A Reframe on BPD

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I came across this article in my inbox this morning and wanted to share it on my blog. I really appreciate the way Annie approaches this subject with empathy. All her posts are worth a read and I can highly recommend her blog.

https://anniewrightpsychotherapy.com/a-reframe-on-borderline-personality-disorder/

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Getting There

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Yesterday was a better day.

This roller coaster I’ve been on seems to be slowing down. I’m not off the ride just yet, but the slower speed is a relief.

I’m proud of myself for one thing at least. Instead of doing what I would usually do, which is self-medicate with my benzo’s (more than what’s prescribed), I used the DBT Distress Tolerance skill of Urge Surfing and Riding The Wave. Just allowing myself to fully experience the urges for self-harm, medication, and alcohol, and feel the emotions that I so desperately wanted to numb.

I managed to cope with those intense feelings and urges by doing some physical activity right in my room, such as push ups. Something I find really soothing is lying stomach down on my fitness/exercise ball and slowly rolling back and forth, stopping for about 30 seconds every now and then to just breathe and feel the pressure and support against my stomach and upper body. It may sound weird, but it helps. I had to use a lot of my coping skills and tools, and I realized again just how important it is to have those.

Another urge I’ve had is to quit therapy (next session and the first of this year is next week Wednesday). Not because of my therapist, but because I’ve been wondering whether therapy in general is still worth it for me. Feeling like I’m sick of doing the work and still having these bad mental health days, to this extent. But I managed to avoid sending those emails and messages.

My main goal during times like these is to get through these moments in less destructive ways as far as possible. And I think I’ve managed that quite well so far.

Elizabeth, and the Dilemma

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About an hour after writing my previous post, my mood started climbing again. All memories of Wednesday’s “negative” events just vanished. It’s like they stopped existing, and never even happened. The happiness I’ve been experiencing has been amazing and intense. I had a few hours of mania on Monday last week, and that was insane! But no, the happy space I’ve been in lately is the more stable kind. Extreme, but not in the “danger” zone as it was that Monday.

So, about Elizabeth. We met just less than three weeks ago, dated for just over a week, and then on Friday we made it “official”, as the kids say these days. There was a connection between us from the first date already. We spent almost 3 hours together, and would have continued if we didn’t have to catch our bus home (to our own houses of course). As it was, we ended up having to chase after the bus, as it was the last one of the evening. That was a hilarious (and fun) moment! Life is an adventure with her. She’s already been opening up new worlds for me.

She’s an extrovert, but not the extreme type that makes me fear for my sanity. She enjoys spending time alone too, and up to turning down invitations if she wants a quiet night in. She’s an artist (I love her art!), but that’s not her main job. She’s working in another field (don’t want to give too much away for the sake of anonymity), and studying for her social sciences degree. I really like that she loves learning new things. It’s something we’re both passionate about.

Elizabeth has a nice solid, stable sense of self. I never have to worry whether she’s “faking it”, as she’s very expressive. She speaks her mind, so I don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking or feeling. She’s not afraid of talking about the difficult things. One evening she told me that I have a very expressive face, and she really likes that. Now that came as a surprise. It was in that moment that I realized that it’s true… just how much of my guard I drop when I’m around her. For some reason I’m not afraid of being vulnerable with her, and allowing my feelings to be shown. It’s easy. She has a lot of empathy and compassion towards others. My family adores her… Even my stepsister, who never liked anyone in my life. She gives them her evil eye. But from the first moment of meeting Elizabeth, she liked her. Once Elizabeth had gone home after that first meeting, my stepsister kept telling me how cute and nice she was. I felt so proud.

I don’t over-share with her. I find that I only share certain things when it comes up in conversation somehow. It just comes, and flows naturally when I do share with her. When I first met Jasmine, by the second week, she already knew my whole life story (well, a lot of it at least). So I’m enjoying this, taking it as it comes, and not feeling this pressure to lay it all out on the table in one go. Elizabeth knows I have BPD. It started when she asked me one Tuesday what plans I had for the evening (she had dancing practice). I told her that I was going to a support group. On our next date she asked me type of support group it was, and I told her. She didn’t seem to be bothered by this at all. During the conversation that ensued, she told me that one of her closest friends has BPD (she was speaking very fondly of her). This was the perfect moment! So I told her I also live with it.

