Spending Sprees – Criteria 4 Impulsive Behavior / Part 1

Impulsive spending is a BIG problem. Without careful monitoring you can lose your house, your car, the love and respect of those around you, as you’re thrown into a prison of debt and financial ruin. This is especially devastating when you have other people that rely on your for their wellbeing. Fortunately this isn’t my crisis.
I hate money. I love money. Money creates worry, stress and a lot of anxiety. I don’t gamble. I’d rather gamble with my life, than my money.  I always manage to have enough put away to take care of the necessities. I don’t miss my rent, or get my utilities turned off, but I put almost no thought into just how much I manage to save and I never have any idea exactly how much is in the bank. Thinking about it upsets me. I always feel like I have enough in there so I don’t check. When I do check it inevitably is less than what I was expecting. However, I love being able to get things for people I adore.
I don’t spend thousands of dollars at a time or anything. For me it’s an item here, an item there, sometimes a little more, just this once, ok just one more time, I won’t get anything tomorrow how about that, well I want this now too. I’ll fall in love with a rock-a-billy dress and NEED to own it so I’ll buy two in slightly different styles and colors, dropping a couple hundred. Or this other thing that will fill the gap on my counter top, it’s an investment, I’ll never have to buy something like this again. It’s justified, right? 
Spending on myself always makes me feel a little guilty though. I know I don’t really need these things. However, spending on other people makes me feel good. I love to buy things, do things, get things for the people I care about. Because I have such a hard time connecting to and expressing my emotions, it’s one way I can tangibly show I care.  With food especially. I LOVE to cook and bake. It helps that I’m also quite good at it. I’ll get it in my head to try exotic or gourmet four-course meals, big family style dinners and drop $75 to $100 on groceries alone. If I can get stuff that I NEED in order to do things for other people it’s much more justifiable to me. I feel much less guilty.
Spending money always makes me feel guilty. This feeling of guilt is how I recognize this as a problem.
I do have an occupation where I make enough money to not get in immediate trouble. I’m single and don’t have kids (thank goodness) so all I need to worry about is me. However, I don’t have job security in this economy so it’s not a wise idea to not have a safety net.  If I’m not careful I’m always afraid I’ll end up spending myself out.
Like when I’d been in such destructive situations that I was willing to exhaust all my resources just to get out of the environment. I had the choice of staying in an abusive household or use everything I had to get out. I was prepared to put myself into debt to afford a new place because I had to get out RIGHT NOW.
If I have money now, I can get things. If I wait, I might not have the money in the future and I’ll regret not being able to get things when I did. I’ve worked so hard, or sacrificed so much I deserve to splurge a little, fill that void in my closet like it will fill the void in my heart. Or if I can buy all those ingredients and make a dinner so delicious that everyone is sated, it’s as if I’ve sated my need for their love and appreciation. I can go out of my way and get things that I know they couldn’t or wouldn’t think to get on their own, a token of my appreciation to garner their favor.
I create lists upon lists of things I would love to have and slowly, but steadily chip away at them. Sometimes only one or two little things here, oh maybe one bigger thing there, then 3 or 4 things here, well these aren’t for me and they’re so perfect for {insert name here} they really  need to have this now… little by little it all adds up to a giant gaping hole in my bank account.  If I have money coming in, I will have money going out.

Look before you leap? No, thanks. – Criteria 4: Impulsive Behavior

Onto the fun stuff. According to the DSM IV the next definable criteria states:

Criteria 4:  impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating). Note: Do not include suicidal or self-mutilating behavior covered in Criterion 5.  


Once again I will do this in multiple parts because I have a lot of these. It’s amusing though, because of my dissociative tendencies and my need to over think everything, I don’t appear to be an impulsive person. Below the placid surface lies a turbulent sea and I tend to take what I want from the world.


My list of impulses include: Spending, shoplifting, binge eating/bulimia, alcohol, smoking, sex, piercings/tattoos, dangerous situations/stripping. So let’s begin with the lesser of my evils and work our way up to the more interesting. 





Surrealizing – Criteria 9 / Part 4: Derealization

The final segment of my Criteria 9: Dissociated series is Derealization. Derealization: is an alteration in the perception or experience of the external world so that it seems strange or unreal.
For me this comes across as an unnatural brightness, things are too in focus. Hyperfocused. The outline of objects, things, houses, horizons, are too sharp. Sun is too bright, the air is too bright, colors are too crisp.  Everything has a stark contrast and I feel like I’m removed from the scene, like it was erected and I’m walking through a movie set. There lacks a depth to the reality. There’s no deeper attachment to anything because it’s as if those things weren’t placed there long enough ago to have formed an attachment to them.  
It’s oddly beautiful as a surreal observation.
This happens relatively often but it’s not as intense as my depersonalization. For example, I was in my Eating Disorder Anonymous meeting the other day. The room itself was hyper lit and it looked like a herd of children had vomited crayons all over the walls. The room itself was very vivid but the sheer brightness triggered me right into a derealized state. It was almost dizzying. It felt like something encompassed my brain, pressing to a common center point.
Or another time, I was simply driving home in the late afternoon. The sun was low enough to be just over the horizon. There were trees closely spaced on the side of the road. As I would pass each tree the sun would blot out, then flash bright as I drove past an gap. From my peripheral vision I would see flash bright, dark shadow, flash bright, dark shadow like an old 8mm film reel being played on the edge of my vision. It made me feel almost as if I was floating.
It’s never an out of body experience or anything such as that. I always maintain a focus that I am doing whatever it is that I’m doing, but my perception is hyperfocused and surreal.

