Friday, October 7, 2011

Lucid Analysis – Trials in Therapy

Yesterday was a nice day in therapy. It’s the little things that make me realize someone knows me. I walked in to therapy and as soon as I sat down Therapist was like “Something happened, did you meet someone?”
I think I actually blushed. I told her about hanging out with Tech Boy. I told her why I think it’s a bad idea, but even as I say the reasons it’s a bad idea I feel myself not caring at all. I kind of don’t care if it’s a really bad f-ing idea. I can say no, no, no I won’t do it all I want. I know perfectly well that I’m incapable of saying no because it might be wiser to do so. In fact, the worse of an idea it is, the more appeal it kind of has to me. How messed up is that?
Therapist doesn’t think it’s a bad idea though. In fact she thinks it’s progress in a healthy direction. I’m taking safe risks. As long as I take it slow and take care not to divulge too much about myself too soon, it should be just fine. Not really an issue. I’m fantastic when it comes to keeping secrets, hiding things about myself, and only letting people see what I want them to see (at least until I get seriously wrapped up in someone, then it all goes to hell, but we’re not there yet).  She was actually more concerned with the potential to overshare information with my co-workers in general. I have something of an alternative lifestyle. A lot of people are not open minded enough to accept the kind of person I am. But seriously, I’m not going to go around shoving my homosexual preferences or my desire to take up stripping again into the faces of people I appreciate having respect from. Some things just aren’t peoples business and a professional environment is a professional environment.
She asked me how Friend felt when I mentioned hanging out with Tech Boy on Saturday. He hasn’t really said anything. In fact, whenever I bring it up our conversations kind of die, or he gives words of discouragement hinting that it would be a bad Idea for me to do this. And my subtle I mean sending me things like this:

