Being Mystique’s Forgotten Twin

Yesterday I went to go watch the new X-Men film, Apocalypse, with my step brother. I’ve always liked Raven aka “Mystique” (and the fact that the younger version is played by Jennifer Lawrence made me love her even more), but yesterday she took on a whole new meaning for me.

I’m sure most of you know who I’m talking about, but if you’re not a Marvel fan and have no interest in the films and comic books, I’ll give a brief description. Mystique has the ability to physically transform into anybody she chooses (which would come in handy especially when your country is in desperate need of better leadership), and take on the role of that person completely.

I may not be able to physically transform (very unfortunate), but certainly have the habit of “becoming” those I find myself surrounded by. They call it “The Chameleon
Effect” and is one of the behaviours that often go alone with having Borderline Personality Disorder. Everybody does this to some extent, but apparently those of us with BPD, engage in it to a higher degree (and unhealthy way) due to our unstable sense of self. I’m not going to go into detail about that, as I found two articles that explain it better than I could.

The chameleon effect: the perception-behavior link and social interaction

Borderline Personality Disorder and ‘The Chameleon Effect’

My ex used to complain that I was different whenever I was with my family, to how I was with “our” group of friends, acquaintances, etc. I could never see it, nor understand where she was coming from. I would just see her disapproving and subtle “shut up now” looks. I would often argue with her about it, telling her it’s not true, that I felt I was being the same way with everybody. But apparently, she was right. And it hurts my heart, because I would accuse her of seeing things that weren’t there, when all along I was the one who had been wrong.

Anyway, after the film, my step brother and I rushed back home to meet up with a friend and her boyfriend for an MMA championship event. During the break, halfway between the fights, I went to go get food and a drink, and found myself front and center among a group of guys. I found something they were saying interesting and threw in my two cents, then introduced myself. Soon I was just “one of the guys”, with words coming out of my mouth that even surprised me. They seemed completely hooked though, so not consciously realizing what I was doing, I integrated myself into that role even more deeply. To such an extent that even I believed the role I had taken on. I found myself agreeing with things I didn’t actually agree with. But then thinking, “I think I may just actually agree after all”. Add alcohol into the mix, and I was on a roll. It’s as if I had stripped myself of everything I had thought I was and believed, in a matter of seconds. When this realization hit me, while still in that group setting, I felt shame take over. I was glad when the fights started back up and I could walk away. Without giving my number to any of those guys. It was for the best.

Afterward I felt sick. What I had just done hit me hard. I feel I shouldn’t be allowed out in public anymore. Or at least not near any adults. Children don’t seem to mind me taking on the role of a fellow child.

They say the first step to changing something is to realize and admit you have a problem. Well, I guess I can officially say that I’ve just arrived at that first step full force. Subconsciously I always knew I did that, but it wasn’t until last night that I actually caught myself doing it and being fully aware of what I was doing in the moment in which I was doing it.

Yet another thing to add to my list of unhealthy behaviours to work on. Damn, this is exhausting.

Baby steps…

Therapy, Connection, And Knowing She Cares

This past week was the worst I’ve ever had with regards to my feelings toward my therapist. I’ve had my moments in the past where I would feel the desire to push her away, and then try to pull her close again. But this past week and a half it seemed to happen nearly every day. I was more scared to lose her than ever before. The desire to push her away and just quit therapy was excruciatingly intense. And the desire to feel connected to her again was a whole different kind of pain and longing. During and after our session last week, and through no fault of hers, I had felt as though she had jumped from the “therapist” to the “best friend” box in my head. And maybe in a way that is what caused the insecurity. By her reiterating our therapeutic relationship, I had grown to trust in it as just that… A therapy relationship. But when the change in my head occurred, it might have upset the delicate tapestry. Maybe this is why a therapist needs such clear boundaries with regards to friendship and sexual relationships with clients. And even though I hate these boundaries, I’m grateful to my therapist for being so consistent in keeping them. It’s just one of the ways in which she shows that she truly cares. I found this post by Dr. Gerald Stein particularly interesting:

How Would a Friendship with Your Therapist Work?

Even though I know she’s only human, and that if we had a friendship outside of our therapy relationship, there might be things that annoy me or that I don’t like, in our current relationship it’s good that I see her as something of a superhero.

I’ve had a hard time trusting that she can care. Both because of past experiences and because I’m a client. A client, who I feel causes her to experience negative emotions at times, and because I care deeply about her, I believe it’s unacceptable for me to cause her any distress. And sure, it might be the work that she has chosen to do. But as she mentioned before, just because there’s a financial transaction, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care.

