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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Summer therapy break – it’s almost over…..

I’m nervous about going back to therapy tomorrow. You would have thought after five years and numerous therapy breaks, that I wouldn’t be wracked with anticipation, that I’d know what to expect. And, I guess, the problem is that I do. I know returns are difficult – the last week leading up to a return has always been particularly challenging, and this time has been no exception. My #therapybreak tweets from the final third of my five-week summer break, show that unfolding:

https://wakelet.com/wake/1f7fe065-a5ae-4110-9ae8-8a021506bc9a

One thing that has changed over the years has been the speed of adjusting after the return, of reconnecting, and of working through the vestiges of resentment and anger that inevitably bubble up, however accepting I’ve consciously felt of my therapist’s need for a break. But I haven’t yet found a way of avoiding the clouding of vision, and turmoil of emotion that makes an appearance in the lead-up to the ‘reunion’, however things have gone in the preceding weeks. I think that part of the reason, at least, is an inability to completely let go of expectations.

Without wanting to or planning to, or even realising that it is happening, as the end of the break approaches my head starts to fill with imagined conversations and imagined scenarios of how the first session back could go. Those scenarios involve both the ways in which I’d like, and not like it to go, along with my possible responses. But either way, positive or negative, there are fears and expectations involved. I would like to be able to approach the end of the break and the first session back, with complete openness and curiosity, with excitement and gratitude for what has been and what is to come. But I find it so hard to release those thoughts of how I’d like her to be, what I’d like her to say, how I’d like the atmosphere to be. I know that I’m restricting both of our freedom, imprisoning us both, in a dynamic enforced by my expectations. I want to work on that – but I don’t yet know how.

 

 

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Therapy break update and thoughts – not over yet!

While most of those I know in therapy are already back in session, I have another [insert own adjective] couple of weeks to go until I see my therapist again! I’m a little over two-thirds of the way through, and have put together my #therapybreak tweets for the middle third of this long summer break:

https://wakelet.com/wake/867ff092-2c48-4478-bfad-76fe4f5fca62

The first third can be found here and the final installment will be published on 23 September, the day before my return to session.

My thoughts are with those who have recently returned to session – going back involves such a mixture of states and emotions, and whatever happens in those first couple of weeks back, it is rarely straightforward. But I am grateful to a lovely Twitter friend and our chat earlier tonight, for the opportunity to remember and reflect on something very important about the return. She is seeing her therapist again soon, after a gap of a couple of months, and wondered if her therapist would remember what she was like, and how to work with her. And in replying to my friend, it was as if the last five years of working with my therapist were all present at once, and I grasped in one moment how I would have answered that question and felt in that situation a few years ago, versus how I feel now.

I said that yes, her therapist would remember what she was like and how to work with her. But at the same time, her therapist wouldn’t know how the last couple of months had been, until she was told, and working together changes all the time, so it is never completely the same. Her therapist will care and know her as before, but she will also be human and will not ‘get things’ straight away, and may not remember everything my friend might expect her to. But if that happens, it says nothing about how her therapist feels about her, or her desire to understand what’s going on. I said to my friend the things that I wish I could have said to myself – but I hadn’t realised them yet –  a few years ago, in the early days of my therapy.

I hope my answer was helpful to my friend, but her asking the question was also a blessing for me. In replying and in reminding myself of what I knew, I felt a great sense of security and of knowing and being known. I remembered one or two sessions over the last few months when it was clear my therapist did not quite understand how things were for me, but it also evident that she cared deeply about understanding, and was trying hard to do so. I remember how powerful it was to realise that I’d reached the point where the fact that she didn’t understand, did not upset me; and the fact that she was committed to trying, was infinitely more important and moving. I smiled inside at the thought that she is human; I was grateful for it. Even though I could probably only recall one or two examples, the felt memories of her ‘human-ness’ permeated me, and I felt hugged by her presence. I no longer need to be ‘intuited’ -one of the changes that therapy has wrought. I just need someone to bring themselves as they are, to be there, to care, and to try. How much simpler; how much more precious. What a gift…..


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This was my #therapybreak

Since the 2016 summer therapy break, I have been posting daily #therapybreak tweets during my therapy breaks, as a form of self-care, and also as a record of the breaks. It started simply as a way of trying to count down the days and to self-distract, but it ended up as somewhat of my own personal take on a ‘gratitude journal’. I found that as well as posting about difficult times, I also ended up capturing, and then actively seeking to capture, the small little positive steps or events that kept me going, and lifted me up.

That is, until this summer’s therapy break, the #therapybreak tweets of which, can be found here:

https://storify.com/lifeinabind/summer-therapy-break-2017

In my previous post I talked about some of the reasons why this was my worst therapy break in a while. On a very practical level, I realised how valuable it is for me to be at work for the first parts of a therapy break. I am a different person when at work, and the distraction and interaction with other people forces me into a place outside my head, where I can appear competent and content, and can leave my ‘other selves’ at the door. Work also means a familiar routine, and that, in combination with my ability to compartmentalize and put on ‘work me’, places me on a more familiar and even keel. That even keel helps me to deal with the start of a therapy break and for me, a break that starts well, has a better chance of continuing well.

This time, however, the start of my therapy break coincided with my summer holidays, and therefore time off work. It had never occurred to me that that might be a problem, but in hindsight I can see how the sudden loss of both my therapy routine and my work routine, led into a rapid decline in mood and an inability to lift myself out of that place. Everything described in my previous post – in terms of poor decision making, the setting in of fear and anxiety, and difficulty in feeling connected to my therapist – crept in so much more easily and quickly. Low mood meant I had fewer resources to fight those feelings off, and giving in to them affected my mood even more, so that it became a very difficult circle to try and break out of.

My #therapybreak tweets stop fairly abruptly on Day 30, two days earlier than I had meant to stop them. I have thought about going back and retrospectively adding those days in, but it would feel somehow dishonest, and I think leaving the story as is, is a more accurate portrayal of what happened. I will pick up on that in a future post, tying it in with resuming therapy after the break. In summary, on Day 31 I received a brief email reply from my therapist to a long update I had sent her a few days before; and on Day 32 I had my first session back. In that session we spent most of the time talking about my reaction to that brief email, and how it had felt as though it reinforced all my fears from the previous four weeks. But by the end of Day 32 I also knew that all my fears belonged to the past, and that my therapist was the same as she had always been. I’ve been back in therapy for a week – my deep depression has persisted, but at the same time I feel the safety, security, caring, and metaphorical warm embrace that I was so missing and unable to feel, during those four long weeks. I feel I’ve come back home.