Anyways, Therapist thinks that coupled with him being increasingly affectionate with the wife directly in front of me is him being pretty passive-aggressive and trying to make me jealous. And frankly, a jerk. I gotta say, I don’t disagree. It’s seriously making me reconsider spending as much time there as I do. And actually not doing it, not just thinking about not doing it.
We probably spent 50 minutes talking about the social choices I’m making and my submersion in my work. She flat out said she was reluctant to talk about serious things because she didn’t want to bring me down. It was nice to see me smiling for a change. Finally though we did get around to talking about homework.
My homework from last week was to expound further on the sentence: I wonder what I would do if he left.
My response: I wouldn’t know what to do. Almost every morning he’s the first person I talk to. I think I’d stare at my IM list and want to tell him things but then knowing I couldn’t, would be incredibly frustrating. I’d be lonely and feel empty, like something was missing from my life.  Eventually I’d probably shut down towards him, if not right away. I’d throw myself into distractions just to not think about it. Anything to bury the lonely place I  feel when we’re not chatting. I’d always wonder if he ever thought about me. If he missed me too. If he ever had any regrets about how things went or turned out. I’d wonder how much he could have really valued me if he was able to just walk away, or watch me walk away without putting up any  kind of resistance. That would probably hurt the most. Realizing I didn’t mean that much to him at all if he was ok with our lives just drifting apart. I’d feel depressed and worthless. It shouldn’t be so easy to turn away from someone you had such a supposedly strong connection to.
As I was writing it out though I felt pretty mixed feelings. I think I’d feel hollow, but I’m not sure I’d be devastated. In fact, I was pretty f-ing angry at myself. Why should my self-worth be determined by how someone else does or does not treat me? My self-worth should be determined by how I think of myself. It pisses me off that he still has that kind of influence over my emotions.
Then I think, well, that’s how I feel at the moment. Tomorrow the thought could terrify me. But at that moment I was pretty riled up. Anger always makes me feel strong. I bottle and bottle my anger and don’t let people see it, but it’s a powerful emotion.
Right now though, I seem to be moving in a good direction. And in the first stages of my revenge! Ha-ha! As they say: the best revenge is a life well lived. Therapist thinks I’m moving forward in the best way possible. I’m not being manipulative, I’m not trying to make him feel guilty, I’m not trying to stir up problems in their tenuous marriage (which believe me, would be super easy for me to do). No, instead I’m putting myself out there, taking safe risks, and trying to move on. And actually feeling pretty decent about it. Take that.
Egads, I’ve even been enjoying work. It helps that I have a cute face to look forward to, but I’ve also been getting really involved in the projects I’m doing, getting a lot done, being very productive…. It feels good for me to accomplish things. Plus the atmosphere at work is really excellent. We have breaks twice a day where my colleagues and I basically have coffee and hang out. We plan lunchtime BBQs and we’re organizing a wine and cheese night for after work. I’ve never had this kind of socially inclusive work environment before. I’ve never had people at work I considered being social with. It’s a major change for me. A healthy change for me. There are days I really feel like an adult. A competent adult.  
I’m making new connections and that’s a really big deal for me. I have major trust issues. I don’t trust people at all. Especially coming off of something like the emotional rollercoaster I went through with Friend, but I’ve also had a lot of trauma and abusive relationships.
She asked me if I thought Tech Boy was nice or would have issues with me having male friends. I don’t think he would, and frankly, I won’t deal with it again. When I was living with Evil-Ex he didn’t want me to have my own friends. When I moved here I didn’t know a lot of people. The only person I was close to was him. I met one guy at a party and we started having a regular TV night on Tuesdays. One night Evil-Ex stormed over, nearly kicked in his front door, screamed at me in a shaking rage and stormed off. I was desperate to find him after that. He went to the house of a girl’s that wanted to screw him. I got there before she got home though and we ended up going for a walk and talking. He threatened to move out, leave, and tried to convince me that this guy only wanted to take advantage of me. Which I knew wasn’t true, but I stopped hanging out with him anyways because I was in love with Evil-Ex and I would do anything to keep the peace and him from leaving. Then when I finally started making my own female friends, he accused me of fucking them behind his back because I dared to want to make my own friends separate from him. When I would go to hang out with them he would invite girls over that he knew, I knew, he was attracted to. Anytime I wanted to do anything without him it meant I was going behind his back. Anytime I showed independence and that I didn’t need to rely on him, I was humiliating him. Every time I tried to expand my life, I became more and more terrified that I would lose him. He had to come first or my world would dissolve.
Never again. That’s not the first time I’ve had boyfriends try to control who I’ve hung out with, but it’s definitely going to be the last. It’s not ok.
So I open up slowly. Epic-ly slow. But I’m still opening. Baby steps. Even slow progress is progress.
Homework:  is still to finish writing a letter to friend (that I won’t send him) and release all of the things I wish I could say to him. I’ve been subconsciously avoiding this.

Total Random Aside:  I have a black eye. I think it’s funny enough to mention. I gave it to myself. I woke up in the middle of the night, still in that super brain fogged half dream state and got out of bed to walk straight into my nightstand/TV. I managed to hit it hard enough that I totally smashed my face on the TV. I didn’t even realize I’d cut my eyelid and was bleeding until I got back into bed.  I’m totally going to tell people I was orchestrating an epic space battle of good vs. evil.

Oh! and I totally woke up to this in my inbox this morning: Click here for the key to a geek girls heart.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

I am not amused, but I'd like to be: Laughter

Fact: The average person laughs 10-15 times a day.
I was reading a collection of random facts this morning and stumbled upon this one. It actually made me pause and think. My first thought was: that can’t be right. So I did a search to find it “confirmed” by many sources… you know, b/c the internet is the supreme ruler of indisputably reliable information =P
My next thought was: Clearly I am not average. But I knew that. I’m guessing you probably knew that too. I’m sure I’ve had days where I’ve laughed that much, but on average? Definitely not.  I consider it a miracle if I laugh even once during the day. Happily it’s been a little more frequent as of late since I started hanging out with my coworkers more, but even then, 10-15 times per day? I wish!
Things I do 10-15 times per day:
Berate myself for the way my body looks.
Daydream about my current crush.
Feel a stab of jealousy or resentment.
Check my blogger stats (It’s a compulsion, you know you do it too)
Tell my cat I love him (You would too, he’s the bestest fuzzlove ever).
Make wishes that will never come true.
Check my appointment calendar to make sure I’m not late for anything.

