Friday, March 1, 2013

Borderline Flirtation

I am a flirty person. If you’re female and I’m not sure whether or not you’ll take me the wrong way I might not be quite as flirtatious but otherwise, well, Guy? Girl? Trans? Androgyn? You will probably encounter flirty Haven at some point, most likely early on when you first are introduced to me.

Least sexy wink ever.
I don’t think anything of it. I really just think I’m friendly, not really flirty at all. But I’ve had people, particularly jealous significant others, mention to me otherwise. We’ll be out having a good time, talking to people around us, and I’ve been accused of flirting with someone other than who I was there with. I’m almost always shocked when I hear this too, because I don’t try, I’m not trying to impress people that way, it just feels like being engaged in an active conversation to me.

I have many thoughts on this. One. I think being friendly and polite is so foreign to some people (especially here in New York) that what I consider just being a decent human being, they take as showing more interest than is in any way there at all.

Other times, if I am genuinely attracted to you in a potentially romantic or purely sexual way… and feeling social enough to want to act on those urges… yes, absolutely, I’m a big flirt, but in my own nerdy quirky kind of way.

But neither of those things are what people are typically asking me about when they’re confused regarding a Borderline partners apparent flirtation. Especially when you ask us about it or confront us about our flirtatiousness (say as our current relationship partner), and the response you get is, “I’m not flirting. I’m just being friendly. I don’t mean anything by it.” I have found myself saying this on a number of occasions. Mostly when I found myself with a partner that was less than secure in our relationship or that was the jealous type.

Whenever I have said this, it is absolutely true, with maybe a hint of enjoying the attention. I really don’t think about it at all. If I’m in a mood to be social I am very non-discriminating in pretty much any setting. I talk to everyone. I listen to whoever wants to talk to me. Well, for a while anyways. I get bored easily and some people are asshats that I don’t really have time for. I am always smiling. I’m an active listener and a pretty good audience. I seem to draw people to be naturally. So smiling, being engaged with your conversational partner, while being a little flirtatiously sassy is an easy disarming way to garner a positive reaction from people. It’s basically evolution in action. Make the community like you, you are more likely to treated and provided for better. I mean, that’s obviously not the train of thought that occurs in the moment, but it’s probably the origin of that natural ease of flirtation.

For me, my actual thoughts tend to go along the lines of, **tapped on the should/meet a stranger** Hello! ::smile:: Absolutely quirky shoulder shrug. Oh  you like that thing, this is what I know about it. This is a cool conversation. It’s nice that someone is interested in letting me talk about this thing/it’s nice that someone actually has something interesting to say that isn’t boring me to tears…. There’s not usually a conscious thought of, Hey there Stranger, can I get a little flirtation up in here?

Mildly flirtatious behavior is a simple social lubricant that ingratiates you to the people around you and puts them at ease because it makes them feel special and accepted. When you have BPD and you have this main motivator to avoid rejection and abandonment by anyone, it doesn’t take any consideration at all to learn that when people feel good around you, they are less likely to leave you. Even if it’s a just avoiding a simple social rejection.

Simply put, No I don’t think about it or always even realize that I’m being flirtatious. It’s not necessarily on purpose. Yes, I’m being honest when I tell you it doesn’t mean anything. Yes, it is just friendly.

Now, that’s just me and definitely some of the Borderlines I’ve known. Some people may have ulterior trying-to-get-closer-to-the-inside-of-someone-else’s-pants, motives. Some people with BPD don’t do this at all. And sometimes there is a poor impulsive judgment to make a significant other jealous. That’s why it’s important to discuss this with your partner and not just accuse, which is likely to inspire a very offended, and probably angry response. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

BPD and Low Self-Esteem - What Low Self-Esteem?

I don’t think I need to harp on about this much longer, but here’s the thing. Low Self-Esteem may not be the cause of BPD, but it’s definitely a symptom. It can also contribute to the sense of unstable sense of self that we often suffer from. When you have low-esteem it’s almost natural to crave the acceptance of the people around you. One of the easiest ways to guarantee that is subconscious for us, because mirroring is so easy, and people like to see themselves reflected back at themselves (it’s validating).  

