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How Borderline Personality Disorder Feels To Me

CAUTION: This post contains issues of self-harm and suicidality, although not in any great detail (but you have been warned).

I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

That’s no big news for regular readers but if you’re new, it is important that I say this from the outset. I have BPD. That’s the angle that I am coming from.

Many people with BPD choose not to admit to having it, mostly for the simple reason that there is a great deal of stigma attached to the disorder. But that’s not what I want to talk about, although I hope that what I say might be in some small way helpful towards smashing that stigma.

Another reason people with BPD don’t talk about their disorder is that it is a very difficult disorder to talk about. There are many variations (think over 200), and that means that what people feel and experience is going to be different for practically every person who has it.

If there is one thing I have consistently failed at as a writer, it is to describe what BPD feels like for me in a way that satisfied my desire to get it across to others. I have tried many times. I just haven’t managed to describe it as I really feel it. Every time I have written a post about BPD I have finished feeling dissatisfied. I might have got some aspect across, but I didn’t describe how BPD is for me.

While I was diagnosed as having BPD some five years ago, I admit that for as many doctors who have said I had BPD, more said I probably don’t. They said I wasn’t typical of people with BPD. Even more said it wouldn’t be good for me to have that diagnosis (in my mind a strange thinking for diagnosing a health issue). Only those who said I do have BPD were willing to listen and hear that my experience is that BPD matches both my emotions and behaviour.

To me, it wasn’t specifics that spelt BPD but rather an intrinsic way in which I deal with my emotions and my relationships with others. Face it, that’s hard stuff to talk about.

But here are the issues for me (in no particular order).

I  am completely paranoid. I expect that friends/family are about to leave me or say awful things about me. They are constantly (in my mind) one step away from leaving me or hurting me.

You name it, a lightbulb might blow… to an argument with a friend/family member, and I will (over) react by thinking it’s time to kill myself. Yes, it’s time to kill myself because it is an assumption that one day I will commit suicide and people would always be better off without me. It’s just a matter of time! Remember this is thinking rather than actions, although given enough thought and common depressive thought, BPD will drive me in that direction.

I think that the best thing for me is to leave you… before you leave me. It would be best to quit my job just in case my boss is about to sack me. Actually this is exactly what I did in my last job. I thought they were about to sack me, so I quit. Actually I later found out that they had no intention of sacking me and were disappointed when I suddenly left.

While I haven’t self-harmed for about four years, I regularly mull over thoughts of self-harm, particularly if something in my life goes bad. It’s not that I ever got any form of high from my years of self-harming (it was about control), but I just don’t value my body enough to say “no!” to myself. Thankfully it has been four years of fighting the urge rather than actions, but to be honest, it doesn’t get easier.

Self-harm, for me, is not just cutting, etc but also includes substance abuse, extreme dieting, smoking, and excessive exercise. That’s my way of thinking about it and I accept that you may not agree. For me, it is all the negative ways I use to control myself and my body, not to mention exerting pain on myself. Not surprising now that I experience more physical pain through fibromyalgia, I am less likely to think about exerting physical pain, through self harm, on myself.

I constantly think in ‘black or white’. Good or bad. Right or wrong. I can’t for the life of me even comprehend ‘grey’. It would be so much easier if I could. I try, but I am yet to master seeing the whole spectrum.

It is possible for me to have no idea what I feel. Is it happy or sad? Is it hate or love? It is difficult, at times, to know. Maybe I feel both, at the same time. It can be right on the borderline.

My emotions can cause me pain. The great Marsha Linehan says that people with BPD are like emotional third-degree burns victims. Personally I’m not fond of that analogy, but perhaps because I don’t see that my emotions hurt me as much as physical burns victims suffer from their injuries. I hasten to add though that I claim that statement as my own but not for others. I get that for others their emotions cause as much pain as physical pain. I know many people who have BPD who would say Marsha Linehan’s analogy is completely appropriate for them.

I admit, with some reluctance, that I am inclined to think that everything is about me. In a time of extreme unwellness, I thought that 9/11 was about me. I can’t remember my reasoning but it made perfect sense to me at the time. But more commonly I assume that negative events, such as arguments and the like, are my ‘fault’. Interestingly I don’t apply the same logic to positive events. Perhaps I am only interested in destroying my health, happiness or well-being.

