Lashing Out

Dear Therapist

I lashed out at you when you were three minutes late for our session. I know it’s not an excuse, but I wasn’t in a very good place, so those three minutes felt a lot longer. Thank you for validating that it’s a big deal for me, and for your apology. I know you’re only human, and these things happen. You’ve been consistent since the very beginning, so I feel a little embarrassed for being so upset today. I’m so sorry.

I remember what you told me. That whenever I apologize the way I did today (over and over again), that you feel as though I regress to a younger age, expecting that I’m going to be in trouble. I didn’t realize until now how big that statement actually is.

When you said that I’m lashing out at you, and I thought that you were getting upset, I panicked. I panicked because I was so afraid that I would lose you. I backtrack so quickly, and apologize as soon as I suspect that you’re getting mad. Because I feel myself flinching on the inside. Like a child who knows what’s coming. Who feels like she’s about to get hit. But I know that’s what happened in the past. That it’s not what’s happening today. I only realized after our session that this is what happens to me in these moments.

There are two reasons that I usually apologize. The first is that I genuinely don’t want to upset you, because I care so much for you. The other is due to fear of abandonment. I get so mad at myself, because you’ve proven time and time again that you won’t abandon me. And I feel that I should stop worrying about that. Yet it still happens from time to time.

Sometimes I feel that I need to act out to a safe person, because I can’t do it with anyone else, so I bottle up those intense feelings, that rage I may be experiencing. And it just sits there. Or I take it out on myself.

I don’t do it on purpose, or to upset you and cause a conflict. In my mind, I’m not lashing out at you, but rather to you. I feel a little upset now. Therapy is supposed to be a safe space, but I feel I have to contain myself in sessions as well. I’m not sure who I’m mad at. You or myself? Or both of us? I also feel that I don’t have the right to be feeling mad about this. It doesn’t serve any purpose.

Thank you for being here for me yesterday. I really appreciate you, and everything you do. I value this special relationship.

Love,
Rayne

Making Progress Even When You Can’t See It

A few sessions ago, I told my therapist that I finally felt like I was making progress. That therapy is finally helping me. She jokingly asked me if I was saying that therapy hasn’t helped me before that? I told her that the seeds had been there all along, but I just hadn’t been aware of the growth until now.

Often, we don’t see the progress we have made. Hell, we may even feel like we’re just moving backward. And sometimes that’s the truth. We take a step forward, only to move two steps back. But that’s okay. That’s the thing with mental illness. There are no quick fixes. The road to recovery isn’t straight and easy. It takes a lot of work, and there will be relapses and set backs. It’s completely normal, even though it can be extremely frustrating.

When I do something different to how I would have done it in the past, Therapist will point it out and tell me to look at the growth I’ve made, and how far I’ve come. Most of the time I don’t even see what’s right in front of me, due to the negative way I tend to see myself. Other times when she points these things out to me, it fills me with a sense of pride. Because at that moment, I can see it. All the little things I do differently. All the ways in which I have improved. They’re there. I just need to open up my eyes.

If you feel like you’re not making any progress, take a look back, and you might be surprised to find that you have indeed made progress. Small steps in the right direction. When I’m in crisis, and I feel I’m getting worse or therapy isn’t working, and I just want to give up, I like using the DBT skills from the Distress Tolerance (Crisis Survival Skills) module. The Distract Skill, which is broken down into ACCEPTS as follows:

Activities – Find an activity you can get lost in.
Contribute – Help someone else. Contribute in any way you can, such as smiling at a stranger.
Compare – Compare your past self with your present self.
Emotions – Try to find a way to switch into a different emotion. Through music for example.
Pushing Away – If you can’t solve a problem right then and there, pick that problem up and imagine putting it into a box. Place it on a shelf until you’re in a better space to deal with it.
Thoughts – Name things around you. Or breathe in a word, and choose another word for the out breath.
Sensations – An ice cold shower, or lying on cold tiles seems to do the trick for me. Or if it’s raining, I stand in the rain until I’m shivering. Eat or drink something bitter or sweet. Anything that engages one or more of your senses is helpful.

I use the ‘Compare’ part quite often now. Looking at my past self, and comparing that to how I am now. It’s a very good way to see the little bits of progress I have made. It helps get me out of that crisis state, and into what Marsha Linehan (the creator of DBT) calls Wise Mind. Writing down all the improvements. It’s not easy in those moments of intensity, in the midst of the emotional storm, but once started, and written down, I usually find that storm start to slowly die down a little. Because then my mind is engaged in the current task. A positive task. Something that isn’t harming me.