I received a note from her last Thursday. It was as if she had read my mind. I was missing her incredibly and feeling insecure and totally insignificant. I was fighting against the urge to contact her. So it was a beautiful surprise. I mentioned to her in our session yesterday that it was a particularly bad day for me and how timely her note was, and she said that it shows we do have that connection. I found those words from her very reassuring and special.

She told me that she thinks of me even in between sessions and tries to find ways to benefit me and our sessions together and make things easier and better. I loved hearing her say that. Somehow, it’s as if she knew all the right words. She seemed to know exactly what I needed to hear and she said it. She also said things that I didn’t even know I needed and wanted to hear. My favourite moments are those where she reassures me that she won’t abandon me. She won’t walk away. And once again, I experienced that moment yesterday. I’ve never felt this connected to her. This incredible bond. It feels like our relationship is deepening. Which I didn’t know was even possible. But it’s an amazing feeling. I feel more secure in her and in our relationship now than I ever had before. There may still be moments where I feel the opposite, but I’m going to try to hold onto this feeling and remember it when things feel dark again.

She makes me feel and experience things I’ve never had with anyone else. The sense of stability she provides is one which I had never known before. Her patience with me continues to take my breath away. The way she seems to believe in me. She doesn’t give up on me, even when I give up on myself and it seems everyone else has too. The way she seems to accept me just the way I am, but gently guides me in becoming the person I can be. The best version of myself. I feel such a deep respect for her. More than I’ve ever felt for anyone.

It’s the little things I appreciate the most. The little notes she wrote me, the way she helped me apply for extra sessions. The way she speaks to me. The way she often tells me she’s proud of the progress I’m making. I always just think I have nothing to be proud of. But I’m beginning to see it differently. To other people these may seem like small things, but to me, they’re huge, and mean the absolute world. It’s these things that show me that she really does care, even though she may never say “I care about you” in that direct way. She doesn’t need to. She shows me instead. And that’s beautiful and extremely powerful.

I heard this song again last night and it made me think of her. Of our relationship. Sure, it might be a love song, but for me it rather represents our therapeutic relationship. In her eyes… I am more than I believe. She sees me. She sees what I can become. She sees the good when I just can’t. This song, to me, represents having someone in your life who truly understands you, and those parts of yourself that you don’t allow others to see. Someone who reaches into your soul and doesn’t run away, or abandon you. She helps give me strength when I can’t find my own. More importantly, she helps me bring my own strength to the forefront. She helps me feel better about myself. She makes me feel like I deserve to be alive and part of this universe.

Even this line in the song has a somewhat different meaning for me:

I don’t count my possessions
But all I call mine
I will give her completely
‘Til the end of all time

I trust in her so completely that I allow her access to my thoughts, every dark corner of myself, the good and bad – Things that once given, can’t be taken or given back.

This perhaps sounds like something of a love letter. And in a way, it is. It’s just a different kind of “love letter”.

Because for the first time since I’ve started seeing her, the reality that this is a healing relationship isn’t just head knowledge, but heart knowledge as well.

On Fighting And Survival

I received a letter tonight, containing diary entries and poems from my ex. “A goodbye letter”, she called it. We’ve been communicating almost every day, but now that’s over. She’s stopped all communication between us, and removed me from her social media. I understand why she had to do it. I just thought we could still be friends. Because I don’t understand how you can just “turn it off” after sharing almost 4 years together. But it was the right thing for her to do, for her to heal and be able to move on. I have so many emotions and thoughts. I don’t know what to do with them all. All I can think of to do is write this post in an attempt to survive. I’m not talking suicide. Rather feeling that my body is going to give up on me, and I won’t wake up in the morning. Maybe writing this will force it to just keep going. To hang on.

I was involved in combat sport for a few years. Mostly Muay Thai and MMA. MMA only lasted a few months, as I discovered I didn’t enjoy the ground work and having big, sweaty men in awkward positions between my legs. I still learned a lot from the experience though. In Muay Thai I found my home. And in that gym, I found my spark. It was as though something had come alive inside of me.

It helped me develop discipline, and enabled me to release all the pent up emotions that had built up over the years. It also gave me a boost to my self esteem when I became known as the small, innocent looking girl who’s strength didn’t match the outer package. The female coach, a former world championship title holder, took a particular interest in me. We became good friends outside the gym. But during training, we were just coach and student. I respected her as a coach, and because I’m extremely good at compartmentalizing certain things, I found it easy to forget we were friends outside the gym, while training. She would still “discipline” me if I was doing something stupid and unsafe. And I would still feel embarrassed and shy and like I just got crapped out by the coach. Ouch. She would always tell me I have that “thing”. That I could be a world champion. I never saw it. Which is why I turned down going to Thailand to train and fight (besides, I couldn’t afford the trip anyway). She kept encouraging me though. I had a few small light contact fights, but that’s as far as I ever got. I didn’t care about getting hurt. I just couldn’t bring myself to hurt another girl. If I were allowed to fight against a guy, it might have been a different story.