I have a tendency to be impulsive. I admit I have shoplifted (ok, so only once). As a child, I regularly stole from my parents. I constantly have to be careful not to engage in compulsive shopping, spending, drinking and thinking. All that said, I have rarely been impulsive in relationships, even if at times, I have failed to think things through as much as I ought

And lastly, because this is one that appeals to me, people with BPD are sometimes prone to, what one author I read called, magical thinking in which they use unrealistic thoughts and beliefs to solve problems in their life (Robert Friedel in Borderline Personality Disorder Demystified, 2004). I admit that I do this (I’m not going to go into detail), although have never before seen it attributed as relating to BPD. My psychiatrist prefers to call it my ‘weirdness’.

Having written all that (and apologies for the length), I think I have gone somewhat closer to describing BPD as it feels to me, but, I am somewhat terrified. Firstly, how are you going to treat me now that you have seen inside? But secondly, I need to remind you that this is me. It is not how it is for others with BPD. Maybe some of it might apply, but just as easily, some of it won’t.

With the distinct possibility that I have not succeeded in what I set out to do with this post, I am including a link to another person’s version of what BPD feels like. I found it very useful and the temptation was to post it simply as it is. But I needed to do the ‘Cate version’, which would only ever be written. I hope you take time to watch. For each person who chooses to tell what BPD feels like to them, I believe more will learn and experience what BPD really is, and maybe one day the stigma against us will reduce.

I have such an unstable sense of self that I fear my post will somehow destroy me and my relationships. Somehow it will confirm what I have suspected to be your earlier suspicions that I am a fake, a fraud and just too much work. I am posting it anyway because I know that writing this has somehow been a good journey for me. As much as I hope you have learnt something, I know that I have learnt. It is good for me to be able to say “this is how it feels to me”.

One last thing I need you to know. You don’t have to try to somehow assure me that I’m not that fake, fraud or whatever. You don’t have to assure me of anything. All I wanted to do is done. I have shared how it is for me.

Thanks for reading




Stigma Via Health Professionals

This is my latest post for A Canvas Of The Minds. It was posted yesterday. I apologise for my lateness in sharing.

“Am I alone with this? Have you been on the receiving end of stigma from health professionals, be it general health or mental health?  How have you handled it and what effect has it had on the overall treatment of your health issue? If it isn’t something you have experienced, how would you handle it if you came across such stigma?”

Read on at: Stigma Via Health Professionals

Thanks for reading




Lessons I Must Have Missed

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


What Matters To Me

Some words of wisdom bounced up onto my Twitter feed a few days ago.  Words worth taking notice of.

“Our main question should be “what matters to this person?”, not “what’s the matter with this person?”

– Sir Mason Durie

To put these words in context, Sir Mason Durie is a now retired psychiatrist and professor of Maori Studies in New Zealand.  He is well known for his leading roles in reform and issues of Maori health and Mental Health Services here.  I admit that when he speaks, I listen.  He knows what he is talking about and more importantly he seems to care about his patient.

We all know the experience of being labelled with illnesses, both physical and mental.  Those labels tend to carry with them some assumptions and stigma.  When I go to see a new health professional, regardless of whether it is my physical or mental health that is at question, I go with some trepidation.  Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) carries with it some terrible assumptions about the person to which the label has been applied.  I tend to go in armed for battle.  I have to convince this person that the assumptions about BPD are not who I am.  Of course, if I go in too ready to fight for my right to be accepted in spite of BPD, I know only too well that I will then be labelled resistant and argumentative.

Sometimes I just can’t win. There are times I go in with resignation on my mind.  It’s going to be too hard to fight and so I just have to accept that because I have BPD this health professional has already jumped to conclusions of who and what I am.  And of course, sometimes I am simply too unwell to fight.

But why should I have to go into a doctor’s office with labels and battles?  How do they really assist the doctor to treat me?  I can accept that it’s convenient to think of me, the patient, in terms of half a dozen (perhaps more if I’m really facing the truth) labels.  It’s quick.  It’s easy.  Labels are faster than sentences of pain expressed.  So I can see from their perspective it might be simpler.  But do those labels really help me to be treated appropriately?  I don’t think so.

The fact that I have BPD does not make me the same as another who has  BPD.  Actually there are over 250 variations of BPD before we start talking about severity and coexisting problems.  The fact that some psychiatrist along the way diagnosed me with BPD, doesn’t tell any doctor anything about how to treat me.  Any doctor can say what is the matter with me but only if they are prepared to listen to me will they know what matters to me.

