Friday, April 13, 2012

Lucid Analysis - Trials in Therapy: The Good, The Bad, and The Intersubjective



First an important announcement. I’m finally, finally getting the color done on my tattoo! Funny how life gets in the way and things get put off. I’m so excited. We’re looking at a 5 hours session tonight. Another session for background and finishing the color. Plus a final session for touch ups and going over the outline.

On to therapy. Yesterday’s therapy session just seemed too short. I had so much to talk about and Therapist had so much she wanted to go over with me but we simply didn’t have enough time.
I talked a lot about going back to visit Sister and Zoe and see my family. In an amazing twist of fate I actually had a phenomenal time.
Sister just got her own apartment and I felt instantly comfortable and relaxed there. I felt more at home at her place than I can ever remember feeling at the house where I grew up with my parents. Unfortunately she’s 500 miles away and I only get to see her a handful of times every year.

Home is where the heart is. My heart is with my sister. My sister is my home. Home has never been a place for me. It’s always been the people that I am connected to, which unfortunately are few and quite literally, far between.
It makes me sad because I’m starting to feel very at home with Roommate, but she’ll be moving soon. Everyone has to grow up sometime I guess.
Zoe is another. Zoe and I together should be illegal. I feed off the energy around me and grow from it. Zoe does the same. Put us together and everything goes to 11.
I had a lot of impulsivity this past week. I spent so much money, buying stuff for my sister, for Roommate, for myself, for Zoe, for my parents. Money, money, money, poof. I was really good  okay, about my drinking until I got to Zoe. We had a couple glasses of wine at dinner. Than two bottles between us at the wine bar we went to after. Way beyond my limit. I don’t regret it for an instant.
Zoe and I together are like gravity. Everyone nearby is just pulled to us and the energy we exude. I’m sure Therapist thinks we indulge each other’s Outer Child too much but I don’t care. We also support each other and can be absolutely unreserved and open when it comes to discussing the things in our lives and in our brains. Even, apparently, the fact that we could have both been wildly in love with the other at the same time without the other actually knowing. Some of that attraction is still there.  There were a few moments when we were dancing that I’m pretty sure the rest of the world stopped and no one else existed anymore. We both recognized this wasn’t a good idea though and let the night take a turn for the more mellow after that.
I also definitely made a very poor decision to drive while quite intoxicated. This is a major, major problem. I know I absolutely should not do this but I just don’t have that thing in my brain that says I should ask to stay.
The only day that I had a hard time was when I saw my family on Easter. My family was great, they were nice, and wonderful and did absolutely nothing wrong. Every. Single. Thing. They. Did. Aggravated the piss out of me. Everything. Someone would say hello and ask how  was doing, my uncle asked about my job, someone would sit a little too close, want to catch up for any amount of time… all things that are perfectly reasonable and pleasant for a family that cares about you to want to do. I couldn’t deal with it. I was anxious, irritable, angry, and just plain moody the whole night. I don’t know why?!?
Therapist says it might have something to do with how perceptive (read: hypersensitive) I am, and that I may be experiencing a lot of transference from what she calls intersubjective fields.
Intersubjective fields are a concept where a person essentially picks up on the energy another person is feeling due to a circumstance or interaction they are having with someone else as if it actually interplays with your interaction. Like being able to pick up on the psychological weight of the people around me. Even though they may not actually be projecting this external mental  baggage onto me, I am perceptive enough to realize that it is there and unconsciously feel the pressure others feel, myself. I’m not entirely sure I’m explaining that accurately but it’s a pretty ethereal concept.
I’m not sure I agree, disagree, or both. I have often felt the weight of what other people are going through. Very often. Even if they don’t talk about what is going on, it’s usually very clear to me when people are carrying some mental or emotional burden. I can’t help but pick up on the energy they hold. This has definitely contributed to why I avoid some people, and enjoy the company of others. The energy someone exudes is palpable for me. I don’t know if this is empathy or its own thing, but it’s there, and I often rely on these feelings to take measure of people when I meet them. Instinct.
I’m sure in part there is also an element of unresolved issues from growing up. I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider, even in my family. Coupled with all the pressure I had placed on me growing up I’ve never been very comfortable, or able to believe that my family accepts me for who I am. Cognitively I know they love me. I know they’re VERY proud of me. But I still feel like the little shock rock goth girl that got the funny looks and sat on the outskirts of the class. I know I’m allowed to be there, I know I’m wanted there, but I don’t feel like I belong. Sigh. I wonder if that feeling will ever go away?
