body image · mental health

How to speak up without flipping out or running away.

Or more precisely, hiding away into the chair, even though they can still see you, at least you avoided confrontation right?

I had another little ‘moment’ today. One of those moments that makes me think ‘yes! – this is different!’ Infact, I’ve had about 3 of those moments over the last 3 days. So, the reading, the blogging, the therapy is really doing something. I am not acting in the ways I used to and the outcome is goood.

I had to go to a dinner party yesterday evening and while I was a little hesitant for my own reasons (more on that later), I was in a fairly good mood and even state of mind. It was during this party though that an unexpected event occurred and I had a welcome response to it.

For those of you who suffer from poor boundaries, anger issues or emotional sensitivity – where your emotions are just 100mph ahead of you and feel so strong and intense that you end up imploding or exploding before you even had a chance to realise wtf just happened – this is probably something that you’ll understand.

Sitting next to a distant family member, my sister comes over for conversation politely asking her questions to which she was met with a rude, ruthless weight comment (meanwhile my brain is thinking; why are some women so bitchy??). As it’s not the first time she’s said something like that my sister tries to tell her to shut up by saying ‘that’s not the first time you’ve said that. But no, that didn’t stop this mean girl, she went in with ‘yes but you’ve gone MORE BIG’. Immediately, I felt the anger surge, you know the ‘rush’ in your body that forces you to do something in response to whatever’s just happened? In DBT they teach you to notice the physical sensations because they are the ‘signals’ tied to the emotions. This ‘rush’ tells me ‘I am angry’ and I am angry because something has happened. Now in the past, I would end up outbursting, or being so afraid of my outburts, I would stay quiet and stew in my own rage silently for hours, replaying whatever someone had ‘said’ or ‘did’ that made me that way. Either way, it was unhealthy.

If you suffer from ‘anger issues’ it’s never about removing anger, or never experiencing it again, it’s what you do with it. So what my surge of anger would have had me do was yell out: HEY! DON’T BE A BITCH! What I actually did was: Notice the anger, realise this was a situation that needed dealing with and whispered into mean girls ear ‘Don’t say things like that to her because it upsets her.’ To which she acted surprised and went quiet. While I got to walk away with a (try to say something now psshhhh).

Being able to stick up for yourself and for others in situations is so important and for so many years my mental state hasn’t let me do that in an effective way. Today was one of the first times I’ve been able to do that and without it being planned.

And, I am damn glad that I did.

 

 

 

borderline personality disorder · bpd · mental health · Mental health culture · Uncategorized

Girl, Interrupted.

So the book finally arrived yesterday and I finished it by, well, yesterday. I want to share my thoughts about it, especially in terms of BPD recovery.

The book gripped me from the beginning, maybe because I enjoy books and films on mental health or those written off as ‘insane’. Anything that has anything to do with mental wards and psychiatry and you can count me in! The whole thing just fascinates me, but also because Susanna is a very talented writer. She adds a unique touch which makes the whole thing more relatable – snippets of her case notes from her time of admittance to discharge, between chapters of the book. I don’t feel so alone in my BPD anymore but something about seeing the ‘concrete hard’ evidence of her time made it seem so real. This is a writer who has lived it, and is still living it. This is someone who has ventured to a place I have not been and is back, writing this book. How awesome is that?

I wanted to read this initially because my psychologist told me her BPD manifested in terms of some psychotic symptoms (seeing things that aren’t there) and while she describes it a a little, I was hoping for more detail. I was also hoping for the slow progression to recovery which gives me a lot of hope, insight and determination to keep going. Rachel’s ‘Get Me Out of Here: My Recovery from Borderline Personality Disorder’ takes you through that journey and truly leaves you believing that if she can do it, so can you. I don’t think that was the purpose of this book which did leave me a little disappointed. It would have been nice to understand how during her 18 month stay at the hospital she started to feel better. Which therapists/nurses supported her? What activities made her change her outlook on things or did she leave feeling pretty much the same? All I was really left with was understanding that her time at the hospital did help, but on discharge she was in remission rather than recovery and the real work probably began once she left the hospital and began her adult life.

