Do you ever get the feeling that perhaps you missed some of life’s essential lessons? Somehow you just weren’t there for that lesson, or maybe you had something distracting you, so you just weren’t paying attention? I’m not talking about school lessons but rather lessons in the things we needed to know to be able to function adequately as a human being. Lessons in things that would substantially help us get through life.
I’m coming to the conclusion that I very definitely missed some lessons which could have made life a whole heap easier and maybe even less traumatic for both myself and those close to me. The missing lessons for me centre around emotions. I seriously don’t think I ever learnt anything useful until I was very sick and depending on a very good therapist to get me through. It’s more than a little sad really, and it goes along way to perhaps explaining where my relationship with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) came from.
BPD is a hard disorder to get your head around simply because there are so many variations. We are certainly not all the same, as many websites suggest. There are usually many things going wrong to warrant a diagnosis, but in my mind it all centres around emotions and the ability to express and manage those emotions.
So here are a few of the lessons that I may have missed, and which may have contributed to the existence of BPD in my life. They may seem a little disjointed, but bear with me. There is very definitely a pattern.
Lesson Missed #1
It’s okay to feel hurt
Remember that awful little rhyme that has wrecked havoc on the minds of so many girls with curly hair?
There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
When she was good, she was very, very good.
But when she was bad she was horrid.
Who quotes that at their daughters? Who tells their little daughter that they are horrid? It’s horrid that anyone should even write such a rhyme let alone quote it at small girls. And yes, it was quoted at me. Apparently it was written for me. My guess is that I was around four or five.
It’s difficult to remember an emotion back that long ago but my guess is that there was no expressed emotion. I just knew that I was bad. It was a fact, indisputable by the presence of that word ‘horrid’ being applied to me by people I loved and trusted. Did they think it was funny? There is nothing funny in name-calling.
If I was that five-year old again, I hope that I would feel hurt, even betrayed. It seems only appropriate, but then appropriate emotions were something I didn’t know about for a long way to come.
Lesson Missed #2
It’s okay to feel angry
By the time I got to around 15 I was struggling for a number of reasons. Not that anyone outside my immediate family would have known. To the outside world I was a good teen who seemed to be doing all the right things. I turned up at school (and anywhere else I was supposed to be), I passed my grades, I had friends, there was nothing I was doing wrong. But my family knew differently.
I was a bomb waiting to explode but I had little idea of what was going on. I guess now that I was mostly angry and frustrated but I had no idea how to express that. I didn’t even recognise what that meant. I would simply explode and physically lash out. That was the only means I knew of getting what was inside out. It would literally be an exploding bomb with no words. No words because I didn’t have a clue how to attach words to what I was feeling.
Eventually I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t understand what was happening, so why would I? Being unable to temper that lashing out I made some big decisions at that point which have significantly impacted the rest of my life. I was simply doing the only thing I knew how. I was holding myself in. Protecting myself, and more importantly, others. Too scared to express anything. Only my family know who bore the brunt of that, aside from me.
Lesson Missed #3
Feelings are NOT thoughts
Fast forward to 30. I’m in residential treatment for a variety of mental illnesses (although not BPD). Sitting in my therapist’s office, he has asked me how I felt about something that had happened in my life. I tell him what I think about it. He asks me again, and this time points out to me that how I feel about something is quite different to what I am thinking about it.
Bingo! It might seem obvious to you, but at 30 I had no idea. I was so shut off to my feelings that I didn’t even know they existed. I literally thought ‘feelings‘ was another word for ‘thoughts‘. I am an intelligent person. But I simply hadn’t had that lesson.
That was a very big day of learning. Life didn’t get easier because now that I was feeling, I felt every one of those emotions eventually. It hurt like hell, but at least I was on the right road. There was some hope.
There were more lessons to come. I was completely closed off to experiencing what I felt. It seems I had been right from childhood. Why?
There are lots of possible answers to that ‘why?‘ I’m not going to get into blaming anyone, including myself. Right now that just wouldn’t be of any help to me or anyone else. It just was. What I can do with having worked through this is to understand better where the BPD diagnosis eventually came from, and continue to work from there toward recovery of some sort. I think too, that some of the other attributes of BPD which I also have perhaps came about as a means to coping. If I went into that now, this post would become book length. But maybe it’s time to explore those in future posts.
“Your perspective on life comes from the cage
you were held captive in.”
— Shannon L. Alder