Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Sadness Remains - Push Pull in action

Preemptively cancelled plans for last night. Cancelled my plans for today too. Tech Boy has been apologizing profusely and trying to make up for the last weekend we had. I absolutely believe he's sincere but I'm still upset by the situation.We were supposed to have plans to go out today. He's been suggesting all kinds of things he (justifiably) thinks I'd like. I had also mentioned a possible beach day, but specifically said what we did would depend on how I was feeling tomorrow and wanted to figure it out then. (Meaning today)

Went out with Doc to see Recall waaaayyyy too late last night. I didn't really want to but Roommate Monroe didn't want to go so I felt bad that he'd have to go by himself so I agreed.  Got to bed late. Couldn't wake up at 7 when I wanted to, in order to do the workout I'd been looking forward too (My saturday morning consists of an hour of intense treadmill cardio + a 1.5 hour weight lifting/abs class with a trainer).  Exhausted. Slept in. Did a half hour ab workout, did my hour of cardio not at the intensity I wanted too, and only did half the lifting I was hoping for. Realized today would be a bad day for the beach (read: I'm female: take a wildly rational guess). 

Tech Boy started texting me around 11 a.m. wanting to see me and hang out as soon as he got out of work. I knew he wanted to see me. By the time I got home from the gym I was getting anxious about seeing him, but not in a good way. I still feel uncomfortable. Monroe and I got to talking. In the course of the conversation she told me that her and Doc talked about our relationship before. As have xRoommate and her bf. Independent of each other they came to the conclusion that he's a really nice guy, down to earth, easy to get along with, buy seems totally wrong for my personality and what I seem to need in a relationship. It's an opinion I've had since we started dating, but ignored. 

I just, want someone to be with that's nice to me. And 96% of the time he is (there have only been a count total of 4 times I've been legitimately upset with him). 

However, the longer we talked, the longer I stewed in my discomfort from the previous weekend, the more unhappy I became. He kept texting me about alcoholic drinks I'd want? None? I don't really drink hard liquor. I like wine. Also.... it's when he drinks too much that I worry. Then he told me he had gone out and bought a bunch of beach stuff for today before talking to me... even though I told him I wanted to finalize our plans together b/c it would depend on how I was feeling. I'm trying, I really am being as straight forward as I can be, and saying things in terms very literal to what I mean... so when I ask, "Can we not make solid plans tonight and figure it out tomorrow when I know how I'm feeling"... I mean it. I felt horrible because I really can't go to the beach today. I really don't want to drink with him right now. I just, wanted a quiet, non-stressful day. 

So I kind of freaked out a bit. I really, really tried to control my emotions but I was in tears and broke down a bit. I told him I was still really upset from last weekend and that everything still felt very 'off' to me. He reiterated that he was incredibly sorry and trying to make it up to me. Which I do absolutely acknowledge, but that doesn't me I feel better yet. I told him I was still upset, having a shitty day, didn't want to drink (ruined that!), and was starting to get nervous around him when he drank too much. 

I feel like it was a valid concern, but I still feel horrific for saying it out loud to him. I know he never means to upset me, but it doesn't change the fact that he can be hurtful when he has an ultra excessive amount to drink. I could tell how upset this statement made him too which made me feel even filthier. He instantly recognized and acknowledged that this was a very serious concern. Told me he feels like the worst person I've had the displeasure of meeting. Which isn't true. I've had much, much worse done to me (which he knows) which is why it hurts so much when he isn't careful about how I'll react when he says things drunkenly. I like him a lot, but it really does take me longer to get over things when they go poorly. 

I told him I want to talk about this more, but I want to do it when I'm not as emotional. I recognize I'm in a very bad mindset and I don't want that to be what guides this discussion. I'm trying so hard, but I'm hurting so much. 

I don't want to drink at all. The thought physically repulses me, but my heart hurts so much and I have no other way to dull the sensation so I'm drinking sparkling wine. 

GF has been posting on line. Impulsively I've been responding to her and she wants to see me. I want so badly to take comfort in her, which I know she'll provide. I just want to feel better. Not alone. Even though Tech Boy has literally told me that if I want to hook up with another woman it would be okay, I still feel like this would be a bad idea though. I want to, but it's too emotional and that has more complicated implications. 

I just want to stop feeling. It's been about 5 hours and I'm already starting to feel even worse. Even more terrible than I already had. I know how upset I made him. I feel like my concerns where valid. My feelings are valid. My discomfort is valid. He knew the weekend was bad, but he didn't realize it was that bad. Am I being too sensitive? I feel worse that he has to love a woman that is not less sensitive to things. I feel bad, that he feels bad for the way things went for me. I've been so upset, hurting so much, so uncomfortable that the thought of seeing him has been incredibly distressing for me. But actually telling him so. Expressing my reasons, even in a relatively rational manner, has made me feel like the worst human being alive. 