On the upside, Susanna has a very quirky, at times – sarcastic and witty outlook on things and, as if right on time in my life, she too questions the diagnosis.

‘What does borderline personality mean, anyhow?…to quote my post-Melvin psychiatrist: “It’s what they call people whose lifestyles bother them.”

“The person often experiences this instability of self-image as chronic feelings of emptiness or boredom.” My chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom came from the fact that I was living a life based on my incapacities, which were numerous.’

And what were the capacities she wanted to live her life based on you may ask?

“Boyfriends and literature: How can you make a life out of those two things? As it turns out, I did.”

There were also points during the book where she described her experience so accurately, in such a well-thought out and vivid manner that I just had to pause and contemplate.

“Something had been peeled back, a covering or shell that works to protect us. I couldn’t decide whether the covering was something on me or something attached to every thing in the world. It didn’t matter, really; wherever it had been, it wasn’t there anymore.

And this was the main precondition, that anything might be something else. Once I’d accepted that, it followed I might be mad, or that someone might think me mad. How could I say for certain that I wasn’t, if I couldn’t say for certain that a curtain wasn’t a mountain range?

I have to admit, though, that I knew I wasn’t mad.”

The whole thing does make me laugh at the same time. If not a ‘recovery’ book, it is entertaining, thought-provoking and proof that those with mental illness can live a fulfilling life outside the diagnosis. Susanna is proof of that.

 

 

 

 

 

borderline personality disorder · bpd · mental health

BPD Resources

I want to share with you all, a range of things I have found, from Youtube vlogs, to insta pages, to research books written by clinicians in the field. Luckily, some amazing men have put themselves out there as well, so I’ve included that too. Of course, if you can add to this list, please do it will help me too 🙂

Let’s begin!

A site for free downloadable psychotherapy books, from this page I downloaded two recommended books (both of which give insight into the treatment of BPD by therapists):

http://freepsychotherapybooks.org/psychoanalysis/product/listing

The two books are (I haven’t read these yet but another blogger found them helpful in recovery.)

Borderline Pscyhopathology and it’s treatment – Gerald Adler

Six steps in the treatment of Borderline Personality Organization – Vamik Volkan.

The next ‘resource’ I will mention is a youtuber who isn’t as active now as he was before, but has really shed light on BPD, BPD recovery and relates his experiences in a really down-to-earth, light-hearted way. His channel’s called ‘MeAndMyBlackTable‘ what’s really interesting is that he has been for quite some time, in a successful LTR with someone who is also diagnosed with BPD – and they say it can’t be done! (Recovery tip: anything is possible).

Another great youtube channel: ‘Silencewithinme’ previously diagnosed with BPD (and other things) I found his channel helpful in the sense of feeling not so alone. He has also suffered from social anxiety and whilst not exclusive to the disorder, I know a lot of people experience this.

‘BPD transformation’ is another wordpress blogger who talks about how they recovered from BPD and also their views on the diagnosis. It was through this site I found out about the books.

Youtuber Daniz also blogged her recovery from BPD and various addictions. What I like about her videos is you can see the relationship between the desire to get well and relapsing, it is also inspiring to see her progression over time, giving others much needed hope.

For those who are mothers with BPD: Borderline mama is a wordpress blogger with amazing insight into BPD and really informative articles.

On instagram I follow: borderlineandbaby who also has a youtube channel and is also in a good headspace (as far as I know) from her recovery from BPD.

Recovery Mum on youtube also has a great amount of insight and talks about things not often spoken about (BPD and sex for example?).

dbtselfhelp allows you to access a whole bunch of dbt worksheets for free and a youtuber has made videos for free access explaining the modules for those who can’t access DBT – DBT Peer Connections.

Besides watching youtubers and following accounts, I read a lot and I’m waiting for my Girl interrupted book to arrive so I can give my thoughts on that.

