Friday, September 14, 2012

Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy – To the Breaking Point

I’m incredibly stressed out. I’m not coping especially well. All I want, more than anything, is to be left alone. To curl up in my room, with my cat, and shut out the rest of the world. Part of this is my own fault. If you caught my bonus post last night, my routines, and the things I need to do to take care of myself have been very off. Other things, not necessarily of my control.

I’m still struggling with Tech Boy. He’s not making it easier either. I’ve seen so little of him lately. I’ve felt so disconnected to him. And the time we do spend together it feels like I’m fighting to find something that bonds us.

Every time I see him it feels like I’m trying to get to know him all over again. While at the same time I recognize that he doesn’t struggle with this and just sees his girlfriend that he misses and wants to be close to. But it’s hard for me to be physically close to someone that feels like an emotional stranger. I have to reestablish my connection with him every time I see him now and it’s harder and harder for me to do that because I don’t feel like I’m getting anything in return. I’m so uncomfortable.

Last weekend, xRoommate, her Boyfriend, Techboy, and I went out to dinner at a great little bistro and then back to my place to watch horror movies (it’s Halloween season after all!). He was drinking a lot (it’s football season after all, bleh). All throughout the night I made mention of how stressed out I’ve been; when he picked me up, on the drive there, when xRoommate asked me how I’ve been, on the drive back to my place… I wasn’t harping on it, but trying to discuss it constructively. Despite my stress levels I managed to have some fun, enjoying the company. Though I do admit I was pretty uncomfortable when TechBoy was trying to get snuggly on the couch.

Around midnight everyone leaves because we all have to work in the morning. Tech Boy finishes probably his 10th beer. He decides he wants frisky time and things go the way they usually do. I was so uncomfortable. Having him touch me was making my skin crawl. Plus I’m so stressed out, and sober, so I just can’t get myself in the mood. I tell him we need to stop, I’m just too stressed out, and not up to this tonight.

Time #2, the second time, in 11 months together, that I’ve declined sex.  Last time he flipped out and started a fight with me. This time he flopped over, got defensive, said “fine, it’s cool, I just won’t touch you ever.” He laid there for a few more minutes, got up and eventually said he was having trouble sleeping and left.

He left.

He texted me the next day and apologized for leaving early. Abbreviated conversation to follow:

Him: Sorry for leaving last night… It’s just your whole elevated stress level is really starting to stress me out, and that doesn’t happen easily.

Me: I’ve had a lot that I had to deal with. I’m trying the best I can. I’m sorry I’m stressing you out too. But honestly I thought you were mad that I stopped us having sex. It’s only the second time I’ve done hat and the last time I got a big unhappy reaction from you too.

Him: Well yeah, kind of that too. It sends me weird signals and I don’t really know how to take it.

Me: That’s a problem. When I’m this stressed out I can’t just make myself be in the mood. When I’m this stressed out my sex drive drops, which is pretty typical. It’s not your fault but you need to be able to respect the fact that there are times I can’t or don’t want to have sex though. When you start a fight or walk out because I said no the message that sends, is that you’re only sticking around for sex and what good is any of this if you’re not getting it. That’s how it makes me feel.

Him: I’m not in it only for the sex. At all. But I will admit that I need to work on being more sensitive to your plights. You gotta remember this is a learning experience for me. I’ve never really had any of this in my life before.

Me: I just need something comforting occasionally and not feel pressured when I’m not up to it. Not guilted. I know you haven’t had much relationship experience but that’s not exactly easy on me either. I end up feeling like shit for taking care of myself instead of your urges.

Him: Which obviously shouldn’t be the case. You can count on me knocking that shit off. I’ll try not to stand on my inexperience crutch too much longer.

Me: We’ve been together for almost a year now. I’m not exactly mystery woman that makes you guess what’s bothering me. Inexperienced or not you should probably have been paying attention at some points during the last year.

Him: And I have been. I’ve just been pretty famous in my life for missing the more subtle cues. It just catches me by surprise when we go out and have a good time and all of a sudden a switch flips and you’re really stressed.

Me: Subtle and all of a sudden? Did you miss how I’ve been really stressed out for weeks now? Or when I told everyone half a dozen times last night, including on the drive back to my place how stressed I feel? That didn’t go unspoken and stress wears on me over time. Stress doesn’t just mysteriously evaporate. You were drinking a lot though, which tends to make your fun go up and  your paying attention to me go down.  