Feeling Inside, Outside – Criteria 9 / Part 3: Depersonalization

Continuing along the dissociated path of Criteria 9, my specific interest is especially in Depersonalization. This is my most intense break from reality.
 
Sometimes I feel as if I’m in the wrong body. Like I’m watching myself, my body, do things from someone else’s perspective. Cognitively I know it’s my body but the person that feels what’s going on is somewhere else, removed. My feelings are gone. Here, but part of me is left somewhere else, on the outside, not inside me where it belongs. Going through the motions of what I know I would normally do but without any connection to the motivating forces that would drive me to do these things. 
I don’t process emotions directly, internally. I process them from a dissociative place, “outside”, of my sense of Self. This creates a huge disconnect in how I think and how I feel towards the things I am thinking about. It’s like having two separate bodies; one to process thoughts, one to process feelings, but I’m only connected to one at any given time.  They don’t work symbiotically like they should. I either experience as an observer with detached emotions or I FEEL everything but don’t temper it with my rationale. Where most people have a natural balance I can either experience my emotions, my environment, or I can observe them. Seperately.
Having taken an objective look at, or talk about, my emotions I feel fine. I feel fine because I feel nothing. The act of talking about my emotions or experiences, causes me to not feel them.  But since feeling nothing is better than feeling emotionally destroyed, nothing = fine. When you can recognize that a situation should produce an emotional reaction, and instead all you feel is {blank}, it can be very disconcerting. It seems like nothing was ever there in the first place. Except it’s not only this one incident…
It’s with everything.
I can wrap myself in an experience. Throw myself into the heat of a moment but afterwards, all I have is a recording. No emotional attachment to the memory. It’s akin to taking a physical step back from a situation to look at it objectively, only to be left with a very noticeable lack-of-emotion. Because I am no longer ‘in the moment’ it’s like trying to remember emotions experienced in a dream. I wonder if they were ever real because after having stepped back, the closeness is no longer there. On the plus side, nothing phases me. Things that should have reduced me to tears or at the very least made my heart ache, are now after thoughts left in the wake of yesterday.
Imagine this. You and a person you care for are standing a few feet apart, holding a rope just long enough so it’s pulled taught. The rope is a symbolic representation of the emotional connection you share. When you take a step back the rope is not long enough and your end slips from your hand and falls to the ground. You can still see the person, still see that person holding their end of the rope, but you no longer feel the connection of the rope fibers even though you remember having held the rope. It’s like dropping the rope and trying to maintain/remember the feel of the fiber. Physically you can’t.
It’s disconcerting to not feel. Surreal.
Sleep walking through my own consciousness.

Here, There, Nowhere – Criteria 9 / Part 2: Dissociative Disorders

The next episode in our Criteria 9 series is Dissociative Disorders. 
Dissociation is one of my more severe challenges. I will cover this in three parts. The general Dissociative Disorder. Depersonalization, and Derealization (this spectrum also covers things like Dissociative Identity Disorder, Dissociative Fugue and DD non-specified… but since those aren’t my issues I’m not going to cover them now).
What is a Dissociative Disorder? Dissociative Disorders are defined as conditions that involve disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity and/or perception. Dissociation is a partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s conscious or psychological functioning.  The hypothesis is that symptoms can result to the extent of interfering with a person’s general functioning.
It’s actually pretty normal for people to feel brief instances of Dissociation such as Psychological numbing. Psychological numbing is a mental mechanism to prevent psychological trauma. The mind chooses to ignore thoughts or emotions relating to a specific event, occurrence or body of knowledge, emotions, or ideas. It’s an important function for sanity when someone whose basic moral principles or ideology would be destroyed by comprehending the full implications of an action or occurrence.
When this feeling state becomes persistent, that’s when it’s identified as a disorder.
So what causes Dissociative disorders? In short, it’s a defense mechanism. At least that’s thought to be the primary reason for it. It’s a way for the mind to protect itself from extreme emotional trauma, prolonged stress and anxiety or alternatively, a response to drug use. Part of your mind and memory are compartmentalized to a different feeling state so you can process them separately, or not at all.
My version of Dissociation (Depersonalization and Derealization to a lesser extent) isn’t like a total break from reality. I don’t have amnesiac fugue states or multiple personalities. I can always, ‘check in’ and know that I am actually in the real world, I just don’t ‘feel’ like I am real. This is Depersonalization….

