Building The Therapeutic Relationship

My therapy session last week Wednesday marked a turning point in my relationship with my new therapist. I usually do 30 minute sessions with her, as that way I’m able to see her every week. But I wasn’t ready to leave this time… I wasn’t in a good space. So she said we could stretch it to an hour session. The nice thing about having her work part-time at the clinic is that the patients don’t have set times for sessions. Which was a major problem for me when I was still in there, and after figuring that out, my therapist started giving me rough times for our sessions (+/- an hours difference), which was so much better for me than not knowing at all.

At some point during the session I realized… I’m growing attached to C. I never thought it would happen. It’s terrifying, and was one of the contributing factors to my intense moment on Friday. I had become really good at containing myself when it comes to emails and texts, but had a relapse on Friday, which culminated in me sending her a panicked apology email after the first one I had sent. She was nice about it though, and in her reply told me that I didn’t do anything wrong (I had been convinced I had, and that she would “drop me”). We had a session today, and spoke about it. She told me that she won’t do that to me. She won’t just reject and abandon me. The relief those words bring is profound. Although I still don’t trust her fully just yet, but like she says, it’s a process.

She had asked me last week if I have any items or objects that I use to help soothe and regulate myself, and helps me feel connected to certain important people (like A) or places. I showed her one of the cards that A had sent me (and that I carry everywhere with me), and also that I have a “therapy jacket” from my early days with A that helps with that. When my therapist asked me last week what I can do to take our safe space, that feeling, home with me when I leave, I told her that I can’t seem to hold onto things like that. I jokingly told her I could take her with me though. That was a nice light moment. Before I left today she told me that she has something for me, and after packing out her whole bag (this had me laughing, because as a lot of women know, this is a familiar scene), she handed me a piece of rose quartz. It’s significant because in her office there are some small pot plants and a big rose quartz ornament thing, all of which I love touching and looking at, so she uses them as grounding objects when I dissociate. Anything I can touch and play with helps significantly. So I loved that she gave me that, because it reminds me of that space and of her. When I got home I just crashed onto my bed, got under my weighted blanket, put on an episode of a series I’m watching and just held onto that stone the entire time. I decided to just listen to my body, no work, no nothing, just watch TV for as long as I wanted and take a much-needed nap. When I hold this stone I feel calm and soothed. I can’t believe how much it helps. It has the energy it’s intended to have.

I sent A an email last week. She told me that she doesn’t want me to feel guilty or have regret at having moved to C. That she agreed and supported my decision, and that she was proud of me for taking that step. Those words meant so much to me. I realized how much guilt and fear I have been holding onto. Reading those words felt like a weight being lifted off my shoulders. “It’s okay”.

I haven’t been doing well lately. Life is too much for me to handle right now. So many things are going wrong. Yesterday and today I’ve been angry at the whole world. Myself included. And I’m not too sure where all this rage and hatred is coming from. I’m aware that I’m being irrational in some moments, but I’m struggling to find a more balanced and mature way to handle things. Half the time I don’t even know why I’m angry. What I’m really angry at or about. I’ve had intense cravings and desires to relive the drug and alcohol filled days of my 20’s. Just one of the reasons I’m angry at myself. During today’s session I threw something across the room (nothing that could break) and punched the wall. Essentially throwing a teenage tantrum. I was relieved when my therapist didn’t yell at me, and there was no negative reaction from her, which helped calm me down. Maybe a part of me wanted her to yell at me. Maybe I wanted a reason to hate her and not feel the attachment. I apologized and told her that I’m not angry with her, which she said she knew. I spent the rest of the session just crying. I’ve been filled with so much anger the past couple of days and when I would start to feel tears coming and the anger dying down, I’d resist. But in the session, I just couldn’t anymore. I know it’s okay to cry. I know it isn’t good to shove it down. But still, I couldn’t break through that wall until today.