I'm so aware of my Borderline issues. I'm not sure if what I'm dealing with is my own hypersensitivity, or something that's okay to experience because even normal relationships deal with upsets. I'm so confused. 

I want to text him and tell him I miss him. It hurts me that I've hurt him, but at the same time I'm still hurt myself. I can feel the need to comfort him overtaking my own sense of wounding though. I feel so awful. So bad. That he's hurting. I'm having such a hard time keeping the feelings that I've been hurt and that what is hurting me is real and valid in mind. I just don't want him to hate me. I don't want him to hurt either. 

I feel like I'm at the crossroads of the push-pull place. I desperately needed my space today, but now I feel intensely shitty for needing that space because I know he just wants to make me feel better, but what he wanted to do wasn't going to help....

I can see. I do see that I'm upsetting him. I'm not blind to it. I just don't know what is more important in this moment. Comforting him? Or comforting me? 

EDIT: I'm so sad. I miss him. I hate this. I feel terribly alone. I just want curl up with him and be warm. I hate this. Hate it. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lucid Analysis - Trials in Therapy : Never doing that again

Ugh. It’s been a terrible week for me. Terrible. My awful week started last Thursday. 

Thursday: Tech Boy and I took Friday off from work to go to the Mayhem Tour (think Slayer, Slipknot, Motorhead, As I Lay Dying, Whitechapel, etc.). Thursday night we drove out of state to visit his friends who we were then going to the concert with the next day. We had horrendous storms Thursday evening. We attempted to tailor our driving schedule to miss the storm. Yeah, that didn’t work. So.

I have some legitimate PTSD when it comes to driving in inclement weather. My brother and I were in a very bad car accident when we were at University. For years afterward it was very difficult for me to drive, especially for me to drive with other people. I’ve gotten much better in the past couple years. Really, I have. When the weather is bad and I’m not driving however… I still have severe anxiety, I jerk involuntarily, my heart races, and I feeling like I’m in impending and immediate danger, especially when someone drives too fast, brakes too slowly, takes turns too quickly, hydroplanes in a lane filled with water nearly giving me a bloody heart attack. It’s not funny. It scares me out of my mind. So by the time we got to his friend’s house (who lives with his parents and brother that I’ve never met) I was incredibly stressed out. Of course I had to supress this because I didn’t want to look act like I just had a panic attack to some guys parents that I’ve never met.

Starving. Couldn’t get food until much later. Also, exhausted. Exhausted, starving, stressed, and panicked. Yet, I pulled it together. Later we met a couple dozen of his friends at a local bar. I wasn’t drinking. Didn’t want too. Didn’t want to make my emotions worse. I think this was responsible of me.

Some of his friends are okay. Some of them I’m not interested in. Some of them I flat out want nothing to do with. In a nutshell, some of them think racism is “funny”, but I’m not amused and I won’t pretend that I am either. (Here's the long version). I was in a really sticky position because I have very strong beliefs on this. I won’t just keep my mouth shut to make it less awkward for the assholes makings me uncomfortable. On the other hand I was in an unfamiliar environment. I didn’t want to alienate myself from his less repulsive friends or embarrass him. Not to mention he was drinking A LOT. And smoking. So he was outside for a smoke half of the night leaving me alone at the bar half the night. Cuz yanno, it’s fun to sit by myself in completely unfamiliar places surrounded by people I’ve never met before. Wait.

By the time we got back to the place we were staying he was super frisky. I just wanted to sleep. For the first time ever in our 10 month relationship I declined sex. He immediately got really defensive. We got into a big fight about his friends. He flipped from let’s have sex to you hate everyone. He accused me of not liking any of his friends. Which isn’t true. Some of his friends are okay, others are not, mostly I haven’t had any significant amount of time to get to know them  yet because I have severe trust issues and it takes a long time for me to warm up to people. I did have another legitimate problem with one of his friends from back home because that friend told me to my face I only got my high level engineering position at a respected institution because, and I quote, “I have tits”. Not because I have multiple engineering degrees, not because I had years of experience in my field, not because I’m I fucking rocket scientist, nope, I have boobs. Totally can’t see past these puppies. Yeah, little pissed about that one, and no, I don’t want to hang out with that jerk.