Here’s the thing though. The women I know with Borderline Personality Disorder, myself included, come across as exactly the opposite of having low self-esteem. In fact we usually come across as supremely self-assured and as having it all together, needing the approval of no one. Brash, confident, maybe even a little cocky… though I like to think of it as endearingly flippant… is a very conscious effort to mask our low self-perception and inner turmoil. It’s also probably why a lot of people get very confused when we’re “all of a sudden” having such a hard time. They don’t see it, so they don’t realize it’s real.

The thing is, it’s not just a mask, it’s the way I wish I was. I hate feeling this way. I hate that I don’t love myself. I want to love myself. I want to be the happy, confident woman that everyone perceives me to be. The only people that see that this persona isn’t all it’s cracked up to be are the people that are very, very close to me. Everyone else, rarely has a clue.

Part of the problem with this is also, that when this is the visage that everyone around you sees of you, they have zero clue that there is actually a darker well of trauma and turmoil running beneath the surface.

The idea of being vulnerable and exposed in the face of people that might not have your best intentions in mind is a hugely unnecessary risk though. We’ve dealt with enough failed risk, with the opposite of reward… more like huge debts of penalty fines, that there’s not benefit to being our authentic selves.

Because “vulnerability” is a bad word.

…. Except it’s really not. Something I’ve learned in the last year, is that it’s absolutely possible to be both vulnerable and strong. Allowing someone else to see an aspect of me, that in the past I might have been ashamed of because it was “weak, really only allows them to see the complete woman I am. That I have been through all those trials and tribulations doesn’t make me less of a person, it makes me more. It makes me whole. I may not have had a pleasant life, but I’ve had my life, and I’ve grown stronger because of the experiences I’ve been dealt. Allowing other people to see that that wasn’t easy to deal with, and also see that I am capable of continuing forward… that’s a testament to my inner strength. That I have been vulnerable, that I am human, with a human heart, with human feelings that wants to love and be loved (but in the process of opening up myself to love, I must open myself up to the possibility of pain), that I AM vulnerable, at times, is not shameful. That I am willing to open myself up like that, even after all of the emotional warzones I’ve battled through, and not lost my will to keep fighting… that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It takes strength to willingly allow someone to see your vulnerability when you’ve been through that much. It takes strength in yourself, and in you relationship, to trust another person with that responsibility to not wound you further.

This is something I’ve thought about a lot. Because my entire life. MY ENTIRE LIFE. I internalize the idea that to be vulnerable is to be weak. To be vulnerable is to allow another person to take advantage of you. To be vulnerable is give away your power.

It’s not true though. When you don’t have strong sense of who you are, to allow someone else to see you in your most malleable form, it feels very exposed. The more you work on yourself though, the more time you put into getting to know who you really are, apart from other people… the stronger you become. The more solid you become. Those antiquated ideas of hyper-masculinity and what is ‘strong’ and what is ‘weak’ become no longer relevant. When you begin to reach a point where you know who you are, even if you’re still working on it… all that being vulnerable means… is that you’re human, and that you’re not afraid to be human.

Our society likes to tell us that it’s not okay to show that human-ness, but I have a secret for you. Society is often full of crap. There is no one-way to be. There is no way you “should” be. The only thing you should do, is be honest to who you are. Regardless of what society tells you.

I don’t mean that in an avoid responsibility for yourself, act out, act in, be a jerk, and generally destructive kind of way either. We’re still responsible for ourselves and our actions.

To be vulnerable is to allow another person to love you for all of you, and to allow yourself to truly be loved and accepted by another person. 

That doesn’t mean to throw yourself to the whims of another person completely. It means keep your eyes open, be mindful of yourself, and accept yourself. Use your wise mind when deciding who and when it’s okay to show that vulnerability to someone. Because let’s face it, some people are jerks and just don’t deserve to get to know all of you. 

People with BPD have “normal” problems too

I’m not sure I emphasize this point enough. I mean, the point of this blog is to talk about how the Borderline experience is what it is, and the way that it is, is different than most people experience. To bring light, understanding, and education to the whole thing. But yanno what? Sometimes our problems are pretty much just like everyone else’s. 

