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.


Leave a comment

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

View original post

Advertisements


2 Comments

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.

 


8 Comments

All about Jane – Postscript

All about Jane. That was what I had originally wanted to call my blog, as it seemed to sum up my life for the past year or so. Jane, my ex-therapist – despite an absence of many months, she still feels like the mainstay of my life. How can that be possible when all the time we had together was fifteen one-hour therapy sessions, spread over a few months? Yet I started to grieve her from the very first day, when she completed a sentence I was struggling with, with a word that perfectly captured what I was reaching for. I knew our therapy was time-limited, and I still remember the contradictory aftermath of that first session vividly. Self-harming to distract from and give expression to the pain I was feeling at the thought of losing her, eventually. And an intense, burning desire to fill up my whole body, every inch of it, with pain, at the frustration of not being able to feel enough.

I wanted my post on losing Jane to stand alone. I wanted the grief to stand alone. But I also had a nagging need to write a postscript. Because I feel such guilt and shame at writing and sharing how I feel about that loss. I feel guilty for my grief. I feel condemned.

Jane is still alive, and I barely knew her (though I felt she knew me intimately). I don’t feel entitled to my grief. I feel I have no right to that emotion. I feel that it must be a slight on the grief of those who have lost enduring and long-standing loves to death.

I have lost in that way, as well, but Jane’s is the only loss that I have allowed myself to feel since my aunt died when I was ten. In two years of therapy, I haven’t dared to broach the subject of death. It’s entirely possible that unfelt grief of losses since, have become transferred onto and wrapped up into, how I feel about Jane. It’s just a theory, because I haven’t dared to explore it. Or maybe it’s just an excuse, to alleviate the guilt, and to justify the pain. I do  wonder why I was so adamant that I would allow myself to feel Jane’s loss, and not close myself off from it. Perhaps there is a degree of emotional safety in grieving when you know that you do not necessarily have to accept finality as part of the loss.

Some time on, and the possibility of resuming therapy with Jane, privately rather than through a free service, is now available. The possibility, but not yet the reality, as there is no space for me, yet. My life has become a series of markers in the sand  – a list of ‘not yets’ and ‘contact me again’, in two months or three, or after Easter. Now it’s after Easter. Now I’m waiting for another reply. I’m waiting to lay down another marker, preparing to live a little longer without the air I feel I need to breathe. I’m waiting to put down anchor. I’m waiting to come home.

In the meantime, my grief feels stolen – stolen from those who have more right to feel this way. And so I had to write a postscript, to say sorry, in case I stole from you.

 


6 Comments

All about Jane – attachment and loss

I have a spent a great deal of time trying to write this post, but like grief itself, it just feels wrong. Like grief itself, it feels senseless, jumbled, confused, meandering. I go over it and over it, and just can’t make it right. So I have to let it be. I have to let the words, such as they are, communicate as best they can.

I wear a silver ring to remember her by. She liked silver jewellery, as I used to when I was growing up. Silver rings on every finger and silver bracelets on her wrists. I need a constant reminder of her, something to keep the memory of her alive, something to keep her real. But the ring wasn’t enough. I also wear a silver bracelet – maybe the more items that remind me of her, the more real she will feel, and more I can try and keep her with me.

The day I lost her was the first and only time in my marriage that my husband and I slept in separate rooms. I couldn’t describe what I was going through – I just needed space and time to grieve. I didn’t want to be touched, to be spoken to, to be with anyone else. I needed to be alone and to try and give it all expression, to pour it all out in tears, if I could. It was only a few hours later, but I felt as if my memory of her was already fragmenting, and as if I was already losing the reality of her. I felt as if I would shatter violently, as if I wanted to break out of my body, because there was just too much hurt to hold inside. The one week anniversary of the last time I saw her was a powerful re-experience of the devastation.

Over the next few weeks and months I put her name into Google repeatedly, even though I knew the result would always be the same, and that I would find nothing. I looked at the one document I had that had her name in it – somehow seeing it written down made her feel more substantial, confirmed the fact that she had actually existed, brought her closer in some very small way. Seeing her name, repeating her name in my mind was a strange kind of attempt to self-soothe, to fill the void left by her absence.

