Friday, January 6, 2012

Lucid Analysis - Trials in Therapy: A Disorder of Relationships

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since my last appointment due to the holidays/vacation. I discovered something. I don’t like not being able to go to therapy. I was unexpectedly relieved to sit down across from Therapist last night. We had a lot of catching up to do.
Sadistic little bastard
I told her about my trip home to see the family for Christmas. I told her I almost didn’t go but my family guilted me into it. I told her about the stress that built up to it, including my continuing estrangement from Friend and my recent pregnancy scare. Oops, I think I forgot to mention that. I was 2.5 weeks late. That may have contributed to my freaking out about Tech Boy. Skipping periods isn’t unusual for me but when you’re in a lesbian relationship the causes (generally too much stress and/or low body fat) don’t produce the same potential worries as screwing a guy (baby positive). Needless to say, not being preggo is a huge relief.  No, I didn’t tell him. I’m fixing this today. Hello back on the birth control.
Tech Boy and I actually discussed this last Friday which leads me to the definite conclusion that he is thinking at least a little ways down the line. Yeah, yeah, I’m still with him. I’m seriously addicted to physical contact. Beyond reason I would do just about anything to have someone to wake up next to. He FEELS wonderful. Things have taken a turn for the better it seems. Last Friday amongst the beer and UFC matches we had quite a few serious conversations (which he initiated). Amongst them he told me about wanting to have kids someday (but not right now!). I yell a lot about hating kids (which is true 99% of the time), but the truth is that I’m afraid to invest my hope in things like kids and marriage, and my decision to have kids is dependent on my partner (being able to overcome my laundry list of reasons not to).  I will not be a single parent and I don’t believe I will find someone that will stay with me long enough for marriage. We talked about me going back on birth control, {lack of} STDs, dating other people… in terms of not having to worry about him doing this. He seemed quite adamant that I had nothing to worry about in regards to him seeing other girls. This was in response to me saying I didn’t care, I just want to be informed because I can’t control where other people have been and I don’t want to catch anything. I wasn’t pushing him for monogamy or anything, but he just shook his head and told me over and over that it wasn’t on his agenda. I don’t know what this means in terms of our “hanging out” status. The conversation evolved to a place that sounded very much like he was happy to see where things were going with our relationship, wasn’t necessarily into labels, but had no intentions of putting on the brakes. Idk. He may also have told me he loved me. And by ‘may’, I mean, he did, but I think it was not really romantic, and more “I can’t believe you like all this stuff and are awesome I love you”. I had a snap reaction where I responded with “No, you don’t, haha, but you’re cute”.
Do I have any male Readers out there that can interpret that one for me?
He does have a way of just staring into my eyes though and kissing my shoulders when I’m pressed against him. ::sigh:: Look at me getting all sappy. Then again, he also didn’t text me at midnight on New Years Eve or even the next day. Mixed signals much?
Friend. A couple weeks back I got really drunk and finally wrote the letter to Friend that Therapist has been trying to get me to write for weeks. It’s angry, poignant, a little vicious, but also very true and succinctly informative about how our relationship has been hurting me over the past year+ . Therapist was very, very proud of me. Writing out my feelings and thoughts is so important to getting control of how I feel and staying connected to my emotions. It’s been 3 weeks since I got in a fight with Friend and stopped talking to him (except for a few short text conversations/e-mail). I really needed to talk Therapist to help me decide if I should tell him all of this. I just didn’t feel like this was a decision I could make on my own. She was impressed with my ability to resist the impulse to send the unedited letter to him when I wrote it. Believe me, being drunk and as impulsive as I am, I was one tiny split click away from it. I held it together.  I’m going to clean up the letter, take out some of the more petty insults, and send it to him. Therapist reminded me that it is very important to express my anger in constructive and productive ways, like this letter. If I intend to continue a friendship with Friend than I need to release the anger that’s building to resent him. If I can’t let go of this, then there is little hope that we can remain friends. I know he misses me, but frankly, I don’t miss him. I honestly feel nothing. Not a thing. I have no emotions at all in regards to him. He’s a familiar name in my memory with no emotional attachment; a disembodied character floating through my mind.