For example, I feel like a jerk. I was honest, but gentle, with New Girl. I told her that this “relationship” wasn’t working for me. I liked her, but it wasn’t what I needed. She didn’t really say much beyond, “I liked you. Take care. Bye.” She got a little snarky with me when she said the line I was looking for was, “It’s not you, it’s me”. Not a good move. Because my reply was simply. “That is not the line. Because it’s not just me, it’s both of us. I don’t want to hurt you, but if I don’t tell you now, you’ll only be more hurt in the future and I really don’t want that.”

It was the right thing to do. I really wanted to give her a chance to be the person she thinks she is (which is why I agreed to go out with her even after her ridiculous tantrum), because that person sounded pretty neat… but let’s face it, those red flags were waving in my face since before the beginning and she was already planning vacations and a life together with me. That’s not an exaggeration.

It was the right thing to do but I still feel like a huge jerk. She was smothering, pushy, insecure, in my face, rude, offensive in ways she didn’t even realize she was being offensive, and I wanted to run screaming. Not in an overly emotional Borderline freak out kind of way. More like in a back away slowly, then quickly turn and run for safety kind of way because I can see how this is going to turn out. 

I’m sure I have some guys out there that can back me up on this… but when you date a woman and she plans out your life together before your one month anniversary… that’s just, too much. For goodness sake she asked me if I’d be willing to move closer to her or if my job was keeping me in my location… before she even met me in person on our first date yet! Slow the fuck down!

Is it me? Does my crazy just attract more crazy?

I’ve been a big grump this week. I kicked a cardboard box b/c it “got in my way” this morning (never mind that I was the one that put it there). I’ve done nothing but sleep, play Path of Exile, and try to get my cats off my keyboard. Everything everyone says to me, makes me annoyed. Not in a murderous ragey kind of way. Just in a, you realize I just sat down and am halfway to putting my soup spoon into my mouth and you’re asking me to do this now?... kind of way. All I can possibly do is grin, bear it, and move on.

Taking a quick perusal of my FB feed, I notice that at least a dozen other people, all of whom I have quite certain do not have BPD, are having very similar days, and not necessarily handling it any better or worse than I am. Good for me. Bad for all of us.

This post was brought to you by the letter F and the letter G. Fucking Grumpy.

(I’ll have a real post later).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Damaged Goods and Borderline Personality Disorder

I hold back in relationships. I hold back getting close to people. I feel bad because I know how much baggage I have. I know how damaged I’ve been.

Fortunately I’m starting to understand how much I’ve healed too. How much I’m capable of getting through. How much I’m capable of repairing. I don’t always feel like a strong person, but yanno what… I really am.

People have asked me if Borderlines believe they’re damaged goods.

I can’t speak for all of us, but for me I can answer this with a resounding “Yes”.

At least I used to. Now I just kind of do. Regardless, in the past I have vehemently believed this. Completely.

There have been plenty of times when I’ve wanted to be with someone, or I have actually been with someone, but at the same time believed that I had just too many issues to be able to do so. Even during periods where I’ve felt relatively okay it’s caused me to hold back and not be really open with the person I’m interested in. I have all of the unjustified guilt. Guilt over feeling bad, that I have had cause to feel bad. Guilt for things that haven’t necessarily been my fault.

For example. I’m Major Depressive. I have done absolutely everything in my power to not feel depressed. I have a chemical malfunction in my neurology that I’ve fought with diet, exercise, therapy, medication (okay yeah I’m definitely feeling A TON less depressed now), kicking bullshit people out of my life, and I don’t even really feel depressed anymore… Yet, I feel guilty because I can’t be this happy go lucky person that I think people want to see. Frankly I’m kind of an artsy introvert with a major nerd girl streak. I’m not some kind of peppy cheerleader. However, something inside me believes completely that if I’m not some picture perfect presentation of what people want then I won’t be accepted for who I actually am.  Perhaps this has to do with growing up being told that I need to stifle myself, and that I’m too difficult to be loved, but pssssh.

Especially during times when I don’t feel great about myself, especially my self-esteem, my self-image, and my self-talk is very low, I feel like I’ve been through too much damage and shattering to be loved. I feel like my personal past is too much of a burden to expect anyone else to bear with. Not carry, that’s on me, but even the thought of expressing what I’ve been through and allowing others to see the kind of trauma that I’ve had to deal with, makes me feel like I’m too broken to be together with someone else. Frankly I’m not sure I have the right to expect or even hope, that someone will accept me with all of that.