How BPD affects my life?

What makes it difficult?

And the all important, how they can help me to live a fulfilling life?

I know that a doctor having the time, let alone the inclination, to ask me, to listen to me, is a bit of a sad joke considering the workloads of health professionals.  A doctor listened to me the other day, and because of it, he was running behind on his schedule for the rest of the morning.  He had to choose.  Did he listen and help with what mattered to me?  Or did he keep everyone else on time?  I appreciate that he chose to listen to me, to hear what matters to me, but I accept that probably no one else in his waiting room appreciated their extra wait.

Yet I’m sure there has to be a way that this can work.  If a doctor, or any health professional, approaches me with an attitude of what is important to me, then I have to get better treatment than if my needs and desires are just assumed on the basis of a label.

My labels don’t tell anyone who I am.  They don’t even tell me who I am.  If I use the example of BPD again, reading the list of what makes up a person with BPD will not tell me, or anyone who I am, what my needs are or how best I should be treated. Having BPD says virtually nothing about me, except give a convenient label.

What matters to me is that someone will listen and hear what I have to say.

What matters to me is that I get taken seriously, and not just dismissed as just another patient.

What matters to me is that they care to ask how this illness affects me.

What matters to me is that someone cares enough to find out who I really am.

When I think about it, I have seen dozens of doctors over the years.  I couldn’t count.  But there is only one doctor (a General Practitioner) I can think of who repeatedly took the time to find out what mattered to me.  By doing that, he helped me.  Maybe I wasn’t cured, but maybe I lived.  That’s what mattered to me.

“Seeing modern health care from the other side, I can say that it is clearly not set up for the patient. It is frequently a poor arrangement for doctors as well, but that does not mitigate how little the system accounts for the patient’s best interest. Just when you are at your weakest and least able to make all the phone calls, traverse the maze of insurance, and plead for health-care referrals is that one time when you have to — your life may depend on it.” 

― Ross I. Donaldson, The Lassa Ward: One Man’s Fight Against One of the World’s Deadliest Diseases

I Am Not A Demented Chameleon!

Do you remember back in the playground when the overweight kid got called “fatty”?  And the one who told some fibs was branded “liar”?  There were endless names that children named other children without a care in the world.  We (and yes, I probably was one of them too) didn’t know how hurtful those names could be.  Perhaps half the time we didn’t even know what the words meant.  We had simply heard them from others, and thought we’d give them a try ourselves.  I think it’s where the re-phrased “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will always hurt me” fits.  And yes, those names did hurt.

Today, I and all my friends who have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with me, got called names.  We were called  ‘demented chameleons‘.  Apparently Borderlines (like Sociopaths) they said, are ‘demented chameleons‘.  The original name was tossed at sociopaths (as the site was focussed) and my thoughts about that are another issue   I just got angry when I saw someone throw Borderlines into the fire, calling us the same name, with probably no thought at all.

It’s something that I can walk away from.  I’m used to it.  This type of name-calling happens for people with BPD all the time sadly.  Actually it happens to all people with mental illness all the time.  I can walk away and that’s what I did.  The person who labelled me a ‘demented chameleon‘ probably doesn’t personally know anyone with BPD, and simply read it somewhere on one of the awful websites that set out to degrade us.  It is probably a combination of stupidity and ignorance… and so it deserves my walking way.

The difficulty I am left with though, is that ignorant comments like that get read by others, and believed.  It’s what builds up the stigma against both BPD and mental illness as a whole.  That’s what really gets my blood boiling.  How dare they blast me with their stigma but also contribute to the overall stigma that all of us with mental illnesses face.

This is my idea.  For each time I see such a combination of stupidity and ignorance, I need to post here, my opposing view.  Maybe it might not be the same people that read both accounts, but in my world one can still outweigh the other regardless.  If people choose to feed the world with negative views of me, then I can feed the world with the positive.  Does that mean you are going to be reading posts like this everyday?  No, that’s not my intention.  But when my blood boils, I need to speak out.

People with BPD are not ‘demented chameleons“.  If you stop to get to know someone with BPD you will find that actually we are beautiful people.  We are generally very caring people.  That’s part of our disease.  But we are not demented.  While we may change aspects of ourselves in how we come across to the world. we are not cynically one thing one day and another tomorrow.  Moreover that changing does not happen out of an intent to hurt and manipulative.  It is simply who we are as we battle with the internal struggle to own who we are.  It’s not easy having BPD, and name calling such as this doesn’t help us.