Him: I guess when I see you out having a good time, I figure that the stress went away or maybe I’m just hoping it did. I don’t like seeing you miserable. I mean, I try to help as much as possible by trying to have fun with you, but I think I can see now that’s probably not the best approach. A more supportive role seems better than trying to remedy something that’s really out of my control. 

Anyways, there was more, but that’s the gist. He tried pushing it off as the stress being the main issue and saying it would pass. That’s not the issue. Stress makes things harder, but that’s not the problem. The problem is our lack of emotional connection and responsiveness.

I get that he doesn’t have a lot of relationship experience, but I have too much. While he’s learning, I’m being wounded because he hasn’t figured out how to not be a jerk to women. Okay, that was judgmental. And I told him, he’s never had to deal with this stuff before so no one would expect him to just instinctively know how to do everything. I get it. Really I do. But I’ve dealt with this a lot and I’m already sensitized to it all so that isn’t going to make me a great guinea pig for him.

He’s learning, and he does learn, he does always try to be better.  But while he’s learning, he fucks up a lot, and I get hurt. Bad. Every time it’s like cutting another piece of my heart off and then trying to glue it back on again. Except it doesn’t quite feel the same after. Every time my heart gets worn down more and more.
And after the music tour last month with his friends I feel like my rose colored glasses were just ripped off and I’ve had a clearer picture of the kind of person he is… which is someone I don’t have much in common with.

I was so angry. So frustrated. So sad. It was an awful session and Therapist was making me so mad! She kept being so positive. Wanting me to give it more time, work it out, telling me he’s still young and by the time he’s my age he’ll be at an amazing relationship place…. So that means I should just wait for years while he gets his shit together? How is that fair to me.

I was borderline out of control in therapy last night. My frustration was right at the surface and I was much more stubborn and reactive than usual. I actually told Therapist that she was frustrating the shit out of me. Just because he’s a good guy, and capable of learning, doesn’t mean we’re necessarily right for each other.

There’s no emotional connection! I don’t trust his ability to empathize or even listen to me when I have something deep, meaningful, or emotionally important to express. Anytime I’ve tried to express something emotional I can visually see him shut down, not know how to handle it, or flat out tell me he doesn’t want to think about or talk about things like that. He’s emotionally closed, which leaves me needing an attachment he won’t help me with.

And Therapist thinks that’s the main problem. We keep having these big disconnects where he’s off and away, don’t see each other, and our connection fails, and on top of it he’s emotionally closed off in ways that I need to feel close to him. His drinking isn't conducive to emotional connection either, and it's gotten to the point where I'm clearly on edge around him when he's drinking. 

Therapist also points out that when things like that happen, I do shut down. I close off, I push away. And he’s probably picking up on that. I shut down emotionally and flip to a hyper logic mode. I go from love and life to Mr. Spock. And you know it’s bad when I’m using a Trekkie reference. I’m a Dark Lady of the Sith that thrives on emotional passion, but when I feel my security threatened I shut down and all trace of emotion is covered by Vulcan logic. Genres just shouldn’t mix like that. It’s practically blasphemy.

But I don’t think I’m wrong about everything. I’m second guessing and doubting everything. We have so very little in common. I can’t talk to him about things that are important to me because he doesn’t care and has no opinions on anything. What he’s interested in are so left brain typical frat boy I makes me want to vomit. I want passion, and creativity, and debate, and someone to make the world a better place with. He’s grounding guy that keeps my feet on the ground, which I guess is good in one sense, but it’s also incredibly dull. After the music tour something broke for me. It hasn’t come back. The love and comfort I had felt, got drowned in tears and smashed with beer cans.

Is it so wrong to want to have something in common that inspires passion in us both?

I was so angry that Therapist harped on me about this being such a wonderful, loving relationship, like she was the one idealizing it. I’ve been dubious from the start. Admittedly there have been quite a lot of great moments and comforting times, but nothing that makes me fear letting it go. We're at different points in our emotional maturity and what we need in life. Very different points. I don't feel like I should be expected to wait around on the chance that he eventually catches up. He likes the things he likes. I don't feel any need to change him. Compromise is one thing, but for me to be really connected, he would have to be a different person and I'm not interested in trying to make him someone he's not. 

