Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Diagnosis of BPD/Borderline, and making sense of the chaos

Hi everyone…it’s been a long long time since I’ve written!!! Life is so complicated, as it always is J There are ups and there are downs and in betweens.

Today I want to talk about a subject I have not discussed much on my blog, and that is Borderline. I myself was diagnosed with borderline last year when I went through a particularly heinous episode of a couple of months that pushed me back into counseling and psychiatry after a long break during my pregnancy. I did not know what was going on with me at all…it was very extreme. I was fighting with my husband all the time and having these rages that would start at my toes and literally go up through my head like a white hot heat. I’d never felt anger like that before, like some crazy wild animal – the intensity was far beyond what I had ever experienced. Having mostly been an inward turning person throughout my life, expressing angry rages outwardly was scary to me, yet I felt completely out of control of my emotions and behavior. I began having traumatic flashbacks to my childhood that would hit me out of nowhere, while shopping or doing laundry or driving. I began having panic attacks where my heart would race and I would be short of breath, hyperventilating, sometimes for hours. I began severely dissociating (although I did not know what dissociation was at the time). I would be walking and talking and having no idea what I was doing, where I was going. I felt very “muddled” in the head during those times and would find myself putting garbage in the refrigerator or driving off someplace where suddenly, nothing looked familiar and I had no idea how I got there. My emotions would fluctuate between extreme and overwhelming to numb or non-existent. I literally felt as if I were going crazy and KNEW I needed help. I did not recognize the person I had become.

So, on top of having bipolar, I was diagnosed with borderline, and initially, I actually felt relieved. I thought “Ok, this makes sense” and did a lot of thinking back on my life and feelings and behavior. I came to recognize a lot of things that I never did before, almost like blinders coming off. But then after a couple of months, it started having the opposite effect. The more I learned about borderline the more bleak it seemed. People view those with borderline as “crazy” “unpredictable” “angry” “mean” “unfixable” and whole host of other very negative descriptors. There is very little understanding out there about it. Much like when I was diagnosed with bipolar, I did not like the idea of being lumped in with “those people” especially since I DO NOT do some of the more egregious things that many borderlines do (verbally assaulting others, physical aggression, manipulating behavior). I can’t say that I have NEVER been mean to another person verbally but overall, it is not what I would consider a part of my “personality”.

So that brings me to the other point that I didn’t like about being diagnosed, and that was the label of borderline itself. The name “Borderline Personality Disorder” originated when it was believed that the disorder existed on the “border” of so-called neurosis and psychosis. This is now known to be untrue but the name remains. It has insane amount of stigma associated with it, probably moreso than any other mental disorder. People just hear the word borderline and they immediately get a horrible idea in their heads and think you are the scum of the earth. Which, honestly, I know I am nowhere close to being!!! I’m sure there are some borderlines who ARE that bad but again, I’m not a ticking time bomb walking around hating everyone and just waiting to unleash my anger. Quite the opposite. I’m generally a quiet, meek individual. Growing up my anger and negative feelings were turned inward toward myself and came out as depression, suicidal thoughts, self-injury and those types of things, rather than angry tirades and verbal abuse of others.

I really think that “Borderline Personality Disorder” is in itself a misnomer. I do not believe it is a disorder of personality, which implies that it is some sort of core fault and that those with this disorder are “bad” people. The truth is that with more and more research being done into BPD and mental illness in general, the more the findings are showing that it is a complex interplay of both nature and nurture that causes these disorders to arise. In the case of borderline, individuals are believed to be born with a highly sensitive temperament which, from the start, predisposes them to various issues. So there’s the nature, the hereditary element of it. Then add in what is described as an “invalidating environment” in a child’s formative years – that can be anything from being ignored or criticized by their caregivers all the way through severe forms of abuse or neglect. So there’s the nurture aspect of it. The outside factors that influence and shape a person’s neural pathways in the brain which then control their thoughts, beliefs and behaviors later in life. It’s a big can of worms, essentially.