Seriously. During my fabulous adventures in Abusive Relationship Land I’ve learned that my life is better when I don’t surround myself with assholes. A lot better. Choosing people that don’t invalidate you, who have positive qualities and energy, that are supportive, and appreciate you for you, not just what you can do for them, are the kinds of people that are important to have around. Times a million for those of us hypersensitive to negative emotions. I didn’t just spend the last few years purging my life of the destructive relationships I’ve had to start introducing new ones. No, I won’t.

So he promptly passes out cold and I spend the next few HOURS crying, hyperventilating, wanting to flee, break up with him, never speak to him again, certain this is never going to work. Ever. Until somehow I manage to fall asleep for 3 hours because we had to wake up at the ass crack of dawn to go drink beer in a parking lot hours before the gates even opened. Awesome.

Maybe I’m getting old. Drinking shitty beer, with crappy people, in 100 degree humid weather, when I’ve physically nauseous from stress and anxiety isn’t exactly what I consider a party these days. Crazy. I know.

Fast Forward a few hours. I did eventually have a few glasses of wine because it got to the point where I needed help coping. I didn’t actually want to drink. I wanted nothing to do with alcohol. There was no other means for me to escape though. And miraculously, it helped. I started to instantly feel better as soon as my brain started shutting down. Not good.

So we were standing around outside, not near the mosh pits, not anywhere near the bands on stage, in a nice rec area, when some clod of a drunkard is fucking around with his buddies and smashes into me, stomps on my ankle, and knocks me around. Yeah, I screamed at him hard. I didn't even think, I just exploded. Fortunately Tech Boy's buddies just thought I was hardcore for not being a pussy, so I guess that worked out.

Finally it’s time to sit down and watch the main stage line up. I was exhausted, stressed out, unhappy, all the while trying to pretend that I’m not absolutely and utterly miserable. Tech Boy had gotten up to get me water. I took two sips of it when someone behind me throws their nearly full 24 oz. can of beer hits me with it, hard, knocking my water out of hand and bruising me pretty good. Not five minutes later someone in front of me threw back their cup of beer and completely doused me in the face, all down my clothes with beer. I held it together for a bit longer but as soon as the music got really loud and everyone around me was on their feet screaming to the bands, I lost it. There was just no holding in the misery after that and I sobbed uncontrollably until the last band was nearly done.  The girl next to me noticed but I waved her off. Tech Boy standing next to me didn’t notice at all. I was falling apart right next to him and he didn’t notice.

I was in a crowd of thousands of people and there was not one person with me.

By the time we got home Saturday I was barely able to deal with humanity. We were supposed to go to a tattoo convention – the one thing I wanted to do that weekend – but I just couldn’t. I was so sad, and so frustrated, because I really, really wanted to go, but I knew I was beyond my ability to deal with crowds. So bummed out.

That was the point where I finally had to tell Tech Boy just how upset I was. He knew I had been unhappy but he’d been hoping I would snap out of it and cheer up? Right. So I had to tell him. At the concert he had apologized for our fight the night before. But he didn’t realize just how awful I was really feeling and he seemed genuinely upset by it.

Know how I talked about psychosomatic illness earlier this week? Yeah that happens to people without mental health issues too. He made himself physically sick because he felt like he’d failed me as a boyfriend. So he says. He was my host in an unfamiliar place and he essentially abandoned me. He immediately started trying to make up for it even more. Being extra cuddly (which he is normally), staying over more, wanting to get my friends together to go out East to the wineries… I just want mellow though.

And honestly, I’m still in kind of distanced place. I was so upset, and so hurt Thursday night. I really wanted nothing to do with him anymore. It got a little better the next day and has been getting better slowly, but I’m still a little uncomfortable with him. It’s taken me days and days to de-stress from those two days. Therapist could very easily see how I was distant and detached in therapy. I’ve felt distanced from him, guarded, not as comfortable. It’s happened before. It takes time to get back to a better place, but it always feels like something has broken a little. My feelings never quite go back to the place they had been previously. There’s always some loss. Right now I’m really confused and doubting whether this is a relationship I need to be in.

His drinking worries me too. Not the everyday, just having a few beers, but when he has A LOT to drink like 15-16 beers, that’s when things get bad for us. The only times we’ve had any real conflict, only time he’s hurt me or been cruel, has been when he’s had an excessive amount to drink. I can't always be sure I'll be safe with him at that point. That's a problem. 

Therapist thinks I need to talk to him about this. About his friend that insulted me as well. As my significant other he shouldn’t stand for people insulting me. She thinks he needs to make better choices regarding his friends and who he brings into our life. I don’t know what right I have to ask him to choose anything. I’m not going to tell him who or who not to hang out with. He can do what wants. That doesn’t mean I have to go with him though. Which he’s told me is frustrating for him. He wants to include me in hanging out with his buddies, but I don’t want to compromise myself by being around people that are shitty to me. I don’t know what to do about it. Therapist thinks I really need to talk to him about it though. 

