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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Reducing email contact with my therapist – Part 3

A few weeks ago, I wrote the following section of a post, before I decided that it shouldn’t be a post at all, or at least, not until I’d spoken about its contents with my therapist. Within the part-post that wasn’t a post that now is part of a post (!) I mentioned the fact that I have never wanted to use my blogging as a way of communicating with my therapist, but I was very conscious that that is what I was attempting to do, and ultimately that held me back from publishing it. I considered emailing her the part-post, but given that it was about the fact that we were trying to curtail out of session contact, I didn’t really feel I could do that either. I even considered putting a copy of the part-post in the post (this is getting ridiculous 😉 ) but I wasn’t convinced that my therapist would respond to that particularly well! And it still didn’t meet the aim of what the whole ‘email experiment’ was meant to do – create spontaneous and immediate and ‘lively’ (as my therapist calls it) discussion in session.

So I took the part-post, printed out, to session, and we talked about it, noting that it was a positive sign that I had been able to ‘hold on’ until session, and bring it with me. But the feelings described in my post lingered on, and became magnified. A couple of weeks later the same thoughts and feelings poured out again in session, in the form of a ‘lecture’ on the things my therapist wasn’t doing and the things I wasn’t receiving – namely, reassurance – that I felt were preventing me from being able to accept and openly engage with reducing contact, while still feeling connected. As an aside, to have reached a point of familiarity, closeness, and trust, and to have made sufficient progress, that my therapist feels comfortable telling me (good humouredly) that I was lecturing her (and for that to feel okay), feels like a special and comforting place to be……!

This is the part-post that wasn’t a post that now is part of a post…..

***

I woke up this morning with no recollection of my dreams, apart from the fact that they had involved the need to ‘follow rules’ (‘needing to be good’ and to ‘get it right’, having been part of the discussion during my session on Friday), and with a heavy sense of things not being right.

The feelings I described in my previous two posts (Part 1 and Part 2) regarding reducing (or, in fact, stopping) email contact with my therapist, have not changed. If anything, they are becoming more entrenched. As well as feeling distanced from her, outside of sessions, I am now feeling increasingly distanced from myself. I feel able to engage (as long as I feel secure) in session, but outside it I feel a little numb. Or, as Anna (from ‘When Marnie was there’) would put it, I feel ‘on the outside’, but not only as far as the world is concerned, but as far as I myself am concerned, as well.

This isn’t working for me. I can’t help thinking that it must be working for my therapist, which is an important consideration in itself – less time spent reading or replying to things I have sent her, means more time for herself and her family. But it doesn’t feel like it is working for me at the moment, and I think I need to talk to her about it at my next session. I was thinking of writing a more detailed post about this but would like to at least partly honour one of the reasons we did this in the first place – to try and keep more material within the session itself. I’m also conscious that I have always been careful and keen not to use my blog as a means of communication with her – and though that is clearly what I am doing now, I would like to minimize the extent to which I am doing it.

I could just email her about this – but the fact that I can’t, illustrates part of the problem. Reducing email contact was never meant to be another way in which I could enslave myself to the endless list of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ in my life, but that’s what it has become. It was meant to be a way of deepening and freeing up the relationship and the discussion in session, but instead it inhibits it in the sense that I am worried about carrying material and feelings out of session, where it doesn’t feel safe to think about or experience them without her.

Reducing email contact was a good idea – but in hindsight, I think the timing was pretty terrible. Things have been very difficult over the last few weeks, and though I’ve come through them, with her, it still means that I started this ‘experiment’ off the back of painful and unsettling experiences (unsettling, in some ways, for both of us). In addition, though I have more of a sense of object constancy now, such that it’s not just our more recent interactions and conversations that define our relationship, but the entirety of our experience; nevertheless, at the moment, it is the difficult memories of recent words and interactions that are dominating and at least partly defining how I feel about myself, and how secure I feel in her regard of me. And that is not a good springboard from which to take a step that requires an almost unwavering sense of security and more than a little self-belief.

And there’s an important additional consideration – I am genuinely worried about the timing of this, in relation to the upcoming summer therapy break. Being able to sustain a positive experience during the break is both personally important to me, and very important to the therapy. I feel as though I simply cannot risk going into the break feeling as disconnected and numb as I am feeling now. During my last session my therapist said that it seemed as though I was ‘lost’, that I didn’t ‘know which way was up’. I need to be found again, and turned upright, on a secure footing, before going into a long break. I worry about me, but I worry about the therapy most of all. And given my anxiety over how much time there might be left in the therapy (before my therapist retires), that is an even more vital consideration.

I have written more than I intended, but I’m sure there is plenty still to talk about on Tuesday. I am worrying, of course, about whether I have done ‘the wrong thing’ here, by communicating in this way. I have also now set up a situation in which I will be anxious about how my therapist greets me on Tuesday. I feel as though I have been ‘failing’ a great deal recently, and that reducing email contact, and this post, are just two more examples. There is, of course, a never-ending loop here – I even feel I’m failing because I think in terms of right/wrong and failure, to start with!

***

I did get through the situation and the feelings I talked about in my part-post, as recently demonstrated in ‘My therapist was right – again!‘. But only after a great many weeks of ‘failing’, though not of the kind described above. My therapist and I had a fairly significant (and distressing) rupture a couple of months ago, which was, as my therapist described it, ‘a muddle on both sides’. And since then, I have been failing to see through my projections of my mother and to see my therapist as she really is, despite her repeated encouragement to rely on the four years of therapy with her, and on my knowledge of her as my ‘therapy-mother’ (who is very different to my biological mother).  I had also been failing to ignore the critical voice of those projections, and therefore spent a great deal of time drowning in self-hatred and feeling desperate for reassurance that I am worth something. And all of those things felt as though they were making it so much harder to be okay with reducing contact, because it felt like rejection, as did every unsuccessful attempt at obtaining reassurance.

If there’s anything I hope this part-post illustrates, it is that what feels indubitable and persuasive when seen through a particular lens (which may be heavily distorted), can seem very different when seen through a lens undistorted by self-hatred and projections from the past. It is possible to reconcile oneself to things that it might feel almost impossible to reconcile oneself to – and I hope that that is an encouragement to anyone going through a similar situation at the moment.

As I write those words I am recalling my own most recent post about my fear of the eventual end of therapy, and the kind comments of readers who indicated that impossible though it may feel now, the ending may be a little more bearable, when it comes to it, than I imagine. A point also made my therapist, of course. Perhaps if I am not able to take on board all of their words at this stage, I should at least try to listen to my own!

 

 

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