I stayed home for New Years. I could have gone to a party at Club Boi’s house where Friend and his wife would have been, but I didn’t feel like having an evening of forced smiles and awkward conversation. I knew I would end up being miserable and uncomfortable the whole time so finally I made the decision to stay in (not that I couldn’t have gone to other parties but going places without a date leads to me fending off drunken assholes all night – no thanks). Therapist was VERY proud of me for this as well. At this time last year I was at that party, pretending to be happy, smiling, trying not to let anyone see how much Friend and his wife were destroying me. He wanted me to be there so of course I would be there, I would do anything he wanted, just to see him and spend time with him; no matter how much it was breaking my heart. That I made a different decision this year is major progress.  
Time to let go.
GF is coming over tonight. She wants to watch movies and “cuddle”. Therapist thinks it’s important for me to remain monogamous with Tech Boy, especially as it appears he has no intention of seeing anyone else. I have this sadistic voice in the back of my mind whispering that the reason he doesn’t want to give us a ‘label’ is because he wants a blurry line in case another girls happens into the picture when he’s out drunk with his buddies, but at the same time he doesn’t want me to see anyone else so he wants to plant the idea of exclusivity. < ---- This is what Evil-Ex would do. I know that’s not fair to him, but my trust issues are a bottomless well of suspicion and paranoia.

Therapist asked me if I liked him, maybe had love feelings for him. Truth is, I don’t feel much of anything for him, or anyone, if they’re not in my immediate vicinity (or in direct communication) most of the time.( Part of why I hold onto Friend so much is we’re ALWAYS in constant communication so I ALWAYS know he is there.) I have an extremely hard time holding onto my connection to people. When I’m with him, nothing else matters. When I’m not with him, I do wish I was, and I’m very disappointed when I can’t see him, but right now I still have armed guards patrolling my walls after the casino weekend. I'm also afraid of getting too attached. We’ll see.
I’m still reading the book therapist loaned me. She talked about how I needed to cultivate my inner child and the attachment to the Healthy Adult instead of just letting my Outer Child run rampant. Especially as my Outer Child and Tech Boy’s Outer Child seem to really enjoy each other’s company. The gambling, excessive drinking, reckless sex are all reactions of our Outer Children interacting and are not healthy. That we’re going out more (not only drinking), talking more, really getting to know each other she thinks is good. He may not be “the one”, but I’m starting to engage some healthier ideas. In theory. We haven’t indulged the gambling again, but we still drink a lot and sex has gotten even more reckless if anything. TMI? Nah. This ‘relationship’ doesn’t seem to be based solely on sex though.  There seems to be more of a balance. We’re spending time doing other things as well. This is where my paranoia kicks in again and tells me all these ‘other things’ are just space-time  fillers to keep my female sensibilities appeased so he can get what he wants from me physically. I test these things. I know it’s a manipulative thing to do but, I give him ‘outs’ and purposefully say things that relieve pressure of emotional attachment, that leave the opportunity for him to {try to} take advantage of the situation, but he doesn’t take the bait.
 I don’t know what to make of it.
Confused? Yeah, me too.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Songs from Love Lost

An old boyfriend left me this message today: 

Hey there. Here is a song that I wrote about you shortly after I never saw you again. I wrote it and gave it to a local band from Chicago and they recorded it. Surprisingly, it never went anywhere (wink). I think that I could have sang it better, but then again, maybe not. Anyway, I gave it to them and it sums up how I felt about you at the time. I don’t expect a response, I just hope that you don’t hate it and will smile to know that you were inspirational in the world. Ha-av-en didn’t have quite the ring to it so it was changed to a Grandma’s name. All the best.


I don’t actually believe him, even though it’s something he would do, he lived in Chicago at the time, and has the means. Regardless I found it sweet. I just wish I had the lyrics. I actually have a hard time distinguishing what singers say all the time without reading them first.  It's called Sorry Rose-Marie recorded by The Second Hand Poets.   (Click here to link) 

EDIT: Just spoke to him. Apparently this is all true. It's a song he wrote 10 years ago (which is when we broke up) but he did. Wow. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Empathy and Me: Part 1 - Borderline Dissociation

Empathy is not the easiest topic to delve into. My penchant towards introspection and self-awareness make this easier for me than for others, but as my perspective is the only one I have, I can only tell you how I feel. Is how I experience empathy the same as how anyone else experiences empathy? I don’t know. I suppose you can be the judge. 
For me there are basically four different types of emotional states where my empathy is distinct.
1.)    Dissociation
2.)    Emotionally turbulent
3.)    Emotionally calm
4.)    In love

Bet you weren’t expecting that last one. Trust me, it’s important. I’ll go over each of these individually.


I’ve talked about Dissociation before, particularly Depersonalization which is my biggest problem. When I dissociate I can always, ‘check in’ and know that I am actually in the real world, I just don’t ‘feel’ like I am real.