It feels like so much to me. Maybe there’s an aspect of not being able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and see how they could appreciate the magnitude of what I’ve been through, while at the same time recognizing that I am a stronger person for it, without feeling the weight of all of that as if it were their own trauma… because when I empathize with someone I really care about, I feel their hurt like a ton of bricks weighing me down into an early grave. It’s hard to recognize that other people can see a different perspective of who I am, appreciate where I’ve been, without feeling the need to carry around every single bit of broken history like shards of a shattered past cutting into my skin.

I remember everything that I deal with. Just because I’ve made mistakes, recognized those mistakes, actively made the choice to not go down that kind of destructive and hurtful path again… to be a better, kinder person now and into the future…. I still feel the importance of the poor choices I’ve made in my past. They stay with me. I don’t feel like they’re magically forgiven and I can let them go. It’s like a geographic topography where the broken hearts, hurt, pieces, glass, debris, sadness, and pain create striations in my emotional psyche that are only slowly and thinly covered by new growth and fresh emotional landscape. It’s never truly let go of. It’s all still there, just under the surface. Even if the surface is now a better, wiser place more conducive to healthy growth.

I’ve felt alone for so long, it takes so much for me to really feel connected, that I’m not really sure what it is to feel like I belong with someone. No matter how close I do get, and I have managed to form some very healthy internalized relationships, I still feel like an outsider on some level. That I don’t deserve to have that complete connectedness with someone. No matter how much I may want it. Because I do feel guilty about having so much built up inside me that I view as bad.

So I struggle with wanting to be with someone, but also not believing I really can be. I know I have quite a lot to give, but I don’t want to make anyone receive everything else that I’ve also had to go through.

Maybe I just don’t understand relationships from that other perspective. All I have is my own and my own concept of how I feel other people’s burdens. Maybe that’s not realistic for how other people feel. I don’t ever expect anyone to take the weight of my past from me. I don’t expect anyone else to “heal me” or “make me feel better”. All of that is on me. I am responsible for my own healing. But I still feel like I’m too broken for someone to completely understand or fully accept.

It feels really stupid to say too, because my family, my friends they DO know (You may have noticed that I’m not exactly afraid of talking about my life, haha). Over the course of the years I’ve spent developing these relationships they do understand and fully accept what I’ve been through, as a part of me. They have seen me overcome and move forward. They do accept me, completely and absolutely, for the person that I am. I see this. Not just in their words, but in how they actually show their support for me and show their love for me. I see it. And yet…

I don’t know. Something doesn’t quite click for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love them and am beyond grateful for them. In no way do I take my relationships for granted. That’s not a question. But even now, there’s this feeling of something being missing. I’ve been so damaged that I’m not sure whatever that mechanism is that really bonds you to another person is capable of being completely fixed. Like trying to re-flatten a piece of paper after it’s been crumpled up. You can get close, and it’s definitely still usable, but you can still tell it’s been wrinkled.

I guess everyone has their wrinkles though. It’s funny too, because never do I hold the trauma another person has been through against them. It never bothers me when people confide in me. It never makes me think any less of them. In fact, it usually makes me think more of them for having been through so much and remain capable of continuing on. That’s strength. I feel that for other people… but someone, not for myself. I don’t know how to reconcile that.

I’m in no way saying that it’s not possible. Just that this is an experience I’ve had and am still going through… and need to continue working on. People ask me if I think I’m damaged goods… and after the momentary annoyance of being objectified as merely a societal product… yeah I do. Because I have been damaged and I am not really sure how to forgive my past. Even the parts of my past that aren’t actually my fault. For as many beautiful features as I have, somewhere I believe that the people around me deserve someone that is less flawed. More perfect. Like it’s my choice to decide what anyone else believes they deserve. Even though I would be furious if someone made that choice for me.

It’s complicated living inside my head. I think that’s true for many of us. Borderline or not. Especially when you’ve been hit in your sense of self-worth and self-esteem for so long, when maybe you never developed a good sense of what it is to truly value yourself as a whole human being, it’s difficult if not impossible to internalize how someone else could.