When I was out in town, I looked for her in crowds, searching for her face amongst those of strangers. Every day, driving past the windows of the building that we met in, I felt physical pain at the reminder and memories of her, as I looked up at the windows and imagined her inside. I felt a little angry at her for abandoning me – ‘a little’ was all I could let myself feel. I was still determined to keep her on her pedestal, still determined to halt the idealisation/devaluation cycle indefinitely, and keep her in an idealised state forever.

Any attempts by another, to provide the support that she used to provide, served only as a reminder of what I was now without, and brought fresh despair and anguish. I no longer had a ‘safe place’, an ‘anchor’. The sense of self-acceptance that had started to grow within me, entirely due to her acceptance of me, was fast fading away, and any little self-esteem I had left, could be pummelled into the ground by the weight of a feather.

As the months wore on the pain turned from a raging fire to constant burn  – a permanent ache but also a strange emptiness. Often, unless I’m feeling intensely, it doesn’t feel like I am feeling at all. But every so often, for no clear reason, an intense sadness and a missing of her, comes upon me and makes me utterly desperate for her again. In those times, the need for her is overwhelming. In those times, I cling pathetically (and thankfully, at a distance), to my two closest friends, transferring the unbearable need for her, into a desperate neediness towards them. And even outside those times, when I mention her name, the tears are never far behind. It takes just four little letters, spoken out loud, to reconnect me to the hurt.

In her absence, there is no longer anything to tie down the reality of her, or to keep me grounded. When she was in my life, she occupied her own space within it. That space was so large, that sometimes it left room for little else. And within that space she was adored, obsessed over, but still an idealised person of human proportions. But now that she’s gone, she has started to become less self-contained and the image of her is losing its integrity and coherence. It is as if the black hole of her absence has sucked in all meaning from elsewhere and attached it solely to her. The ways in which I have begun to think of her are quasi-religious. She is my Alpha and my Omega – my only hope, the only one who can ‘save me’. She stands for all that is good, noble, compassionate, caring, and for a million other things besides. Forgive me, for I have fucked up my life. Absolve me of my iniquities.

In her ‘elevated’ state in my mind, she has become less a person of flesh and blood, and more a philosophical construct, a concept of ‘the ideal’.

I want her to be human. I want her to be here. I want to feel again – intensity and love. I want her physical, perfectly imperfect presence. And it kills me that I’m grieving for someone who is still alive. That we could continue to share the same city air, until one of us dies, without me ever seeing her again. Trying to grieve, while living with the possibility of reconnection – is this what purgatory feels like?

Just as it was the last time I saw her, I don’t know how to end. I think a close friend of mine summed it up as well as anyone could ever do, in four short words.

Darling, grief does you.


9 Comments

Even the hairdresser’s made me cry

It was with completely unexpected pleasure and excitement that I re-found a copy of Susan Hill’s ‘Howard’s End is on the Landing’ on the bookshelf this morning, as I was about to dash out of the door to the hairdressers. I was looking for a ‘back-up’ book, in case my tablet malfunctioned (not an unusual occurrence) and I was unable to access one of the many half-read books on it. I knew there were a couple of weighty Ken Follett tomes somewhere, and apart from the challenges of fitting one in my handbag, I wasn’t particularly taken with the idea of starting something I wasn’t likely to finish for the next year. So finding the slim and enticingly entitled Susan Hill (which I had forgotten I had received for Christmas) was the perfect start to my long-awaited annual three-hour session to have my full head of highlights done. (Three hours? I have long hair).

It’s hard to describe the way in which I look forward to my annual trip to have my hair done. It’s not vanity, though I do enjoy the way my hair looks good for all of a day or so while the shape that’s been blow-dried into it is still there, and while the colours are still vibrant and before they fade into my very dark natural shades. I have small children, and borderline personality disorder. The first is common to many, who will immediately understand why three hours out, just sitting, drinking coffee, and reading a book, is a pure luxury. The second is not quite so common, and you can’t take time out of it, but if you know, you’ll understand the value of getting away with your thoughts, and getting some space from your triggers. And of doing something that helps you to feel cared for, even if you are the one having to do it, for you.