...I don't think we're having enough sex.
“We need to talk”. Does that phrase ever signal anything pleasant? No one says, “We need to talk… I made too many chocolate chip cookies and I just can’t figure out what to do with them all.” It’s always followed by anxiety and usually a lot of tears on my part. Ugh.

I like him a lot. Most of the time he’s really good to me, and I know he cares about me. Right now I’m confused. I feel distant.  It’s hard for me to reconnect when I’ve had such a hard disruption in my feelings.

Therapist pulled out her Wheel of Something or Other. She asked me to describe how I felt about him in our relationship when I was so miserable. "Elsewhere". That’s the only word that came to mind. I’m pretty much his first real girlfriend so he hasn’t ever learned all the social cues that couples develop and carry with them. I just don’t know if I can deal with having to teach him, which sounds condescending, and isn’t how I mean it. I don’t expect anything to be perfect, but while he’s discovering what it’s like being in a solid relationship, I’m getting hurt because he stumbles pretty bad. I’m trying very hard to communicate what I need, and let him know when things aren’t okay, but it’s hard to prepare for things I don’t know if he knows or not.

I also feel guilty when he feels terrible for making me feel bad. How’s that for sense? I empathize with his distress when he distress me and don’t want him to be distressed because I feel guilty for not being “tough enough” to deal with it without being hurt by it so he doesn’t have to feel bad. I’m pretty sure somewhere I think it would be easier to be a robot, but I suspect sex wouldn’t be so much fun.

I’ve been so numb and detached. I retreat to a place inside where people can’t approach me. Every time it feels harder and harder to reconnect. 

Therapist asked about xRoommate and if we’ve been keeping in touch. We have, quite a bit. She left for the vacation we usually take together last weekend and will be gone through the 14th. I’m not going on our vacation this year to avoid a lot of unnecessary anxiety and because I’m the Maid of Honor in Zoe’s wedding (my best friend –also BPD – form University). I need to be back with her the 10th – 18th for the Bachelorette Party, wedding rehearsal, making the wedding [cup]cakes, and of course the wedding. We have lots to do so that’s where my vacation time is going. And to be true, I am REALLY, REALLY looking forward to it. I’m so excited.

I’m going broke trying to make every last little obsessive detail perfect for her.

But I miss that I won’t get to see xRoommate. This annual vacation is time I really enjoy spending with her. Especially since I hate that I don’t feel quite so close to her, even though we still talk and hang out. It’s just, the same old issues. I don’t know how to fix it. When I don’t see people, I start to lose my sense of permanency in their lives. I hate it. It isn’t quite so bad with her or her boyfriend. I really love them. And they are really good about reassuring the strength of our relationship. It helps. I just want to wake up one day and not feel like I’m hanging onto the people I care about by a thread.  Especially when my brain knows the feeling is bullshit!

Distance, it’s everywhere right now.

 Something else. There’s something important that Therapist and I discusses and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was right now. I specifically remember thinking I needed to remember it for this post. Damnit. Check back later. Maybe I’ll remember. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Borderline "Manipulation"

"People with Borderline Personality Disorder are manipulative." We’ve all heard this. It’s one of the most common things I’ve heard from people who describe BPD without having actually suffered with it.

Haven, if it’s one of the most common things you’ve heard? Why have you waited so long to discuss it?

Because it makes me angry. Shocker, I know. Whenever I’ve read a description of how manipulative we as Borderlines are supposed to be I feel deeply, deeply insulted, hurt, and invalidated. My heart hurts because to me, this feels like an attack when I know what I’m going through is pain. It took me a very long time to understand was meant by “manipulative behavior” in terms of Borderline Personality Disorder.

From the World English Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary: Manipulation is:

  1. The act of negotiating, controlling, or influencing someone or something in a clever, skillful, or devious way.  
  2. To falsify for one’s own advantage.
  3. To manage, control or influence in a subtle, devious, or underhand manner 
  4. Or to handle with mental or intellectual skill

These are descriptions of willful, constructed, and thought out deceit.

In regards to Borderline Personality Disorder people often describe feeling manipulated by the dramatic outbursts of emotion, the threats of suicide and self-harming behavior; such as cutting, use of guilt, neediness and rejection.

People close to someone with BPD often feel manipulated because the actions of the Borderline in their life “force” them to act in certain ways; usually ways that direct their attention to the person with BPD. They feel as though they’re being held hostage by the emotional volatility of the person with BPD.  I hate the use of the term “manipulation” though. It implies that a conscious decision has been made to gain a specific outcome through subtle, devious, skillful, and deceitful means.

