Grief. Grief is a natural and necessary feeling when you have experienced loss. The loss of a friend. The loss of a lover. The loss of a family member.
But what about grief over the loss of a destructive habit? A destructive mentality? I’ve mentioned my fears of losing my Borderline traits before, but after discussing this a bit with a Reader I thought I’d expound some more.
When the thoughts and actions that accompany Borderline Personality Disorder have been with you for so long, they become a part of you. Those things have helped shape you into who you are. That’s part of the problem right? I’ve been depressed, destructive, hurting myself and those around me for a very, very long time. My decision to choose therapy and change these things should be a good thing right? Something to celebrate, true?
Yes. But also, no. No? Why, no?
Because these things have been so ingrained into who I am, that they are all I know. Cognitively I know that many of these traits are unhealthy and bad for me, but it’s like throwing away an old, worn out blanket that you’ve had since childhood. There’s a bizarre kind of comfort in the familiar, even if the familiar is riddled with holes and germs.
Cutting, for example. I’m 17 months self-harm free. That’s a long, long time for someone to not cut or burn when they’ve been doing it for 18 years prior to quitting. I haven’t done it in a long time, but I still think about it. And honestly, I miss it. It’s something that I did to remind myself I was alive. I drew from it a source of strength. When I started therapy and talked about my commitment to healing with Therapist, this is one of the things we agreed would be healthy to change. Well, she believes it’s an unhealthy behavior, and I know it makes people uncomfortable.
I gave up self-harming behaviors in small part because there may be some validity to the reasoning that it is unhealthy. I gave it up in large part because I don’t like having to hide fresh wounds from people (I don’t hide my scars, but I do cover up new gashes). I don’t like seeing the discomfort and concern in people’s eyes. I don’t like seeing the people I care about upset over something I’ve done to myself. I didn’t necessarily give it up because I wanted to on all levels. I’m going to say something controversial here: I don’t think self-harm is always bad. It’s a coping mechanism that has helped me a lot in my life. I do recognize that there are more constructive ways of dealing though. My point is, I often miss this but I won’t engage in the behavior. Sometimes it’s hard, but at this point it’s pretty easy to ignore. I even go long periods of time without thinking about doing it at all. Somewhere in the back of my mind though, I feel like I’ve lost a bit of myself that I had once embraced and it makes me sad. I don’t know a lot of people that could willingly endure the kind of physical pain I’ve felt, that I’ve created, and it has actually inspired a kind of bizarre pride that I can handle that kind of sensation. It’s why the behavior was so helpful to me. It reminded me that no matter how painful life can be, I can endure.
While many people see this as negative, to me there is also a positive element. It’s a constant reminder, a companion that has helped me survive. But now I have learned new ways of dealing with life, less destructive ways, and I no longer need this companion. It’s like a parent-child relationship. As much as I may love my parents, eventually I grew up and no longer need them in the way that I did when I was younger and didn’t know how to take care of myself. My parents will always be there in my life, but I’ve learned a new way to live independently of them in the world without the reliance that I used to have. Cutting is kind of the same way for me. I hate to say that it will always be there ‘just in case’, but as I’ve held to my resolve I have learned that there are other ways, better ways, of dealing with my emotions.
It’s time to move on in a different direction on my own. It’s time to let go, but it’s still sad to see it go sometimes. It’s an element that I grieve the loss of. And that’s ok. It’s ok to grieve that loss, recognize what it has done for you, but at the same time allow for the opportunity that there are other ways, just as helpful if not more so, ways of doing things that you can now gain from.
I fear taking my antidepressants sometimes because I don’t really know what it’s like to be happy. My depression isn’t fun, but it’s familiar. I know what it’s like. Feeling a different way is fraught with uncertainty. Uncertainty is uncontrollable. Uncontrollable is hell. Sometimes I think I would rather risk the depression than the anxiety of the uncertain.
Of course, then I think back on the fact that I’ve been living with a dark cloud over my mind for over half my life and I imagine kicking myself in the ass. I don’t want to live that way. That way has sucked for a very long time.
All of these things that have made me who I am up until this point are now changing. In one sense it feels like I’m losing my identity. Who I’ve always been. And in a certain sense I am. It’s not actually a loss though. It’s an evolution. A state of becoming something new. Something more. Something better than I have been able to be in the past.