I just feel exhausted now. All that pent-up energy is gone and I feel like sleeping for a couple of days. I’m thinking of taking tomorrow off work. And that means all work, not just from my office job. I’ve been trying to do too much and solve too many problems that I just don’t have the strength for right now. I need to take care of myself.

This post seems to be a little all over the place, but I couldn’t be bothered about that, so it is what it is. I need to process and my brain isn’t functioning at optimal level.

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BPD Got Me

Friday night I had a full on BPD moment. For the first time in many months, I experienced intense, extremely painful emotions. DBT skills out the window- Distress Tolerance, what’s that? How do I do that? My cognitive functioning was severely impaired, and the only way I could think of to cope was through self-harm (which I haven’t done in months either). This episode shook me. I had forgotten how horrific this type of experience was. I’ve been in a dark, depressive place ever since.

I don’t want to go into specifics right now as to what set me off, but I will say that it was a cumulative effect… two days worth. I’m exhausted and can’t write much at the moment.

I feel as though all the progress I’ve made over the past two years has been lost. But maybe that’s just the depression speaking.

24 Hours With BPD During A Crisis Phase

I have a general trigger warning sign posted in the sidebar of my blog, but I feel this post needs to come with an additional warning as it contains more references to suicide and self-harm than usual.

On Friday I woke up feeling depressed, and exhausted… As if I hadn’t slept at all. It felt like I had a block of concrete weighing down on me. I had zero energy, and what usually takes me 10 minutes to do, became 30 minutes. I was moving in slow motion.

I keep a Post-It pad next to my bed, because sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea or something I need to remember. Before going into work on Friday, on one of those Post-It notes, I wrote what I was feeling. I usually use Pacifica (an amazing app to chart your moods, with lots of additional features) to track my moods. But on Friday I didn’t want to even look at my phone.

Somehow, it turned into me writing notes on Post-It’s (which I have in my bag as well) for the duration of the day. I wrote the times on the notes as well, after each “episode”, but they’re not exact times of course. So I got to document one of my low points for a day, and the crisis phase that was hot on its heels. Reading it back, it feels like a dream. I can’t remember writing half of these notes. I’m not going to post everything that I wrote down during the day, just the most significant things. There are some things that I want to keep to myself for now as well. I’ll add some current things in brackets for some of them. I don’t know why I wrote them in present tense.

09:30 – Don’t want to be here. I’m tired and not in the mood for these people. Just want to be alone, and in bed. It’s noisy and chaotic. (It’s the same everyday. It makes me so anxious being there. The energy in that place is chaotic and stressful. They’re up and down, in a highly out of control way, complaining about everything and everyone, arguing, etc. For a highly sensitive person, that energy, that environment is a nightmare.)

10:45 – I hate him! I wish he would just disappear forever! Can’t he just go one day without acting like he rules the fucking universe? (This is obviously referring to the man who calls himself my dad. I stashed the notes in my jacket pocket so he wouldn’t see them.)

11:10 – Can’t stand it anymore. Get up and go outside. (There’s a place behind the back of the building where no one goes. It’s my “secret” place.) So angry! Want to scream and break things. Maybe just my hand.

11:45 – Panic attack. Want to take Ativan but they’re in my damn bag in the office!

(I was very irritable for most of the day, with mood swings ranging from frustration, anxiety, a brief period of mania, sadness, and depression, and back again. Crying too much. Don’t want to, don’t want anyone to see. No one tells you how exhausting it is to live with BPD symptoms.)

16:20 – Phone clinic, ask for OT. All OT’s already left. She’s lying. (receptionist). They just don’t want to talk to me.

19:00 – Write blog post about current emotional state. Falling even deeper into the black hole. Thoughts of suicide running rampant through my mind, growing stronger by the minute.