There’s a particular memory that brings a smile to my face whenever I remember it. A new guy had joined the gym and it was a Saturday morning sparring session. My coach/friend came over with the new guy. I was in a bad mood that day, so was taking it out on the punching bag instead of sparring. She asked me whether I’d spar with him. I’ll never forget her words to him: “Don’t let her appearance fool you, she’ll knock you out if you’re afraid to hit her. So make sure you get in there and fight.” She winked at me and walked off. My bad mood vanished.

My favourite though was sparring with the coaches. I felt I could go all out. I received a few beatings, but it was great. I relished the challenge and the laughs. I also met one of my closest friends in that gym. She actually reads this blog. The day I had to leave my Muay Thai home was awful. I was devastated. It felt like a part of me died. A couple years later I found another gym, and I started Muay Thai again, as well as starting in Krav Maga. But I hurt my shoulder during one training session. It wasn’t major, requiring a hospital visit, but it was bad enough that I couldn’t train for a few months and would have to go for “therapy” sessions with a physiotherapist. I still have pain in that shoulder from time to time if I bend my arm a certain way, but most of the time I don’t struggle with it. I wanted to go back, but unfortunately I couldn’t afford it anymore. Until today, I have this missing part of me that longs for my sport. I found an MMA/Muay Thai gym close by, so as soon as I get a job, I’m going to start training again. It’s perfect therapy.

During my training, I didn’t know that it would be years later where I would finally connect it with real life. Now I face the true fight. The fight for survival. The fight for life.

I haven’t had suicidal thoughts for a few weeks now, which has been refreshing. But I feel that all I have the strength for right now is to survive. That’s the focus of my day. Just surviving. I don’t feel I’m living, like I have the strength to live. What do we do when we don’t want to hurt ourselves anymore, and suicide isn’t an option? We survive.

It doesn’t seem to make sense that I’m fighting to survive, yet don’t have the strength to live. How do you explain something like that to someone?

Maybe an analogy will explain it better. Muay Thai and MMA taught me to fight. Krav Maga taught me to survive against attacks on my person, as well as against knives and guns. I’m not able to fight right now (as in MMA and Muay Thai), but I can most certainly survive (as in Krav Maga). Eventually I’ll start fighting Muay Thai again. All I know is that I’m still standing.

So even though I can’t fight to live right now, I can fight to survive. And that’s enough for now.

“It Isn’t Real”

Sitting on the beach this afternoon, it suddenly hit me.

The theme of my life seems to be “it isn’t real”. Another piece of my puzzle put into place.

It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one who experiences the sense of being unreal. Like a ghost wandering through this world, while everything goes on around us as normal. It’s part and parcel of our Borderline world. Knowing this makes it a little easier to understand and deal with. But it’s certainly something I could do without.

A few weeks ago my therapist went on leave, and it caused havoc in my head. Especially when in our last session she wouldn’t tell me where she was going, which is obviously a necessary boundary. Yet I couldn’t help feeling how I was feeling in that moment. The tone in her voice suggested to me that I had just put her in a tough spot. But that’s when I feel I knew, just knew that she was going to be in the city I’m currently living in. I was convinced. At the time (and during the course of the week) I didn’t care whether what I was convinced of was actually real or not. Was it a case of projection, transference? Possibly. Instinct, or just my own fears? Because I know I tend to confuse the two sometimes. When she got back, and in our next session, I didn’t tell her the biggest reason for my desperate emails. Why didn’t I tell her? I don’t know. Maybe because I was afraid she would tell me she really had been close by. Maybe because I didn’t want to put her in an awkward position again. Maybe I was afraid of counter transference. Maybe it’s a little bit of all those things. I can’t explain it. I just felt her presence close by, yet at the same time distant from her emotionally, if that makes sense? Constantly wondering, what if she is here? It felt like the biggest rejection when she wouldn’t tell me. The first email I sent her while she was on leave (I know, I’m terrible), I had written these words:

“Now I’m also wondering whether you’re even real.”

Little did I know back then just how profound that statement actually is with regards to my view of the world and the people who occupy it. Or at least, my life and those in it.

Which is why I think when I can’t see my therapist, or hear her voice (though the note she wrote me helps a lot), I wonder whether she exists at all. It seems to happen with people I look up to, people I love or really like. As though I’ll wake up one day and realize they were just a figment of my overactive imagination.

“It wasn’t real.”
“It isn’t real.”

Both past and present.

Words from special relationships that cut deep, and left a permanent scar on my heart. I suspect hearing these words have served to perpetuate my fears of rejection and abandonment, as well as lead me to question everything even more.