I hope this helped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

borderline personality disorder · bpd · mental health · Uncategorized

BPD and Work.

So my crash last week lasted several days. I ended up calling in sick and going in later the day after that. So it took me about two – three days to recover from some inexplicable mental exhaustion. I spent some of Saturday looking up how to cope with working full-time when you have BPD in the hopes of learning something new and to post on here but sadly, there isn’t that much. In handling my other issues – I found a lot on distress tolerance, or handling emotions etc. but not many tips on how to work full-time and not struggle.

The most of what I got was, some people are just managing to do it, or like me, are taking a lot of time off sick. On the other end of the spectrum, those who do manage to perform well working full-time or even longer hours in demanding jobs don’t always have their symptoms under control outside work, in short, their lives are just unhealthy in a different way. This is not to say everyones experience is like that – I have read enough accounts to know it can be done and whilst living a healthy lifestyle, it’s just that I still don’t have enough information on how it can be done.

I did thankfully get some answers to why I might be more exhausted, in therapy. I know in my experience of borderline personality disorder my inner life is a lot richer. There is so much more going on, granted mostly negative at the moment but – I have so many more thoughts, so much more emotion, so many more reactions than other people do, and I don’t entirely hate it, (in fact, sometimes the extra emotion doesn’t feel like a disorder at all but just another way of looking at the world). Plus, in recovery I am learning to adjust, to control, to express, to release, to be mindful, to assert at the right times, to separate and connect with others. In other words, below the surface I am doing a lot more than other people are in any given day. This was true for me just yesterday, I spent the whole day out in the City and there were times, in the crowds I was met with angry, snarky women making comments or hushing under their breath, I could feel the immediate physical sensation of anger come up, the flush of heat in my chest, and my voice tone switched where I was about to become defensive, I stopped before I could finish my sentence, took a breath and explained the situation in a calm, impersonal manner, which suited me alot better. This is just one example from one day. I can go through several incidents in one day – no wonder I’m tired by the end of it.

But, all in all, I had to practice asserting myself in the morning and face reality, I can’t work 5 days right now. I calmly explained my being sick is caused by me pushing myself too hard to work 5 days at the moment and I’d like to try 4. I don’t want this to be a permanent thing, but for now, this is what I need.

borderline personality disorder · mental health

Scatterbrain/ed.

I had a very clear idea of what I wanted to address in my session today (my post on sexual boundaries) but ended up getting into things that have been happening at work. It’s nothing major but recovering from bpd is like a baby learning to crawl and then walk, you have to start small. I feel like this process has been one of starting from scratch, I am literally learning how to live.

My reading now is going to be taking the direction of boundaries, assertiveness and then practicing this in my life. I have to get more uncomfortable or I’ll stagnate. My therapist made the very real and valid point to me today that if I don’t practice in situations in my life now whilst I’m stable then when a demanding situation does come up in my life it’s likely to blow up in my face because the new, effective behaviour will not be familiar to me. We do what we know. 

I just wrote out what I’m going to say on Wednesday to handle a situation at work where I need to assert myself. In short, a supervisor assumed I’ve made a mistake which I’m about 70% sure isn’t the case and when my colleague told me about it today I was getting upset that the assumption was already there. I want to get to a stage where I’m able to in realtime communicate in a structured, assertive way (because making a written script for the rest of my life is not the way to go) but it doesn’t come so naturally to me yet. There is still irritation and defensiveness. I want to be able to put the defensiveness aside (I take my mistakes way too seriously and personally, as if they mean something about me, which I know is a lot of BS but hey, old thought patterns die hard) and yes, maybe some irritation will be there if I’m taken by surprise with it, but I’m not rude about it so I can live with that. I am grateful that life presents me with opportunities to practice, if nothing ever comes up then I can’t use these skills, so it is a good thing in that sense.

Sometimes therapy just kicks you in the ass when you go in with one issue and come out realising you have another one to add to the list. The added item on today’s menu was: separating ‘my stuff’ from ‘other people’s stuff’ (by ‘stuff’ I mean emotions, reactions, interpretations etc).

