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.

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Being My Own Friend

During my therapy session yesterday, I was highly annoyed with myself. I told my therapist that I feel I should be better by now. That I should just get over everything and move on. She told me that I’m very harsh on myself, and set very high expectations. That’s very true. I’m my own worst enemy. My harshest critic.

Then I got to thinking. I’ve read articles before on treating yourself as you would treat a friend. Back then it didn’t make much of an impact on me. But now I get it.

If a friend tells me that she’s a terrible person because of something she’s done, what would I tell her? I’ll tell her something along these lines:

“I can understand that you feel like a terrible person. But you’re human. We all make mistakes. The good thing is that we can fix these things. And those things we can’t mend, we learn from them. Simply by you admitting to what you did and how terrible you feel about it, you’re actually showing me the opposite. If you were truly terrible, you wouldn’t have been feeling this bad about it. That tells me that you have a good heart.”

Now what does it sound like when it’s me that’s done something I’m not proud of? It goes like this:

“You stupid idiot. Once again you fucked up like you always do. You’re the worst person in the world. Can’t you ever do anything right? You deserve to feel terrible about yourself. You shouldn’t even be allowed to live.” Yes, that’s really how I talk to myself. Black and White thinking in full swing. I would never talk to a friend like that, so why shouldn’t I show myself the same courtesy?

I learned a valuable skill from my therapist yesterday, which works great in the context of this post as well. I was going through one of my insecure phases and wondering whether I really can trust her completely. “I don’t want to be here today”. “What if you don’t really want to work with me and you’re only staying because it would be unethical for you to drop me?” Those kinds of things. After 6 months with her, I had hoped those insecurities would be non-existent, but that’s not the case. Just when I feel closer to her than ever before, and am enjoying that wonderful connection, it’s not long until I find myself pulling away and falling into the insecure, negative place again.

Yesterday, instead of reassuring me the way she sometimes does, she made me work this time. I suppose there has to be a balance. She can’t just always reassure me without showing me how to change my own thought patterns and reach conclusions for myself. That being said, she still managed to sneak in reassurances, and didn’t leave me completely alone trying to work through this.

She asked me these kinds of questions for each of the negative thoughts I was having (she encouraged me to look at the facts):

What is the evidence that she’s trustworthy?
What evidence is there that she’s not trustworthy?

What evidence is there that she doesn’t like working with me?
What evidence is there that she does like  working with me?

This ‘little’ exercise took a while. She really makes me work hard, and sometimes it feels like my brain just wants to explode. Not to mention my rage at having to spend so much time on something that seems so trivial at the time. Afterward though, I see just how valuable it really is, and I’m grateful for it. I have so many cognitive distortions, and negative patterns and habits that I’ve developed over the years, so of course it’s going to be hard to train my mind to think differently. I need to be kinder to myself. I need to be my own friend.

I can use this skill to be a better friend to myself. When I start feeling like a failure, a waste of space, or whatever my mind comes up with, I can practice this technique.

“I’m a failure.”

What evidence is there to suggest that I’m a failure?
What’s the evidence that I’m not a failure.

This stuff can be used for anything. Thank you psychology. Thank you therapist.

I’m going to practice being kinder and more gentle with myself, and talk to myself the same way I would to my friends, and other people in my life. If I find myself being harsh, I will re-frame it and ask myself what would I tell someone else if they feeling the same way.

We deserve to be our own best friend.

BPD & Attachment

Those of us with BPD have unstable patterns in relationships. Until I started therapy, this fact didn’t even appear on my radar. I was living it, but not consciously aware of these patterns. It was only when I started therapy that it was brought to my awareness. I see it play out in my relationship with my psychologist as well.

One of the criteria for BPD in the DSM IV is:

(2) a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

This is also known as “splitting”, and is a common defense mechanism for those with BPD. In one article I read, the author referred to us as being emotionally 2 or 3 years old, with a lack of object constancy. Object constancy usually develops between the ages of 2 and 3, and is a normal developmental stage in early childhood that those of us with BPD haven’t quite mastered. What is object constancy? Out of the Fog puts it this way:

An inability to remember that people or objects are consistent, trustworthy and reliable, especially when they are out of your immediate field of vision.

You can read more about this on their website.
http://outofthefog.website/top-100-trait-blog/2015/11/4/lack-of-object-constancy

This is how this looks for me:

I become so attached (obsessively so) to anyone who shows me an ounce of care. They become my whole world. Then, it starts. One little word, one small action, and I feel it all crumble down around me. The feeling that I’m being abandoned or rejected is all consuming. If I don’t hear from someone for a while, I start believing the worst. No longer are they this perfect hero, but now just another person who has rejected me, or is going to abandon me. So I withdraw and push them away. After all, it’s better to pull away myself than have them walk away.

I adore my therapist, and after almost 5 months she still has that place on the pedestal of my mind. But there have been occasions where I’ve found myself withdrawing. Wanting to push her away. She refers to it as “push-pull”. If I don’t hear from her for a time, I get extremely distressed, and I find myself trying to erase any trace of her from my mind. Anger. Pain. But never hate. A few minutes or hours later though, she pops back into my mind, and I long for that connection to her again. It’s extremely frustrating.

