Friday, April 20, 2012

Business Travel

Happy Friday Everyone!

Tech Boy and I will be away on business travel for much of the day (the perks of my job are lovely on occasion). I'm going to try to post my Lucid Analysis - Trials in Therapy when I get back, but if I don't have time never fear! I shall post tomorrow. I also have an update on Roommates moving status. Hopefully you can catch me later. Until then...

I hope everyone has a calm and relaxing day.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Borderline Personality Disorder and Alcohol

I drink. I drink often. It’s not always what people would consider a lot, but it’s something. Especially as I tend to drink alone. Usually my reason for drinking is because I’m alone. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic because as Therapist has stated I don’t obsessively think about it, I don’t NEED to have a drink when I get home, and if I don’t get anxious at the thought of going a day without it (which I frequently do). It doesn’t make me miss work. It doesn’t interfere with my functionality. But that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned about it, and I am afraid it’s becoming a problem for me.

Why Do Alcoholism and BPD Co-Occur So Frequently?
Why do people with BPD also often develop alcoholism? Most likely, several factors that account for the high rate of co-occurrence. First, BPD and alcoholism may share common genetic pathways. That is, some of the genes that put people at higher risk for BPD may also create higher risk for alcoholism. Also, there may be common environmental causes for alcoholism for BPD. For example, experiences of maltreatment in childhood (such as physical or sexual abuse, or emotional abuse or neglect), have been linked to both BPD and alcoholism.
But, there may also be other reasons for the link between alcoholism and BPD. Individuals with BPD may use alcohol to decrease the intense emotional experiences that are a hallmark of BPD. Because people with BPD have strong emotions frequently, casual use of alcohol may lead to abuse or dependence.

One of the reasons I worry about this is because my grandfather was an alcoholic. A recovered alcoholic, but an alcoholic. He drank a lot and was often violent…. Until I was born, and he gave up all alcohol until the day he died. We’ve all heard the “it skips a generation” saying. I have a theory that this is because the next generation is the one directly affected by the consequences of the first generations problem so they are less likely to engage in that problem themselves. The 3rd generation however has not been as directly exposed to it, so without the vigilance the 2nd generation had, they fall prey to the commonly occurring predisposition towards addiction. My father does not drink. Maybe a glass of champagne on holidays at dinner, but otherwise he does not drink. Myself, my brother, and my sister all drink a lot. It’s something I keep an eye out for because I have enough problems ruling my life, the last thing I need is a demon in a bottle granting me unfulfilled wishes as well.
In high school, it was impulsive and binge drinking. It was a fun time with friends, rebelling against the rigidity of my home life. It was an escape from the rules and regulations. It was relaxing.
At University it was a way to escape the stress and anxiety I was under to meet the academic standards I required myself to perform at. I’m not sure when exactly this started though. I don’t recall drinking a lot my first 3 years at University (I was there for 6 years to earn my Bachelor’s and Master’s in succession). My final year of undergrad I was a little more social but didn’t have much of a social life so I would have relatively few drinking binges. When I entered Graduate school and moved in with Sister we started drinking more frequently. My schedule was less rigid, and while my classes were more difficult, they were all of my choosing and interesting to me as my focus so grad school didn’t feel as daunting to me as undergraduate did. I went out more. I dated more. I was more social. I was more self-conscious. I had more pressure to achieve academically. I was constantly stressed out. My eating was at it’s most rigid and restricted, my exercise was compulsive, my studying was obsessive… drinking was the only time I was able to relax a little.
When I moved to New York my first 6 months I lived by myself 4 hours out of the city for job training, away from everyone I knew here. It was just me and my cat. I drank a lot. The loneliness was debilitating. Numbing my mind was the only way I managed to make it through some nights alone.
Numbing my mind. Quieting the obsessive ruminations. Stilling the self-hatred and worthlessness that I created. I was beyond accomplished academically and professionally already, and yet, I was alone. Being alone was my only real fear at the time. Specifically being alone in the long run, never finding someone to settle down with, but being alone, being lonely, was never good either. Drinking made the internal darkness a little more manageable. Alcohol blurred the harsh edges of the pain I’d feel. Made it more bearable.
When I moved in with Evil-Ex we drank a lot for the pure fun of it. We had enormous parties and events and for the first time in my life I felt like I was able to enjoy my social life the way I never could in university. Then of course things took a turn for the worse and I would drink to dull that pain too. To ease the anxiety he would create. Ease the tension that often sprung up between us. Ease the sting of the abuse he would inflict. And finally to forget the torment that I had to endure day after day even after we had broken up but still lived together. The pain was a firey inferno melting my emotional skin.  Alcohol was the only thing I had to help extinguish the agony. Take my thoughts to a better place where things were softer and less dire.
Throughout my life I would be so uncomfortable with who I was that I couldn’t be comfortable in my own skin. Drinking helped me settle into myself a little better. Took me out of my head and put me back into my body. It still does this if I’m out with crowds or people I don’t know. 
Interestingly I am much less inclined to drink if I’m with people I do know and am comfortable with. When I went home I had some drinks with sister over the course of the day, but there was no intention to get drunk and I cut myself off easily. When I hung out with buddies from back home I had no inclination to be someone I wasn’t. When I’m hanging out with Roommate and her boyfriend I don’t even think about having a drink… unless of course it’s been an extremely stressful day or something triggered me into anxiety.
I often drink to deal with stress. I wish Pyschiatrist prescribed benzos because I do need something to help me alleviate my situational anxiety and I would prefer something that doesn’t have the caloric content of alcohol. Yes, that is actually one of my bigger concerns. Alcohol has a lot of calories that I don’t want. It may sound stupid but in order to accommodate drinking, that means I need to eat less or I’ll go over my caloric intake. It’s not nutritionally sound.
And when I’ve been drinking more and more frequently it does begin to worry me. Roommate has been gone the last couple nights and she’ll be gone tonight too. I’ve been very lonely and therefore drinking more often. This is a problem because she’s going to be moving out in a month or two probably. I need to get used to dealing with being alone in a healthy way. Not by drowning my anxiety in a glass of liquid relief. I just, get stuck. I can’t seem to make myself move in a way that is more productive. I’m so tired after such a long day that I don’t have the energy to do anything.
I get bored easily and drinking helps cure that as well. Everything becomes a little more amusing. A little more fun.
Ironically, I don’t really like drinking that much. I like that it relieves my anxiety, but I’d prefer to take my anxiety medication and take a nap. Alcohol also screws up my sleep. It disrupts sleep in general and I don’t need to be exhausted at work. But more importantly the last thing I need is to be too exhausted to go to the gym which helps me regulate my mood and my body image. Sleep is also important for keeping my moods steadier. PLUS, alcohol is a depressant, which is just not good for a depressive personality in and of itself. Ugh! There’s just nothing good here.
But everything seems to revolve around alcohol these days. All our social activities. All our events. It’s easier to avoid if it’s not present, but how do you turn it down when everywhere you turn it’s in your face?
Alcohol is an escape.
Alcohol calms and numbs my mind.
Alcohol eases anxiety.
Alcohol reduces my stress.
Alcohol lets me relax.
Alcohol helps me settle into my own skin.
Alcohol takes away the emotional pain.
Alcohol makes me feel less lonely.
How do you compete with cutting something out of your life that seems to do so many things for you? Because I know that it’s just a cover. A mask. It doesn’t really solve any problems. In fact, mentally, physically, and emotionally, it creates more. I have to fight this before it becomes a full blown addiction and it’s even harder to hold back.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Grieving the Unexpected