You get the point. See? None, of those things is laughing. ::grumpyface::
And I wonder: Is it because of my depression that I don’t laugh so much? Or that I don’t laugh so much that contributes to the severity of my depression? Is this an intrinsic part of my borderline personality disorder? Or something that just exacerbates it? Do I just not have enough amusing influences in my life? Or am I predisposed to finding things less amusing?
Curiouser and curiouser.
Laughter is good for your physical health and mental health.
  • Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
  • Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
  • Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
  • Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
  • Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Using humor and laughter in relationships allows you to:
  • Be more spontaneous. Humor gets you out of your head and away from your troubles.
  • Let go of defensiveness. Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
  • Release inhibitions. Your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside.
  • Express your true feelings. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.

Laughter might really be the best medicine. It makes me a little sad. And envious. I love to laugh. I would love to be one of those people that laughs that much. I think all our lives would improve a little if we were able to add a little more laughter to them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Racing nowhere fast

My thoughts are stealing all the energy my body would normally need. I’m exhausted. I stayed up late texting with Tech Boy. There’s just something so sweet about the last thought of the evening being someone wishing you good night. When you know their last thought of their evening is with you on their mind too. It’s like a blanket of mental warmth.
Then of course I woke up 2 hours later with my thoughts racing in 20 different directions. I finally started to doze off about 15 minutes before my alarm went off for work. I’m so tired I feel ill. My brain feels like it’s in a fog. And still my thoughts race. Only now they’re rushing around with arms outstretched as they collide into one another because they can’t see through the haze. I can’t even think straight.
I wish more than anything that I could go home to bed but I have so much to do today it’s impossible. Impossible.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Conversations from the Borderline

Just had a random conversation with a guy in my office.
IT Guy says anxiously: You still have the “User Information: Read this while adjusting your chair” tag on your chair.
Me: ::looks:: Yeah, never took it off.
IT Guy: It makes it seem like you aren’t going to be staying with us.
Me: I suppose I could take it off.
IT Guy: Yes, please take it off.
Me: ::removes tag:: There, now I’m staying.  
IT Guy: Good, much better.

This struck me as funny and as if I’m not the only one with abandonment issues.
Two thoughts:
1.      Why didn’t I remove the tag? I do things like this all the time. I leave tags on, leave things in the package, keep things in pristine condition… when I don’t feel like they’re mine, they don’t belong to me, I think I’ll have to give them back, return them… when I feel like I won’t be around long enough to keep something. Or something won’t be around long enough to remain mine. I lack permanency. It’s like I subconsciously don’t want to get attached to the objects around me. Does anyone else do this?
2.      That he found it important enough to mention. Someone else thinks about having me around and would like me to remain into the future. Otherwise the indicator that I was lacking permanency wouldn’t have bothered him. It’s a nice thought.

You know I won't leave you - Abandoment

Hello and good morning! I can’t believe it but I actually kind of look forward to coming in to work. Craziness. Sheer craziness. I’m productive. I enjoy my co-workers. I’m awake and alert. I really think this Pristiq is helping me lift my mood enough that my life feels more easily manageable.  This is just, unheard of. I’m kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop but for now I’m just going to try to enjoy feeling reasonably decent for a change.