I wrote this letter to my therapist last night. I wasn’t going to even send it to her, but I feel it perfectly represents all I’ve written about in this post. So I’m publishing it here.

Dear (therapist),

I don’t mean to be a burden. I don’t mean to doubt you, your words, or your reassurances.

For the past two days I haven’t been able to get the idea out of my head that maybe you’re angry with me. That maybe I did something wrong. Knowing that I can’t ask you that question. Thinking that if I contact you and ask you that question that I so desperately want the answer to, that you’ll get angry and put up more boundaries. Thinking that I’ll have to wait to see whether I hear from you, or if you show up, to know whether my fear is just another projection.

I don’t want to be like this. It’s hard for me. Excruciating would be a more accurate description of the anguish I feel. It’s like having a knife twisted, pushed and pulled into my heart and stomach, over and over again. It stops for a little while, only to start up again when something triggers the abandonment fears. I don’t mean to constantly want and demand your attention. I hate it as much as I fear you do.

You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re doing everything right, and more. It’s me. My mind can’t quite grasp that when you send me an email, or text message one day, that it’s equally valid a few days later. That you haven’t changed your mind. That you still care. I’m trying hard to change that. You should know though that I hold onto those kind gestures, and look at them, reading them again whenever I’m missing you. They keep me going. They keep me strong.

I’m sorry for being too much. Even though in my own world and life, I never feel like I’m enough.

How do I tell you that you’re my life line, when I’m terrified that revealing that will make you pull away from me… Fearing that I’m too dependent? Would it be okay if I told you that if it wasn’t for you, I don’t think I’d be here writing this letter? I don’t think I ever told you this…That first day I came to see you…I had decided that if our meeting didn’t go well, and I thought you couldn’t help me, that I was going to end my life. That you were my last attempt at staying alive. The others made me feel hopeless, that I couldn’t be helped. That I couldn’t be saved. Perhaps that’s why I’m so attached to you. Why I feel this bond with you. You saved my life that day. You saved my life a few weeks ago. You save me when I’m unable to save myself.

Thank you for all you do. Thank you for caring for this woman who’s still a little girl inside, working on growing up and soaring. Becoming the woman I can be.


Rayne

Living Black & White

Woke up this morning and got started on my day, thinking I’d enjoy my day off work. I didn’t have any plans besides reading and catching up on the blogs I follow religiously, and get some needed study time in.

I did that a little bit (except for the studying part), but couldn’t help noticing that I was feeling really strange. Like I don’t exist. Like I don’t even have a name. I tried saying my name a few times, hoping to feel some recognition or “togetherness”, but it just didn’t sound right. It was as though the name didn’t belong to me. Like I’m no one. Not part of this world. Just floating somewhere, and I don’t even know where. How am I? I don’t even know if I am. There’s nothing. Just emptiness.

That continued on for most of the day. I attempted to study, but just couldn’t focus, no matter how hard I tried. So once again, I put my book aside. I can’t remember anything else from the day up until my therapy session. It’s been a long 2 weeks between sessions. Way too long.

It didn’t quite go the way I had planned. Not that I plan my sessions, but I at least know more or less what I want to talk about or what issues to address. I was surprised by the direction it ended up going in. We spoke about my excessive suicidal ideation over the past two weeks. She told me she was worried about me, and the truth is, I’m worried too. It just seems to be getting worse. We agreed that I would consider admission to hospital for a small amount of time (maybe a few days), which is something I never seriously considered before. I had thought about it once or twice in the past, but for the briefest few minutes. This time though, I think it might just be necessary and a good thing.

My therapist pointed out my black and white thinking during our conversation. I didn’t recognize that’s what was happening. After our session though I realized that I had been in “all or nothing” mode during our entire session. If she hadn’t mentioned that thinking pattern I wouldn’t have even known I was in it, and I wouldn’t have realized that I’d been doing it the whole time. I really should start noticing it from now on. I’ve never paid much attention to it. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this thought process:

Splitting (also called black-and-white thinking or all-or-nothing thinking) is the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism used by many people. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

I feel really horrible. I feel like the worst client ever (did I just do it again?). Replaying the session back in my head and trying to see things from another perspective other than my own, I realize that the things I said could possibly have made her feel like I was “attacking” her and her skills as a Psychologist. Which wasn’t my intention at all. I think she’s the most amazing therapist. I told her in the beginning when she asked me about my suicide plan, that I didn’t want to talk to her about it, because I always feel invalidated by her, and that she doesn’t take me seriously when talking about that topic. She explained why she says what she says during those times, and I finally get it. She wasn’t invalidating me, she wasn’t careless about it, she was encouraging me to see my own strength and resilience. And now that I understand, I’m grateful for it and to her.

She pushed me today and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all. But she knows what she’s doing, and like she says, therapy isn’t always easy.

I’m feeling really shitty, embarrassed and weird about it. Shitty, weird, embarrassed, and exhausted. I just want to crawl into a hole and hide away for a while. My bed will have to do instead.