19:20 – Status update on new, private Facebook profile. Supportive comments from those closest to me. Comment from (Uncle). Stake through my heart. Can’t trust him anymore. Bond broken. He hates me. He’s never going to talk to me again and will cut me out of his life. I don’t care! Panic. I need him! He can’t leave me! Maybe I can talk to him. I don’t want to lose him. Don’t want to talk to him.

19:30 – “Unfriend” him. Delete post from blog. Want to delete entire blog. Probably not a good idea. Shouldn’t be making any compulsive decisions while in this state. Vow to never reveal my feelings to anyone ever again. Start typing Therapist a message to tell her to cancel our session on Thursday, and that I’m not coming back. Before I can send it, throw my phone on the bed in frustration. Can’t.stop.crying! Add Uncle on FB as a friend again.

21:30 – Want to phone Therapist. It’s weekend. She doesn’t have her phone with her. She hates me. She probably talks to the others on weekends. I need to send her something to make sure we’re still okay. Well, I’m mad at her too. I’m going to quit therapy. I’m going to stop going to groups. I want nothing to do with Therapist and OT anymore. They hate me! I’m so mad at them. Don’t want to lose Therapist. Why am I panicking? It’s not real. She’s not going to leave. But why does it feel like I’m in trouble? I’m not mad anymore. I love her. I’m a burden to everyone.

21:50 – Phone suicide crisis line. Get told to take deep breaths and go take a hot bath. I don’t have a bath, or hot water right now! Why isn’t she listening to me? The more I try to explain how and why I’m feeling this way, the more she cuts me off and throws advice at me! Crisis lines are shit. Where the hell do they find these people? I shouldn’t have phoned. Thought I had learned my lesson the previous time! (When I was told by the guy on the phone that he’s going to hang up because he has another call coming in). Not going to happen again. This time I hang up. Rage. Want to throw my phone against the wall. Hit the wall with my fists instead. Dissolve into tears again.

22:00 – Too much pain. Self-harm is the only other solution I can think of. Cut. See the blood start forming. So beautiful. Relief. Thinking about carving a few “tattoos” on other places on my body. The desire to see more blood is overwhelming. Want to see more blood than a few measly drops. It’s Winter. No one will be able to see. Want to kill myself. I’m definitely going to end my life tonight. I can’t possibly survive this time. Mind racing through different ways to go about it. I have a plan, but if that fails, I need something else to complete it. Read through suicide forums. Lots of ideas. But also lots of failures. Fuck! I can’t even die in peace, without it maybe going wrong! What if the man who calls himself my dad blames Therapist, and ruins her career? What if he goes after her and hurts her?

22:20 – Here come the tears again. Sobbing on the floor. Can barely breathe. I don’t want or need anyone! Maybe they’re all in on it together, and laughing at me. I’m the joke. I can’t trust anyone. I mustn’t. Panic attack.

22:40 – Take 4 Benzo’s, instead of my usual 1.

23:00 – Calm. Numb. Floating far above my body. Drifting.

09:30 – Wake up. Eyes feel like lead. Head pounding. dissociative cloud hanging over me. Feels like I have a hangover. What if no one is real? What if it’s all a dream?

09:45 – See Hope Box. They’re all real. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t have bothered to write these messages for me. (This self-soothing box usually helps me during the usual suicidal ideation times, but not when I’m as far gone as I was on Friday evening. This is when I need someone to help ground me, because I’m unable to soothe and ground myself.)

I’m still feeling fragile today, but just glad to be out of that chaotic state.

It’s been a busy social and work week for me. I only had one day that I didn’t spend with anyone, but I spent all of that time working. I’m starting a wedding photography business with another photographer, so we’ve been working hard to get it up and running as soon as possible. It’s a lot of work starting a new business. Went out for dinner with potential clients. I’ve been working non-stop, with a few social coffee breaks with Jasmine and some friends from group.

Being an introvert, this is a challenge. I’ve been burning myself out. Even working the whole weekend last weekend. I realized that this “crisis” has been creeping up on me slowly. And when it hit, it destroyed everything in its path.