Alright. I wanted to get back into my discussions of SchemaTherapy. I’ve introduced you to all the difference schemas, coping styles and modes, but there’s still a lot of depth and useful information. Over the next few weeks I want to take a detailed look at each of the schemas, go over behavioral pattern breaking, look at some easy exercises to increase introspection and self-awareness and a plethora of other things. For now though, let’s start with detailed schema treatment strategies. Each of these will have a pattern of Typical Presentation of the Schema, Goals of Treatment, Strategies Emphasized in Treatment, and Special Problems with This Schema. I just want to emphasize that I’m only presenting information as I’ve uncovered it. There will always be facets and exceptions that I miss or am not aware of. I can’t diagnose or treat anyone.  Strategies that work for some people may not work for others. Etc. My goal is to present as much information as I can and hope that it enables self-reflection and understanding. I also find it reassuring that there is proof that people have found ways of successfully dealing with so many of the issues that we struggle with. So here we go. Let’s taking a deeper look at one of the core issues of Borderline Personality Disorder.
Domain I: Disconnection and Rejection Domain
Typical Presentation of the Schema
These patients constantly expect to lose the people closest to them. They believe these people will abandon them, get sick and die, leave them for somebody else, behave unpredictably, or somehow suddenly disappear. Therefore, they live in constant fear and are always vigilant for any sign that someone is about to leave their lives.
The common emotions are chronic anxiety about losing people, sadness, and depression when there is an actual or perceived loss, and anger at the people who have left them. (In more intense forms, these emotions become terror, grief, and rage.) Some patients even become upset when people leave them for short periods of time. Typical behaviors include clinging to significant others, being possessive and controlling, accusing others of abandoning them, jealousy, and competitiveness with rivals – all to prevent the other person from leaving. Some patients with an Abandonment schema avoid intimate relationship altogether, in order to avoid experiencing what they anticipate to be the inevitable pain of loss. (One patient with this schema, when asked why he could not make a commitment to the woman he loved, answer: “What if she dies?” Consistent with the schema perpetuation process, these patients typically choose unstable significant others, such as uncommitted or unavailable partners, who are highly likely to abandon them. They usually have intense chemistry with these partners, and often fall obsessively in love.
The Abandonment schema is frequently linked with other schemas. It can be linked with the Subjugation schema. Patients believe that if they do not do what the other person wants, then he or she will leave them. It can also be linked with the Dependence/Incompetence schema. Patients believe that if the other person leaves, they will be unable to function in the world on their own. Finally, the Abandonment schema can be linked with the Defectiveness schema. Patients believe the other person will find out how defective they are and will leave.
Goals of Treatment
One goal of treatment is to help patients become more realistic about the stability of relationships. Patients who have been successfully treated for an Abandonment schema no longer worry all the time that reliable significant others are about to disappear. In object relation terms, they have learned to internalize significant others as stable objects. They are far less likely to magnify and misinterpret behaviors as signs that other people are going to abandon them.
            Their linked schemas are usually diminished as well. Because they feel less subjugated, or dependent, or defective, abandonment is not as frightening to them as it used to be. They feel more secure in their relationships, so they do not have to cling, control, or manipulate. They are less angry. They select significant others who are consistently there for them, and no longer avoid intimate relationships. Another sign of improvement in patients with this schema is that they are able to be alone for extended periods of time without becoming anxious or depressed, and without having t o reach out immediately and connect to somebody.
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