Just as a side note. Using these skills in the heat of an emotional storm is difficult. Mostly because you won’t always remember them. At least that’s the case with me. So it’s important to write these skills down, along with a list of what you feel would help you in each of those ‘catagories’ during these difficult moments.

Right now, I’m treating myself to a delicious, creamy mug of hot chocolate to celebrate the ways in which I have grown over these past few months. It’s my special treat for a job well done. And even though I still have a long way to go, that doesn’t mean that I can’t celebrate the little steps I have already made.

So go on and treat yourself to something you enjoy, or that warms your heart. You deserve it.

Footprints

When I first heard this song a few days ago, it brought to mind my relationship with my therapist. It’s strange how I seem to be able to connect a lot of things to therapy.

Because of the boundaries that exist in any therapy relationship, there have been times where I felt like my therapist had ‘abandoned’ me. When she would push me, and encourage me to hold myself, and not become dependent on her to take care of me. That I needed to do that for myself, and was very capable of that. That I had made it through 30+ years without her. Sometimes those words hurt, and I felt that she didn’t really care. In my mind, I felt like I needed her to save me. Especially during periods of suicidal ideation. I want to be able to phone her at 2am and tell her to stop me from taking it further. But those damn boundaries. I know it’s not realistic to bother her after hours. But the emotional mind doesn’t think like that.

Since starting therapy, she’s been there for me every step of the way. She never left my side, even when I pushed her away, and tested her. She’s been my safe zone. When there’s a rupture, I panic and feel like she’s giving up on me and letting go of my hand. But I’m learning that just because there’s ‘conflict’ in a relationship, it’s not the end of the world. It doesn’t mean that the relationship will end.

She’s gotten me through many dark times. And even when I don’t see her for a while, the work we’ve already done together has made me stronger and better able to look after myself.

When I feel she doesn’t care enough, or isn’t there enough, the truth is very different. She’s still there. She’s still holding me. She still has my hand. I know she cares. Not just because she tells me she does, but also by her actions. She does so much for me. In a way, she is carrying me.

With the upcoming therapy break, a lot of emotions are coming up. Fear. Panic. Pain. Anxiety. How will I survive without her? What if she forgets about me? What if she doesn’t come back? We’ve been talking about the break and preparing for it, but that doesn’t make those feelings go away. There’s no magic pill for that. But I know that even though I won’t be able to see her, she’ll still be holding me in her heart.

She’s shown me time and time again that I can trust her. And I do. Sometimes my mind just needs to catch up to my heart.

 

The Question Of Sexuality

I’ve received a few emails by some of my amazing followers (aka: my people), regarding my sexuality. So I thought I’d write a post for those who are curious.

I’ve never liked labels. I never identified myself as straight, lesbian, bisexual or any of those labels. Firstly, because I was confused about my sexuality, and secondly, because it filled me with shame and embarrassment.

I remember when I first started therapy. We got on the subject of sexuality, and I told my therapist that I don’t know what I am. What I identify as. I’ve read that those of us with BPD struggle with our sexuality. So that made perfect sense. It was the story of my life.

But over the past few years, I’ve started realizing that it doesn’t matter. Why should it matter who we love? After all, isn’t it the soul that attracts us the most? And if it’s purely physical, is it really love? To me, it isn’t about the outer shell, but rather what’s inside. It’s not about the body. It’s about connecting to the soul. It’s a deep soul connection.

I’m a human. Not a label. I’ve never been opposed to falling in love with a male. I actually used to wish I would. Just so I could conform to society’s norm. But fuck the norm. Why shouldn’t love be the norm, and not the form that love takes?

Over the years, I’ve only fallen in love with two women. My ‘first love’, which was never actually a relationship in the first place. And now, my current girlfriend. I’ve been attracted to guys, sure, but I never felt that connection with them. They always felt like brothers or just friends.

An example is my first ‘real’ boyfriend. I just wanted to be friends with him, but every time we’d go out he’d ask me to be his girlfriend. I would always turn him down, but he never got the picture. Until one day, I just gave in and said “okay”. I liked him. I sometimes thought I might be falling in love with him. But the truth was, I saw him more as a good friend, and sometimes even a brother. Which confused me a lot. Especially when it came to the physical intimacy.