I realize that I need to take better care of myself, and have a proper plan in place for these times. It’s terrifying being in that space of utter despair. This time really shook me, and made me see the urgency of making a safety plan.

I don’t phone Jasmine (the one person who understands me, and what it feels like to be in that state), because when we were still together, we tended to trigger one another. We decided it’s better not to talk about self-harm and suicide. But now that we’re just friends, and don’t spend nearly every moment together, it’s easier. I spoke to her last night and we discussed being on one another’s evening “crisis list”. I need to choose my people wisely, because a lot of people will just make things worse. With Jasmine, there’s no platitudes, just understanding, care and empathy. She listens more than she talks. Which is what we need during those times. She’s also the only person who’s available in the evenings, when most of these moments happen.

I really need to take better care of myself and notice the signs that I’m starting to go downhill. As for working for the man who calls himself my dad, I’ve created a playlist of soothing, relaxing music. I don’t need to answer phones, so I can put my headphones on, and drown out all the noise. I also have to learn and practice how to balance working hard, with some down time where I don’t think about work every moment of every day. As for my social life, I’m going to be more careful about how much time I spend with people. Too much of a good thing… Quality over quantity.

Took the whole day off yesterday. Put my phone on silent. Stayed in my PJ’s, reading, writing and watching Frasier and other shows on Netflix. Meeting my group of friends for a lunch date today. We’re going to her place and making our own pizza and Glühwein (which I’ll have very little of). That’s going to be interesting. I’ve had a full day of being alone yesterday. So I think I’m ready for this. But next weekend I’m taking the whole weekend for myself. I’m exhausted.

I Want It To Stop

The excruciating physical pain I’ve been in this week has subsided quite a bit. It’s not as unbearable as it was. But the emotional pain has stuck around.

In my previous post, I wrote how I feel like crying when thinking about the next day, week, etc. But now, its escalated into panic. How the hell am I going to make it through the next few days? The next week? My usual “one hour at a time” mantra isn’t holding up. It’s one excruciating hour at a time, and feels like too much to handle. I can’t do this! It’s too hard.

I don’t know what to do. I just need everything to stop! Please, please, please make it stop! How can one person hurt this much?

I need and want a friend right now, but none of them are available this weekend. And they don’t even have decent excuses. It’s frustrating and makes me extremely sad that when I really need them, they’re nowhere to be found. But when they need me, I’m there, no matter what mood I’m in. Even if I’m hurting as well. But I obviously don’t tell them that. In that moment, it’s about them. I put my own shit away to be there and support them.

Today I found myself repeating a pattern of something that I used to do a lot of in my teen years. Every time someone hurt me, or let me down in certain ways, I would feel this defiance and anger inside. But I didn’t want them to see or hear how it affected me. I was scared I might lose them if I mentioned it or showed it. So I’d hide it until I was alone. Then the anger would come, and I’d repeat “I don’t need anyone, I’m fine on my own.” But when the anger died down, I’d break down, with sadness consuming every inch of my being. I’d feel so alone. I preferred the anger, because it covered the disappointment, the rejection, the hurt. Anger is always so much easier to deal with, isn’t it.

I’ve had to cancel a few birthday “celebrations” over the years. Even as an adult. I’ll never forgot my 21st birthday. I was at a co-worker’s house (I was staying with her for a few weeks- I just can’t remember why), and everyone I had invited to my little party had been unable to attend. One of them cancelled an hour before it was due to start. My co-worker had gone to visit her son, as it was his birthday as well. So I was alone that night. The power went out at some point. So I lit a candle, poured myself a glass of wine, and sat on the floor, against the couch (I seem to find it comforting sitting on the floor instead of a couch for some reason- only couches though. Normal chairs- I’ll sit in them rather than on the floor). This might sound really silly, but I pretended there were other people there. Like my mom, little sisters, friends. Making up conversations in my head (there were some pretty funny ones). I had to do that, because if I stopped, the reality hurt too much. Remembering that makes my heart ache. So I’m not a fan of the day of my birth. Besides, I was a mistake. I never should have been born. I don’t even know why birthdays are celebrated in the first place. Who came up with that idea?