Sometimes I feel as if I'm in the wrong body. Like I'm watching myself, my body, do things from someone else's perspective. Cognitively I know it's my body but the person that feels what's going on is somewhere else, removed. My feelings are gone. Here, but part of me is left somewhere else, on the outside, not inside me where it belongs. Going through the motions of what I know I would normally do but without any connection to the motivating forces that would drive me to do these things. 

I don’t process emotions directly, internally. I process them from a dissociative place, “outside”, of my sense of Self. This creates a huge disconnect in how I think and how I feel towards the things I am thinking about. It’s like having two separate bodies; one to process thoughts, one to process feelings, but I’m only connected to one at any given time.  They don’t work symbiotically like they should. I either experience as an observer with detached emotions or I FEEL everything but don’t temper it with my rationale. Where most people have a natural balance I can either experience my emotions, my environment, or I can observe them. Seperately.

Having taken an objective look at, or talk about, my emotions I feel fine. I feel fine because I feel nothing. The act of talking about my emotions or experiences, causes me to not feel them.  But since feeling nothing is better than feeling emotionally destroyed, nothing = fine. When you can recognize that a situation should produce an emotional reaction, and instead all you feel is {blank}, it can be very disconcerting. It seems like nothing was ever there in the first place.

As you can imagine it’s very difficult for me to feel for other people when I am quite literally incapable of feeling for myself. I feel rather like a robot, void of humanity. This probably sounds scary, because if I don’t feel human, what’s stopping me from making very terrible and destructive decisions? Well, I’m not stupid and I haven’t lost hold of my good senses. I can reality check. When I dissociate I become emotionally numb. Nothing moves me in any direction. I don’t feel love, nor do I feel hate. I cannot be happy, but I also cannot be sad. It’s a defense mechanism due to past trauma, shielding me from the deeper well of emotions that threaten to overwhelm me now. In short, I have no motivation to do much of anything in any way. All that keeps me going is a cognitive decision to continue running my life because I’m still aware of the consequences of my actions. I just don’t feel attached to the body that would suffer them.

It’s odd. I see myself as just another body on the street walking amongst the masses. My own Self and those around me are like specimens under a microscope, or behind a glass wall. Curious. I see them, I could probably reach out and touch them, but they’re so separate from me as to feel almost alien. I can’t empathize when I feel this way. I am completely and utterly shut down. Numb. Floating above the hollow shell that continues to walk around in my shoes.

Sometimes this is nice. I wouldn’t have this defense mechanism if I didn’t need it after all. I’m almost entirely rational when I fail to feel in this way. It can make me a little callous though. Towards myself and others. I have a sharp wit at times, and I have a tendency to be very blunt with the truth. When I no longer feel an attachment to the people around me I can forget to add a touch of sugar to the bitter words that I can impart on those around me. I’m no easier on myself.

My saving grace is the ability to remember that I need people in my life. I may not care about the things I say because I can’t actually care, but cognitively I know what is appropriate and what is not. I have certain people in my life for a reason and those reasons are important. Those PEOPLE are important. I don’t want to destroy that. Also, my impulsivity is tempered with no emotional motivation pushing me to do things right now. It gives me the split second I need to think things through and catch myself before saying something I know cognitively could be hurtful.

Being around people is also uncomfortable, so it’s likely that I won’t interact at all and the need for empathy becomes a moot point. It’s uncomfortable in an uncanny valley kind of way, except pretend you’re coming from the perspective of the proto-human. You know you look like the people around you, but something just isn’t right. Off.  You can’t relate to them, and you can’t grasp the concept that anyone else relates to you.

I don’t expect sympathy. In fact, as I can’t feel it myself, I can’t understand how others would feel it for me.  It’s a two way street here. I don’t feel, but I also can’t fathom how someone else could feel for me. It’s very isolating.

In short, in terms of empathy during a state of dissociation I am almost completely emotionally unavailable.  It’s important to remember that when I am in a state of extreme dissociation I probably have had a build of trauma and emotional stress that I am fighting. Most neurotypical people can only handle so much. Being Borderline it’s like running on overload for extended periods of time. When the emotional stress finally becomes too much and my mind shuts down in order to cope, this is not a choice. There is absolutely no control over this state. It happens, and it’s there. There is no turning it on and off at will. It’s not that I don’t want to be there emotionally for the people I care about, in fact I’ll probably still try, but feeling empathy is beyond my ability.

I’d go so far as to say that the inability to feel empathy is necessary when trauma has induced dissociated states. When your own mind is trying to protect you from your own overwhelming stimulus, introducing that of another’s could push you over the edge.