So, the idea of this being a personality disorder just doesn’t sit right with me. When you take into account that the vast majority (some studies have said as high as 80% or more) of people with BPD come from traumatic or abusive backgrounds, it really seems like a way of punishing the victim unfairly. Truly, BPD to me does not seem to be a personality disorder, but actually a disorder of trust and attachment which was skewed and malformed at a young age. As a result, people with BPD struggle with relationships and their sense of self/identity. Most of the classic BPD issues (fear of abandonment, lack of trust, love/hate relationships, outbursts of anger) can be traced back to events which occurred in the person’s life. They weren’t just born “bad”…like a malleable ball of clay, young children are impressionable and shaped by the experiences around them. I think if people understood this basic premise they would understand those who suffer with BPD a little more and try to understand what hell it must be (and I can speak from experience, it is at times) for the person living inside that body and mind.

Now, that is NOT to say that because those with BPD come from backgrounds of trauma that they can just throw their hands up in the air and say “This is how I am. I can’t do anything about it,” and just subject others to inappropriate behavior. Just because things happened to us as children, doesn’t give us a right to say “It’s somebody else’s fault” and subject others to the same things we were subject to. There again, I see another distinction between myself and the “classic” borderline individual – I recognize these areas I need to work on and accept that. I’m not happy just living in chaos. There are many BPD sufferers who choose not to do anything about it, and to me, that isn’t OK. We didn’t ask for these problems but the fact is, they are there. And they must be dealt with. Those with BPD (like myself) do have the capacity to improve, we do have the ability to get better at managing our intense emotions and relationships with others. But that can only occur when we accept WHAT IS rather than denying it.

So I guess in that sense, the diagnosis has helped me. I’m understanding more and more about myself as time goes on and working hard at getting better control over things, which probably never would have happened had I not gotten the diagnosis. After I was diagnosed with bipolar 4 years ago, I automatically lumped all my emotional states into that, but now I see that not all the emotional issues I have are bipolar related. Many of them are borderline related. The causes are different, treatments are different. I finally, in my third decade of life, feel like things are starting to make sense to me. I feel much better than I did then, emotionally. I feel stronger. For most of my life, I felt weak and fragile and wore a mask to hide all those so called imperfections from others. I’m finally starting to actually FEEL the inner love and peace rather than just pretending that I do. DBT has helped tremendously with this. It is hard work but I recommend it to anyone suffering with BPD who wants to better their life situation. We cannot control our genetics or what we were born with, we cannot control past events or things that were done to us when we were small and powerless. But now, we are grown, we DO have a choice. We do not have to be angry, sad, helpless. We can begin the process of healing, of taking back the power that was stolen. The power is all inside of us…we just have to believe in it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Separating and moving forward in 2014...a new year and a new life

Well my friends, so much has happened since the last time I posted anything! It’s now 2014 and I am convinced that this is going to be my year. Most of 2013 was pretty awful and I’m feeling so much happier and more positive now. So let me catch you all up…

In a nutshell, at the start of 2013, I was pregnant, off meds, and out of counseling. Over the course of the year, I gave birth to my son, watched my marriage disintegrate, reentered individual counseling, restarted bipolar meds, and just in general, rode a crazy rollercoaster of emotion from day to day and week to week. I had some good stuff in there but overall, it was pretty icky. But now, 2013 is over, and with it, the end of one part of my life and beginning of another.

The biggest news is that my husband and I separated in December and are now living apart. It has been about 6 weeks and I’ve run the gamut of emotions thus far. Obviously, it’s  a huge life change. We have been together close to a decade and now I am faced with moving forward in my life without him. It was hard at first to admit that it was all really happening although I had seen it coming for a long, long time. I’ve felt the anger, the sadness, the regret, all of it and more. And finally, in the past week, I have started for the first time in years to feel real hope. Not a hope of reconciliation, or a mending of the relationship. But a hope for a better life. Hope for fulfillment. Hope for happiness.

Letting go of any relationship isn’t easy, whether that relationship was good or bad. It’s a process over time. Maybe because I saw this coming long ago I was in ways already mentally prepared. I don’t think most people would be ready to move on with their lives 6 weeks into a marital separation but that’s where I am. The truth is, we’ve been moving in different directions for the last year or two. And I’ve been having a lot of realizations and epiphanies over that time. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision to split up. It was thought about many, many times and in many different ways. I don’t want to get into the details of my personal life but I will just quote my counselor here and say “Sometimes, there is TOO MUCH water under the bridge.” And I believe that is true. Sometimes, too many things have been done to be undone or fixed. It is what it is. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Radical acceptance.