I’m writing about all this because I want to prove a point. I’m convinced that there’s something I’m doing wrong. That’s there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. That it’s why friends and family seem to want to spend as little time with me as possible. The things I mentioned above seem to prove it. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had this feeling (and believed) that I deserved everything that happened to me. And right now, I feel it’s especially true. Looking in the mirror earlier today, I wondered who that face belonged to. What’s her life worth?

I want my therapist. She always seems to know what to say, and has a calming influence on me. It’s weekend, so I can’t even reach out to her. And I’m not seeing her anytime soon either, which just feels so messed up. I just want to be held by her. No CBT, DBT, REBT, FFST (Okay, I made that last one up). Just one of those talking sessions. We all need one of those from time to time. Those sessions where she just listens and doesn’t make me work through techniques, skills, etc. I just need someone to listen to me, without judging. That’s what I mean when I say I want to held by her. In that protective therapeutic cocoon. Where it’s warm and safe. Even when it’s hard.

In one of the letters my therapist had written me, she told me that I’m brave. And now I keep hearing her words “be brave” (from another note), but I don’t feel brave right now.

I will try to be though. I’m trying. I’m really, really trying. I just need to get through tonight and tomorrow. That thought makes me panic. I’m trying to just stay in the moment, practice mindfulness, but it only works for a few seconds and I swing right back. These flashbacks that I’ve been having don’t make it any easier. I don’t even know anymore what’s a nightmare, and what’s a real memory. They seem to blend into each other. Swinging from adult to child mode. The nightmares and flashbacks are all from that young part. I should never have opened that door to let that inner child in. When we started working with that whole thing, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t know just how painful it would be.

“Stop crying. You’re not a baby.”

But big girls cry too.

An Emotional Storm

My therapy session on Thursday was an emotional shit storm. The people at the gym where I used to train in Muay Thai got it right when they nicknamed me “Storm”. Small, innocent and fragile looking. But once unleashed, has the potential to be deadly.

Well, this Storm certainly hit in this session. My therapist didn’t stand a chance.

As you are well aware by my posts over the past while, I’ve been in a very dark place. I’ve been an emotional wreck. It’s been a difficult week for a variety of reasons. In relationships, I don’t usually express any “negative” emotions I may be feeling. I suppress them. It’s rare that I’ll show that side of me. I prefer to find a quiet place to vent my frustration, and take the anger and hurt out on myself. Yet, with my therapist, it doesn’t quite work that way, and I can’t figure out why that is.

When I’m in such an emotional state at the beginning of some sessions, the smallest thing can send me over the edge. I don’t scream and shout, but I use my words, and the tone of my voice is harsh enough. But I don’t think that’s any better than yelling. Something as small and innocent as one word (or something my therapist doesn’t say) will suddenly unleash the storm. She triggers something within me, and I become a whirlwind. It’s happened a few times over the course of our one year relationship, and I hate it.

In these moments, I can’t think clearly. My emotions run the show. I turn into an angry teenager. I don’t act like the adult I actually am. It’s when I’m insecure, feeling fragile, and I end up being oversensitive. Those are the times when the smallest thing can be blown up in my mind as the biggest threat I’ve ever faced. My therapist was right when she said that no matter what she says or does in that moment, I’ll look for proof that she can’t be trusted. I’ll find reasons to push her away.

I felt I wasn’t getting what I needed from her. But instead of telling her, explaining to her why I was so upset, I just carried on going down the road of pushing her away. I couldn’t express myself clearly, so I was plain mean.