And finally, of course, Therapist asked about my relationship with Tech Boy. It’s all going quite well and wonderful. She was asking me if I see this as a ‘forever thing’, how emotionally invested I am, that sort of thing. To be honest, I don’t think I know how to think long term. I want it. I definitely want a partner for life. However, I don’t know how to internalize the concept that someone would ‘want to put up with me for that long’. I’ve always been told that I’m not good enough, that I’m too difficult, too hard too handle, and I can’t wrap my head around the idea that I’m not necessarily that person anymore and that who I am now is definitely a person that someone would want to keep.
I have another problem though too. As I mentioned in the Asylum the other day, I occasionally have ‘straight guilt’. I am not straight. If I had to label me I suppose I would be considered “Bi”sexual, though I really hate the stigma associated with “being Bi”. I’m really just sexual. I’m attracted to who I’m attracted to and plumbing doesn’t have much to do with it. Usually.
I have a definite bias against men. Sorry guys. I have an exceptionally hard time trusting men. I’ve had more severe problems dating men. I haven’t had that kind of trauma with women. When I realized I was attracted to women, I simply started dating them. Never questioned it. I had more of a struggle realizing how much I wasn’t typically  attracted to men. There was a period of a few years where I honestly did think I was a lesbian.
Now of course, I do recognize that I really enjoy sex with men. But when it comes to relationships, I’m more comfortable with the dynamic I have with women. I trust it more. I don’t feel like I’m denying a part of who I am. Which is where the guilt comes into play when I date men. For as much as I adore Tech Boy, for as much as I’ve liked some of the men in my past, I always feel like there’s something missing. Maybe not missing, but like I’m suppressing a part of myself that I can’t express. It’s through no fault of theirs. I’m just not straight. I don’t have this internalized concept of what it is to be heteronormative.
Homework: What would it mean to me if I were to be in a strictly monogamous heterosexual relationship without the opportunity to be in a homosexual relationship ever again? What emotions are inspired? What would I feel I was missing? Would I feel that I missing something?
In the end I guess it won’t matter. I know when I fall in love my heart is dedicated to that person, but the process of getting there can be an internal struggle. Plus, there’s that idea that I won’t ever actually have that anyway because who the hell would want to put up with all this bullshit I have going on in my head.
I’m a bad person.
Growing up I was a terror. A nightmare. I fought with everyone. I was malicious and violent. I was angry, manipulative. Highly destructive. To myself, to the people around me, to the walls that held the roof above my head. Everything.
I’m a bad person.
As Therapist has been reminding me. I am not my past. My past is a part of me. It is what has brought me to be who I am today. But it does not define me. Who I choose to be now, the choices I make, the decisions I make, the way I behave now, is what defines me.
People are just people. People are not saints, and people are not evil. People make mistakes. People make bad choices. People also learn, and grow. People make new choices based on what they’ve learned before and those choices become better. Life is a learning process. It’s not black and white. One mistake, two mistakes, a decade of mistakes, doesn’t “taint” you forever. It just means there are things I won’t repeat in favor of living in a way that is healthier for who I am now.
Therapist thinks I’ve made amazing progress. She tells me I’m wonderful and a joy to work with. I still can’t convince myself to believe her. I can’t shake this feeling that if I’m not good enough, that means I must be bad.
It’s something to work on.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Obsessed


Taking a break from the relationship stuff let’s move on to an entirely different disorder.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, to be precise.
One of the {many} fun things about having a psychology Master for a Roommate is she watches some really interesting shows and documentaries. Last night we sat down and watched many, many episodes of a show called Obsessed. This show takes a look at people with very obvious clinical OCD and over the course of 12 weeks of therapy helps them manage their symptoms and live a more normal life. One of the things I quickly loved about this show was that it’s very real, and that you clearly see the impact that progressive therapy (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – which in our world is pretty standard stuff) and dedication to healing can achieve in just a few months.
I find it fascinating how people compulse and HAVE to do certain things, certain ways and seeing how deviating from these compulsions can create almost unmanageable anxiety. Almost. Because ultimately, they are able to manage it. It does take work, and time, but it’s doable.