So let me go off track a little here and say I’m working with a new counselor and part of the therapy is working on DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy. That’s where the radical acceptance comes from. Accepting what is, without judgment. Accepting that everything that happened before has led me to this point in life. The good, the bad. It has all happened…I cannot change the past. I can only move forward. Truthfully I was working on this mindset before I even knew what DBT or radical acceptance was. But I really think this is a life changing idea. It can be applied to so many things, so many situations. It helps keep perspective. It helps remind me not to get caught up only in emotions but to use my wise mind, the melding of both emotion and logic. Not just one or the other…not just black or white. This has been a difficult concept for me. I think the majority of my life, I’ve been polarized. Good vs. bad. Love vs. hate. Friend vs. enemy. Emotion vs. logic. No middle ground. But I’m starting to move away from that. In truth, I feel quite enlightened. Despite all the crappiness going on in my life, I feel good. I feel a peace and centeredness that was not there before. I feel I have the strength to move forward instead of being mired in the sludge of defeat.

I have known for a long time that our outer world (family, relationships, jobs, environment) affects our inner world (ideas, beliefs, feelings). But it is only at this point in my life that I can really see in interconnectedness of the two. For so many years of my life, I felt that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t really see that things on the outside were affecting my mental state so drastically – not just the big events but things on a day to day basis. I felt sad and hopeless, like I was broken, useless. I had felt that way as a child and it followed me all through my life. I thought I would never be free of it ever. I thought, this is my lot in life. I should accept it because it will never change.

But I was wrong. In breaking away from toxic relationships I am amazed at the change in my  attitude. The world already seems like a sunnier place. Granted, yes, I still have a ton of mental issues, and I will continue to work on those, to gain insight, to learn, to make changes. But for the first time in my life, I actually feel that I can do this on my own. With each day that passes and each thing I accomplish, I feel more confident. I feel happier. There is something to be said for independence…the strength that it takes to carry on and make it through, not only to survive but to thrive. It’s a good feeling.

And truth be told, I am finding that I actually like life on my own. I’ve always felt that I needed a romantic love to be fulfilled but I see that is not true. There are a lot of kinds of love…family, friends, children. I don’t feel the extreme NEED to have a romantic lover anymore. What I value and desire is deeper than that. Caring, support, compassion, comraderie. Unconditional love.  I’m finding the fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from those things in the various other relationships in my life, away from a marriage or romantic partnership. Maybe that’s strange, maybe not. I honestly do not see myself getting into another long term romantic relationship, ever. It simply is not what I want.

So, now, I’m doing well. My new year is off to a wonderful start. With 2013, I saw the end of a long, long chapter. Well, a whole bunch of bad chapters to be honest! Even before this year began I was determined to make lasting changes. So here are the changes that have happened, are happening and will be happening:

*** I’M TAKING CARE OF MY BODY. This involves the following things:

1)     I QUIT SMOKING. It’s been about a month since I quit and I’m feeling awesome about it. It was a bad habit I’d been wanting to get away from for a long time but always returned to it because of the stress of my relationship. With the end of the relationship I don’t feel the need to release stress in this unhealthy way.

2)     I STARTED EXERCISING. Over the summer I started working out, running on a track near my home. When winter came I stopped, because I’ve never been a gym person and to be honest, I felt self-conscious even at just the thought of going into the gym. But now, I’ve started going and running there. I’m also working out at home. The benefits to both my mind and body from these changes alone are amazing. I feel more confident, competent, and in control.

3)     I STARTED CARING MORE ABOUT MY EATING HABITS. I used to be a junk food junkie. I ate candy constantly, and had an ENTIRE CABINET devoted to candy. That’s right. That is how much I loved candy and sweets. Not only have I cut way back on that, I’m eating healthier in general. I’m drinking a lot of water and less caffeine. I’m more aware of what I put into my body, and caring for it. Before I skipped eating because I felt I had no time. Now I am making an effort to take that time.