Something she said hurt me deeply, and even though I’m scared to, I’m going to be open with her about it on Thursday. After all, she’s the one who always insists on talking through any problems in the therapy relationship, and says that we shouldn’t leave anything unsaid. She’s obviously right, and I’m slowly learning that it’s okay, and necessary, to talk things through, and not let resentment build beneath the surface. That will just erode the relationship, and therapy will eventually stall.

At least the session ended on a good note once I had calmed down. When this happens, when I act out like this, I’m left feeling embarrassed and ashamed, and have to sit with these feelings until we can talk it through in the next session.

So now it’s time to work on “repairing” the relationship again. And once again I need to apologize for my behaviour, because it was inappropriate. I think that will be a good way to start our next session.

The storm has moved away. For now at least.

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

Never Thought I’d Be Here – Part One

On Thursday morning I was reading something on the internet, when I started to feel uncomfortable. All of a sudden, that feeling erupted in a full on trigger. I immediately turned into a mess. I became that 14-year-old who had just been broken by someone she had looked up to and trusted. Images and emotions consumed my mind and my body. The emotions were far more powerful and painful than the images themselves. I felt like I was dying.

I wanted to phone my therapist right then and there. There was a huge battle going on inside me. Trying my hardest not to give into that desire to call her. We only had an appointment for Tuesday (yesterday). Then, I don’t know why, but the thought came into my head to phone a psychiatrist (I’ve been wanting to go to one for a while now). So I picked one of the two that was recommended, and phoned her office in a state. I couldn’t stop crying. I knew I couldn’t afford to see a psychiatrist, so why I felt the need in that moment to call her, I can’t tell you. She was so nice to me. I wanted to find out what her fees were, and instead she asked me whether I was on a medical aid. I am, so she suggested that I book myself into the psychiatric clinic where she works, and then I won’t have to worry about paying anything. I could see her first thing in the morning. I was so upset that I agreed. Psychiatrist had to keep reminding me to breathe.

So early the next morning, I packed my bag and made my way to the clinic. I can’t remember much about that morning. I remember seeing my psychiatrist, and being a nervous wreck.  All I know is that I was so scared. Not even scared. Terrified.

I’d never been in a psychiatric ward before. Later that day, I would feel ashamed that at my age, after having avoided it for all this time, I was now in the very place that I never thought I’d find myself. But shit happens, and now, in hindsight, I’m glad I went in. I was in the general ward, so it was voluntary and I could be discharged whenever I wanted to. But Psychiatrist recommended that I at least stay a few days.

The next thing I remember is lying on the bed in the room I would be sharing with two other women during my time there. I don’t even remember how I ended up in the room. I have no memory between sitting with Psychiatrist (even that is a blur), and finding myself on my bed. I had even unpacked my bag during that time. What the hell? Dissociation, that’s what the hell. I was curled up like a baby, unable to stop crying. Feeling disoriented, confused, and terrified. I didn’t know what was going on. Could I leave? Or was I trapped there forever?

Lying on that bed, I just wanted Therapist. I felt like a five-year old wanting her mommy after waking up from a horrible nightmare. As I mentioned earlier, I had fought against the desire to call her on Thursday, and plenty of times in the course of our relationship. But this time I couldn’t fight it. I wasn’t in touch with reality. I phoned her. So you must know the extent of my distress for me to have done that. The phone call is a blur as well. I can’t really remember what I told her, and what she said. But I can remember the feelings. How soothing and comforting her voice was. It felt like she was holding me. After our call, I continued crying. Partly because I felt like Therapist really cares, and I could feel that care. I guess it was tears of relief? I don’t actually know what it was. I was also still crying from the overwhelming feelings I had been having since going in that morning, and the day before. A little while after that, I started to feel more calm. Slowly coming back to reality.

This might sound really strange… Even though I am glad I had gone in and my experience had been pretty good, I still feel traumatized from Friday. I’m not even sure why. But I know that speaking to Therapist that day, made it a little less traumatic.

In the next post I’ll write about my experiences in the clinic, and what I’ve learned from it.