I suspect that most people have no idea about BPD.  The label tends to draw a blank expression on the faces of those who hear it.  BPD is  not well known (like say, Bipolar) and is certainly not well understood.  But I will not sit quietly and see myself and my friends named as ‘demented chameleons‘.  That simply comes from ignorance.

And now having said that, I walk away and breathe.  Frankly, the people who choose to live in such ignorance are missing out on you and me.  Emphasis on the missing.  I almost feel sad for them.

Ending on a lighter note… I have been called a ‘demented chameleon‘ but I’m still waiting for the ‘incorrigible’.

Image credit: Used with permission of Sue Fitzmaurice. Facebook: Sue Fitzmaurice, Author
Image credit: Used with permission of Sue Fitzmaurice.
Facebook: Sue Fitzmaurice, Author

PS.  Victory after Publishing.  I’m happy to see that the offending material has now been taken down

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” 

― Maya Angelou

Play Nicely With The Other Kids

As a child I am sure I was told by my parents on many occasions to ‘play nicely with the other kids‘.  And that’s what I did.  Mostly.  I wasn’t one of the popular kids in the playground, but was one of the next tier down.  The middle of the road kids who were okay.  I had lots of friends, no real enemies except for the one class bully, and even her, I tried to be friends with.  I guess I wanted to be friends with everyone, rightly or wrongly, and pretty much, I achieved that.

It’s not an easy task to get along with everyone, and now to be honest, I wouldn’t be so open.  Now I’m more selective, but as I child I did what I was told to do.  What’s more, at that time as a young girl, I didn’t have a mental illness that contributed to how I ‘got along‘.  Now I do.

You don’t have to look very far on the internet to come across the sites that talk about what awful people those of us with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are.  Those sites, which I’m not going to quote or name, will tell you that Borderline’s are really hard work to have in either your family or circle of friends.  Actually they probably warn you not to have Borderline’s in your circle of friends.  And do what you can to distance them from your family.  They’re simply too much work, and you’re just going to get hurt.  Sites by health professionals are also in abundance telling you that Borderlines are the worst patients you could have, and actually if you are a health professional, those sites would probably just tell you to steer clear of us Borderlines.

Those sites are ones that I purposely avoid, as they simply contribute to the large amount of stigma that exists toward Borderlines.  And actually, that is not what we need.  Apparently we have low emotional intelligence.  We are also impulsive and  aggressive.  We act like children and we are very sensitive to rejection.  Basically we are too hard work, and as a non-Borderline you would probably best to run a mile (or 100 miles) from us.

I’ve been aware of those attitudes to Borderlines for a long time, but have wondered how much of that I am seen to fit with.  I know BPD is a difficult illness to live with (for the person who has it!) but I’m not convinced there is the need for such strong feeling towards us.

I know that I don’t fit the classic mold of a Borderline.  My psychiatrist would go as far as saying that possibly I don’t have BPD.  I can’t afford to keep visiting psychiatrists until I get a definite answer, but so far BPD does seem to fit for me.

But while I played with everyone in the playground, and in my early adulthood was referred to as being a ‘people person’ who got on with anyone (and I mean anyone!),  now I start to wonder.  I’m too much of a recluse for a ‘people person’ anymore. I prefer my own company, and my own world.  I am an introvert naturally, but more and more I prefer being alone.  There are lots of reasons for that, and I admit that one is to do with repeatedly being let down by other people.

The people around me in my life actually don’t seem to want to be near me.  I’m not feeling sorry for myself, or having a pity party.  I just don’t get on with people as well as I did.  And those in my life seem more interested in distancing themselves from me.  We just don’t fit anymore.

Earlier this year I was victim of some lies told about me.  It was a situation where there was very little I could do about it.  I simply had to let it be, and hope that people worked out the truth in time.  I became quite paranoid, mostly because I didn’t know who had been told the lies.  I became very wary of people.  Another reason to withdraw, and I admit I found it hard not to do so.