Dr. Marsha Linehan has said, “I think it is safe to say that folks with borderline disorder are usually not skillful in their interpersonal communication styles. The problem is that they often can only express their emotional pain by screaming out how much they want to be dead, which is likely true. Self-harm, alas, regulates emotions for many.”

It’s a manipulative action in the sense that we know we need help or attention and act in a way that gains us that attention. In the same way wrapping your fingers around the shaft of a hammer to drive a nail is a manipulation of the wall. There is nothing subtle or deceitful in these acts. It’s justifiable to feel trapped and like you have no choice but to respond to these outbursts, because it is important in times like this that the person sufferering not be ignored. It’s equally important to understand that those actions aren’t a willful attempt to deceive you into making you do something you don’t want to do.

What it is, is an inability to communicate effectively, because we ourselves may not fully understand the pain we are experiencing at the time. When your heart is in your throat, gravity feels like it is physically crushing you into the ground, spinning you out of control so fast you can’t make out up or down through the tears pouring from your eyes… all we know is that we hurt, we’re in pain, something is wrong, and often we don’t have the emotional language to express that. What we do have is a tendency towards impulsive behavior and acting out on our volatile emotions.

To say that someone with Borderline Personality Disorder is manipulative implies a malicious intent (as may be true for a Narcissist or Sociopath). However for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder this manipulation is often the result of not having the skills to deal with their situation and emotions effectively. Usually the “manipulative” behavior is an impulsive action driven by fear of abandonment, loneliness, desperation, and hopelessness—not maliciousness. It is an ultimately maladaptive attempt to get others to care for the, which initially has that effect, but leaves caregivers feeling burned out in the long term.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve confided/threatened to kill myself or harm myself. What I needed was love and understanding. Often I did have a particular person in mind whom I wanted that attention from. At the time I believed I needed it from them, I didn’t understand that I had a greater issue [BPD/depression] to deal with. I was experiencing so much stress, so much all-consuming sadness, I couldn’t see any hope. All I knew was that I felt that way, had felt that way for an excruciatingly long time, and couldn’t see an end to that pain. I did honestly believe that I had nothing to live for and if that was all I had to look forward to, than suicide was a better option. Or when I was cutting, it wasn’t a hollow threat, and it was something that did make me feel better temporarily. The point is, the “threats” weren’t hollow cries for attention. I deeply and sincerely felt these were the only ways at the time I was feeling that way. I needed help, but had no idea how to ask for it or express it. Especially since I was so used to having my feelings invalidated by friends and family, the only way I knew to show how much pain I was in, was to show them, and the results were often dramatic.  I knew how I felt, I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know what I needed or how to achieve it. So I acted out in the only way I knew how.
From the Birmingham Maple Clinic [1] I found this analogy:

To understand this with more clarity, I like to use the “mommy /baby analogy.”  All of our relationships, whether we want to admit it or not, are reflections of our own experiences with our own caregivers.  If you have had a baby,  you will also be able to use that experience to help you understand this analogy.   Let’s pretend that we have a crying baby.  Babies can’t talk, so whether they want to play, eat, cuddle, get out of the crib or change diapers, they cry.  If a baby cries and they get picked up and cared for, they (hopefully) will stop crying.  (I understand that this may depend on the baby in question.)  If they don’t get picked up, they will cry more.  Depending upon the caregiver, they may then get picked up, but if the caregiver does not respond, they may cry even louder and more forcefully.  Let’s presume that at times,  the crying may work, but that sometimes it may not.  If the baby learns that to get it’s needs met it needs to cry really, really loudly, then it may just jump immediately to that.  I mean, why waste your breath going through the other less effective levels of cry?  If this baby learns to cry super loud but still the caregiver responds inconsistently (sometimes they pick it up, sometimes not) the baby learns exactly that; “sometimes my very forceful cries get my needs met, but sometimes they don’t.   I don’t know when to cry super loud or when to cry softly or when not to cry at all.” This baby is now probably going to make a lot of mistakes such as crying loudly for something that’s not critical, or not cry for something really important.

