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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Writing procrastination

Sigh. I am procrastinating. I feel a great need to write about a number of major aspects of my therapy over the last few months, and in particular the mass of swirling thoughts and ideas that have been gathering, drawing together, pulling apart, coalescing, over the last couple of weeks of the Easter therapy break. But there is so much I want to say, I have no idea where to start, or how to make it all hang together. I have written far less over the last few months, for a number of reasons, but in large part because I have been trying to work with my therapist to keep more of the material of therapy within the sessions themselves, and therefore to deepen and increase the spontaneity and vitality of our face to face time. In that sense, I have seen the decrease in writing as going hand in hand with the cessation of email contact between sessions.

For me, writing serves a number of purposes, and I need to be conscious of those purposes which may no longer be appropriate, or which may even be counter-productive. Writing is one of my escapes from the world, and it is my attempt to process things alone, internally, and without reference to, or support from, anyone else. This was incredibly helpful for me in the past; but where there is a temptation to let it function as a substitute for talking things through with my therapist and allowing her to support me in figuring things out, I am trying to do something different instead. I have been trying to make brief notes and then to tell my story verbally, within relationship, rather than in writing, in front of my screen.

Writing can be helpful in gaining perspective and in reducing the intensity of emotion, because it enables us to externalise a situation and set of feelings. I often have the sensation that I am ‘writing something out’, in the sense of ‘getting it out of my system’. And often once I have poured something onto the page, I feel more detached from it – it feels much less a part of me. But it is precisely for all those reasons that writing can also be unhelpful for my work in therapy sessions. Once I’ve written about something, I feel like I have already told my story. Which in one sense, is true – but I have told it in a way that completely misses out any interactivity and response from another person, and any experience of what it feels like not just to tell my story to another, but to have it open-heartedly heard and received.

I find it very difficult to feel motivated to ‘re-tell’ a story I have already written, and when I do, it invariably feels flat, and as though I am reciting a series of events, rather than being engaged – both emotionally and intellectually – with what I am describing. There is no immediacy of feeling; I’m not re-experiencing emotions in the way I often am when I am writing. I remember an occasion a few months ago, when I tried to talk about an experience in session, which I had already written about in a blog post. I remember how grateful I was to my therapist for persevering in asking numerous questions (unlike her usual style!) to try and keep me talking and keep me on topic. It must have felt rather like dragging blood out of a stone, but it ended up being a really positive and helpful experience, and much more beneficial than the writing process had been.

But – creativity is hugely important in healing and wellbeing, and when your main creative outlet is writing, you cannot simply stop. And so I think I have been pulling back from it too much, or rather not pushing myself enough, to keep it as a regular part of my life. Perhaps I am feeling this so strongly now, because I am in a therapy break without my usual three sessions a week and, as often happens during a break, my brain is trying to process and consolidate a huge amount of information and experience. And without my therapist to talk to, the outcome of that processing and consolidation has to manifest outside myself, in some other way. If I cannot experience the ordering of that internal experience via a relational conversation, I have to create something on the page that gives it form.

But I’ll have to do it another time. Right now – I’m not quite sure where to begin…..!

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The powerful metaphor of dance

As soon as I saw this dance footage, I knew I really wanted to share it with you. It is a clip of Jacob Lang, one of the competitors in the Contemporary Dance final of the recent BBC Young Dancer 2017 show. This is one of his solo pieces, entitled ‘FrankAIstein‘, danced to music from the film ‘Shutter Island’. The music itself is haunting, both in its words and in its moving strings – it is a beautiful blend of Dinah Washington’s ‘This bitter earth’ and Max Richter’s ‘On the nature of daylight’.

The dance is about an Artificial Intelligence ‘being’. When interviewed about the piece, Jacob Lang said this – and his words are for me, the perfect depiction of the dance – or rather, the other way around. If this is what he was seeking to communicate, in my view, he communicated it powerfully, and left me almost on the point of tears:

“I think the character is almost alive, but not quite. And I think the character has a conflict going on. And I think its experience of being is quite painful.”

These words, and the dance itself, resonated for me as powerful metaphors for my experience. You can substitute the psychoanalytic concept of the ‘false self’ or the ‘artificial self’, for the AI, but the conflict, and the painful experience of being, are just the same. Who am I? Am I real? If there is a ‘true self’, how can its spontaneity and freedom be expressed or show through this artifice that has been created? The painful sense of fighting with oneself, of trying to figure out one’s true nature, of being taken prisoner or being taken by surprise by one’s own being – I think they are all there in the dance. I know that for many of you reading, this will be your experience too, which is why I wanted so strongly to share this.

Sometimes we struggle to come up with external realisations or depictions of our conflicts and our pain; and sometimes it’s easier to see them, to feel them, and to process them when we can do that – when they are ‘out there’, rather than ‘in here’. Our therapists help us to do that  – but so can creative expressions such as this heart-rending dance:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04zvgr5