I was expecting her to either get up and make some excuse to leave, or look at me differently. But she didn’t even flinch when I told her. I kept waiting to see her expression change, but the only thing I could see on her face was compassion, and genuine interest. She asked questions, of course, but knew exactly what BPD is. I felt so heard and at ease talking to her about how BPD, depression and anxiety affects me.

I can’t be someone’s entire world again. Best friend, lover, parent, saviour, etc. In all of my past relationships I’ve often felt claustrophobic, and there was a whole co-dependent thing going on. Even with my ex-boyfriend (yes, I have one of those). So I love the fact that Elizabeth has her own group of friends (who I’ll also hang out with from time to time with her- and vice versa), and her own hobbies and activities that are just hers, and that I have mine. It’s a breath of fresh air. Thankfully, when she goes to dancing or out with friends, she sends me a little voice note just checking in sometime during the evening. It helps me feel secure in her and our relationship.

With Jasmine, relationship wise, we were a match but not a fit. If that makes sense? As friend’s we’re the perfect fit. With Elizabeth though, it feels like both a match and a fit. Jasmine obviously knows about Elizabeth. I was completely open and honest with her from the very beginning.

It’s so hard though. I feel like I’ve let Jasmine down. I don’t want to lose her. But she has been pulling away from me, which is completely understandable. It’s a tough situation. Even though she was the first one to say that we should rather be friends, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy for her. I guess that’s why people don’t remain friends with their exes… And especially not best friends.

I invited Jasmine out for dinner last week Friday, since I knew she really needed a friend then, as she’s been struggling lately. Especially with her new job. I didn’t bring Elizabeth up, but I was open to her bringing her up. I tried to be my usual self with her as far as possible, and I think I did a good job. I know there’s an overconfidence bias where we think we did or know something better than we actually do, but I still think I did quite well here. Jasmine didn’t end up mentioning Elizabeth either. The conversation and dinner went okay, but Jasmine didn’t talk as much as she usually does, and didn’t open up much. I sent her a text a few days ago, telling her that if she wants to talk about all of this, she’s free to. That it might be helpful and good for her to get it all out in the open. I invited her for coffee today, but she turned it down.

I always have to drag things out of her. Even when we were still in a romantic relationship. The way we’re going to get through and around this is if we sit down and honestly talk about it. I’m aware that she probably just needs time. But how much time? I care about her so much, and just want her to be okay. Even if that means we never see one another again, if that’s what she thinks will be best for her. But I want to know how she’s feeling, what she’s thinking. I just want her to say something. Even if it’s something that hurts me.

We’re all (a few other friends of mine and Elizabeth’s) going to an event together on Thursday, but I’m not so sure whether Jasmine will still be joining. If she does, I’m a little worried. I can’t not hold Elizabeth’s hand (her love language is also touch, and she’s very affectionate in public too- to a reasonable extent of course), but I also don’t want to put our relationship on “display” in front of Jasmine. It’s not fair to her. But it’s also not fair to Elizabeth by keeping a bit of distance between us. So I don’t know what to do. I don’t want my relationship with Jasmine to interfere with my relationship with Elizabeth. This relationship is too important to me. But I also don’t want to hurt Jasmine anymore than I probably already have.

When I first started developing feelings for Elizabeth, I thought of Jasmine, and how it might affect our relationship. I even considered ending things with Elizabeth for the sake of not messing things up with Jasmine. But then I got a flash of insight. I’ve always sacrificed my own happiness, and put my life on hold, for others. But what about me? Don’t I also deserve to be happy? I never used to think I did, which is why I always lived for others. But through my healing journey I’ve come to realize that I’m important too. That I’m only responsible for my own life and happiness. Yet, I’m still struggling with this feeling of guilt.