If you are following me, you might be putting some of the pieces together by now about why manipulation occurs. My mommy/baby analogy is really too simple because lots of other factors contribute to the situation such as other ways that the caregiver might react (do they act angry or annoyed? Do they act pleasantly?    Are they distracted by something in the environment?)  But let me ask this: is the baby manipulating the caregiver?  No. Babies are only trying to get their needs met.  So, too, is the individual with the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

It’s a maladaptive way of trying to get those needs met. If, like me, you’ve dealt with having to suppress your emotions because any time you’ve expressed distress you’ve been met with invalidating statements, told to go suck it up, to shut up and deal with it, how you feel is wrong, that it’s not a big deal… than you’ve probably “learned” that merely asking for help means you’ll be ignored because it’s quite clear that whoever is invalidating you doesn’t understand how big of a problem what you’re experiencing is.  All that’s left to you is the intense build up and eventual explosion that shows exactly what it is you’ve been feeling.

It’s not intentional. It’s not meant to hurt you. It’s a maladaptive way to get a basic need met. It’s using the only thing we know because we don’t have the emotional language or skills to express ourselves better.

Again from BMC: “If you are in a relationship with someone with a BPD diagnosis, it is important for you to learn how to communicate using a common language that helps both of you understand each other’s needs and how to meet them, as well as learn how to meet your own needs and take care of yourself.  It is possible to have balance without accusing the person with BPD of “manipulation.”  Using the term manipulation to describe someone with BPD is not fair, and in my experience, using it creates unhelpful barriers to treatment and self-acceptance.   The behaviors that feel like manipulation are this person’s attempts to feel relief, feel connected, avoid pain, get help, or assert his/her rights.  And whether we have the diagnostic label of BPD attached to us or not, we can all understand those needs.

I absolutely agree. I hate hearing the term “manipulation” used to describe this kind of behavior.  Instead of being defensive, we all need to be proactive and work towards finding a solution for future problems by learning from past ones.    

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quotes from the Borderline

“Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.”

 - Alan Cohen

I think this is something that we forget. We can’t hold onto this sentiment which contributes to the paralyzing anxiety that arises from our abandonment and rejection fears.  We often believe the worst of ourselves, only see our failures, and naturally believe that those things are also only what others will perceive of us as well. It’s important for us to keep people in our lives that don’t mind reminding us that they see the whole picture of us, and not just the dark, bad, and evil images we see of ourselves.

It’s also important for us to remember that those in our lives are not only the worst parts of themselves as well. In times of devaluation, in times of splitting black, it’s difficult to remember that there are also aspects of white, and grey in the others of our lives.


Finding balance is so difficult sometimes. When we have such extreme ways of perceiving the people in our lives it’s often difficult to make those choices of who to continue keeping in our lives and who to let go. It’s important to allow others in our lives to make their own mistakes, have their own victories, and see them as a whole as well. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sick with a Healthy Body: Psychosomatic Illness

Today I was going to go into deeper detail concerning Borderline manipulation, but I’m having a hard time shaking thoughts of something I’ve been dealing with a lot this past weekend.

What happens when what’s “all in your mind” begins to physically manifest in your body? When you experience physical pain but nothing is apparently wrong? When you experience physical illness but your body is actually healthy?

Psychosomatic Illness

What is Somatization? Somatization is defined as the tendency to experience psychological distress in the form of physical symptoms.

Have you ever been so anxious about something that you’ve felt physically nauseous? Some physical diseases are believed to have a mental component derived from the stresses and strains of everyday living. This is often the case, for example, of lower back pain and high blood pressure, which appear to be partly related to stresses in everyday life.[5] I doubt it would surprise anyone to hear that stress can have physical effects on the body or that mental distress can exacerbate, say, ulcers. It also wouldn’t surprise me to hear that most people don’t think about it much beyond that.

From Psychology Today: “On one level, of course, the brain and the body are intimately intertwined, the brain sending out innumerable signals and instructions to the body every second, the body receiving them and sending back perhaps just as many. In Buddhism, the mind and body are considered "two but not two," a concept meant at least partially to reflect their complex interdependence. Further, evidence is beginning to mount that our physical brains and our subjective experience of them---that is, our minds---are also "two but not two" (as I discussed in a previous post, The True Cause Of Depression), so the idea that an emotional disturbance could be translated into a physical symptom shouldn't be too surprising.”

It’s very important to understand that just because there isn’t a physical origin for these symptoms, doesn’t mean that the symptoms themselves aren’t real. You can’t tell me that I’m not nauseous and close to vomiting just because it’s due to anxiety and not the flu. Either way, those physical symptoms still exist, but treating yourself with anti-biotics instead of anti-anxietals isn’t going to do you much good. Like any symptoms of illness, it’s important to discover what is actually causing the physical symptoms in order to get the proper treatment.