The message is: Despite the all consuming nature of this disorder, there is hope, and people can heal.
It reminds me of the compulsions I’ve had in the past and still have now. Every time I see something like this I compare my own life to it. I’m not OCD but I certainly have OCD tendencies and some compulsions. When I was younger I may actually have been clinical. I had dozens of different compulsions.
When I was younger I HAD to have a cigarette when I got to a certain point in my drive. I HAD to have one ice cube in every beverage I drank. Just one. Not none, not two, not many; just one. If I had a certain kind of soup I had to eat the vegetables in it in a particular order. The way I styled my hair at the time… if it wasn’t perfect, every single hair in the place that I wanted it, I would have a full on panic attack, tears, shortness of breath, and break down in nasty bouts of anger that have led to holes being punched in walls (subsequently I learned to spackle very well). I had to eat many foods a very specific way. I had to use certain utensils. I absolutely had to be on time. If I deviated from any of these things I would absolutely, and utterly feel like my world was ending. I couldn’t breathe, the sky would come crashing down, crushing the air from my lungs, I wouldn’t be able to see through the tears. I couldn’t function if these things went wrong. Anxiety. Debilitating anxiety.
At the time I knew this wasn’t a normal way to live. I hated most of it. It was absolutely a response to my need for some kind of stability and control in a life where I felt I had none. However I was also at a point where I refused therapy or to even admit to other people that there was anything wrong with me. I had to fix this stuff myself. It took years to tackle some things, and moving to a different city to stop others. My smoking? Yeah, I couldn’t quit until I went of to college. I was able to cut down to just 4 cigarettes a day when I would hit the 4 places in my routes that I had to light up. But I couldn’t quit until I no longer had those places to pass every day.  When I started smoking again briefly last year I definitely felt these compulsions coming back. Same place on the way to work, same place leaving work, those were the two hardest places to give it up. But I managed.
I wish I could say I was at a point where all of these things were washed away from my psyche. But I can’t. The magnitude has diminished though. The anxiety isn’t the earth ending thing it used to be.
I mean, people are creatures of habit, and we like to do things the same way time after time. In the morning I get up, play with my cat, turn on my curling iron, wash my face, put lotion on my face, brush my teeth while the lotion dries, do my eyeliner, then mascara, do my hair, take my meds, etc. But if I deviate my world won’t end. Don’t even get me started on the number of times I’ve been so rushed I’ve forgotten to take my meds. Anyways.
But ask me to be late for an appointment? Forget it. I’ve talked about my obsession with time and the anxiety it creates for me. When I was younger this, again, was an apocalyptic nightmare if I was not “on time”, which meant being at least 15 minutes early. I would get to work, to class, to appointments 15, 20, 30 minutes early just to make sure I wasn’t late. Now? I can be “on time” by actually being at a 2:30p meeting at 2:30p… without having a nervous breakdown! I won’t be late, but I won’t be panicked if I’m not there 15 minutes early. If it’s just a social gathering like say, meeting at a friends for a big group gather… I can totally show up at 9:15p instead of 9p (though really it’ll probably be like 9:05p but I COULD show at 9:15p if I wanted to) and be totally fine, because the environment is casual and I realize that other people don’t run on this rigid schedule that I do and *gasp* most people don’t care! If it’s something important, I’m still absolutely going to be on time, but I can go about it in a way that doesn’t make me break down.