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.

Monday, April 16, 2012


Expressing emotion is difficult. No surprises there. If I’m upset, angry, needy… these are all things that I feel the need to hide. However, I also have a hard time expressing the good emotions; happiness, appreciation, excitement. I often know these are how I’m supposed to feel in a given situation but I don’t quite feel them right away or know how to express them properly.
Especially if it’s something that someone has done for me; I may appreciate what they’ve done, but it can feel strange to have someone do something for me. Because I’m not used to it, or not used to things turning out how I hoped or better than I hoped I’m not prepared to respond. I won’t necessarily have an appropriate emotional responses immediately; it will come a little later. The recognition and the cognitive appreciation may be there right away, I’ll KNOW what they did was something good, but the feeling the emotion itself takes a little longer.
However when someone has just done something nice for you, it would be pretty ungracious to wait a while before thanking them. I often have to express myself in a way that I believe is appropriate.  Express myself in a way that I think will demonstrate the feelings that I know I’ll have a little later. It feels a little disingenuous to me because I tend to overcompensate just a bit, but I want the person to know that I appreciate what they’ve done and I want them to feel appreciated.
I can’t very well say, “Hey, I know you just did this thing for me, but can you get back to me in a couple hours so my feelings about it can resolve and I can thank you with a fully connected consciousness of emotional and cognitive recognition?”  How weird would that be?  Instead I act how I believe I should respond if I were to have a connected response.

I was thinking about this, because part of my continual therapy homework is to write down and recognize my emotions when I have them spontaneously. As you may know, I had a tattoo session on Friday. It took almost 6 hours, on my ribs, with only 4 five minute breaks, and we’re about halfway done with the color. However, when we finally wrapped up for the day and I took a look at the work he had done, it was absolutely stunning. The coloration came out more beautiful than I expected and I was thrilled. Very appreciative, and very grateful. I was able to be in the moment, feeling those emotions and express them to my artist appropriately at the appropriate time!
Not only that, but Tech Boy came by around the 4.5 hour mark and brought me snacks. I asked him to stop in and see me and he just offered to bring me a snack because he figured I’d be hungry. I thought the gesture was very sweet, but what was more sweet, was the fact that when he did show up the snacks he brought me were multi colored fresh peppers and honey whole wheat pretzels. Things that are healthy and delicious and that I wouldn’t feel guilty about eating which tells me he pays attention to how I am. And then! He left early because he wanted to make me dinner when I was done because I’d probably be starving. Seriously, how sweet is that? Again, in the moment, I felt genuine appreciation. Not disconnected. Not delayed.
This is such a drastic change for me that as I was in the shop feeling these things I was also noting the fact that this was a sensation that was different for me. I don’t expect this to be a constant thing yet, but my emotions and my cognition seem to be connecting at least some of the time. In appropriate ways! That’s definite emotional progress in regards to my dissociation and detachment, and in my ability to allow others to do things for me without feeling threatened or guilty about it.  I’m kind of proud of myself. It seems a little silly to be proud of myself for doing something so normal as having an appropriate attached emotional response, but hey, I’m Borderline with a Dissociative condition and it’s taken me a lot of work to be able to do that.  
Therapy and healing for Borderline Personality Disorder takes a long, long time. It can be a little discouraging to do this work week after week and not be sure it’s helping. It’s nice to see that, indeed, something good does seem to be occurring.
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