What do you guys think? I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this.

“She’s Gone Forever”

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My therapist went on leave for two weeks. I knew about this for two weeks before her break, and during that time, I didn’t think much about it. More importantly, I didn’t know how I felt about it. Like I told her in our session two weeks ago, I’m happy that she’s making time for herself, and taking this break. In Thursday’s session, she brought up her leave again, and asked me whether I want to discuss it and how I feel about it. I can’t really remember what I answered. It’s like a chunk of my memory has been erased (I’m so tired of this happening). So I don’t know what I had said. But I appreciate that she always discusses this topic, and tries to make it easier for me. She doesn’t just throw me into the deep end.

We have this special emoticon that represents a hug (not the traditional hug one). We made a deal to only use that one for us, not for anyone else. That little symbol comforts my soul, and brings a smile to my face every time she uses it. I sent her a text on Friday, as it was the last day I’d be able to until she gets back. I asked for one of our special hugs, and she sent me one. I hold onto that one simple little thing. A simple thing that means so much.

I’ve been thinking that maybe one of the contributing factors of my recent surge in abandonment fear, is due to me knowing that she’s going to be away. Even though, like I said, I didn’t give too much thought to it, I think it was stored in my subconscious instead.

It’s not about not seeing her for a session. I wouldn’t have been able to see her for a session in that time anyway. The weeks when we don’t have therapy, I’m perfectly fine with our contact between sessions. Some weeks it will only be one text or email. It’s more when I have something to say, or am feeling insecure. Sometimes I initiate it, other times, she does. Checking in. So that’s what makes her going away hard… We won’t have any contact. I miss her. And I’m sad that she left me alone (that’s what it feels like anyway). There are moments where I think that I don’t know if I ever want to speak to her again. Then other moments where I just want her to come back. I’m being selfish. And this feeds into the emotion I’ve been struggling with for the past while, which I’ll write about in my next post.

I once got asked by a friend of mine, who went to therapy for a year herself, why and how I can be so attached to a therapist. She understands attachment, but not between a therapist and client. I realized that no matter how you explain it, a lot of people won’t truly “get it”, unless they’re in the same boat. Almost all of you who have BPD have this same attachment to your therapists. I always relate to your posts on this topic. So I know I’m not the only one who gets upset and chaotic when our therapists go on vacation or take leave. Counting the days down until they return. Days that feel like weeks. It’s hard. And others don’t understand why we struggle so much with this. But they don’t need to understand it.

The words “she’s gone forever” came into my mind when I woke up this morning. I know it didn’t come from my adult self, but from the little part.

I know it’s not true though. She’s not gone forever. But why does it still feel like she is?

Social Anxiety, Embarrassment And Shame

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In my previous post I mentioned how I had felt better on Friday. But that only lasted until Saturday evening.

That evening I went to Jasmine’s birthday dinner. There were 10 of us. Two of my friends (I’ve been friends with one of them for over 21 years) had also been invited, since they’re now also friends with Jasmine. My social anxiety was way up there. It was in a noisy restaurant, with the TV way too loud (sports of course). So all that stimulation, and add in 7 people I don’t know, and all I wanted to do was get in my car and go home. But I stuck it out. By the end of the evening I was exhausted.

When we were getting ready to leave, one of Jasmine’s friends made a negative comment about my hair. An overwhelming feeling of embarrassment, shame, and a deep hatred toward myself settled over me like a dark cloud.

I was already especially sensitive that night, due to what happened in group on Tuesday. I haven’t written about that yet. We were busy with the check-in’s, but before it was my turn to share, we had a break. I had a classic BPD mood swing during the break. Anger (towards myself) raging inside and actually throwing a tantrum in the bathroom when no one was in there (throwing my bag across the room- good thing there’s nothing breakable in there). And then the damn tears.