There’s a particular type of book I look for on these occasions, but it’s difficult to articulate what that is. I just know it when I find it. Past highlights (what a very poor attempt at a pun) have included Bill Bryson’s wonderful biography of Shakespeare and Jon Ronson’s ‘The Psychopath Test’. My books for these trips must be not-too-long, so that I can read a sizeable portion while I’m actually there, and can truly immerse myself in them and have them take me over. For me, there’s no better way to read a book, than in one sitting. They must be interesting page turners, and something I may not normally have thought of reading. I’m not particularly interested in Shakespeare, and ‘The Psychopath Test’ was something my husband was given for his birthday. But the writers of both books carried me along on a fascinating and funny journey, which I look forward to reliving when I pick up the books again in a few years time.

On this occasion, I had imagined that I would be flitting between the various partially-read books on my tablet, including a Jodi Picoult and an interesting volume entitled’ The Buddha and the Borderline’. Deborah Meaden’s book, ‘Common sense rules’ was also on there and would have qualified as a ‘highlights’ book, had I not already been half-way through it, and so the excitement of opening the pages, starting out afresh, and finding out what it had to hold, was already in the past, and my reading of it had already become very fragmented. I was already feeling the disappointment of not being able to make the best use of the upcoming precious reading time, when my hand brushed over ‘Howard’s End is on the landing’, while I my eye was looking for ‘The Pillars of the Earth’.

Susan Hill has been one of my favourite authors since I fell in love with “Strange Meeting” as a teenager. Some of my most vivid memories are of intense feelings felt as a result of reading a book, or reading a poem, or watching a film. ‘Strange Meeting’, and the central relationship within its pages, triggered that intensity for me.  More recently, I have greatly enjoyed her crime novels, and it was in looking on Amazon to see if she had published another, that I came across this particular offering. ‘Howards End is on the landing: A year of reading from home’, is an autobiographical tour through Susan Hill’s personal library – a memoir hung on books, using her discovery and rediscovery of her collection to tell of the stories and memories they evoked.

I’m not surprised that I loved it from the very first sentence. It was interesting, it was funny, it was warm, it was honest, it was beautifully written, and intimately revealing of its author. What surprised me, is that I read it with tears barely held back and lingering constantly just below the surface. What surprised me is that reading it was filled with poignancy and pain, and although the first was at least to some degree present in the book, the second was mostly present within me.

How could a book that some reviewers called ‘light-hearted’, evoke such sadness? I think it was the ‘looking back’. I think it was the idea of a full-life, long-lived; the idea of being able to pick memories off a book shelf, that could be pondered with contentment, and made sense of in the context of a coherent life, true to some underlying core. Those things, in themselves, are the very opposite of sad – but they are things that I find it impossible to believe can be true of me either now or in the future, and that is where my sadness lies. It also lies, very much so, in the resonances that ‘looking back’ has for me at the moment. I have been doing a great deal of ‘looking back’ – in therapy, and outside it. It’s a painful process, and I know there’s much worse to come. The key Pandora’s boxes have been skilfully avoided – my grief over having to cease therapy with my previous counsellor being a very genuine, but also very convenient, distraction from those things that I would rather not talk about.

Though it’s all leading to the same place in the end – grief is loss, and loss is everywhere. It bubbled up occasionally in Susan Hill’s accounts of authors that she knew, but it bubbled up continually as I was reading, in my sense that ‘the past’ is defined by what I have lost or never had, and that ‘the future’ is defined by the losses to come. What should have joined the two, a stable thread of enduring identity, is shaky at best. When I hold up a mirror to the past, or try to look into a crystal ball, what I see depends entirely on who I was mirroring at the time, or who I am longing to ‘merge’ with now. The ‘therapy-honed’ eye of self-awareness picked up on it even as I was reading – the more I lost myself in the text, the more attracted and the closer I felt to its author. Its author who, like many of those who I have felt drawn to recently, is an older woman. Yet another source of sadness. Yet another closed box waiting to be opened.

The time passed all too quickly. I had read half of the book, and knew that the other half would probably have to be read in toddler-attention-span-sized chunks, or far too late at night when I knew I should be sleeping. I had beautiful hair – I’d been well looked after. When I got home no one commented, and I tried not to feel too hurt. Another borderline day – but with a difference. I wonder what my memories of this day will be, when I ‘re-discover’ the book in two, five, ten, twenty years from now? Will the actual memory be, as the prospective memory was, laden with sadness? Maybe. But I hope that I will remember that this was a day when I was able to conceive of a future; that an existence beyond the immediate chaos made sense and held, if not promise, at least possibilities. And that’s a little way further on than where  I have been in the past.