I’m just tired. I don’t want to see him right now. I don’t want to see anyone. I just want to be alone. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bonus Post: Confessions

I have a confession. I’ve been messing up, a lot lately. Not with other people, not with work… with myself. I do have to admit there is some small bleed over into my relationships and my work, but for the most part I can hold it together and be okay in those arenas. How I feel, how I react, how my thoughts run away with me, how I feel bad about myself, and how I cope? Well that’s a different story.

This past month and a half has been, well, more than a little stressful. I think for anyone. That I’m Borderline doesn’t change the fact that I spent a ridiculous amount of time preparing, stressing out, organizing, and hosting a bachelorette party… making 200 ridiculous cupcakes for a wedding… then the day of the wedding as we’re about to be late for the ceremony I get a frantic call from Roommate Monroe saying she’s being evicted. The next day driving 8 hours home to immediately start hunting for a new place to live. Finding a new place. Packing. Moving within 2 weeks. Unpacking. Getting Settled. Catching up at work when I was behind from vacation. Trouble with Tech Boy (which you’ll hear about tomorrow). Running around, crazy.

The bottom line is, all of my routines, all of my structure, all of the things I do to help myself maintain my stability have been off for the last month and a half. And on top of that with my routines being out of place, I haven’t been:

  • Keeping up on my medications consistently
  • My exercising has been off
  • I haven’t been taking my vitamins

These are 3 things that are incredibly important to my health and my mental stability and they’ve been totally shot to hell.  I’m mood swingy. I’m not dealing with stress very well. I’m feeling my irrational anger rising to the surface more quickly, easier than it has been.

Structure. Routines. Patterns. They’re very important. BPD is challenging. Overcoming these challenges takes consistent work, and consistent maintenance. I didn’t mean to slack. I’ve been so incredibly overwhelmed and disrupted that I didn’t even realize how much I was throwing myself off. And that’s the insidious part. I was so busy, so mentally noisy, that I didn’t even notice how bad things were getting for me until they hit a certain point of severity.

I need to exercise consistently. I overexerted myself a few weeks ago and injured my knee so I haven’t been able to work out the way I normally would. Plus I have had so much to do, and not had the kind of access I normally have to my workout material, that I’ve been so off on keeping myself together.
Normally I take my vitamins every night before I go to sleep. I swear by a multi-vitamin, B-Complex, Calcium, and Omega-3… sometimes Biotin and Iron as well.

Being inconsistent with my Pristiq is especially detrimental. I feel my depression coming back. My anxiety has been increasingly worse. My ability to deal with stress has been severely diminished.  I feel so out of control. So angry.

I need to maintain these routines. These are all very positive things that I need to have in my life. It sucks to feel this way right now. However, it does provide an excellent reminder that these things are an incredibly good and healthy influence in my life.

I feel like such a screw up right now. Small slips, but a bunch of them. Not a huge, not intentional, but they happened. I haven’t traumatized or destroyed anything. I’ve noted them though. I can get myself back on track. I’m dedicated to it, in fact.

Sometimes life gets in the way. Life throws so much at you and things have to take priority. The little things slip through the cracks. The little things are important though.

And that’s important to know. Even when you’ve made a lot of progress. A lot of healing. There are still little setbacks. But they don’t have to remain setbacks and that’s the goal.

Sometimes I think it’s helpful to remember these feelings. Because it reminds me how much I want to keep away from them. 

TED Talks: Why are we happy? and The paradox of choice.

Hello Hello,

As you have probably noticed by now I love to learn, I love to research, and I love to share the knowledge I accumulate. Let’s face it, it’s kind of the point of this blog.

So last night I was doing something pretty rare for me. I was *gasp* watching TV. Okay, Netflix, but almost the same thing. What I was watching was excruciatingly interesting. Yes, excruciating. My brain was going so damn fast with the information I was consuming like a ravenously starved bear brain.
I was watching  TED Talks: Head Games.

The TED talks are riveting talks by remarkable people. They’re great talks that are designed to stir your curiosity, expand your perception and ways of thinking. I only watched about a dozen of these talks but two in particular stood out as relevant to those of us struggling with BPD. Now none of these are directed specifically towards people with BPD, but they do deal with subjects that I think we focus on and take to an even more troubling level.

