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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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

 


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Intensity

I feel as though I must have been living under a rock not to have come across this song until now – which was released in the UK in June 2014 and is still in the UK Official Singles chart. What I find just as unbelievable is that I had also, therefore, never come across the official video for the song – which has been viewed more than half a BILLION times on Youtube.

I watched the video for Sia’s ‘Chandelier’ for the first time a few days ago, and I was bowled over. It completely blew my mind. It felt haunting, disturbing, desperately sad. The words, the music and the dance came together to create a powerfully moving experience. But it wasn’t just an experience about a girl in a song, or a girl on a screen. How can you explain it when you know that what you’re feeling is profound and significant but you don’t understand how? That the song may not be directly about you, but your experience of it and response to it could reveal so much?

I watched it again and again and again, absolutely hooked, feeling completely taken over by the experience. My emotions were building, and pushing against my chest wall to get out. But it wasn’t until I read a beautiful and revealing blog post on the subject of trust, that all of a sudden a switch was flipped, and a torrent of emotions started to swirl around and flow out. The song and the visuals had tapped into something – but the written words connected to it, magnified it, and set it free.

Looking back, it all feels somewhat unreal, and I’m still unsure of its meaning. All I know is that as I sat there with tears pouring down my face, in the middle of an emotional storm, confused about what my emotions were – I also felt grateful for the intensity. Grateful that I felt as though I could hardly contain the waterfall of emotion that wanted to pour out. Grateful that I felt full – however much fullness felt like hurting and despair.

At times like those, I wish that I could instantly transport myself to therapy, where it would be safe to fully experience those emotions, and to explore their meaning. I can’t help feeling that had I been able to do so, something significant, something ultimately healing, might have taken place. Instead, I tried to contain the tears as best I could, conscious that my husband was in the other room and could come in at any moment. And now, I don’t feel I have easy access to that place again. I can think about my response; I can try to understand it. But the emotion is no longer accessible to me.

When I write about songs that have had an impact on me, I sometimes quote lines from those songs. In this case, I want to quote quite substantially, because for me, so much of the power of the dance is in the way that is combines not just with the music, but with the words. It sounds obvious – but I often find myself listening to music without really hearing the words, and in this case, the words are vital. How many of us can relate to trying to numb the pain, to pushing it down? To that desperate sense of holding on for dear life? And how many of us feel so very young when we experience those things? As young as the twelve-year old child in this dance?

With apologies to Sia for a slight re-ordering of verses….

“Party girls don’t get hurt
Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love

Sun is up, I’m a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame

1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink
1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 drink

Throw ’em back, till I lose count

I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier

But I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight….”

[Sia, ‘Chandelier’]