My therapist picked up in my frustrations with certain people and interactions I’ve described that I have difficulty in separating myself, I kind of intertwine the two as if I’m mentally ‘merged’.

I can behave in a certain manner, even if it is effective and healthy but that doesn’t necessarily mean that other people will react in kind and that is basically, their shit to deal with, not mine. I get a little tangled up and the lines are blurred for me. I feel way too involved with their reactions and take it onto myself or try to control it, or feel responsible for it. So for my supervisor what happened in her brain was A+B = mistake. That’s on her and is her perception, it’s nothing to do with me. I didn’t tell him but I thought like this in the morning as well. In a meeting with my boss she asked me how my work on a project is going, I explained that some parts are busier than others but I have other things to do so I am busy. She then said, if things are quiet then I can ask other colleagues who have extra work and I can support them. What did I think as soon as I left the meeting? ”She thinks that I’m not busy, maybe she thinks I’m sitting around, I didn’t say enough of the right things to give the impression that I am really working as much as I am” and got worried. After the session I can see so clearly now how I took that onto myself. – Even if she did interpret it that way, that is her interpretation in her mind, it’s not mine, it’s not up to me to control that, to feel responsible for that, to worry about it. 

Let’s take another cliche (imagine that’s the right e please, I’m too tired) example:

Guy texts on his phone and laughs. Girlfriend asks to see, he says it’s private. Girl thinks he’s texting his secret girlfriend, he’s cheating on her, how dare he (sorry guys, had to) she’s now upset. Instead of the guy thinking, well it was just my friend, I told her that, she doesn’t believe me that’s on her, she’s choosing to see it that way, he instead starts worrying and panicking, oh now she thinks I’m cheating, I have to prove I’m not cheating, oh how can I get her to believe me. Putting it in this example makes it so obvious to me it’s a little laughable, but that is actually how I feel in those moments. I feel like I have to do something to control how they feel, are reacting or thinking, when apart from expressing the facts, it’s not my job to do that, nor do I need to. Nor do I need to take on their feelings and feel bad or guilty or worry, but I do. There’s that space I need to learn to start developing.

If I can get a handle on this one it’ll make my interactions so much easier and less exhausting.

 

 

 

borderline personality disorder · bpd · mental health

The victim mindset.

It may have been because of all of that hoo-ha with my family last week but, on another uneventful day at the office doing some mind numbing coding work, I randomly wanted to look up information about the victim mentality and mindset. For starters, I know a lot of people use that term in an everyday way but I wasn’t even sure I understood it from an objective point of view. So I looked it up and found a helpful article about it. http://www.drshirin.com/victimme.htm

I wanted to share the first part here that explains what the mentality is.

”The victim mentality is characterized by pessimism, self-pity, repressed anger and a belief that life is beyond one’s control. Victims blame any and every available scapegoat (fate, circumstances, other people, even objects!) for their problems and disappointments. They often lead a crisis-ridden lifestyle, going from one trauma to another, never seeing the contribution they make in creating their own crises. According to them, nothing is ever their fault.”

I feel like there could be something here. I have spent the last year learning about BPD, how to recover, DBT, the causes of my BPD, exploring my childhood traditional psychodynamic style tears-and-all, and yes, it did help, but I know I have moved on from that. In a sense, what my therapist said to me last week about how others actions might have an effect on me, but are not about me, also goes to show that I control how I take things. There’s also so much blaming you can do. I can hate, and rage, and blame but it’s not going to take BPD away. I can cry and rage inside about how things are with my family but its not going to change them. I can complain about not being happy in where I am at in my life, but if I don’t do anything, it’ll stay that way and that’s what the site goes on to describe when it talks about moving beyond the mentality. So I wanted to examine and apply it to myself where I think I can. 