It’s difficult to even look in the mirror some days. Let alone accept the person we see reflected back at us as someone worthwhile. Teaching self-acceptance. Internalizing a sense of accepting one’s self. It’s a lesson I think many of us need to work very hard at. Because we may not know it, but we are worth it. 

I doubt I'm alone in feeling like this, but for anyone else's sake, I wish I was. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Self-Esteem vs. Self Destruction - Responding vs. Reacting

I found an article while researching BPD and self-esteem by Sonia Neale in a series called Therapy Unplugged. I don’t usually repost other blogs like this in their entirety but there was a bit of information that I think is crucial for us to understand, to learn, and to incorporate into our lives. That bit of wisdom is this:

Respond rather than react.

With BPD we get smashed with a situation and our emotions are little more than impulsive reactions. Not planned, not thought out, with little to no thought to the inevitable consequences.

Therapy Unplugged: 

There is a saying in a self-help group I used to be in back in the eighties. When a “normal” person gets a flat tire, they call the Automobile Association. When someone with (what’s now known as BPD) gets a flat tire, they call the suicide hotline. There’s an awful lot of truth in that.

My goal recently has been to respond rather than react to what I perceive are excruciatingly provocative circumstances and situations. I want to think and act with grace and dignity, to deep breathe, turn around, walk away, move on, learn the lesson and get a life. This attitude has, in the past, kept me in relationships, out of the law courts, out of jail, out of psychiatric hospitals, in employment and in therapy (or life coaching as we are now doing).

No longer is my therapist my nurturing supporter, smothering me endlessly with loving/kindness, reassurances of never abandoning me and justifying my bad behavior and lack of social skills as a result of my environment. We have a more pragmatic egalitarian relationship where I feel mentored, rather than mental.

Responding quickly and with social correctness to sudden galling and goading instances and happenings when newly symptom-free, means being switched on to mindfulness at all times; even – especially – when you are unprepared. Life is full of incidental learning curves and today was no exception.

I went to the loo (bathroom) before going into her office and on the wash basin was an expensive text book so I took it to her office and said perhaps we should call office management and pass it on. She told me in a very stern voice, which broached no disagreement whatsoever indeed, that it was all sorted, to take it back to the toilets and leave it there.

But…I started to argue. So she told me that people knew about this and the best course of action was to take them back down – now. But...I started to argue again. However, her icy glare penetrated my fierce resistance and indignation and with my armpits itching I said with a forced smile: oh well I’ll have to take another trip down the stairs then.

So I resentfully stamped down the stairs and left the book on the bench and by the time I got back, I had decided to let it go, move on and get down to life coaching.

We then processed what had happened. I asked her how did it feel when I started to argue and she said that she felt I took it well, acted with grace and dignity and even had a sense of humor about it. I said that I felt she was quite directive (because she said we were about to start therapy and she did not want to waste time), however, seeing as I had no emotional investment in the book, I chose to cooperative with the current prevailing winds.

I compliantly conformed with the situation rather than resisting and rowing. I had passed (with a high distinction) my own unexpected accidental learning curve without realizing it until it was over. I responded rather than reacted. My external appearance was one of going with the flow. This is what has kept me in the same employment for the past eighteen months.

I do know that eighteen months ago I would have argued with her till I got my own way. We would then have had a magnificent row and I would have shouted at her, devalued her, called her all sorts of names and cast aspersions upon her therapeutic ability, secure in the knowledge she once said she would never abandon me. The added bonus would be that I would have had an audience. Her colleague was in another room with an open door, and I could have seriously embarrassed us both.

[Up until a couple years ago this was me all over. I am the queen of arguments and tailoring a debate to prove my point. With my family and many bad relationships these would be constant, angry, shouting matches, where I’d feel utterly misunderstood and as if they weren’t even making an effort to see my perspective. All the while not realizing I was so dug into my own perspective that I wasn’t taking the time to take a look at theirs. ]

I would have then driven home (perhaps through a tree or a freeway pylon) or gone home and drank, smoked, drugged and overate and blamed her for everything (of course) taking no responsibility for my actions.