Something I haven’t paid much attention to in the past, were these kinds of physical symptoms. I was in a position this weekend to notice an interesting effect though. I’ve cut down on my drinking. A lot. Maybe once a week I’ll have “a couple” drinks with friends, but I’ll be a little sneaky about it, and re-fill my glass with seltzer water instead of wine. Mentally I’ve been in a better place and my desire to drink and drown my problems with booze has been next to nil. I haven’t had such an intense need to escape my own mind, and physically I’ve felt a lot better without having the toxic juice pumping through my veins. This weekend however, was psychotically stressful for me (You’ll get the full run down in this week’s Lucid Analysis). I woke up Friday morning feeling headache-y and mildly nauseous. I was extraordinarily uncomfortable with my surroundings, incredibly anxious about my physical appearance/dysmorphia, freaked out and ready to flee from a very emotional confrontation the night before, and I had no means of escape to a better environment because we’d gone out of state and I didn’t drive. As the day went on my fatigue, headache, and nausea worsened. For about 7 hours I dealt with feeling miserable and ill.

Around 4 o’clock in the afternoon I gave into the need to mentally escape and had a drink. Almost instantly I began to feel better. By the time I finished my second glass of wine my headache was gone and I no longer felt nauseous.  This coupled with the fact that I had actually just been sick a few weeks ago and on a lot of antibiotics, which logically would have knocked out any origins for physical disease and the fact that alcohol seems to have “cured”** my physical symptoms, it made me stop to consider that it was my stress and anxiety causing my sickness. This is by no means the first time it’s happened I’m sure. Because I’m now at a more self-aware and educated point in my life, this is a correlation I now recognized.
Something else I was reminded of this weekend. I have some obvious PTSD issues when it comes to letting other people drive during adverse weather conditions due to a very bad car wreck I was a passenger in years ago. My knee jerk reaction spasms aside, my anxiety shoots through the roof, I get tension headaches and if the person takes a turn “too fast” or doesn’t slow down fast enough, my stomach churns, I get nauseous, and I will physically feel the need to vomit. Clearly I’m not contracting a sudden case of the flu. It’s definitely due to anxiety, but I’ve never thought much about it having the potential to be specifically a psychosomatic issue.

This struck me as something that could have a lot of relevance to Borderline Personality Disorder. As a group we tend to live with an incredible amount of emotional distress, stress, and anxiety. I honestly and truly believe these levels of stress and anxiety are what cause(d) or at least contributed and intensified my insomnia for so many years. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to hear how many of us with BPD are often physically fatigued, have vague feelings of illness, headaches, ulcers, shooting pain in the stomach, intense nausea… with no physically identifiable disease after careful medical examination.

From what I’ve read these symptoms can be situational or chronic. Depending on the kind of somatoform disorder the psychosomatic symptoms can be anything from fatigue or mild nausea to incredibly severe issues resulting in paralysis of the limbs and inability to speak. The origins of somatoform disorders and symptoms are often the result of some very traumatic event where the mental pain is so intense that it physically translates to the body. Body and mind working together, but not to a result you’d want. Considering that people with Borderline Personality Disorder often (not always) have a history of abuse and trauma it seems logical to me that this could be a very real issue for many of us.

This could be especially important to consider for people that have repeatedly sought medical assistance only to be told their bodies are perfectly healthy. I’m not saying this is definitely the problem (I’m not a doctor and need to cover my butt concerning any kind of medical advice) but it could be something to consider.  Regardless, getting the mental condition under control so that our mental distress doesn’t manifest into physical distress is important and worth investing the time to work on.

The first steps aren’t that difficult either. Again, I’m not a medical professional, but I think it’s safe to say that eating a healthier diet, getting some exercise and movement into your life, taking a little time to meditate or de-stress in a hot bath, and getting adequate amounts of sleep can contribute to a better mental state, and by extension contribute to the manifestation of fewer psychosomatic symptoms. Obviously mental healing isn’t always that easy, especially in the case of intense trauma and mental disorders, but those things can contribute to and speed the process of longer term healing.  

It's taken me a few days (yes, days), but getting myself into a healthier environment, eliminating as much stress as possible and living in my usual healthy way, has made me feel physically and mentally better.  

** I don’t recommend, nor do I think alcohol is a “cure” for psychosomatic illness. In this particular example it helped me recognize what was making me feel ill in the first place. Alcohol is never a “solution”. I did recognize that putting myself in a better environment, working out, and taking a nap would have been better for me, unfortunately they weren’t viable options at the time. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

BPD Gripe: Concerns about Opening up about BPD

Every once in a while I wonder if I’m actually Borderline or if the world is just a giant asshole.

Okay, here’s a big concern I have about “coming out” as someone with Borderline Personality Disorder.

