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 1

If all goes to plan, this will be the first weekend (with the exception of longer therapy breaks) that I won’t have had email contact with my therapist (either sending or receiving emails), in almost three years.

I have so many different feelings about this. It feels positive (as it’s a mark of progress); it feels scary (as progress makes me think of the end of therapy, and this marker feels a little like ‘the beginning of the end’). It also feels rather surreal – I can imagine doing this once, or twice, or three times…..but it’s hard to imagine life on an ongoing basis, without this contact. I think my therapist would say it was practice for life after therapy – which of course it is, and that is precisely why it feels so daunting and so much associated with loss.

I tried to focus on the achievement that this weekend will represent, rather than the loss. My therapist says that therapy is a ‘take-away’, and I know that I have to learn to successfully survive on the take-away for the few days between Friday and Tuesday, in order to be able, at some point in the future, to face the end of therapy with a measure of confidence, as well as with the inevitable grief that will come.

But it’s been the grief, rather than the achievement, that has dominated my feelings this weekend. And though I’ve tried to write a coherent post about this ‘new thing’ that I’m trying to do with email – how it’s come about, and why – I haven’t been able to either find the words, or to enter the right frame of mind.

And so this will be Part 1 of a post – and it will be more like a brief collection of thoughts and happenings from the weekend. I can’t really join things together, except in the over-arching feeling of sadness. Maybe next week, I will be able to step back enough to rationalise and describe. But at the moment I’m in ‘feeling mode’, and this is how and what I feel.

***

I recognise this place of grief. This weekend is only a foreshadowing, intensity turned up to ‘2’ on the scale. Not because it doesn’t hurt – it does – but because I anticipate there is so much further to go. ‘Giving up’ email is a foreshadowing of the end of therapy – or at least, that is how it feels. But it’s one thing to dread the grief that will come at the end, knowing it has to be gone through, to be survived – and another to think that it might start now. That it might happen bit by bit. What does that mean? How will it work? Grief happens, indefinable in length; if I start to grieve before the loss occurs, it cannot mean the grief is any less at the end. Can it? Grief changes you – will it change me, this bit-by-bit loss? What will it do? And how will I bear it, if it goes on for so long?

There are at least ten different types of grief, apparently. Anticipatory grief does not necessarily make the other types any easier.

***

This is a foreshadowing of loss, but it is also a loss in itself. I have hundreds of emails exchanged between me and my therapist. Far fewer of course, and far briefer, in general, from her to me, than the other way around. But there are still many many messages that mean the world to me. Words that I recall and treasure, not just during difficult times, but when I need a reminder of our connection. If we continue down this road, there will be very few of these to come. When I look back on our therapy, it will perhaps be both fitting and bittersweet that the time of greatest closeness and deepest work, will be the time of briefest record. I will miss her written encouragement and caring. I will miss the small disclosures and parts of herself that she shares – a poem, a piece of music, a book title. I know that she can do that still in session – and that the whole point of what we are doing with email is that it is the session that is primary, and the most powerful vehicle for support, sharing, and change. But I can’t help feeling the upcoming loss of those tangible and lasting reminders, and I know that trusting in my memory and in my experience, is something that I find very hard, but that I need to learn to do. One of the many things, I hope, that this process will teach me.

***

There is a piece of piano music that I associate with my therapist. It is a piece I learned because I liked it and wanted to play it for her; eventually I recorded it, and gave it to her on CD. This weekend I returned to it after a long absence, and have both played it and listened to it, many times. I feel as though I want to play it so often that it is both literally at my finger-tips and also available for replaying it in my mind, whenever I need to hold on and sit with my sadness. The piece is linked to from here:

https://lifeinabind.com/2015/08/25/what-i-want-to-play/

***

The loss of email is the start. Though it feels morbid to say so, my train of thought leads inevitably from the loss of email, to the loss of therapy through my ‘termination’, to the loss of my therapist through death. I cannot bear the thought of my world without her, but neither can I bear the thought of the world without her.

The first 1.5 lines of a poem came into my head as I was driving today, and they kept repeating themselves to me. I tried to carry on the poem, but I’d almost rather stop after those first 1.5 lines. I’m not sure anything I could say in the rest of the poem could adequately describe or address the fear held in that initial question.

When the world no longer holds you

What am I to do? When your eyes

No longer see the sky above

Will it still seem brilliant blue?

It will just be a reminder then

Of the depths with which you saw

My soul in all its brokenness,

And my emotion-skin so raw;

***

I spent the first half of tonight’s yoga class with tears running down my face. They just started flowing during a fairly easy, twisting pose. A few minutes later, the teacher mentioned that we were working with the ‘kidney meridian’, and that an imbalance in the energy in this part of our body, is connected with the emotions of fear and anxiety. And so it made sense that I was crying, with a bodily awareness, rather than a thinking awareness, of why. During a forward fold she came and pressed gently on my back with her hands, and the warmth of her touch somehow helped me to release even more of that fear through a stream of tears. It was a much-needed release.

***

During the rest of my yoga class, there was only one image in my mind during the stillness of the poses. The image was of a younger ‘internal part’, crying alone on a beach. At a little distance, a crowd of other internal parts were standing around, and amongst them was my therapist, trying to get through to reach me. But she couldn’t break through – not so much because the other parts were not allowing it, but because my conscious mind was not allowing it. Usually, the images that float through my mind during yoga are like watching a daydream; they are not consciously controlled, and I observe rather than intervene. But today it felt very much as though part of my mind was not allowing an image to take shape in which my therapist came through to comfort me. She stood in the crowd of parts, trying to argue that she was internal therapy-mother, and it was her role to come to me now, to soothe me. This was how I was meant to be able to get through without ‘external’ therapy-mother. But every time the crowds parted to start to let her through, the image would shift and crumble and reset itself, so that she ended up behind the barrier of parts again.

***

If my ‘daydreams’ are conspiring against me, then so too, I think, are my dreams. After at least a couple of weeks of not being able to remember any dreams, I have remembered them for the last three nights in a row. It will give me plenty of material for next week’s sessions, but it is also tempting to break my email fast in order to send my therapist the dreams. It gives us both a chance to think about them in advance, before we discuss them. A multitude of dreams also feeds in to my fears that there will be ‘too much material’ for sessions, and that we will run out of time to deal with everything – both in the context of a single session, and more generally, in the context of therapy as a whole. Perhaps this is an example of creative thinking on the part of my inner Resistance to ceasing email contact.

***

I do not want to grow up, Mum. I do not want to grow up.

***

There are at least ten different types of grief. Please God, spare me from some.

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