[I still do this sometimes. I’ve curbed the emotional reacting, I’ll just hold it in instead of expressing myself constructively, which is still a point that I need to work on… go home and drink my way to numbness and hurting less. ]

Then, as the evening progressed, I would have sent her the obligatory apology email crucifying myself. She in return would send a very nurturing, and supportive email expressing loving/kindness (and we’d be back to therapy and not life coaching) and she would reiterate that she would not abandon me – ever.

Her colleague would have understood and silently labeled me as a borderline personality disorder and sympathized and debriefed with her. I would send her more idealizing emails and probably a huge bunch of very expensive flowers. And then we would start the cycle over again. Not dissimilar to the dynamics of a very dysfunctional relationship where abuse and possibly domestic violence are involved.

To a casual observer, this was a simple non-report worthy event, yet it was a monumental life-changing phenomenon to me. This all gets recorded in my body and in my unconscious and builds up and compounds on my social skills, resilience and a theory of mind, so the next time when it happens, I will do the same thing because it will feel right and keep doing it until it becomes automatic and I don’t even have to think about it.

This is what other people have taken for granted all their life; the ability to mentalize, empathize and see life from another’s point of view, even – especially when they don’t agree with them.

[This is something I think gets lost in translation between us and our loved ones. They often take for granted that we’re not trying to be purposefully difficult, but the way that we think is very different from how they do. It’s our responsibility to learn to communicate this difference in a constructive way. ]

It’s easily to flow down the river than to fight against the rising tide because you get to your destination a lot quicker, feel a lot less exhausted and you get to enjoy the view on the way down.


We need to learn to break that cycle!!!!!!

The difference between responding and reacting is that:

            A Reaction is a spontaneous action in response to a simulating event.

To Respond means to mindfully consider the situation, think about the consequences and tailor your reply in a manner that is appropriate and non-destructive.

Here’s a phrase that I’ve mastered which gets A LOT of productive mileage in conversation where I don’t necessary agree with the other person:

“I see your point. I agree with you completely when you say {this thing}, on this {other point} however, I see it from this point of view…”

Another helpful phrase is: “Interesting, I’ve never thought about it from that perspective. That gives me something to think about. I tend to see it like {this}. What are your thoughts?”

Acknowledge that you understand them. Give them credit where credit is due. Pursue your alternative opinion in a way that is respectful and productive.

One of the things that I think trips us up, is the sense of ego-self that says if something challenges our “correctness” they’re challenging who we are at our core and it feels devaluating and shameful. People like to be agreed with. People like to be right. What people don’t realize is that it’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to not know everything. When you have BPD though, it’s deeply ingrained in us that any amount of flaw or failure will create a deeply emotionally scarring event (which is due to past trauma, and not necessarily due to the current event at all, but those defense mechanisms have remained which is what makes them maladaptive and something to heal from). Acknowledging another person’s perspective, is much more likely to inspire a similar reaction in them, towards you. Work with them in the discussion, not against them. Approach the discussion or event as if both sides have valid points, now try to figure out how they go together, in order to figure out which parts can be discarded as unnecessary (Tailor that for the situation).

I relate to this article to an incredible degree. I used to be SO reactive, and SO emotionally impulsive, that people would avoid bringing up subjects with me for fear of my reaction. It really cultivated an environmental aura of being closed off. I needed honestly, but my reactions were creating an environment of hostility where people would rather avoid telling me anything. People can’t be honest with you if they’re afraid to talk to you and tell you the truth. I didn’t have that concept of Responding vs. Reacting.

I do now of course. I’m actually quite good at it and it has certainly helped me hold down jobs and get through school. Believe me there have been times a coworker or a superior “needed” a swift kick in the buttocks, verbally or otherwise, but learning to respond rather than impulsively react, helped me to continue functioning in the environment I need to function in.  

I don’t know if you’ve ever been able to accomplish this, but it makes me feel much better about myself when I’m able to walk away from a situation with my dignity intact. My self-esteem stays in one piece and I don’t spiral down into a pit of self-destructive despair when I’ve reacted horribly and hurt myself and the perception others have of me in the process. Working to feel good about ourselves, and have the people we care about feel good about us, is something that definitely deserves attention.

What things do you find help your being mindful through difficult discussions? 
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