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 under the name Clara Bridges.


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The difficulty of projections in our relationships

Strong inter-personal relationships are vital to maintaining good mental health, but mental illness can put enormous strain on those relationships. That’s when therapy can help – and not just those with the mental health diagnosis. I wrote this last summer, and although technically Mental Health Awareness Week is now over, this seemed like an appropriate post for me personally, to mark that week and its important theme this year, of ‘Relationships’.

A few months ago, my husband and I had a rare opportunity to go out in the evening together, while my parents looked after the children. We took the ‘bold’ decision to go out for dinner, rather than go and see a film; ‘bold’ because I have found it so difficult to sustain meaningful and non-confrontational conversations with him as our relationship has deteriorated over the last few years while I have been struggling with my mental health.

The evening was relatively uneventful until I raised the possibility of taking on some additional responsibilities outside work, which he was strongly opposed to because he believed I wouldn’t have enough time, and that it would affect the whole family if I took on too much. That in itself was a fair point to raise as a concern, but one of the features of our relationship over the last few years has been that we have each fallen into a particular way of responding to each other, that I believe comes from both our childhoods. I tend to react to him as a parent; and I think that he tends to react to me as a sibling.

A long-term illness of any sort, can put an enormous strain on relationships. When it comes to mental illness, symptoms can significantly distort someone’s thinking about themselves and the world around them (including other people). They may be ‘ill’, but they can also appear unrecognisable to their loved ones. It can be difficult for the ‘healthy partner’ to focus their anger at the situation they find themselves in, on the ‘condition’ itself, when that condition may have no obvious physical manifestation. It can become easy to blame the person themselves, who becomes synonymous with their condition.

There can also be the temptation to think that because one party in the relationship suffers from a mental health condition, the burden of psychological examination and change must rest with that individual. ‘You’re the one with the mental health problem; I’m okay’. Whereas there needs to be a recognition not just of the fact that the ‘healthy partner’ is often liable to suffer emotional strain themselves, for which seeking help would not just be beneficial to them, but beneficial to the relationship ; but that we all behave in ways that are patterned on our childhood experiences. If there are difficulties in our relationship, irrespective of whether or not one party has an illness of some kind, it is important for each person to think about their own unconscious patterns of interaction, and what might be triggering their responses.

That evening, my husband responded to me as if I were his thoughtless younger sibling who had hatched a ridiculous plan that he saw it as his duty, as the older, wiser and more responsible party, to put a stop to. I responded to him as if he were a parent trying to exercise control over my actions and trying to tell me what to do, without trusting me to make my own evaluation of the situation, and to come up with a sensible decision. I am relying on my own therapy to effect a change in both of our lives, and for the good of our relationship. But some of the perspectives that therapy gives you are hard to grasp if you have never been in that setting. For the moment, I am doing all I can to work hard in my own therapy, in the hope that I will gain the skills and sense of self-worth to be able to work more effectively with my husband, on our relationship. My wish is that one day, we will enter couples therapy together. In the meantime, I hope that we can both try and respond to each other as the people that we are and each fell in love with – flawed as we might be – rather than as the projections of our childhoods.


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Laughter in therapy

In relationships, therapy included, laughter can be an incredibly bonding and connecting experience…

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

laughter in therapy

Therapy is not a matter of milestones, but of moments*. Those moments can be: awkward; intense; heart-warming; painful; shocking; surprising; happy; exhausting; revelatory; uncomfortable; thought-provoking; mundane; interesting; angry; fearful; beautiful.

But there is nothing so lovely in therapy, I think, as moments of laughter. Particularly where that laughter is at an ‘in-joke’- amusing to the two of you by virtue of the intimate work you share in.

I told my therapist that I had asked one of my children how he felt about a particular situation. He told me, and then said “was that the right answer?”. I replied that there was no right or wrong answer.

As I related this story, I caught my therapist’s eye and we both burst out laughing, a split second apart. The irony hit me, as it hit her, and there was no need for either of us to explain what we found so…

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Connection

A wonderful song on the theme of relationships, for Mental Health Awareness Week. The quote I posted yesterday was about how difficult connection with others can be; this song is an uplifting reminder both of how wonderful that connecting can be, but also how simple.

I’m aware that unfortunately it can often take something very small to tip me into feeling bad about myself and for me to feel as though I am not cared for. At the same time, however, I’m aware that it can take very little to help me feel loved. Sometimes all it takes is a few words, a small but clear sign of someone reaching out to me, to light that spark of connection and warmth in my heart.

This is a real ‘feel-good’ song for me and the video is full of images of different types of connections and relationships. It’s a wonderful musical and visual world to lose yourself in for three minutes, and I hope it lifts your spirits, just as it has done mine.

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

“The song [Bonfire Heart] is about no matter who you are no matter where you’re from, it’s about the human condition which is we need to connect with people.” James Blunt

So often, the need for connection feels like an overwhelming and distressing burden to bear. For me, this song lightens the load. At the heart of BPD (and of us all) is a need to be loved. How incredibly complicated the absence or presence of that love can make our lives. For me, the joy of this song is that for just over three minutes, it makes the need for love and connection feel incredibly simple, and uplifting.

“People like us, we don’t need that much; just some one that starts – starts the spark in our bonfire hearts…..”

 

[This post is dedicated to two beautiful borderline blogger friends of mine, who have found love and connection over…

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Connection is hard

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The theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is ‘Relationships’. Strong relationships are vital to good mental health; but intimacy, vulnerability and connecting with another human being can be very difficult for many with a mental health condition, and in particular, for those with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Life in a Bind - BPD and me

connecting with others dexter quote

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