Is it real?

Lovers and “family” that were real. But not.

My uncle that recently took his life. It doesn’t yet feel real. But apparently it is. Maybe if I were going to the funeral today, it would hit me.

Something that may or may not have happened. Something that may have only been a dream unlike any dream I’ve ever had before, or since. But a dream nonetheless?

The world and events. Is this really happening?

Me. The shadow. Do I exist?

Still, I wonder… Maybe it wasn’t or isn’t real after all.

But it was, and is, real for me.

I apologize for the somewhat (at times) cryptic (and all over the place) post. I’m still sorting through everything in my head. Still battling to open up and truly face things. It’s a scary place… The internet, this world, my mind.

One thing I know is real right now though… I feel utterly and completely alone.

From The Deep: Why Can’t The Past Just Stay In The Past?

It’s been one of those days.

Where old hurts that I hadn’t even remembered in years came flooding back. Where people I had forgotten about, reappeared in my mind. Trying to push it aside. Trying to forget again. This pain is too much. I don’t want to feel it. Yet I do feel it. And I can do nothing about it, because once again for reasons beyond my understanding, I am unable to shed a tear. Oh, I know other ways to try stop the pain. But it doesn’t always help either. Or am I just doing it wrong? A rhetorical question, I guess.

Along with these memories, came this song. A song I never would have discovered or even liked, but which quickly became very special to me. Both a source of comfort at times, and of utter devastation at others. I was sent this song by one of those forgotten people. I hadn’t realized I had kept it all these years. I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to remember it. The events that led to me receiving this song. The reason for it. The meaning behind the lyrics. What happened after. Yet it feels like a part of me and I can’t seem to let it go yet. Why do we hold onto things? Why can’t we just leave the past where it belongs?

From The Deep lyrics:

Your dreams
Your prayer
I can’t believe
Can’t be just pain
Your days your ways
In all these tears
In all these screams

From the deep my call
There is one reason for your life
One more reason for your life

Here I am
Please don’t cry
Till the end to say goodbye
Here I am
And here my prayer
I’m still here and in your days

From the deep my call
There is one reason for your life
One more reason for your life

This is the life
Too short to die
To hard to stay
We’ll meet again
These words for you to say goodbye

Perfect day for the rain
Hear my song to say goodbye
Till the end of this life
When the light goes away
Hear my song and hear my cry
It’s not the end of your life.

Here I am please don’t cry
Till the end to say goodbye
Here I am and hear my prayer
I’m still here and in your days

The Many Faces Of Emptiness

One of the criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder according to the DSM-IV is:

“chronic feelings of emptiness”

“Yes, I get that. But how does it feel?” A friend asked me the other day.

Good question. How does it feel? Can it even be felt? Doesn’t the very definition suggest “blankness”?

Yet, it can most certainly be “felt” in a sense.

Most people will experience a feeling of emptiness during their lives. But for those of us who experience it almost daily, it’s difficult to explain. It comes in many forms. It’s like asking someone who has had a heart attack how it felt. Sure, they can describe it and we “get it”, but in a limited way, and only as far as our imaginations allow. As we all know, imagination isn’t the most accurate of things.

I’ve always loved this Egyptian proverb, which I believe can also be used in this instance:

What reveals itself to me ceases to be mysterious for me alone: if I unveil it to anyone else, he hears mere words which betray the living sense: Profanation, but never revelation.

The Mirriam Webster dictionary defines “empty” and “emptiness” as follows:

“Containing nothing”, “empty space”
“Having no real purpose or value”
“The quality or state of being empty”

A few synonyms: black hole, blankness, vacancy, void, hollowness, nothingness, depletion, desolateness.

Dictionary definitions aside, here is how I personally experience this emptiness:

I can sense all the emotions inside myself, but am unable to reach them. To fully connect with them. To experience and “feel” them. As though there’s a layer of glass between the feeling and my conscious awareness (if I can call it that – my vocabulary is somewhat limited) , as this photo suggests:


It can also feel as though I have nothing inside of me. Just a large black hole. Nothing to give. Nothing can enter either. Like a glass of water that got knocked over, spilling the liquid everywhere, then picked up and placed back on the counter, devoid of it’s contents.

Possibly the best way I have ever been able to describe it, is through a bit of writing I did a few years back while experiencing this emptiness:


I see her in my dreams…

She is but a lifeless form, a shadow, wandering aimlessly through this world.

No longer do her eyes behold the wonders of the world, the beauty of a sunrise. No longer does the cool breeze tickle her skin, nor the raindrops sting her face. The sounds filling the air are no longer music to her ears.

Never seeing, never tasting, never feeling…

Never having existed at all.

Not everyone experiences things the exact same way. How do you experience the state of emptiness?