Other people making me late for things is still pretty triggering though and it is a struggle to not say something or get people to move faster to keep myself on time.  I can still feel that tension welling up inside me as I bite my lips to keep my tongue from hurrying them along.
Arrange words properly + fully justify paragraphs
What else? Hm. I still can only use certain flatware and utensils, but this only applies when I’m in my own apartment. I can totally eat at restaurants like a normal person. Which is something I couldn’t do when I was younger. In fact I couldn’t eat in front of people (other than family) at all. At my place I have one specific fork I use, 3 spoons that are ok, small plates, a latte cup, and bowls that are fine. And chopsticks. What’s silly about this? None of these utensils are from the very nice, very expensive set of flatware that my parents bought me for Christmas. Roommate, friends, company, they can use that stuff, but in my mind it’s bad and I won’t use it. I’ll search my entire apartment looking for my fork before I decide to eat with my hands. I don’t actually look like a raving loon when I’m searching for things, I swear. I simply will wait a little longer as I do dishes, empty the dishwasher, or search my room. Then eat. Roommate knows my quirks when it comes to this stuff and she’ll let me know if “my fork is in the dishwasher” because she’s done dishes, which honestly, I think is really kind because she doesn’t ever seem to judge me for it. I got to explain this to Tech Boy the other night too because he had pulled out other silverware for dinner and I attempted to be casual in my declaration of needing a certain fork. He actually asked me, “Is that a textural design thing or an OCD thing?” An OCD thing. He just laughed it off and didn’t seem to care. I still can’t eat using the big dinner plates either, I must use a small side plate or a bowl.
It makes me uncomfortable to think about using those. 
Food? I’m much better at. I still have to eat apples a very specific way. I cannot bite them. I must cut them in a particular fashion. Any fruit really. But that soup thing from when I was younger? Nope, gone. I can eat soup like a normal person.
I don’t know how to describe it. But of course I’m going to try. I can look at these things and cognitively I know that my compulsions are silly. To act in another way though, is, foreign. Like trying to wear a glove as a sock. Sure I probably could, but it’s not going to fit on my skin right.
Looking back, I have clearly made an enormous amount of progress, on my own. I don’t have the all-out panic attacks anymore. I pull all of this stuff off as normal enough to the outside observer. Deviating from some of these rituals or ways of doing things seems wrong to me, uncomfortable, but it’s not an anxiety induced terror.  I’m worlds better, and that anxiety is truly, truly diminished to the point where for some things it no longer exists. That is an amazing feeling. To not have anxiety about things that at one point controlled your life? Relief. Massive, massive relief.
I wonder what the prevalence of comorbid Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with Borderline Personality Disorder is. How about you? Do you have any compulsions?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why are Borderlines so Attractive: Part 2 – Mirroring