The first is: Why are we happy?

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned. < ---- A lesson that can be especially important for those of us with BPD that are always terrified of letting go.

Turgid Truth

"The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.... Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice." 

-- Adam Smith

The second is: The paradox of choice

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

Especially this second one, considering the way I am often trapped and stuck when considering the nearly endless possibilities and results that could occur from any given situation, struck me as relevant. Because what I notice is it’s the anticipation, it’s the waiting, the period of interim, that is the time of peak anxiety. When a choice has been made, when I choice has been decided on and the path has been picked…  the majority of my anxiety disappears. Having made a decision, choosing a direction, letting go of the other paths, and having the limit of one path… things feel better.  Making a choice, limiting the directions my brain can whirl down, makes me feel better. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but I thought it was interesting to note. Especially since these are “regular” people. It’s not just us, though our BPD brains may take it to an elevated level with increased anxiety, but it’s all kinds of people, all over the planet.

So take a look. Give them a chance. They’re really interesting to contemplate.

And I have a bunch of fun posts coming up! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Is Borderline Personality Disorder a spectrum disorder?

Does Borderline Personality Disorder express itself in a range of intensity for different people? Can there be BPD “lights”?

Yes. The answer is a simple yes.  

My Therapist describes Borderline Personality (in fact all personality disorders) as lying along the line of a dissociative spectrum. Even if you don’t experience dissociation in terms of Dissociative Identity Disorder, depersonalization, derealization, etc, there’s still a distinct detachment between emotional experience and reality. I do agree, but it’s also important to keep in mind that there is a neurological impact created within our brains as well, and that will amplify or restrain the presentation of BPD symptoms (emotional outburst, etc) depending on the severity of the chemical regulation and transmisison.

My Therapist actually doesn’t like to focus on the label of BPD at all (for me this is both frustrating and reassuring), however she’s worked with many BPD patients, some that didn’t display as strongly as I have, and some that have been much, much more difficult to deal with… so on a range from low to high, I’d be just above the mid-range of my symptom presentation.  And this can increase or decrease depending on how you choose to handle or deal with our challenges. When I was younger I would have presented much higher on the range of symptom presentation. As things are progressing throughout my therapy, I’m definitely moving in the direction of lower BPD symptom experience and presentation.

I believe this ties in with our concept of High and Low Functioning Borderline to an extent, but they’re actually different. Someone can be high functioning to the point where they appear to “nomal” or just low on the expression range (this is me), but internally and in private they can be a mass of devastation and seething torment. It’s often difficult to measure this though because some of us don’t show it to other people so it’s not likely we’ll be classified as having a Higher level of emotional dysregulation. Low-functioning Borderlines, however, tend to wear their heart on their sleeves and are more likely to have their issues noticed and quantified as falling on the higher end of the emotion dysregulation spectrum.

I think it boils down to a combination of how we feel and how we cope.

·         Experience Range of Emotional Distress (Mild/Moderate/Severe) + Appropriate coping Both publically & privately = Normal/Low
·         Experience Range of Emotional Distress (Mild/Moderate/Severe) + Appropriate coping in public But Inappropriately in private = Moderate expression
·         Experience Range of Emotional Distress (Mild/Moderate/Severe) + Inappropriate coping in Both public and private = Higher range of severity in BPD expression

      *Publically/Privately & Internally/Externally  - It’s cumbersome to write so I truncated above. You get the point.

I think this is too simple though. The severity of how we cope needs to be taken into account. If I were to cry and scream about something minor both publically and privately… that could be quantified as a High level of dysfunction. If something minor happens, I remain calm and collected in public, but then come home and take a razor blade to my inner arms… technically that would be “moderate dysfunction” by my previous scale, but the severity of the self-punishment is clearly significant and indicates a Higher level of dysfunction. The person that cries and throws a temper tantrum may be lower on the range of BPD presentation severity scale than the person that keeps it together in public but is so severely punitive in private.

All this really means is that there’s no simple 1 to 1 ratio of classification. It’s clear that different people have different levels of emotional experience and different abilities to cope. Some better, some worse. Some more extreme, some more controlled. It all depends on how we cope and the methods we utilize to cope. What is clear, is that there is a range of emotional experience and responses. There is also a range of dysfunction and disorder that these symptoms present in our lives.
Fortunately, we absolutely can learn better ways to cope.