When the break was over and I got back inside, I thought “okay, I’ll share”. I was sitting next to the OT who was leading the group. I told myself “it’s safe, she’s here” (aside from my OT, this one also makes me feel like I’m in good hands). She told me to focus on someone (I chose her and another member of the group), and started. But I spent most of it looking at the damn floor anyway. I felt pressured, not wanting to waste anyone’s time, and just started talking. I know I was probably putting the pressure on myself. After the group, I felt very vulnerable and exposed. And embarrassed. What had I just done? The things I had shared, and the way I had said them, seemed all over the place, and I didn’t think I was even making much sense. Thoughts of “I shouldn’t have said that.” “I can’t believe I said all that”, “what was I thinking?”, “I’m such an idiot.”

I felt I had said too much. Shared things that I actually wasn’t ready to share. I didn’t want to see anyone, I didn’t even look at anyone for the rest of the group time. I felt too vulnerable. I didn’t feel safe after the group (I was in the self-harm “mood”), so I tried to stick around as long as I could. Basically following the OT to wherever she was going, like a damn puppy. We went to the art therapy room and I got to get my “craft” that I had done during my time in the clinic. I was surprised to see that it was still there. So that was nice. Then it was finally time to leave. I didn’t want to, but didn’t have much of a choice.

On the way home, the feelings kept washing over me, the self hatred and abuse loud and clear. I had already been feeling depressed that week, and the previous week, so this was like salt in the wound. I wanted to drive into a wall, and I got pretty close too. I tend to get stuck on thoughts, both negative and positive, but especially the negative ones. They become obsessive thoughts, and I really struggle to let them go. I don’t really know how to.

Have you ever felt this need to have someone hold space for you when you feel you just can’t do that for yourself? Because you feel you don’t deserve it, and maybe if someone can just hold it for you for a little while, you’ll be able to take it back when you feel stronger? I want someone to hold that space for me, but I feel completely alone and abandoned (even if it’s not actually true, and I’m just seeing it through negative eyes right now).

Right now, at this very moment, I feel like I’ve just given up on fighting. I don’t have the strength or energy. I’ll just go through life and take the blows. I’m depressed as hell. I don’t like people right now. Yet I want them. I don’t like me. But I wish I could.

I feel guilty for being me. Ashamed of who I am, and what I’m not.

Inside & Outside

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My outside doesn’t match my inside.

I can talk about my emotions. How I’ve been feeling. How I’m currently feeling. To everyone else, it looks like I’m okay. Yet in those moments of talking about my feelings, my outside doesn’t reflect how I’m feeling on the inside. There’s a disconnect. And I don’t know why, or even how that happens.

In group today, when it was my turn to share, I told them a little bit about my experience on Friday, and how I’m still in that dark place. In our session last week Tuesday, OT told me I need to open up more in group, and use the time to its fullest. Therapist told me the same thing. So tonight, I tried. It was terrifying and extremely uncomfortable, but I did it. But once again, my true feelings didn’t match the way I spoke about it.

At one point during group (when someone else was talking about something), I had to leave and go to the bathroom because I could feel tears starting up. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I couldn’t stop crying. Then I intentionally this time, shut down those emotions. I walked out like nothing had happened, and went back to the group. Yes, I know. I probably should have stayed. Instead, I was rude and selfish.

One of two things happen when I talk about emotions and what I’m struggling with. Either I feel it all inside, but it doesn’t show on my face, as if I’m two different people. Or I just shut down completely and become numb. And the worst part is that 99% of the time, I don’t do it intentionally. It happens automatically.

Do any of you experience this? And how do I move past it?

I’m still feeling terrible since Friday. All I can think about is death. I see, and feel it all around me. I’m having nightmares. The kind that haunt me, and show up out of nowhere throughout the day. Like flashbacks. I get frustrated. After all, it’s just a dream. It’s not real. But then why does it feel so real? It’s past events, but with a twist. Like memories, mixed in with current fears. Some of these fears are those that I never even knew I had. I’ve also been struggling a lot with anxiety. I’m living off my Benzo’s (I’m not overdoing it- just enough to cope).

I feel disconnected from everyone and everything.