I continue to be wary of people.  It’s hard to know who I can trust, and it’s hard to know who would choose to be on my side.  Would they bat for my team?  Somehow life has changed so that the people I thought would bat for my team, I suspect won’t anymore. And that is rather sad to find that those I thought would always be there have different lives and lifestyles from me, and we just no longer fit.  Time changes.  And time has changed me.  I choose to be alone, so much more than I did.  My own world knows my name, and I can be content there.  Can’t I?

Has BPD changed me?  Have the events in my life changed me?  Maybe it is the other people themselves that have changed, but then it’s always easier to blame the psych patient, isn’t it?  I don’t mean to accuse anyone of anything in this post, but rather I simply see that there has been a radical shift in my life.  I’m actually okay with the solitude I have now, but I do wonder what happened to the little girl in the playground who was friends with everyone.

“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” 

― Albert Einstein

There Will Be No Sorrow

This past weekend (it’s Sunday here in NZ) has been really difficult for me. There have been a lot of tears and a lot of swearing, from one who doesn’t generally swear much.  I think it would be reasonable to say I am entitled to do some mud-slinging on account of what another person has put me through lately.  I’m not going to.

[So that you’re not completely in the dark, a number of you follow my ex-boyfriend’s blog and yesterday he posted some rather startling (well, to me anyway) news on his blog.  That, combined with some other matters I can’t go into, led to a great deal of upset for me.]

What does mud-slinging really achieve though?  Nothing really.  Maybe a brief moment of satisfaction, but not enough to make it worth it.  I’m not really a mud-slinging type either.  I might feel it inside and maybe sometimes it would be better expressed.  But only when it is expressed safely, for both me and anyone who might be in the way.

One of the difficulties I have faced is that I haven’t been treated with that all important kindness and compassion.  Should I say the kindness and compassion which is crucial to me in how I relate to others.  Mud-slinging would not meet my criteria of kindness and compassion, so that even though it might seem justified, I’m not going there.

I’m hurt, but I can find peace for myself eventually simply in the way I choose to react.  So one step at a time, I’m going to patch up my wounds and move on.  No, it’s not that easy.  I’m human too.  But it is my choice.

Interestingly (and painfully) while all this was happening yesterday I had another painful exchange with a family member who told me that my teenage behaviour some 30+ years ago had scarred their life ever since.  I was already feeling pretty overloaded with emotion, although this person was not aware of what else was going on for me.

To be fair I was probably the worst behaved of the three teenagers in the family, but I wasn’t a ‘bad kid’.  There was nothing extreme.  I was just me and was probably starting to show my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) tendencies, which wouldn’t be diagnosed for another 25+ years.  I was simply a little difficult to communicate with unless I felt totally accepted by the person communicating.

30 plus years on and I have been told what I always suspected.  The way this person is today is apparently my fault.  Luckily this is something that I had already been through in therapy (because I suspected the person felt that way), so I was able to distance myself from this blame.  I am not responsible for the actions of another person, even if I was a slightly difficult teen.  And let’s be real.  That was so long ago.

This all relates to the other things happening in my life this week, where I have been blamed for another’s behaviour/actions.  It’s interesting how we can so easily blame another for our behaviours, and while this would have crippled me in the past, I’m not letting it.

I’ll be straight with you, and I apologise to those who find it difficult reading.  A few weeks back I spoke in Flawed… Or Perfectly Formed about how chronic suicidal thoughts tend to crop up for me anytime anything goes bad.  So yes, this past week I have struggled to see any hope and thoughts of suicide came up and hit me square in the face.  Yes, for a bit it seemed like the best option right now and I was scared of the track I appeared to be heading on.  I wanted my Dad because we had a type of password agreement between us in which if I couldn’t find any other words to say how I was, I could indicate just how bad things were by this means.  Dad, of course is no longer here, having died over two years ago.  And there was no one to reach out to in this manner.

What eventually shifted my thoughts was the number of readers who follow my blog who have lost a family member to suicide.  Those readers helped me (without knowing it) to shift my thinking away from destruction.  Their pain (from where I’m sitting) managed to shift the block for me.

I go on.  I move on from the hurt of this week.  There are some wounds that need healing but for that little girl (L) who is like my guardian angel ( see Disappointed In Me) , I keep on going one step at a time.  Thank you to my dear friends who have also helped me to do that just by being there (often across cyber space).