            The more severe the Abandonment schema, the more important the therapy relationship is to the treatment. Patients with BPD typically have Abandonment as one of their core schemas, and, therefore, the therapy relationship is the primary source of healing. According to our approach, the therapist becomes a transitional parent figure – a stable base from which the patient can venture into the world and form other stable bonds. First, the patient learns to overcome the schema within the therapy relationship, and then transfers this learning to significant others outside of therapy. Through  limited reparenting,” the therapist provides the patient with stability, and the patient gradually learns to accept the therapist as a stable abject. Mode work is especially helpful (I’ll talk about this some other time). Through empathic confrontation, the therapist corrects the patient’s distorted sense that the therapist is constantly about to abandon the patient. The therapist helps the patient accept the therapist’s departures, vacations, and unavailability without catastrophizing and overreacting. Finally, the therapist helps the patient find someone to replace the therapist as the primary relationship – someone stable, who is not going to leave – so the patient is not dependent forever on the therapist to be the stable object.
            Cognitive strategies focus on altering the patient’s exaggerated view that other people will eventually leave, die, or behave unpredictably. Patients learn to stop catastrophizing about temporary separations from significant others. Additionally, cognitive strategies focus on altering the patient’s unrealistic expectation that significant others should be endlessly available and totally consistent. Patients learn to accept that other people have the right to set limits and establish separate space. Cognitive strategies also focus on reducing the patient’s obsessive focus on making sure the partner is still there. Finally, cognitive strategies address the cognitions that link to other schemas – for example, changing the view that patients must do what other people want them to do or else they are going to be left; that they are incompetent, and need other people to take care of them; or that they are defective, and other people will inevitably find out and leave them.
            In terms of experiential strategies, patients relive childhood experiences of abandonment or instability in imagery. Patients re-experience through imagery memories of the parent who left them, or of the unstable parent who was sometimes there and sometimes not. The therapist enters the image and becomes a stable figure for the child. The therapist expresses anger at the parent who acted irresponsibly, and  comforts the Abandoned Child; then, patients enter the image as Healthy Adults and do the same. They express anger at the parent who abandoned them and comfort the Abandoned Child. Thus, patients gradually become able to serve as their own Healthy Adults in the imagery.
            Behaviorally, patients focus on choosing partners who are capable of making a commitment. They also learn to stop pushing partners away with behaviors that are too jealous, clinging, angry, or controlling. They gradually learn to tolerate being alone. Countering their schema-driven attraction to instability, they learn to walk away from unstable relationships quickly and to become more comfortable in stable relationships. They also heal their linked schemas: They stop letting other people control them; they learn to become more competent in handling everyday affairs, or they work on feeling less defective.
Special Problems with This Schema
            Abandonment often comes up as an issue in therapy when the therapist initiates a separation – such as ending a session, going on vacation, or changing an appointment time. The schema is triggered, and the patient becomes frightened or angry. These situations provide excellent opportunities for the patient to make progress with the schema. The therapist helps the patient do so through empathic confrontation: Although the therapist understands why the patient is so scared, the reality is that the therapist is still bonded to the patient while they are apart, and the therapist is going to return and see the patient again.
            Alternatively, patients may be overly compliant in therapy to make sure the therapist does not ever leave them. They are “Good patients,” constantly seeking reassurance or cling between sessions in order to reconnect. Avoidant patients may miss sessions, be reluctant to come on a regular basis, or drop out of therapy prematurely because they do not want to become too attached to the therapist. Patients with the Abandonment schema may also repeatedly test the therapist – for example, by threatening to stop therapy or accusing the therapist of wanting to stop. (Eventually I’ll go back and talk more about how therapists address these issues for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.) Briefly, the therapist approaches the problem through a combination of settling limits and empathic confrontation.
            Another risk is that patients with the Abandonment schema may make the therapist the central figure in their lives permanently, instead of forming stable, primary connections with other people. The patient never terminates therapy, but just o continues to let the therapist be the stable connection. Becoming dependent upon the therapist becomes the unhealthy solution to the schema. The ultimate goal of therapy is for patients to connect with others in the outside world who can meet their emotional needs.