Before I begin I think it important to note that many, many people with BPD are just attractive people. If it weren’t for the emotional baggage, we are often intelligent, articulate, fun loving, caring, creative people. Like any human there’s plenty of possibility that we’re just cool people and fun to be around, unfortunately there’s the pesky emotional volatility to contend with.   
That being said, there is another aspect that often accompanies Borderline Personality Disorder that adds a little something to the attraction and allows others to look past what could be those little red flags that creep into consciousness.
Mirroring
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Right? But how much flattery is too much flattery?
Mirroring is the psychological term for the behavior in which one person copies another person usually while in some kind of social interaction with them. This is usually subtle and almost every single person does this to some extent (especially if you’re in love!) but I think the frequency is amplified with BPD. This can include mimicking gestures, movements, displaying the same body language, using the same expressions, vocal tones, eye movements, breathing, accent, attitude, choice of words/metaphors, or other aspects of similar communication.
Have you ever been talking to a guy or girl you like and found yourself smiling just because they’re smiling? Or moving a hand to fix your hair when they run a hand through theirs? Yeah, that’s mirroring. What it does is create sort of a subconscious connection between two people that demonstrates that you’re in sync, and therefore well matched.
This is pretty common with couples and close friends. It is in fact, a natural human behavior and a component of attraction. Smiling when the story teller is smiling, frowning when they frown. Since people usually accept their mirror image easily, mirroring the person whom your speaking too can make them feel more relaxed and encourages them to open up. There’s also the aspect that mimicry is often flattering and when someone mirrors your behavior it provides a sense of validation for the person you are. Who doesn’t want and need validation of the person they are?
So if it’s natural than why are you mentioning it? Because BPD is a disorder of relationships and extremes. The behavior is pretty normal, but in someone with BPD the frequency and depth of the mirroring often surpasses what would be considered normal and healthy.
Just look how much you have in common! I find with BPD this can go a little further to the point where we often emphasize the knowledge and interest with have concerning the subject material of the person we’re interested in as well. I’ll mention things he/she has shown an interest in far more often then I’ll mention things that I’m interested in but they know little about (I’m actually getting much better about not doing this.)
Like issues with a flexible sense of self, this is never something I do on purpose. I don’t set out to mirror someone to purposely manipulate them into feeling more comfortable with me. No. I just get caught up in conversation or being with them in a way that exaggerates feeling how they’re feeling. Like an experience of uber empathy and I’ll catch myself acting like them. It’s strange.
To this day I still have quirks that I’ve acquired from exes. For example, when I’m stressed out, I’ve often found myself pinching the bridge of my nose.
It sort of allows us to become more of a chameleon in relationships. Letting us blend with the person we’re interested in and create a faster familiarity. I’m often told that I’m very comfortable to be around, and I wonder if it’s because I display mirroring.
I think this happens in therapy with me. Therapist is always very calm. So when I’m around her I also feel very calm. It’s hard for me to get worked up about things that a few minutes prior had really bothered me, because it just seems silly at this point. When my environmental context changes, often my attitude and emotions do to. They mirror the situation that I’m in. I’ve always just thought this was “being appropriate for the environment”, and honestly I still do, but I can also see where mirroring comes into play.
However, it can be taken too far. To the point where too many of your actions or communication stylings become aligned with how our partner speaks and acts. It’s so easy to pick up on the quirks of another person that we often lose our own way of doing or saying things. This can be taken to the point where even the things we used to hope and dream about become subverted without us even realizing and replaced with the hopes and dreams of our partner. What you want becomes what we want and we can’t even pin point when it happened because it happens so gradually.
I think it’s really important to try and recognize when this happens. There’s a difference between supporting and appreciating the goals of your significant other or sharing new mutual interests, and actually acquiring them as something you yourself are striving for. Especially when you do eventually realize that these things were never a part of the person you are. I found this happening a lot of Evil-Ex and his silly schemes and desires. I was happy to do whatever it was that he was up to, but some part of it always felt hollow. I was involved but something was a bit detached. I was more interested in the fact that having this mutual interest allowed us to spend more time together than actually doing the thing itself. Of course I didn’t realize that at the time, but in retrospect I can see that’s what I was doing. I was acquiring things he liked so we would have more in common and therefore more opportunities to be together. After a while though it began to feel like we only did things his way, or things he wanted to do. I’d remember things I was interested in and become very resentful that he’d never give my interests any time when I dedicated SO MUCH energy to his.
Being hypersensitive to the way that people around me speak and act, I constantly analyze and overanalyze the things they say and do in relation to me. It’s so natural for me to pick up on the things that make someone happy or sad, angry or annoyed. I think mirroring actually aids this, because you’re putting yourself in that persons’ shoes. It makes it easier for me to predict what a person is thinking or feeling if I skew up my eyes or lips the way they do. Hell sometimes it’s easier for me to figure out what I’m feeling if I look in the mirror and actually look at my own expression.
It’s strange. I have little connection to the image I see in my mirror. She often seems foreign to me. I’m so detached from who I am much of the time, maybe it’s natural to try to find myself in the people around me.
On some level I do believe that you are who you choose to be. If I see someone with traits or characteristics that I value, but don’t currently embody, I will make a conscious effort to try and incorporate those things into my life. To me this is just working to make myself a better person though. The person I want to be.
I’m rambling and unfocused today. My apologies.  
In conclusions, mirroring the actions and behaviors of other people is normal and provides an easy connection and familiarity but someone with BPD will often do this to an extreme without even realizing they’re doing it. At least not right away.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why are Borderlines so attractive? Part 1: Flexible Sense of Self