In my early twenties, there was another guy I liked. I thought I was in love with him. We had only gone out once. I was friends with his sister, which is how we met. One night we all went out to a bar, and I went to go order drinks with my friend. When I got back to the group, I saw him making out with another girl. My heart broke. I downed my drink, and went back for another one. And another. But the next day, I was over it and realized I wasn’t actually in love with him. I was just lonely and desperate. I had just been trying to conform. To force myself to feel something for someone because he was a he and not because I liked him as a person. As a matter of fact, I didn’t really even like his personality. He was a complete moron.

Why should labels exist? The answer: They shouldn’t. It’s not an illness. We’re all human. Our sexual orientation doesn’t make us who we are.

With my current girlfriend, I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I was happy being single. Sure, I got lonely, but it didn’t make me want to get on the relationship bandwagon again. So I didn’t expect things to go the way they did, and to feel this way about her.

I used to wonder… Am I the way I am, because of the trauma I experienced? Or is it simply how I’ve always been? I can’t tell, because some things happened before I reached the age where children start becoming interested in boys or girls. I didn’t have a stable mother figure in my life, and I had bad experiences with men. But it’s not something that bothers me anymore. I don’t care either way, I just thought it was an interesting train of thought.

The way I see it, is that at the end of the day, love is love, no matter how you look at it. It’s two people who care deeply about one another. Who connect on an intimate level.

That’s all that matters.

What’s This Now? A Therapy Break?

It was one of those therapy sessions where it felt like I was talking to a best friend. It flowed, conversation was easy and seemed effortless.

Relationship with Therapist has been great. There was a little bit of a rupture a few weeks ago, but we got past that quickly. Thank god. But I learned and grew from it, so I’m glad it actually happened. Strange how it seems to work that way for me. While it’s happening, my world is in utter chaos and I feel like my heart is breaking into a million tiny pieces. Then I bounce back and quickly fall into that intimate, idealization state with her again. It also shows how good she actually is. In most of my relationships, whenever something went wrong, it felt like the end of the world. Like the relationship was broken and ruined. And that’s the way I feel when I feel a disconnect with Therapist. But she pulls me back in and helps me see that just because these things happen, and that relationships aren’t always easy, it doesn’t mean it’s going to end and that it can’t be fixed. I’ve already learned and grown so much from this special relationship we share. I’m so grateful for and to her.

We spoke about a few things, and near the end of the session, she wanted to discuss something with me. She reminded me of her upcoming vacation. That she’ll be away most of December and for a little bit of January. I’ve known about this for a while already, as we spoke about it very briefly before. But I didn’t allow myself to really think about it. When she brought it up again today, I can’t tell you what I felt. Because I still don’t know either. The emotions are somewhere there, but I just can’t see or feel them yet.

I was in such a hyper mood during the session and on cloud nine (thanks to my new very special relationship), and so happy to be talking to Therapist again, that I don’t think it registered. A part of me gets it, but another part of me seems to be shielding me from the absoluteness of it. It’s there. In the background of my mind. And I’m worried about what will happen once it hits me full force. I’ve never gone longer than 2 weeks without talking to her (and even that is painful), so I’m not sure how I’ll survive a month. Writing this, it still doesn’t feel quite real yet. I feel disconnected from this reality.

She wants us to prepare for this upcoming break, and we have a few weeks in which to do it. She wants my input and suggestions on how to make it easier for me. I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll definitely be thinking about it. I did come up with one thing though. I asked whether she’d do a voice recording for me, which she seemed on board with.

I’m busy deciding what I’d like her to include in this message, and one thing that kept coming up is that I want her to reassure me that she’s ‘real’. I didn’t really understand it. Actually I’ve never understood why I have this problem with things and especially people not feeling real to me, especially during absences. But tonight I think I have finally figured it out. And it’s something I’m planning on talking to her about. It’s an important part of the puzzle that is me. And a pattern I need to break free from.

I think other things that I’d like to hear is a reminder that she cares. That just because I can’t see her, it doesn’t mean that she’s gone. That she won’t think of me, or that she’ll forget about me. I want to be reassured that she’s not abandoning me, and will be coming back. That’s what I’m thinking… But I don’t know whether that’s too much?

I know a lot of you have had these extended therapy breaks. How did/do you cope? What has helped you through this time? I know we’re all different, and what works for one person, won’t necessarily work for someone else. But it will be interesting to hear about this from you.

I want to be as prepared as possible. Because I know this isn’t going to be easy.