I may change up my writing strategy of these schemas as I go along. These posts are pretty darn long and I have so much I want to interject and expound on.  Regardless, I think there’s a lot of good information here. I recognize so much of myself in this. For me at least, when I can recognize my behavior as something that’s defective, it makes it easier for me to recognize it when I’m living my life and try to remember to act differently. After all, how can you fix something if you don’t know it’s broken, right?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Memoirs on a Sunday: Crush (Yeah I know it’s Monday)

I have a crush. I feel like such a dork. I’m smiley and up and…. This is such a bad idea. We work together. I’ve been clearly noticing the slow changes in Tech Boy’s behavior towards me over the last few weeks. Standing closer, holding eye contact longer, calling me out to the shop for things that I don’t really need to supervise…. Haha. All those little shifts and changes, seem to shine almost glaringly.
He gave me his cell number Friday (yanno, in case there was anything I needed and he wasn’t in the shop, or by the lab phone, or…) so I gave him mine (so he could identify my out of state number). Later that night as I was sitting at Friends’ house he texts me. I couldn’t stop smiling. We decided to call up some coworkers and do dinner and a Star Wars marathon at my place on Saturday. We texted late into the night, all the while Friend was looking at me funny and finally asked me who I was texting with.  Not you.
Anytime I mention Tech Boy, Friend is subtly discouraging. Gee.
So Saturday I rushed around like crazy. Gym, Grocery 1, Grocery 2, prepared food, baked a pie, cleaned the entire apartment…. He got there right on time. Our coworker showed up a bit later. I made:
Guinness Beef Stew
Caramelized Shallot Mashed Potatoes
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (Tech Boys favorite)
We had a few beers, they absolutely raved about dinner, watched some Star Wars... our coworker left after Empire Strikes back so I moved over to the couch to sit next to him. As soon as I did he scooted over close enough to lean into me. By the end of Return of the Jedi he’d wrapped a blanket and an arm around me and we snuggled up together. It was so cute it was painful haha.
Sunday I went to Friends again for food experiments. I was in such a goofy sleep deprived mood. I made crumpets. Don’t know what a crumpet is? It’s a griddle cake that’s kind of a mix between pancakes and English muffins. Any of my UK readers have a better description? Regardless. They came out flawlessly but man are they a pain. I’d also made Orange-Cranberry Scones. Probably the best scones I’ve ever had if I do say so myself. All day I was sort of on a happy high from the night before. Friend being kissy faced with the wife only stabbed at me a little. I even left early to go home and hang out with Roommate.
My attachment is clearly lessening but it’s still there and things definitely still hurt. I mean, I’m making most of the food for his wife’s upcoming birthday just because he asked.  One or two things wouldn’t be too bad, but I’m making crumpets, scones, fairy cakes, and a couple fruit tarts. It’s a major undertaking. For a woman that I wouldn’t bother with if she wasn’t married to my best friend. A woman that I have a healthy resentment towards. And yet, it helps him out, it makes them happy, guests will have good food… It’s like a compulsion I have whereby I can’t say ‘no’ to taking care of people. I wonder if he knows that the things he shoves in my face bother me and is trying to make me jealous, dig at me, or if he’s really just that clueless. Mind you this is a guy that prides himself on his empathic abilities. Idk. I can’t stand the thought of abandoning this friendship any more than I can stand the thought of being abandoned. Even at the expense of being hurt. At least the wounds seem to be shallower than they used to be. I guess that doesn’t make it good, but it’s something.

And thanks to my new crush I remember what it’s like to be cute and happy.  Shocking.
Of course than my neurotic thoughts kick in. I don’t even know if it’s going to go anywhere. If it does, as long as we stay professional at work. As long as it doesn’t interfere. I don’t want my brain crazy to mess with my work and intimate relationships are the best way to start the spinning. I’ve never had personal relationships, even friendships, with colleagues. Now I have a whole bunch. I am at a complete loss for how to handle this. I’m two different people. I have my professional persona, and I have my actual personality. By socializing more on breaks and going out to lunches with the guys I’ve been slowly trying introduce the safer sides of my personality to the them. It’s like a major mental effort to try to mingle these two parts of myself. I have to try though otherwise it’s going to look mighty freakin’ strange. Stranger. When I’m all sweaters and professional during the day and gothic tattoos at night. Can you count the ways this could go wrong? Here goes nothing.

Clawing Up Rock Walls

This weekend I was inspired by a reader to go back and look at some of the writing I did a few years ago. This is a poem I wrote while I was at University. I make no claims that it’s any good, but I find it interesting to see where I was before. My stress, my anxiety, my loneliness was an anguish but even then, through it all, I’ve held on to that flame of hope.

Clawing Up Rock Walls

Cold stone stairs spiral down,

Flee from red devils behind,

scarlet forked tails whip,

trip me up,

wrap around my throat, puncture

it to the wall; 

Fingers gouge temples pulse,

pry my brain pan apart,

skull cracks

blood spirals out, in

to my mind --

The faster I run, the harder

to stop;

Crash to face what lies

at my two bare feet,

icy pale on frozen mortar,

before my body--


Sometimes you need to hit a wall, fall, before you realize that what you were running from, is better to be faced, head on. I've picked myself back up. I need to stand, back to the wall... my hand is here -- open.
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