Whoever I want me to be

With all the emotional insecurity, the volatile mood swings, and the fear of closeness AND abandonment, why is it that Borderlines never seem to have a problem attracting mates?

The thing to keep in mind. Attracting people is easy. It’s keeping them that is usually the problem.

Here’s the thing. I’m one crazy bird sometimes. When I’m out on the town though, that all manages to come across in the best, most attractive way possible.

This is all purely speculation on my part, but after hanging out with Zoe (my best Broderline friend) this weekend I was reminded of how we can appear to people and just how easy it is to draw people to us.

Two things really stand out for me:

1.      Flexible sense of self
2.     Mirroring

So let’s talk about numero uno.

Flexible Sense of Self

I am whoever I want to be in whatever moment I happen to be living in. Evil-Ex used to tell me I was like living with different people, to the point where he thought I might have multiple personalities.

When I’m out on the town, dancing, drinking, meeting new people, I can be me, but I don’t have to be. But that’s not quite right. I’m the me that I want to be. I can forget about all my problems and none of those things have to be real for me for an evening. Instead I am beautiful, funny, intelligent, outgoing, charming, and witty with just a hint of sexuality and seduction thrown in. All things that are certainly a part of me, but it’s just that… just a part. Not a whole. Who the hell throws out all their baggage and goes constantly emotional and emo in public all the time when you’re just having a fun night out? Not me, that’s for damn sure. So when I meet people when I’m out having a good time, all they see is the magic that is me.

And I remember that is the person they expect to see. Want to see. Were drawn to in the first place. Somewhere in the back of my mind (ok who am I kidding, it’s lurking like a big creeper constantly looming around the corner) is that fear that if this person realizes I have “issues”, have baggage, don’t have this projection of a perfect life I appear to have, they’ll be disappointed that I’m human, and leave. That thought sucks. So I often try to keep up the pretense as long as possible.
 
It’s fun to be the life of the party sometimes. I went out with Zoe, just us, to a lovely wine bar and instantly we had the bar owners and a few guys gravitating to us and engaged in conversation for hours. We even managed to easily convince these nice straight guys (both married, both aware that we were in monogamous relationships) to come out with us to a gay bar just to keep the night going. No trying, it just happened.

Talking to my Sister this weekend we realized that we both have this natural ability to sense what other people like, what other people need, and what other people are attracted to. Without thinking or realizing we do it, it is natural for us to give that to them. Even if it means that the person that we are shifts in subtle ways to accommodate what we think they want. Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, we’re often very successful. This is great for awhile because we appear to be the perfect mate. Always in tune with what our significant other wants and needs, and happy to give that to them.

Then of course, inevitably it happens that we eventually have a crisis of identity. The shifts are subtle at first, but after a while it can take over and the person we see in the mirror is no longer recognizable to who we once were. Part of who we are is the kind of person that wants to make the other person happy. But we go about it in a way that is unhealthy. The real kicker though, is that it’s not a conscious effort. It happens without us having to think about it, identify it, or making a decision to be a different way. At least that happens with me.

It’s sad though. When I’m single, and not in a constant state of depression, I actually like who I am. I may hate my body, but who I am as a person is pretty spiffy. I’m very artistic, intelligent, creative, athletic, blah blah blah, the point is, I believe I have a lot of redeeming qualities. Things I don’t actually want to lose. But I can get so caught up in making things perfect for someone else that I forget to worry about me. I forget, or become afraid, to just be the person that I am. Which yes, is a person that has been broken, has problems, but is working on them and is healing. I intuitively pick up on what other people want, that I forget to just be me.

In an instant I feel suffocated by that realization. It often causes me to pull back and need time to myself to reconnect with me, but it leaves the other person feeling blindsided because they have no idea what just happened. I always feel bad.

It’s like an identity crisis within an identity crisis. Part of me is the kind of person that likes to take care of the people I care about, that wants the people around me to be happy. That stuff is certainly real. But I’m not the kind of person that is ok with losing myself in the process. So I am this kind of person, but not in the way that my mind goes about doing it. Except clearly I am because it happens so often. But I don’t want to be. But, but, but… it’s not an easy conflict to reconcile.

Especially when I like to be this person that breaks out of my own mental shackles and lets loose, forgets the fear, releases the mental anguish, and appears totally care free and emotionally uninhibited. I wish I was that kind of person and I enjoy being that person even if it’s just for a night. With strangers I can be free to release all these crazy ideas and wild conversations that I have, I can smile, and charm the pants right off of the people around me. And I do. Easily. I love strangers. There’s no expectations there. No pressure. And usually they’re gone at the end of the night so theirs no obligation… except every now and again one finds their way back and I never want them to wonder what happened to this amazing woman they met the other night.
Rinse. Repeat.


People are often attracted to me, because I can be everything {I think} they want me to be. There's something for everyone in my personality because there's something of everyone in my personality.

 
Every man wants to date her, every woman wants to be her. It’s like my brains motto, but it forgot to let me in on the joke. 


Will you, won't you.... Join me for Part 2: Mirroring ?
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