Part 3 - Self-Destructive Empathy

Part 4 - Grey Area in Empathy

Part 5 - Yes, Borderlines do feel Empathy

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guest Post: BPD, HSP, and Empathy

Today I have a special guest post. Throughout this blog I talk about Borderline Personality Disorder and I relate my experiences with it. It's important for me and everyone to remember that this is my personal experience, and not necessarily representative of everyone with BPD. The issue of empathy and BPD is especially controversial. How I experience empathy (I'll start in on this soon) varies within myself depending on my frame of mind. Being Borderline and how it displays also varies widely from person to person. For this reason I wanted to give you the perspective of another as well....  

I've been asked by Haven to write a bit on my own experience with BPD and empathy. Before my BPD diagnosis I knew I was highly sensitive, the more official name for that being Sensory Processing Sensitivity and it's there in about 15-20% of the human population, and even exists in other animals. As you can guess, people who experience the world with heightened sensitivity are very liable to fall victim to various psychiatric conditions, such as depression, strong mood disturbances and mood fluctuations, PTSD and general dissociative conditions. It's almost part and parcel of being HSP, given all the normal challenges we encounter every day in our lives.
One of the defining features of being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), is having strong empathy; The ability to literally feel someone's else's emotions, to inhabit their world, momentarily and to transpose our own happiness, insecurities and pain from the other person's experience. This often leads to an over-projection, where we forget the other person may be much thicker skinned, much less affected by emotions than ourselves, or it may just be that we recognize the strength and significance of someone else's emotion before they even do. Who knows.
It can mean we feel close to people who we barely know, and other people are drawn to the fact that someone they hardly know, feels so familiar to them.

BPD I'd say is just when sensitivity has detrimental effects on our health and relationships. I'm classified on the lower end of BPD and I wouldn't even begin to say my experience of it is the same as other people's. At the end of the day, regardless what we label ourselves or have been diagnosed with, the behaviours look the same, and it's the behaviours that matter, not the label.

So, do I lack empathy sometimes? Yes, I do. I can go into a right tizzy, lose myself in the moment, become very self-absorbed, self-focused, angry and without sympathy. I can be listening to someone's problems and feel nothing. But, I don't believe I'm a bad person. I just think I'm flawed, easily hurt and sometimes numbed. I have empathy breaks I guess, like most people. I also am prone to paint someone black for eternity (till they give me good enough reason not to) even if I didn't care much about them in the first place and they simply hurt me in some small way. I can also paint someone black if they've hurt me in a big way. Small or big, I get hurt, indignant and prideful. Let's just say I know how to hold a grudge.
In relationships, I've been called everything from perfect to selfish, cold and a psycho bitch among other things. So, from the outside looking in, I guess, I'm not always an angel. If I was a doormat I wouldn't survive, quite literally, so I'm very glad I'm not. There are some exes I'll always be fond of, even those who hurt me in some way, I just can't always shake my empathy/sympathy and affection for them, even though I have to protect myself and accept the reality of a doomed relationship.

So, to cut a long story short, my empathy is more than intact most of the time, I believe. So, it is way more complicated than it seems it should be to others.. So many factors, (PD-related) interfere and make me a more complex person. I'm both a saint and a whatever you wanna call it. I'm just very human flying from the seat of my pants every day. :)
Empathy or a lack thereof is not the issue when it comes to borderline behaviour. Borderline behaviour, in my opinion is instigated partly by fear, insecurity and a desire to feel whole I guess, which, let's face it, is nigh on impossible for us, but we strive for something as close as possible to that in our relationships, and life choices. The dissociation, insecurity and PTSD faced by many borderlines means our behaviour can be very irregular, inconsistent, and that can extend to our empathy levels since we can become so easily disconnected from ourselves, and therefore others, and our emotions are so easily disjointed and thrown out of whack. It's far more complex than to simply say, borderlines do not have empathy, and that is inaccurate anyway. Of course, I am quite good at feeling like I am the victim, and this enables me to justify my erratic, sometimes objectionable actions to myself at least. But is it malicious in its intent? I would say no, at least, not in my case. We can be very flawed, but, what's the world without imperfections? Like i said, if you're looking for 'callousness,' or just mindless behaviour, you're looking at the wrong end of the spectrum with BPD, but we are so varied amongst ourselves, that I can only give a general idea of what I believe BPD is about in terms of empathy.

 Borderlines aren't incapable of the emotions, from intense hate to intense love, empathy to damaging rage or dissociation, we are just more extreme and changeable, and it wears ourselves out as much as it does others.
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