as I tend to do during therapy breaks. I was messing around in WordPress, and when I next checked my email, I saw this:

wordpress2

I was gutted and furious at the same time. F**k WordPress. How DARE it call me vain? Oh WordPress, how can you do this to me, and make me weep on the inside?

I hadn’t even realised I’d clicked on a ‘Like‘ button  – why are they so bloody impossible to find on other people’s sites when you’re looking for them, and so apparently easy to mistakenly click on, on your own? SORT IT, WORDPRESS!

I was seriously upset. I was mortified at being called vain. WordPress was EVIL.

It wasn’t until the next day that I actually understood the joke.

Of course I think ‘Swallowing up the storm – BPD and anger‘ is about me. It IS about me – it’s my post.

Ha ha WordPress. You’ve actually got a sense of humour you mischievous son-of-a-b***h. You’re actually rather funny.

But I’ll be damned if I ever ‘Like’ another post of mine again.


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Trigger-unhappy: BPD and abandonment

Trigger – unhappy: that is me. The DSM-IV Criterion 1 for Borderline Personality Disorder has really been getting me down recently, and has been firing up the synapses in my brain left, right and centre (or maybe that should be just left and right).

Criterion 1, ‘Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagine abandonment’ is manifesting itself as hypersensitivity to anything that might be construed (or misconstrued) as rejection, being ignored, misunderstood, sidelined, or not being cared for. And as usual, it’s some of those who I feel closest to, those who I have ‘let in’ and confided in, who are setting off these chain reactions in me. I observe those reactions and responses within myself, and I find them on the one hand self-centred, irrational and abhorrent, and on the other hand completely irrefutable. ‘Intellectual knowledge’ of the reality of the situation doesn’t seem to affect how I feel about it, or the way in which I interpret it. I know one thing – but I feel another.

Triggered: A school friend who I told about my blog several weeks ago, has not yet mentioned it, and seems to be oblivious to the fact that I’m reliving the pain and grief of losing my ex-therapist all over again. I know that she hasn’t had a great deal of time to read it recently, as she has been away, and at my own request is reading posts in chronological order and may not have encountered the relevant entries. But I cannot feel what I know. Instead, I feel hurt and resentful. Instead, I regret ever telling her about my blog, or about my mental health difficulties in general, and I see this as just another reason why my pain should be kept private after all.

Triggered: Another school friend, who also has BPD, was meant to call last week for a chat but didn’t, because she was numbing her own pain with alcohol. A few days later she failed to call again, because she was taking a friend in trouble to the Minor Injuries Unit. I know that she had received some bad news on that first occasion, and that she could not have foreseen the situation with her friend, who obviously needed her. But I cannot feel what I know. Instead, I feel as though it’s just another example of how she responds to others and is emotionally available to them when they need her, but not to me. Instead, I feel angry at myself and at her for needing her, and for feeling helpless in the face of that need.

Triggered: My husband came back from a weekend away, and didn’t give me a hug or any indication that he cared or wanted to know how I had got on while he was gone. I know that he was just reacting to the fact that I was withdrawn and silent. I know that each one of us was waiting for the other person to act and speak first, and that the months and years of inadvertently misunderstanding and hurting each other, has led us each to try and protect ourselves first and foremost, from further hurt. Instead, I felt suicidal – utterly desolate and alone. I felt unreal and unloved and unworthy. I felt rejected and I retreated further into myself. He thought I was ignoring him and that I didn’t care. I was trying to cope with wanting to die, because I felt he didn’t care.

Triggered: My therapist took what felt like an age of silence to think and phrase an answer to the fact that I had just told her that I had been experiencing difficulties with our therapy for some time, and that I had a decision to make about whether we should continue. I know that she was just thinking, and trying to assimilate what I had revealed, and reply in the way she thought best. But I cannot feel what I know. Instead, I felt as though I was on the knife-edge of abandonment – that as I had just revealed that I was thinking of leaving her, she would decide that she could no longer see me. It took every ounce of effort not to break the silence and tell her how unbearable the knife-edge was. How I was both shattering inwardly and at the same trying to burst out of my skin to escape the feelings of rejection, disapproval, and uncertainty of what was coming next.

