Invisibility

I started this post a while back now and like many things at the moment, I just never finished. The good thing about that is that it has given me time to think and reflect. What’s really going on here?

I have got the distinct feeling that I am invisible.  I could have got a role in Harry Potter or similar, because somehow it seems that while I think I’m there in reality, I’m not there at all.  I am invisible to all those around me.

A visit to my doctor (my GP) was the start of all this a couple of weeks ago.  He was seemingly uninterested in my reality.  While I talked of having trouble getting to sleep because of pain, all he was interested in was that I was apparently using too many sleeping medications.  I wondered why he couldn’t take interest in my pain.  I wanted him to ask about the type of pain I was experiencing, and how bad it was for me.  In over a year of having a chronic pain condition he hasn’t once asked me to describe my pain.  That seems odd to me.  Maybe he could suggest some ways of managing it.  But as usual, there was no apparent interest.  I guess his bigger interest was getting me out of his office so he could move onto the next person.  So I left, invisible…

My mother has been in hospital over the past couple of weeks, and somehow I have turned into her next of kin.  The night of her operation the hospital staff rang me to ask if I would come into her during the night if she continued to be confused (a side effects of her anaesthetic).  I felt I had little option but to say yes.

Actually I find going out at night difficult.  I guess you could say I am a little ‘scared’ of the dark, so the idea of driving across town in the middle of the night was daunting.  It also meant that I would have to go without my night-time medication, because I would never to drive.  That was all okay except that no one was actually interested in how I felt, and how I would cope if I had to do this.  Invisible again, this time in favour of my mother’s needs and the hospital’s needs.

As the week went on, there were more and more demands on me.  And that’s okay, because my mother was not well and needed my support.  I guess it just felt like it would be nice if my needs mattered somehow, somewhere.  Instead I was just a daughter, serving a purpose.

At the same time as this, I have been reading a very good book about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) called The Buddha and the Borderline by Kiera Van Gelder.  One of the things I have picked up in reading this book is the Borderline’s tendency to all too easily feel abandoned.  The lack of a stable sense of self see us take all these things as a kind of rejection of us.

When those I am in relationship with have other priorities, or simply can not be there when I need them, I think that I have lost that relationship.  They have abandoned me.  And so when I am not the priority in my mother’s care, I also feel like no one cares about my needs.

I can choose to go down the track of believing that I am invisible and that no one is there for me.  I can choose to believe that the relationship is gone, simply because I can’t always come first.

Or, I can recognise this as Borderline thinking.  I can tell myself it’s not necessary to think my world has ended because I feel invisible.  Even as I write this I can see that is an extremist view, as well as one that will destroy me if I let it.

I am not invisible.  Sometimes I might need to remember my own needs so that they don’t get lost in other’s needs, but it doesn’t mean that my needs are not important.

If that sounds easy, it’s not.  Especially for a Borderline.  We are constantly trying to hold onto a shaky sense of self, and we have to work hard to see ourselves, rather than believe we are invisible.  Even if others don’t have the ability to give my needs priority, I can work on doing that for myself.

It doesn’t mean I get walked on, or ignored.  It’s just that I recognise that it’s okay for me to put my needs first, even if other’s don’t, or can’t.  A Borderline is likely to tell you that they can’t do that, but I am one who is determined to find a way.  I’m not going to give into my Borderline insecurities.  It might be the natural response for me, but it doesn’t have to be the way.

I remember in psychology lectures at University, object permanence was discussed.  At a certain stage of human development we learn that even though we can’t see something, doesn’t mean it no longer exists.  It’s something that I need to remember in my relationships with others.

Even if they can’t, or won’t be there for me, doesn’t mean they don’t still love me, or care for my needs.  Maybe just for now, I need to take care of my own needs.

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” 

―    Donald Miller,    A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What
I Learned While Editing My Life

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5 thoughts on “Invisibility

  1. John Richardson

    I think you hit the nail on the head. You need, at present, to put your own needs first. As for your doctor, and this is speculation on my part, but I have observed that most people believe what they want to believe. I’m guessing he wants to believe that he is a good doctor. He may have gotten into the profession for all the right reasons but you are a challenge because he doesn’t know what to do for you. Rather than admit to you, and perhaps himself, that he has no solution for your problem,he may be choosing to believe that your condition is not that serious. I am puzzled why he hasn’t asked you to rate your pain unless you volunteered how bad it was. Have you tried acupuncture? There is more to the body and mind than “modern medicine.” As good as it is has its limitations. Maybe you need someone different who has a more holistic approach to illness. As for helping you mother, I think you should do what you can. However, I would suggest you need to start asking the question “why” a lot more. Why do they want you to come to the hospital in the middle of the night? If you don’t come what will be the likely outcome. You need enough information and understanding of what is going on to be able to decide whether your presence is really needed or whether your own condition is more important to protect at that moment. You’re not invisible Cate, you’re frutstrated. I’d wager a lot of folks care about you even if they don’t know what to say or how to help. I’d try acupuncture if I were in your situation and nothing else was working. I have never had it, but I became a believer in it over 30 years ago when I watched a piece on PBS where they showed a heart operation in China where the only anesthesia used was accupunture. Keep fighting Cate, but relax while you do so. I believe, perhaps wrongly, that stress reduction may be a key element of your treatment. When your under stress all of the structures of your body, including your pain receptors are effected. So, hang in there and God Bless!

    1. Thanks John. I have used acupuncture on a number of occasions for different issues. And it seemed to help and so I am certainly open to using it again. But right at the moment it’s not something that I can afford. For now it’s free options only. As for the doctor, you might be right but then I pay him enough to expect a better standard of care. BUt then maybe I expect too much from doctors. :\

  2. I have always felt like a shadow. Here is a poem I wrote about it before I was diagnosed:

    I Am The Shadow

    I am the shadow,
    I exist in a world of light,
    Blending into the darkness of night.

    My face you cannot see,
    My expressions, sometimes misleading.

    If you hear a whisper in the wind,
    It may be me.

    I am the shadow,
    I exist in a world of sounds, good and bad.
    Of laughter,
    Crying,
    Shouting,
    Singing.

    You think that I feel nothing,
    No love,
    No hate,
    No anger,
    No fear,
    No pain.
    But you are wrong.

    You think that I do not cry,
    But I weep silently.
    You cannot see the tears that slide down my cheeks,
    But they are there.

    I am the shadow, you cannot touch,
    Always within sight but never within reach.

    I am the shadow, afraid to trust the light for it distorts me.
    Please forgive me if I trick you,
    I cannot control it.

    I long to live in the light,
    To be held and loved,
    But I am only a silent shadow,
    Watching but unable to take part in it all,
    What others do, I can only dream of.

    So I lurk in corners,
    Ignored,
    Misunderstood.
    Always waiting for the night to come,
    Always dying but never dead.

    I am the shadow, I have no friends,
    Even in a crowd, I’m all alone.
    Existing in somber shades of gray,
    A lonely shadow,
    I’m doomed to stay.

    By Joyce Savage, 1990.

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