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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Breaking and remaking

This process happens repeatedly during therapy. Even after three, four, five years, the breaking and the remaking happens. The shattering and the putting back together.

After time, it becomes a little easier to bear. Familiar in its recurrence, less shocking in its predictability. Maybe a little less painful – as if the pain has had its edges knocked off by repetition.

If only it were the mirror that could shatter and by putting itself back together could show me a different me. Instead the mirror stays steadfast and it is I who must repeatedly break and reconfigure until what I see reflected bears more resemblance to the truth. Or at least, what my mirror tells me is the truth – my breaking is far from finished.

The mirror flashes back at me all the different shards of myself; the ugly, jagged parts which I have to hold gingerly, but firmly, like infant selves, to fit them back into a whole.

The trouble with being broken in order to be righted, is that it can feel like the old breaking – the one that left us scarred and misaligned. The solution can feel a little like the cause, until we see that it’s the presence of the mirror, waiting to show us our true reflection, that makes the difference between the two.

It never fails to hurt me, this breaking. It never fails to amaze me, either.

 

 

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Transferentially yours – an email to my therapist, unsent

This may be the first weekend in – oh, a while – that I won’t have emailed you, and you won’t have replied. Am I depriving myself of contact, sabotaging myself, being childish, stubborn, cutting off my nose to spite my face? Maybe one, more, or all of the above.

Lately we’ve got into a debate about the reasons why I’m therapy, and whether or not I really want to change. And all because I wrote you an note, on an impulse, saying that I could change what I did or how I acted, but I didn’t see how I could ever change how I felt about myself. Okay, maybe not all because of that – there had been a fair amount of me finding myself in exactly the same situation I had found myself in many times before, apparently unable to see, accept and take in others’ concern and care, while at the same time believing only my own negative self-perceptions irrespective of any evidence to the contrary. But still, in a very specific way, our debate was the immediate result of my note, a note I wrote on impulse and when I was feeling despairing. So please, have a little faith. Though you wouldn’t be the first who didn’t, and who doesn’t. I know I like to think we share things – but I didn’t want this to be one of them.

I suppose I only have myself to blame for encouraging you to give me a kick up the backside, by telling you that I respond to challenge. But when you challenge me I want to feel secure in that challenge; and that means not just knowing that you are my anchor if I fall apart, but knowing that you feel secure in throwing out the challenge. That you have the confidence to challenge and to believe in me even when I don’t. That you know the answer to the question you are asking, but are trying to get me to see it. I want to feel that your commitment to me is stronger than your challenge – even if I fail it. Because I can try again, and you can help me.

This time, the challenge felt a little like a threat. I responded, as I always do, to that motivational kick, but how much was due to fear? And at what price? Doubt, an undermining of my feeling of security and safety, and of my belief in your commitment, even though you insist your commitment is there, and that what you are asking for is my own.

It feels as though all of this has come about because we have spent so long talking about my marriage recently – which is very helpful, and incredibly important – but we still haven’t talked about my feelings and actions over the Christmas break, and our own relationship hasn’t had much of a look-in. I agree with you that we needed to stay with the subject of my marriage – that the fact I wanted to put that to one side and focus on us was in itself a very important issue to address. Why did I keep running away from the conversation? Why did it always feel like an imposition on therapy time to talk about the key present relationship in my life? Of course we needed to talk about my marriage. But the longer we have focused on it, the less connected to you I feel, and the less I am able to maintain a sense of your benevolence.

You keep saying that working with resistance is a very important part of therapy. That it can be very uncomfortable, both for client and for therapist. I have seen lots of different emotions pass across your features over the last couple of weeks, even though I can’t identify what they are, and that disturbs me. I’m sure I have annoyed you, perhaps even angered you. Disappointed you maybe? Who knows. In our last session when we were talking about my husband, it felt very much as though you were on ‘his side’, rather than mine – though I know there are no ‘sides’. You said you thought my husband was doing his best and wasn’t sure what else to do, and it seems to me that perhaps you were talking just as much about yourself, as about him. You want me to give him a break, to stop identifying him with ‘mother’ – is that getting to you too?

I know that I will come back to session next week, still wanting to work through all this. I know it is important, and I hope that I can make some progress. I want to work at this – however disconnected I feel. However insecure I feel, and even if you don’t have the faith that I want you to have. I will do the work because I respond to challenge and because, whether I feel I’m doing this on my own or with you, I want to do it for you. Yes, I want to do it for me as well – but what strikes me really powerfully is the sense that even if I have to do this feeling entirely alone and disconnected, I will do it for you. I have to – you are everything.

Perhaps the upside of taking the focus off our own relationship, and of not seeking to immediately repair the rupture and ‘restore things to rights’, is that it allows the transference to persist for longer, and more powerfully. Which I guess is really the point, and the only way through. But in that case, please remember that my lack of faith may not really be in you. And if this situation is all transferential, then the really heart-breaking thing is – how many of the things I thought I had done for myself, while feeling disconnected and alone, were actually done for someone else?

Other than through my feelings towards you, I have lost all access to my original responses to many of my parents’ behaviours towards me. These days they elicit simply anger and resentment on my part, and I have cut myself off so completely, emotionally, that I find it hard to imagine that my inner being ever wanted to respond in a way that pleased them or had the urge to do what they wanted, particularly when feeling criticised or unaccepted by them. It’s very hard to imagine that that situation would ever lead me to cling on, rather than push away. Part of me does want to push you away – it’s the more recent and more enduring response – and maybe I am doing that emotionally, to a degree. But it feels as though we are bound up together, regardless, and I will do this work to show you that there is a basis for the faith that I want you to have.

Somehow, I feel I have to work for your faith. My works, your faith; a theologically mixed and dubious sort of salvation, but there it is. The key thing is to know where we’re headed, even if right now it all feels like a somewhat purgatorial existence. I miss you – and who knows how next week will unfold…..