Moving beyond the victim mentality requires courage and commitment. Changing patterns learned in childhood is a risk, since it requires looking at the world in a new, more personally accountable way. (DBT, check). Victims must learn to see how they contribute to (if not create) most of their troubles. That means recognizing that it’s not bad luck or fate or your spouse or your boss or anyone or anything else that controls your life: only you do. This is a biggie, yes people around me may act a certain way, but they don’t ‘make me’ feel anything or do anything. That is not out of my control, yes I may feel a certain way as a result of what other people say or do, but that is entirely my perception and if I don’t like how I feel or what’s happened, I still have control over what to do next. With BPD untreated, you just react. Someone said this, so I did that. An example from my past – if I had an argument at night with my ex husband I would stay up for hours crying hysterically. Now, that was in my control. Yes, I can feel sad, but it is up to me, to choose to instead, go and do something to calm myself down or feel better, or try to sleep. Since moving on from this mindset requires personal accountabilty it means it’s up to me to make the effort to do something about how I am feeling.

Such a shift in perspective can be difficult to achieve alone. A therapist can help by acting as a mirror in which you can look objectively at the negative thought processes and emotional responses that fuel the victim mentality. For victims, therapeutic change begins with the question,How can I change my behavior and take responsibility for my own life regardless of what others do (or don’t do)?” So again, regardless of what others do or don’t do, sure, he could have done something that I then felt angry or upset about but regardless of that, it is up to me (the responsibility part) not him or anyone else to then take responsibility for my life, so in that moment, I choose how I want my life to go. Do I want to sleep/calm down/distract/regulate? I need to do that. I can’t stay up crying waiting for someone to ‘make me feel better’ (which was what would happen).

Once in therapy, victims need to:
· Focus on themselves and what they can do to improve their lives now. I am going to be acting on this one tomorrow, I’m unhappy with my work location and the changes going on in the organisation so I’m going to be applying to places closer to my home. I hope it works out 🙂
· Be realistic. Even with the best therapists, change will not come quickly. Therapy requires a lot of effort on the client’s part and you will only get out of therapy what you put into it.
· Avoid the urge to blame the therapist or assume change is impossible when results don’t come quickly enough or when therapy becomes a challenge. Victims tend to be easily defeated, so blame is a retreat to hopelessness and passivity.

I’m not saying I necessarily had the victim mindset, I just want to make damn sure that I don’t stay stuck in the ‘I hate that I suffer with this issue’ mindset. Lots of people have struggles of their own. I have done enough work to now realise I am a stage where it’s up to me. Bored? go and do something. Feeling upset? try something that I know makes me happy. And I’m finding it’s working. I had a great day today because instead of letting my mind run, I’ve been doing things that make me smile and laugh and it’s been great and that was entirely my choice and I didn’t need a single person outside of myself to do that. In short, I don’t need someone else for that, it is not up to anyone else to do that and it is entirely up to me to take care of myself. If I’m unhappy in an interpersonal situation or don’t like the way an interaction is going (I mention interpersonal situation because this is THE arena for BPD) then what can I say or do to help that?

I hope that she doesn’t mind that I shared this but one of my favourite bloggers wrote about how she’s managing to stay well;

‘But most most most importantly, I check in with myself constantly; I invest a LOT of time and energy into making sure I never get to the point of depressed, and hopeless, waiting for somebody to say or do something to make it better – because this, to me, was the trademark sentiment of BPD, the mind frame, in a nutshell, that kept me feeling victimized and codependent, caught in borderline cycles of abandonment and anger. If I’m feeling like no one is meeting my needs, I go above and beyond to meet my own needs that day – and I try to do that with as little bitterness/animosity as I can towards the people that I believe have “let me down” (by not meeting said needs… I’m not great at that part yet, but I’m slowly getting better).’