My friend Ruby, shared this music link with me after I included another version of the song some time back.  I’m sharing it today because the wording is slightly different from most Beatles versions.  This one includes the words ‘there will be no sorrow‘.  I’m not sure what The Beatles meant by this slight change but I like to think that when we learn to always treat people with kindness and compassion, that ‘there will be no more sorrow‘.  This is my hope.  Thanks Ruby.

You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” 

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Being Compassionate To Myself

Ted 002

These are my ‘Dorothy’ shoes, named by my friend Elizabeth.  I don’t do sparkly, diamantes and fairy dust, and so these are probably as close as I am going to go to ‘Dorothy’ shoes.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go spend a few hours watching the Wizard of Oz, and keep an eye out for Dorothy’s shoes.

This picture was my Facebook profile picture for a long time, partly for the reason that by seeing the picture I was reminded to imagine myself walking in the shoes of the person I was talking to on Facebook.  That was in my days of my primary activity on Facebook being support groups.

After all, that’s what we’re told to do, isn’t it?  Walk a mile in a man’s shoes before you judge him.  It’s a pretty good philosophy in my mind because it reminds us not to judge another until we know what their life involves.  It allows us to go some way towards offering empathy, something we all want and hopefully are prepared to give.

Empathy, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this

In the mental and physical pain that many of us carry each day, what we want is for someone to say “I get how it is for you.”  What strikes me is that while we’re on a never-ending quest for understanding, would it ever be enough for us?  I’m not sure.  I’m not convinced that anyone, unless they know me exceptionally well (and there’s very few in that class), can really know ‘how it is for me‘.

I don’t mean for that to be as depressing as it may sound.

Even if you walk a mile in my shoes, that does not mean that you are going to understand who I am.  After all you need to be me in my shoes, for you to understand me.  If you just walk in my shoes, you may have a completely different experience of me.

When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia I joined, signed up or ‘liked’ many websites and pages relating to living with fibromyalgia.  I thought I would be understood.  I thought I would meet people with the same experience.  I didn’t.  I thought it would make my experience of fibro better.  It didn’t.  If anything I felt more isolated partly because even these people didn’t seem to ‘get it‘ for me.

I don’t mean to offend anybody because those sites are all offering good information and support, but actually I didn’t feel understood, I didn’t feel I was with like-minded, and like-suffering people and all that happened was that I felt pretty isolated and depressed.  I pulled back, fast.

One thing I did find before I left was a whole lot of posts available for members to share with their friends and family, like this one:

It’s crying out for empathy, but it’s not the way I’d go about it if I was looking for empathy, and I doubt it would be that effective.  Personally I see these types of posts and I groan inside.  Maybe I shouldn’t, but then I’m human.  Maybe I’m allowed to say this because I have fibro (then again, maybe I shouldn’t) but while fibro is a hellish existence which I don’t enjoy, this description of it does not capture fibro for me.  This is begging for attention!  And who likes people who do that?  I would never share this with my friends and family.  Then again, I accept that it could well be the very real experience of the author.  We are all different.

I’ll take another subject I know only too well.  Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  People with BPD suffer immensely and the quote above, with a few minor alterations, could be used for us.  But why stop there?  Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Dissociative Identity Disorder, to name a few?  Which mental illness does not include great suffering, and leave sufferers feeling like they are imprisoned?  And who doesn’t want the understanding?  Chronic physical illnesses of all types are also the same.

My point is this.  We can cry out for empathy in these ways.  We can beg people to understand us.  But they never can fully understand what we’re experiencing, because they’re not us.  They can only understand to a limit and then we have to live with our own understanding beyond that.

I don’t have people in my life who fully understand what I am suffering both in mental, or physical terms.  A few have some idea, but then I have to remember that just because they might know someone else with BPD, doesn’t mean they understand my reality of BPD.  Like most disorders there are many variances which make reality different between individuals.

But you know what?  I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter if they don’t get my suffering.  That’s not what I need from my friends and family.  Yes, it would be lovely if people understood exactly what my needs are, but I’m being unrealistic.  What I need is absolute acceptance of who I am, as I am.  If they can give me that, then I can put that with my own compassion toward myself.

I believe that I would be more effective in getting my needs met if I didn’t push my demands for understanding on other people so much, but started practising self-compassion, in order that my needs be met.

I need to focus on what I can do to meet my own needs.  It doesn’t make me a hermit, it just makes me aware of what I need, and find ways to meet those needs… without having to go begging for everyone to understand me.  I also think  if I can love myself and take care of my own needs without begging for friends to ‘get‘ me, then I also become more attractive as a friend to others.  And that leads to more of my needs being met.