***I’M TAKING CARE OF MY MIND. Here’s how:

1)     I’M TAKING TIME FOR MYSELF. I have rarely taken time for myself in the last few years, and especially since I had my son 9 months ago. Time was a luxury I did not have, and when I did have time, I usually spent it doing things for others. I felt completely unappreciated and burned out. Now, just allotting a few hours of time for myself per week is making a huge difference. I am able to do whatever it is I want to do at that moment, whether it’s shopping, crafting, writing, just for myself. Its completely delectable!!!

2)     I’M BECOMING MORE INDEPENDENT. In the past I have had a tendency to become dependent on my romantic partners, mentally. Since I have had children I’ve also been dependent on my husband, physically and financially. I’m working on becoming more independent in both of those areas. I am taking on small household projecst that I would normally relegate to my husband as the man’s job. With each thing I do, my confidence grows and I realize, I really CAN do these things for myself! In the near future I will be looking for a job, and once I have a source of my own income again I know I will feel even better and much less helpless and reliant on others. 

***I’M TAKING CARE OF MY RELATIONSHIPS. This is a huge one, that has gotten neglected because most of my energy went to maintaining my marriage. Now that I no longer have to do that, I can focus the energy to places that have been lacking.

1)     SPENDING QUALITY TIME WITH THE CHILDREN. I’m getting the opportunity to spend more quality time with my kids. I used to have all 3 of them, pretty much all the time by myself. It was difficult to say the least and they had very little interaction with their dad. Now that we are living apart, they still spend most of the time with me, but also spend alone time with dad. We alternate kids so that we each get to spend quality time with each child and it is really going well. I feel so happy and no longer feel that I am missing out on everything they are doing from being tired/overworked/overwhelmed with the demands of daily life. The kids are really enjoying it too and I have seen a vast improvement in their general attitude in the last few weeks now that they have a more stable home environment.

2)     MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH FRIENDS. This area of my life always seems to suffer as my romantic relationships tend to force out any time/space for friends. Now, instead of turning to my husband I have been forced to find outside support and as a result I have rekindled several long term friendships that have fallen by the wayside. I feel I have so many great support people in my life now. Every day, I talk to a friend or family member in some capacity whether it be email, texting, talking on the phone or visiting in person. It feels sooooo awesome and I really feel loved and cared for.

Soooooooo, as you can see, I am really doing very well. The separation, as sad as it is and as much as I wanted things to work out, has been a catalyst for exciting changes that are doing wonders for my mental state. I truly hope to be able to maintain these changes for a general style of living that is vastly different than before. There are still more changes I want to make, and day by day, I’m finding new ways to bring joy and fulfillment to my life. As I said 2014 is shaping up to be a fantastic year.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

War Zone

War Zone

My world has crumbled down around me
I watched it as it fell, helpless to keep it whole
I could not stop the inevitable progression
First one brick, then another
Til it all tumbled down
And spiraled out of control

And the pain I feel is like a massive missile
Has been projected directly into my heart
Piercing it, exploding with such magnitude
That there are a hundred pieces of me blown apart
Coagulated bits of blood and flesh here and there
A clump of tangled hair
A stump of a limb, with raw nerves exposed
And my mind, just alive enough to see the wreckage and know the end is imminent
Just waiting for that moment to come
Feeling like a thousand eternities
Awaiting the second it will all be snuffed out
And the pain will end
Because there is no one around
To make this swift
No one to show mercy
No one
But me




My breathing has become slow and shallow now
My body and mind exhausted, worn down
From days upon days of heightened senses
And the height of the trauma has been reached
Hit its climax, senses having been stressed
So strong, and so long
Heart racing, body shaking, hyperventilating
Mind exploding
At the thoughts of you
And I can barely keep my eyes open to write this
Weary and weak
The motor burned to a crisp
Blackened and charred
Barely ticking anymore

Like an endless row of fireworks
Rising up from the ground
Whistling as they soar up and up
Higher, higher, higher, one after the other
And finally exploding with deafening force
Talons of piercing light shooting out, flashing and crackling away
With every memory brought up
They begin anew
With such ferocity
The town awakens in fear

Now with the fading of light
I’m left here, nearly dead
The skeletons having been dredged up from the murky waters beneath
Exhumed, leaving the silt and detritus to settle
And me, looking around at the bodies
Shell shocked
Not knowing where to go from here