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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Memory Monday – “Swallowing up the storm – BPD and anger”

*TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDAL IDEATION*

For many people with BPD, changes in mood and can be sudden and dramatic, particularly when precipitated by a powerful trigger. In my own experience, my resistance to particular triggers wears down over time, so that rather than becoming gradually ‘immune’ through exposure, the opposite happens – the more often I become triggered in a certain way, the more easily and more quickly I spiral down into incredibly negative thought patterns. It’s as if the feeling of being ‘trapped’ and the belief that the situation can’t and won’t change, is reinforced every time I find myself at that point.

I haven’t said a great deal about my marriage in my blog – out of a sense of ‘propriety’, wanting to protect my husband’s privacy, and to avoid any awkwardness given that a couple of friends who know us personally, read my blog. However, I don’t think it would be too ‘disloyal’ to admit that unfortunately, my husband is one of my greatest triggers – or rather, his words, and our arguments, are. I think it would also be fair to say that the triggers are as powerful as they are, because of the way in which I have come to associate him, and certain patterns of behaviour, with my mother and how I felt when I was younger. After these arguments, I am left feeling worthless, annihilated, and despairing. My mind turns to suicidal ideation, and the phrase ‘I can’t live like this’ repeatedly presents itself to me.

Last Friday was one such triggering evening, which led to me, for the first time, to begin to act on thoughts I had had for a long time, of driving to ‘the place in my plan’ (if I can put it that way). Not necessarily because I had definitely decided to end my life, but because I felt I needed to know what it would be like to be there. How would I feel? I also had a vague thought I might phone the Samaritans but didn’t want to do that from home. I picked up by bag, put my coat on, told my husband I was going out, and went out of the door – at which point my husband said something perfectly ordinary, but something that made me hesitate and come back in.

Sunday night was also triggering – but that time things were different. I think it was probably one of the briefest spikes in intense despair I have had, dying down almost as quickly as it appeared. The suicidal ideation was there and for a short period I felt very unsafe, despite being at home with my husband and children still around. But the feelings of worthlessness did not continue all evening and rather than being consumed by sadness, I was angry – I still am. And I think that made a difference. Rather than absorbing it all into myself as I had done on Friday night, and turning it into a different, self-critical emotion, I gave my anger outward expression. Perhaps not in the best or most productive or most helpful way, but not in the worst way, either. It involved some fridge door slamming, and some use of swear words, and some heavy sarcasm (though directed self-mockingly at myself, rather than at him). But it seemed to work – at least with regard to reducing the desire to inflict pain (or worse) upon myself.

And so given recent events, I thought it would be timely to link to a post from the summer of 2014, on BPD and anger:

https://lifeinabind.com/2014/08/17/swallowing-up-the-storm-bpd-and-anger/

Re-reading it now, the idea that  ‘disappointed expectations’ might lie behind at least some of my anger, seems very persuasive. Friday was even more of a blow because it came so soon after an evening when for the first time we had spoken more openly about how we felt about our marriage and what we wanted to change, in the presence of a couple from church. For a short time it felt like a step forward – and then on Friday it felt as though nothing had changed. Opening up and being vulnerable was incredibly difficult for me – I spent a good part of the meeting physically shaking with the effort. And yet to have ‘business as usual’ occur on the Friday night felt as though everything I had said had gone unacknowledged and unheard. I’m sure he feels the same about me – and that we both have a lot to learn about ourselves, each other, and the way we relate to one another. But in the meantime, I will try to give expression to my anger a bit more often – not in deliberately hurtful or vengeful ways, but in ways that allow me to express something, rather than internalise something, and in ways that aren’t likely to be as risky to my well-being.

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Suicide – Blog for Mental Health 2014

*TRIGGER WARNING – SUICIDAL IDEATION*

I have spent a couple of weeks thinking about what I wanted to write about in my ‘Blog for Mental Health 2014’ post. Being in pain has crystallised that for me, and what I’m writing about is not quite what I expected. I thought I would expand upon the summary in my ‘About’ page, of who I am, and my diagnosis. But I knew this morning that I had to write about something else.

I spent yesterday evening reading through the Lost All Hope website. The first time I came across the site, many months ago, I was looking for a quick and painless way to die. Yesterday, although I felt unsafe, desperate for connection to someone or something to keep me anchored and feeling as though I was still a part of humanity, I knew deep down that I was extremely unlikely to ever cut the ropes of this life in a bind. But I did know that I needed help. Suicidal ideation – ‘Help me’.

I wanted to write, but I didn’t feel that I could. I didn’t feel it would be fair – on you. I have always handled my emotional and mental health difficulties alone, and the damaged part of me very strongly believes that I should continue to do so, that  grown-ups shouldn’t need support. The scared part of the damaged part is also afraid of being overwhelmed by emotion, either her own, or others’. She is therefore terrified of overwhelming you and driving you away with hers. The scared part is hard to own, hard to integrate, and she feels so very very young.

I couldn’t write, so instead I read. Maybe it’s the style in which the pages are written –very personal, very conversational. I felt as though there was someone there with me, talking me through what I was feeling. Trying to convince me that hope was not all lost. I was struck by this particular paragraph on the page describing the author’s own story:

“ ..if there is anything missing from the lives of the suicidal, it is connection with others. Being seen and loved as we are. To think, there are millions of people crying out for the same thing…..and it isn’t even something that requires great skill or money to attain.”

And that is why I’m writing about suicide in my ‘Blog for Mental Health 2014’ post. Because a large part of blogging for mental health, at least for me, is connection with others. Despite (for those of us who find it necessary)  the anonymity or pseudonyms, we write to be ‘seen and loved as we are’. To find those tens, hundreds, even thousands of others who are crying out for the same thing.

Connection, understanding, compassion, support – the desire to give and to receive them, without judgment, but just with love. The Lost All Hope website talks about the fact that ‘helping people’ can provide a possible reason for living. The author says that it can be as easy as speaking to someone.

I hope that my blog can speak to someone. I would like to help. To show support, to provide understanding, to educate, to make the smallest contribution towards erasing stigma so that maybe one day, more of us can use our real names when talking about our real stories.

Through writing, I want to try and re-educate the part of me that feels I have no right to speak out, or to lean on others. I want to give myself permission to feel angry, hurt, scared, and yes, angry, and to be able to express those feelings in words. I have talked about therapy being some of the best care that we can seek for ourselves, but so is this.

Finally, I would like to take part in the ‘Blog for Mental Health 2014’ project because I have been inspired by so many wonderful bloggers who have been open and raw and honest about their mental health difficulties. But it goes beyond inspiration – I am immensely privileged and hugely grateful to be able to call a couple of them my friends. And I am touched beyond measure that one of them was just a text away yesterday and today.

So here is my ‘Blog for Mental Health 2014’ pledge:

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

If you would like to learn more about the project, or take part yourself, do visit this page.

Suicide is a dark topic to write about, but I hope that the message of this post is hopeful. I didn’t want these words to be about what led me to the place I was in last night. I wanted it to be about the lights that can illuminate small corners in those dark places that we sometimes find ourselves in, and guide us to safer waters, when we need it most.