Is that confusing?  It would be quite remarkable if we all had friends and family who understood our suffering, but it’s not going to happen.  These are human beings we’re talking about.  If I can appreciate and accept my own suffering, identify for myself what my needs are, and be compassionate towards myself?  Then I am starting to make progress.

One final thought.  Think about the dog or cat who gives you unconditional love.  They don’t understand your suffering.  They just love you anyway.  And isn’t that enough?

“If you celebrate your differentness, the world will, too. It believes exactly what you tell it—through the words you use to describe yourself, the actions you take to care for yourself, and the choices you make to express yourself. Tell the world you are one-of-a-kind creation who came here to experience wonder and spread joy. Expect to be accommodated.” 

― Victoria Moran, Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty

On Being A Little ‘Weird’

This weekend, I have been staying out at my brother’s farm, looking after the animals while the family are away for a few days.  I have had a wonderful time, in spite of the wet, windy and sometimes snowy, storm all weekend.  It’s been really nice to be with some animals again, particularly the family dog (Duncan, of MEET DUNCAN… A BLACK DOG notoriety) and two cats (Harry and Sally).

Since posting  Real a few days back, it has been running through my mind how readers might have reacted to that post, or what impressions you gained of me.  It made me stop and think for a bit.

The cats I am staying with at the moment are both quite different in character.  Apart from the fact that they both physically are domestic, short-haired cats that’s about where the similarities end.

Harry is my nephew, J’s cat.  He’s about three years old and really just does his own thing.  He’s not in the house much, and is mostly off around the farm hunting a collection of mice, rats, rabbits and anything else he can find.  Actually he’s quite useful in this respect, and seems quite fearsome.  He will tackle rodents bigger than him, if he has the chance.  (I just don’t need to see rodents that size, thank you)

Sally, on the other hand, belongs to the whole family.  From memory she is about 10 years old.  She hangs around the house, doing very little.  Usually lying asleep under the coffee table.  Although on first sight you might think that Harry is the dominate one, actually Sally is.  And don’t the other pets know it?

It made me think that we’re all different too.  I don’t like using the word ‘crazy’ because of its overuse in building stigma, but we all are a little bit crazy.  And in mind opinion, that is a very good thing.  We also all hide parts of ourselves from the world, even those close to us, but those parts are still important in making up who we are.

I told you in Real that I talk to my teddy bear.  This is n0t a sign of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Schizophrenia or some type of psychosis.  It’s just a part of me that I developed from a very young age, as a way to cope with the reality of the world around me.

Each of us does this.  Maybe someone develops an addiction.  Maybe it’s a friendship with a pet.  Maybe it’s as an expression through music or art.  Or maybe something I haven’t yet thought of.  Each of these (maybe some good, some not so healthy) become a way to help us cope with the world.  I believe that for people with mental illnesses, this becomes much more important as we try to live through the realities of trauma, horror and pain.  Whatever we individually do, is simply a means to get us through life.  A coping mechanism.

This is exactly what was described in something I quoted in my last post:

 “Because,” explained Mary Rommely simply, “the child must have a valuable thing which is called imagination. The child must have a secret world in which live things that never were. It is necessary that she believe. She must start out by believing in things not of this world. Then when the world becomes too ugly for living in, the child can reach back and live in her imagination. I, myself, even in this day and at my age, have great need of recalling the miraculous lives of the Saints and the great miracles that have come to pass on earth. Only by having these things in my mind can I live beyond what I have to live for.”  

― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

As you can probably imagine I have had numerous psychiatrists want to diagnose a range of disorders over the years.  Now I’ve learnt not to share this part of my life with mental health professionals because they just don’t get it.  But that’s a matter of their failure to look beyond diagnoses.  Immediately they see something a little different, they are out with their copy of the  DSM-V.

Actually on all the occasions I was prescribed, and then given Electroconvulsive Treatment (ECT), an element of the reasons it was being given was because they wanted to “fix me” of this imaginary relationship.  I didn’t always know this at the time, but it’s something I discovered in reading back through hospital notes in more recent years.  Something that didn’t impress me much.

