Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Said Alice to the Caterpillar - Criteria 3: Identity Disturbance

Number 3 on the DSM IV spectrum is identity disturbance, but I think this ties in closely with number 9 which is where Severe Dissociation comes into play so I’ll cover these in series. One post after the other.

3. identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.

Identity disturbance. For me this is a shifting depending on my environment, my mood, my company. An ex of mine used to point this out to me. I don’t think I ever fully understood what he meant when he would tell me I was like different people. My personality changing depending on what we were doing. Unstable sense of who I am.

Caterpillar: Who... are... you?
Alice: Why, I hardly know, sir. I've changed so much since this morning, you see...
Caterpillar: No, I do not C, explain yourself.
Alice: I'm afraid I can't explain myself, you see, because I'm not myself, you know.
Caterpillar: I do not know.
Alice: I can't put it any more clearly, sir, because it isn't clear to me.

Whether I’m at work, with a group of friends, even in my own head the way I identify, socially/sexually, is transient. I tell myself I’m fluid; that one thing bleeds to another, never solidifying into one stable set of features grouped to form a whole. Travelling from group to group with skill points of Illusion, Subterfuge, and Charisma. Every personality point is part of you, but some scenes don’t utilize all skill sets. So for the Borderline Personality this translates as coming across as very different people depending on the setting.

To me it feels normal to be more outgoing, loud, wilder when I’m out dancing, it’s appropriate there. But what's more I feel like I'm that kind of person.  It's not an act, I AM wilder. When I’m hanging out with friends, I’m quieter, my intelligence comes out and I joke, heap on the sarcasm and enjoy people’s company. I'm a nerd girl. When I’m at work I am reserved, aloof, stone cold and efficient; my personality almost completely held back. I'm an efficient machine. When I’m with my family I am open, my walls crumble, I’m more melancholy but loved. I'm small. To me this normal. The variations are not subtle. Not one overarching personality with small variations, appropriate for the environment, it’s a completely different set of traits depending on the location. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, maybe everybody feels like this. To me it seems like certain things are appropriate for certain places, and not for others, so depending on what the circumstances are, will decide which parts of me show. Which me, is the real me?

At work I adopt a more business like persona. Amusingly I make no effort to conceal my piercings or tattoos, things that are glaringly different in my professional setting, I’m waiting for the rejection. Though I do wear clothes that are completely appropriate for the office if not my personal style. My work persona is by far my least stable. By this I mean, I feel like I am the most out of my own skin, trying to fit an image I imagine to be acceptable for a professional setting but which is not me. I don’t maintain this character well. I always feel out of place, if not like an outright fraud, even though I know I am capable of doing my work better than anyone else. I do not have any sense of solidarity with my working environment or the kinds of people in my office. It’s a place to go where I waste 8-10 hours a day and come home with a monetary exchange.

I am anatomically female but I don’t feel like a girl. I’ve never been a boy so I can’t say I feel like a boy, though I do value masculine qualities more than feminine. I have no gender identity. Or if you ask I will tell you I gender ID neutral. In the GLBTT community I would call myself Queer.
I don’t see rigid definitions. I don’t believe in absolutes. With no absolutes comes a certain fluidity that blends from one area to another. Like a chameleon changing colors to fit the foliage as you walk through an unknown social jungle. The leaves and bark may change but the wind still bites without a solid shield from the elements.  

Because the Borderline may not have a full sense of self they may adopt the group culture in a desperate attempt to fit in, not be excluded. This works as long as the group is a stable set of characters. If things begin to vary from the norm, change, people have problems or things become socially tumultuous, this will affect the Borderline’s sense of stability. The group is falling apart, so she/he will feel like she is falling apart as well. If she/he’s based so much of herself on the group dynamic, and the group dynamic fails, it’s as if who she is crumbling down around her and she has nothing to grab onto for stability or control. Changing to fit the group has never been my social experience, personally, though that crumbling stability seems to happen all too often.

For me, in smaller social settings, I don’t blend. I stubbornly stick to who I want to be, think I am. I am me, I’m just not sure what that means most days. Not being able to attain a group identity, to fit in a with a set of people, always makes me feel Other. An outsider, looking in. I laugh with the group but don’t feel included in the joke.

This bleeds into my Dissociation, especially when my body image is a mess...


  1. Hi there

    Just wanted to say that i really like how you write. I'll definately pop in when I can to do more reading here. (other than that, I have nothing else to say at the mo). I want to read your articles when my head feels more focused.

    Take care


  2. Replies
    1. hi, i was looking on google for a picture with breathe in it and came across yours ... i have Borderline Personality Disorder as well as PTSD multiple forms of anxiety disorders body dysmorphic disorder ... i was a cutter for 7 years every day over 100 cuts a day just to keep breathing and i was anorexic bulimic for 4 years trying to find control...i dont know if you still post here or read here or what not but i wanted to say that i have been journaling my whole life, working on an autobiography as a therapist i had years ago told me that my story is one that many would not have lived through and so i may be able to help others if i can get my story out...unfortunately i suffer from extreme writers block though it is my passion and have been published when i was much younger... i do believe i will come back here to read more of your writing as it seems you carry a lot of your things but that you are still strong as you can be and i know how it can be, they tell you what doesnt kill you makes you stronger but sometimes, sometimes that strength is hard to hold on to ... again i thank you and hope you are well

    2. Hello Anon =) Yes I am still here and still writing away every single day if I can. Your story sounds very familiar as you may see if you continue to read about my journey here.

      I hope your writers block gets unblocked!

  3. Chameleon. This is a word I have identified with for many years, long before the diagnosis of BPD was made. I can fit in with any group as long as I know the rules, the norms, and actually relate with the members of the group quite well.

    I've also used the word mirror to describe myself. I mirror those around me. This all occurs with no conscious effort on my part. But have your ever thought what you would see reflected in a mirror if there was nothing in front of it? Emptiness, eternal emptiness.

    It's automatic and extreme enough that I will even take on accents of the area or group I'm around. I once had a woman ask me what part of New York I'm from. I've never even visited there, but I had spent quite a bit of time with her son, daughter-in-law and grand-children in the weeks before meeting this lady. They were all raised in different parts of New York: Long Island, Queens, and the Bronx. When I told her I'd never been there, in fact I was born and raised in TX, and explained where the accent came from she said that explained her not being able to pinpoint where in NY the accent was from.

    I'd never really thought of it as being part of an illness, it's just always been me.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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