Triggered: My ex-therapist, Jane, responded to my frantic efforts to avoid the very real ‘abandonment’ of never seeing her again, by saying that she did not think it was advisable to have just a couple of sessions without the prospect of ongoing work, and did not maintain contact or have friendships with those she had seen in a professional capacity. I had followed ‘numbness and denial’ with a desperate plea for something more, though with the very real fear and expectation that it would come to nothing.

I know that Jane had to reply the way she did. I know that her reply, though devastating in its finality, was necessary, and everything I have come to expect from her. It was professional, maintained boundaries, and was written in the spirit of keeping us both safe. I asked her to be honest – and she was. But I also asked her to be gentle – and she was. Her reply was reassuring, validating, clear, and above all, caring. Not in any obvious way – I can only wish that she would come out and say it! But it was there, in every other way – in the things that she didn’t say, as well as in the things that she did. And here’s the curious thing. I do feel what I know.

I knew Jane for weeks, not years. I have had virtually no contact with her for months. But, despite all the odds, and despite the difficulty that I (and many others with BPD) have with object constancy, and holding on to the reality of another individual, in their absence – I still believe that she understood and cared about me. That she cares about me. Perhaps almost as much as being abandoned by her in the present, I was terrified her reply would shatter my perfect and idealised view of her. That I would be abandoned by that sense of caring and the reality of the work we did together. The sense of self-acceptance that she gave me has vanished. But the sense that I was cared for by her, is, miraculously, still there.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that I may be particularly trigger-unhappy at the moment because I could be splitting off any negative emotions I may have had about Jane’s ‘abandonment’ and am transferring them onto others. I have always been passionate about ‘protecting Jane from myself’ and from any possibility of devaluing her, or reducing the height of her pedestal even by a millimetre. I don’t feel angry at her. I don’t feel rejected by her.

But do I know what I feel?

 


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Draining The Lake

Beautiful words; beautiful imagery.
I find it hard to write about the things that I’m ‘in the thick of’, when I’m ‘in the thick of things’. I rely on others’ words that really resonate with where I am right now – songs, poems, posts.
I still can’t accept the finality of loss. I know I need to ‘drain the lake’ but it feels as though I’m drowning in an ocean that’s immeasurably deep; that is impossible to drain. I can’t cry the fear away. But I also fear that one day I will stop crying. And what will it mean if I do?

Thoughts. Musings. Electrical Synapses.

I had therapy today, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much before. A knife was being twisted inside me and the pain was unbearable.

I didn’t want to accept things I knew were true. What didn’t let me do it was fear, a paralyzing fear that I now feel has been shattered.

Tears can remove self imposed veils and I’ve cried enough already, it’s time to drain the lake.

image

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Numbness and denial – but somewhere underneath there’s this…..

“……I have been waiting until the end of this week to reply to you as I have been finalising some decisions about, in effect, moving towards retirement…………..I am thus sorry to let you know that I will not be able to offer you any ongoing sessions and I wanted to let you know when I had clarified this.

I am sorry if this is disappointing but I hope that you will be able to continue with any sessions that you may still be undertaking.

In any case with my very best wishes to you for the future

Jane”

No. Air.

 


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Guest Post by Clara – Be gentle with me…

Sometimes I write poetry of dubious quality. As a teenager, and in my early twenties, I did it a lot. In those days, they were of even more dubious quality because some of my favourite poets were from the late 19th/early 20th century, and I tended to use the same sort of language, which made them a hideous combination of old and new. I have a tremendous fear of sharing my poetry with others – somehow, much more so than writing a piece of prose, it feels like complete nakedness and vulnerability. As a teenager, I wrote a poem about how scary it feels – it was in the style of T.S. Eliot’s ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’. It wasn’t quite as dubious in terms of its quality, as some of the others. But today I’m taking a leap of faith and sharing this one. It feels odd to be reblogging my own guest post from this fantastic site, but I’m not that hot on blogging ‘etiquette’ or conventions! This was written before I became involved in blogging, hence the different ‘name’. Enjoy, or not, as the case might be – but don’t tell me if you don’t…. 😉

Day in the life of a Busy Gal...

FRIENDS FRIENDS (Photo credit: [Share the Word])

Fellow High-functioning BPD sufferer Clara was inspired by my recent poem Finger on the Trigger and decided to write her own poem using the format I had used. I offered to share it here for her as she does not have her own blog but wanted to know what I thought of her poem, I loved it and I’m sure you will too…

It’s about the painful push-pull that you can get in friendships between two people who both have bpd, something I’m sure a lot of us can relate to…

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