Thankfully, the last psychiatrist I dared to expose this part of my life to, came to a conclusion that actually I was “a little weird’ (his exact words) but he couldn’t see any harm in something that had obviously helped me through a lot of my life.  My therapist (with whom I have recently finished) concluded the same thing.  Although he didn’t call me weird.  He said that what I had done made perfect sense.

And then (finally) I was today reading a fellow blogger’s post about his Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).  Something he said clicked for me.  It made perfect sense, and it is something I want to explore in time. He said this about living with BPD, as a quote of an source known to him:

 “I feel like a child trying to live

in an adult world

That’s just how I feel.  Not always.  Sometimes I can feel like I’m acting the adult, but mostly I feel like a child in a room full of adults.  It explains a bit about Ted, and why Real doesn’t seem at all strange to me.  It just is.

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.” 

― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

It’s Not All About Me

Recently I had cause to want to say something to someone, who like me, has Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), or the new name Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).  I wanted to say to her “It’s not all about you.” I could see her doing, what we with BPD always run the risk of, in taking a situation that wasn’t anything to do with her, and making it all about her.  I quickly came to the conclusion that it was best to keep my thought to myself this time, as otherwise it would have indeed, become all about her.

I should say that I know us well, and so if you have BPD and are thinking that I’m talking about you…  I’m not.  You know that song “you’re so vain, I bet you think this song is about you“?  It’s true.  This is nothing about you.

That said, all of us with BPD will know our tendency to think that the world revolves around us.  Whatever is said, must be about us. Whatever is said, must be confirmation that we have just been, or about to be, abandoned.  Whatever is said, must be an indication that the speaker doesn’t like us.  We use it to feel rejected, hurt and abandoned.  Every time.

The problem with it is that not only do we take the wrong message from what has been said, but we also run the risk of making that rejection happen.  People get tired of us taking things the wrong way.  They get tired of us making what has been said, all about us, when really it has nothing to do with us.  The ultimate is that we end up abandoned, as we feared, because of out own actions.

This is something I know about, because I have been doing it for years.  I could have gone on doing it too.  I could just say “it’s just my BPD that makes me do that“.  I might not be popular for saying it but BPD can be used as an excuse way to easily.  For me, I know my BPD makes it likely that I will interpret situations/conversations to be all about me, but I’m trying to make it different.

I’m trying to say “hang on a minute, this is not all about me.”  Actually, it’s probably got nothing to do with me and I would be a much better friend to myself and those around me, if I could distance myself from the automatic reflex of ‘it’s all about me‘.

I know what I am suggesting is not easy.  Actually it’s really hard to un-do a lifetime of reacting this way.  But I realise that while BPD is part of my personality, I don’t have to let it rule my life.  I don’t have to let that reflex kick in.  It is possible to do things differently… if I try.

BPD isn’t something that can be cured.  We know this, but I don’t believe I have to be permanently disabled by it either.  I can teach myself to react differently.  I can tell myself “hang on, this isn’t about me, how about I react differently?

Maybe you have BPD, and disagree.  That’s okay.  I know that this is really difficult to do, and maybe you’re not in a space to be able to try.  This is just something that I have been trying for myself, for about six months now, and while no one else might be able to see a difference (and that’s okay), I know that for me, there is a huge difference to how I react to the things that happen around me.

I admit it’s still not an automatic thing for me.  I think it takes time to make things automatic, and maybe even the existence of my BPD will mean it’s never automatic.  But I’m not going to let that stop me.  I know that if I am to have a good life and healthy relationships I had to make a change.

It’s about self-talk.  There are no miracles and each time I see or hear something I consciously have to say to myself ‘it’s not all about me‘.

It’s hard, and it won’t happen for me unless I make the conscious decision to do things differently. When the person I referred to above tried to make a conversation all about her, I too (and I know that sounds crazy) had to then tell myself that her response was ‘not all about me’.  It ran the risk of snowballing for me, but this time I was able to stop myself and remind myself to do it differently.

Now, a reminder for readers who have BPD.  What I have written is ‘not all about you’.  What you choose to do with this information is your choice.  I have not written this about you, or even for you.  How do I know that?  Because this written ‘all about me’.

And if you don’t have BPD?  Believe me, that this is a big issue for us.  We struggle with it in every connection we have.  It’s disabling to the point that it prevents us communicating with others.  But I’m not willing to let it disable me anymore.  If I want to have healthy relationships then I have to find a way to beat this aspect of my personality.

“It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” 

―    Abraham Maslow