I also think that what people can mean by BPD “light” is actually someone that expresses some Borderline traits, but does not technically qualify as Borderline by DSM standards.  This is also very common. To be given a diagnosis of BPD you have to meet 5 of the 9 DSM criteria in a way that significantly impacts the functioning of your life and when those symptoms present at a point in your life when they are not considered appropriate.

Everyone experiences feelings of abandonment at times; break ups happen, loved ones die. Everyone has held an idealized vision of someone before and had the rosey colored glasses eventually fall off. When we’re growing and maturing, most people don’t know who they are yet and have some struggles finding their true selves. Depression is a huge problem in this world; one that often leads to suicidal thoughts and behaviors as a result of personal tragedy or grief. And everyone (at least everyone I know) has had some times of extreme anger or difficulty controlling their anger… but that doesn’t mean everyone is BPD… it’s when these are persistent problems that occur at inappropriate times over an extended duration and impact your quality of life that they become a disorder.

Then, of course, there are people that do experience a couple symptoms, full blown, in a way that does disrupt their life. The thing is, just because it looks like BPD because someone self-harms and has severe anger issues and feelings of emptiness, doesn’t mean it is BPD. They have BPD traits, but the underlying cause could be something completely different or a combination of things that are completely different. Anger, thoughts of suicide and feeling empty could be PTSD and depression, not necessarily BPD, for example. Only a professional can tell for sure.   It’s important that only a qualified clinician can make an reasonable diagnosis, and even then, it may be important to not slap a label on their patient for any number of reasons.

It’s okay to keep an eye out and to make not of things that are dysfunctional, but don’t jump to judgment. And remember, it can get better!

I've runt he gamut. When I was younger I was extremely volatile and very severe with myself both publically/to my family and privately... then I transitioned to very controlled (overcompensating) and outwardly "normal", but increasingly severe with my internal feelings, self-punishment and harm in private.... Now I'm pretty well outwardly controlled, but learning to stay connected and express emotions properly (not just controlled and bottle up), and I'm learning to cope better so my internal punishment and reproach isn't as severe. It's a long process, but it can get better. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Beyond the Borderline Personality STORE!

Hello Dear Readers!

I’ve been on a crazy fund raising kick lately (as you may have noticed). Once I get my book more or less pulled together you’ll see a major fund drive, probably in the form of KickStarter (publishing and printing is expensive!), but that will be months and months down the line. I pretty much have my topics narrowed down and the outline hammered out! I’ll be sharing that soon.  
In the mean time…

This is slightly different. As you know I do a ton of research on BPD for my blog and for my own personal awareness. I thought it would be really cool to start a CafĂ© Press store and sell some merch to help support BPD research.  A couple items are more obvious in terms of BPD awareness. But in general I chose a painting that I had done (my own art), a phoenix, as a subtler tribute. Something that could be worn beautifully but didn’t necessarily scream Borderline Personality Disorder! I’m well aware of the stigma and for as much as I support awareness, it’s not always convenient to advertise. So I picked a beautiful symbol instead. Some things say “Hope”, most just have the phoenix. Check it out!

Proceeds will go towards Borderline Personality Disorder research, awareness, and Wiping Out the stigma!
Just like the phoenix rises from the ashes to be reborn, so can those of us fighting Borderline Personality Disorder rise above the challenges we face and be reborn into a healthier, happier life. Have hope!

Follow this link or just click on the T-Shirt icon on the side toolbar!

** If you have any art you think would be appropriate or designs you’d like to submit, let me know! I will add more merchandise and update my store with what appeals to you! Feel free to get a hold of me at .

Quotes from the Borderline

“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”

      - J.D. Salinger

I feel like this a lot. Especially lately. I can only imagine that when people look at me they see a woman seemingly collected, steady and able to take on the world, with no thought to the experiences and thoughts writhing in my mind. These things don’t stop me, even when they overwhelm me, but it makes it all the harder to see the next day into the future when the reality of the present is so heavy. Sometimes when too much has gone wrong, or just that one last thing has gone wrong, I have to kneel down and physically place my hands on the ground to make sure that the floor isn’t actually falling out from under me. They never know by looking at me what is going on within. I try to remember that when looking at others as well. 

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