To me all of what she’s put here is talking about personal accountability. BPD loves to victimize, to make you feel like the victim of what other people are doing or saying, or what you’re perceiving they’re doing (you’re going out with your friends and abandoning me you monster?! how could you do that to me?! I hate you, now I’m going to go and self-destruct in whatever way I see fit because of you! – do you see what I did there? very BPD). When you rely on other people this way, no wonder I’d be angry or resentful, it’s a 24/7 job of ‘making’ and keeping me happy. What I think we need to be looking at instead is something along the lines of ‘I’m feeling afraid of abandonment right now, I’m feeling anger/sadness because of this, what do I need to make it better? What can I do to get me through this moment?’ Maybe it does sound self-absorbed, quite frankly, I don’t care if it does, it sounds more to me like self-care and a healthier way of living than the alternative. Maybe with BPD it means I have to put in more work than other nons would have to on a daily basis, but, it is what it is. I am willing to do that if it means I stay well and happy. 

borderline personality disorder · bpd · mental health

My therapist is a soothing balm.

After my intense, in-depth post about my family dynamics, I wanted to follow up what came about as a result of therapy. In the small self-important hope that it may help someone else who resonated with any of it. That, and I journalled about it but something about blogging it online seems to get it out better, ha.

After holding back tears from the ‘amount of things’ I know I still need to talk about (aka. pedos and creeps, let’s save that for another day, boy, he has no idea what’s coming). I sat and kind of sighed about the fact that I had to bring something up once again that I thought once I’d ‘cried about’ it would be done with but I was finding that it wasn’t working quite that way for me. Was I doing therapy ‘wrong?’ As usual, my therapist has a good explanation for me that satisfies and quenches my doubts. ‘Therapy is about your life experience and as you continue on in your life the same issue can come up in a different way, you’re changing as a person so the same issue may then need to be discussed taking that into account. Some issues also have many layers to them that need to be uncovered.’ Ah, makes sense. And from a different angle it was. It wasn’t the angle last year of getting the pain out, realising I can’t change my mum. It was from the angle of who I am now and the new dynamic in the house with my sister. 

I told him again of the comments she made when I was sick, of my experience last week of me calling her and her not coming to me. How she spends more time with one sister more than anyone of us. Of how I only learnt things were different for me once I got out into the world and made friends with people the same age as my mum and realised they actually hung out with their kids. After a while he asked me what is it that I used to do or feel like doing when I’m faced with these situations. ‘I feel like calling her out on it, not to start an argument, but to let her know that it’s not OK or normal, but if I do, I get called argumentative.’

‘And do you think you’re wrong?’

‘No, I don’t think I’m wrong, but I think it’s useless’.

He laughed and said I summed it up perfectly.

It felt nice to know that it’s not always BPD making me ‘think things’ or ‘act up’ and if there’s something I’ve learnt and am still learning time and again in recovery is that often, we usually have a damn good reason for feeling the way we do. It’s just what we do with it. I am starting to find that my dynamics with my therapist are good, I talk, bring up loads of shit and he always seems to have some miracle ‘psychologist trick or phrase or line of thought’ that helps me to totally see things in a new way and learn. In fact, he’s probably getting used to the sight of me going ‘ah’ then pausing and tilting my head, finger on chin, deep in thought – almost a little comically obvious in my demonstration that I am ‘pondering’ on what he’s just taught me.

‘I want you to think about how much of this has to do with her, with her as a person and how much of this you think has to do with you?’

After 50 minutes of hashing it all out, it dawned on me almost instantly. This has to do with her. It has nothing to do with me. All this time, I have been getting upset and reacting and struggled to realise that this isn’t my stuff.

‘Yes, it affects you, but it doesn’t have anything to do with you.’ His golden phrase that I made a mental note to write down once I got home so that I could use it to separate myself when/if I do get upset in similar situations.  The beauty of this, I realised on my journey home was, I could apply it to so many people in my life that manage to piss me off by way of association (you know like nugget head in-laws or annoying nitpicky colleagues, I’m sure your mind has already come up with examples of your own). I don’t need to react to their shit, to their life situations, I don’t need to ‘call them out’. Yes, maybe at times, I need to assert myself, but I don’t need to take on all the emotions because It’s not about me.

How freeing.