When someone knows you have a mental disorder, your credibility is the first thing called into question. When you have BPD as the mental disorder people automatically think you’re overreacting…. Even if you have a LEGITIMATE issue. Yes, things do tend to hit us harder, but that doesn’t mean that some of those things aren’t significant problems that would create an upset for anyone even without a personality disorder. Except when people know you have a disorder of emotional regulation you essentially have to convince them that that it’s not just all in your head. You have to convince people that your concern is valid before they take you seriously.

This is one of the reasons I don’t like telling people about my struggles with BPD (in real life), unless I’m very close to them, and they understand me and my personality as a whole, and not just a disordered part.

Take this weekend for example. I had a really, really bad weekend. I was in an unfamiliar environment, with people that weren’t “my kind” of people (read: racist) that I had never met, physically sick, miserable from the climate, more miserable from the intolerant company, running on no sleep because Tech Boy and I got into a fight the night before about how I chose to interact with (and avoid) some of these new people, got my ankle smashed by some clod that didn’t pay attention to who was next to him, hit by a thrown beer can, and sprayed in the face by another.  Missed the one event this weekend I actually wanted to go to because I was so exhausted and overwhelmed from the prior two miserable days, and then Tech Boy had the nerve to ask me if my weekend was really so terrible? Really? Yes, it was a fucking tragedy. I was actually looking forward to coming into work today just to escape my weekend.

Some things bother me. Legitimate, valid issues. Issues that have nothing to do with my mental issues. It legitimately pisses me off when people think I’m overreacting to something that is a real issue of principle to me. I was raised in a very liberal and progressive household. My father led marches and protests on Washington D.C. in the ‘60s and ‘70s fighting for the equality and civil rights of ALL United States citizens; women, minorities, GLBTQ, you name it, we believe in equal rights for all. My sister and I are not heterosexual. I’m a woman in a male dominated profession and I have run into A LOT of gender bias and discrimination because of it. Some things I have a very strong opinions on, that are legitimate concerns and issues in my life are sexism, sexual identity discrimination, and racism (this one maybe not on my own behalf but certainly on the behalf of many I care about). I have very little tolerance for bigots, and yes I see the irony in that statement. I am also not quiet about my beliefs and support for equality. So when I’m faced with racist comments, even “jokingly”, I don’t find them funny. I don’t pretend to laugh, and unless I’m grossly outnumbered by people I think will physically assault me, I’m perfectly okay stating my opinion that “jokes” of that nature make me uncomfortable and I think they’re in poor taste. I realize this can be awkward for people that grew up in an area of the country where this is acceptable and they’re confronted with a stranger that doesn’t see eye to eye with them. I don’t get nasty and mean, but I do let them know that I am not okay with comments of that nature and if they persist I will go elsewhere.

It legitimately pisses me off when someone tells me I’m overreacting to something that I believe is wrong. You can’t tell me that I need to accept the beliefs of other people while at the same time disregarding that this sentiment also applies to me. I understand that people hold beliefs that differ from mine. I can accept that. However, it does not mean that I must agree with it. By that same sentiment they in turn need to accept that I do not believe as they do as well. They don’t have to agree with me, but they have to accept it.

I won’t sit here and tell you I’m not a judgmental person. As human we make judgments on people, places, and things around us. It’s how we assess or environment as compatible or incompatible. Personally, I choose to do that on an individual basis. Not a general one. When I haven’t gotten to know or interact with every person being generalized, I’m not interested in making an uninformed judgment. It’s not my way. I wouldn’t want to be lumped into a category with every other female of mixed western European background, not because I hold anything against people that share my ancestral background, but because I would prefer to be judged on my own merit, and not by the geography of my predecessors. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Something I know that a lot of us with BPD deal with, is that when there is a legitimate concern people will often dismiss our concerns because they automatically attribute it to us getting overemotional as part of the emotional dysregulation. It can be nearly impossible to be taken seriously even when we have valid problems because we are automatically dismissed. Unsurprisingly this often leads to us getting more frustrated because even when we convey our concerns we can’t be taken seriously. Why would we want to disclose our mental struggles to people when this is what we can look forward to? It’s difficult to ask for help, it’s difficult to remove our masks, when that would expose us to ridicule and the kind of judgment that would lose us our credibility as intelligent human beings. Just because we have a dysregulation of emotion, does not mean that we don’t also experience dilemmas that should be taken seriously and not dismissed as being overemotional. In a healthy environment none of our concerns, emotional or otherwise, would be invalidated, but it’s even more hurtful to have credible issues invalidated because we’ve been stigmatized by the label of this disorder.

It’s something to consider and something that I think people will keep in mind when interacting with loved ones with BPD.

I may turn this into an occasional series as things come to mind about opening up about BPD to the people in our lives. 

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