Madness of the Mind – Criteria 9 / Part 1: Paranoid Ideation

I’m skipping ahead to DSM IV criteria 9. This will be at least a four part series.
Criteria 9: transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms.
Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.
For a Borderline personality that has such a tenuous grasp on connectivity, every little social queue is up for interpretation. Always on the look out for a sign that abandonment looms, that what you’ve been told is a lie, any reason why the people you fear to lose are actually out to hurt you. There’s a dozen different places a turn of phrase could be taken depending on how the inflection falls or the way body language speaks. A Borderline personality will think of them all, and often settle on the worst. Expect the worse, and you can prepare for it. Hope for the best, and you’ll be disappointed. It doesn’t help that he/she is often right. Doing so a BP may also set her/himself up for that fall by creating the circumstances for that very thing to happen. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
If I have an inordinate amount of stress or very unstable relationships, then I begin to second guess everything. My hold on what people said vs. what they meant becomes nebulous. Everything has a potential double meaning. Did they really mean that? Yes? No? No. They’ve only told you this thing, allowed you in, to get your hopes up, so they can turn around and take it away, hurt you. You could lose everything you’ve struggled so hard to hold onto.
In short, I over think EVERYTHING. The downside of being too smart is it’s possible to consider too many possibilities. See every fork of every thought and ruminate on all the potential paths that could possibly be.
Normally, however, I take almost an opposite extreme. I can be too literal in my interpretation of people, thoughts, and things. I choose to accept what people say at face value and expect them to live up to their word. Don’t confuse this with trusting what people say, because I rarely do, but in order to lessen the paranoid ideation, I take words for what they are and act on them as such. This allows me to control the obsessive ruminations and removes my responsibility for when other people don’t live up to what they say.
How do you make these thoughts, stop? You can’t. At least, I’ve never found a way. Speaking up, communicating the irrational thoughts that buzz through your brain, helps. Start your sentence with, “This may not be rational but I have this {insert thought} in my brain, can you help me figure it out so I can move past it….” This way the people around you understand and can clarify an interpreted intent.

Quote

“To grasp life and meaning, we assume constancy where it does not exist. We name experiences, emotions, and subjective states and assume that what is named is as enduring as its name. Human beings blessed and cursed with consciousness – especially consciousness of their own being – think in terms of names, words, symbols.”
     ~ James F. T. Bugental, 1999, Psychotherapy Isn’t What You Think



… What happens when you no longer feel this constancy of  terms? 








.

Said Alice to the Caterpillar – Criteria 3: Identity Disturbance

Number 3 on the DSM IV spectrum is identity disturbance, but I think this ties in closely with number 9 which is where Severe Dissociation comes into play so I’ll cover these in series. One post after the other.
3. identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.
Identity disturbance. For me this is a shifting depending on my environment, my mood, my company. An ex of mine used to point this out to me. I don’t think I ever fully understood what he meant when he would tell me I was like different people. My personality changing depending on what we were doing. Unstable sense of who I am.
Caterpillar: Who… are… you?
Alice: Why, I hardly know, sir. I’ve changed so much since this morning, you see…
Caterpillar: No, I do not C, explain yourself.
Alice: I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, you see, because I’m not myself, you know.
Caterpillar: I do not know.
Alice: I can’t put it any more clearly, sir, because it isn’t clear to me.
Whether I’m at work, with a group of friends, even in my own head the way I identify, socially/sexually, is transient. I tell myself I’m fluid; that one thing bleeds to another, never solidifying into one stable set of features grouped to form a whole. Travelling from group to group with skill points of Illusion, Subterfuge, and Charisma. Every personality point is part of you, but some scenes don’t utilize all skill sets. So for the Borderline Personality this translates as coming across as very different people depending on the setting.
To me it feels normal to be more outgoing, loud, wilder when I’m out dancing, it’s appropriate there. But what’s more I feel like I’m that kind of person.  It’s not an act, I AM wilder. When I’m hanging out with friends, I’m quieter, my intelligence comes out and I joke, heap on the sarcasm and enjoy people’s company. I’m a nerd girl. When I’m at work I am reserved, aloof, stone cold and efficient; my personality almost completely held back. I’m an efficient machine. When I’m with my family I am open, my walls crumble, I’m more melancholy but loved. I’m small. To me this normal. The variations are not subtle. Not one overarching personality with small variations, appropriate for the environment, it’s a completely different set of traits depending on the location. I’m not sure if this is normal or not, maybe everybody feels like this. To me it seems like certain things are appropriate for certain places, and not for others, so depending on what the circumstances are, will decide which parts of me show. Which me, is the real me?
At work I adopt a more business like persona. Amusingly I make no effort to conceal my piercings or tattoos, things that are glaringly different in my professional setting, I’m waiting for the rejection. Though I do wear clothes that are completely appropriate for the office if not my personal style. My work persona is by far my least stable. By this I mean, I feel like I am the most out of my own skin, trying to fit an image I imagine to be acceptable for a professional setting but which is not me. I don’t maintain this character well. I always feel out of place, if not like an outright fraud, even though I know I am capable of doing my work better than anyone else. I do not have any sense of solidarity with my working environment or the kinds of people in my office. It’s a place to go where I waste 8-10 hours a day and come home with a monetary exchange.
I am anatomically female but I don’t feel like a girl. I’ve never been a boy so I can’t say I feel like a boy, though I do value masculine qualities more than feminine. I have no gender identity. Or if you ask I will tell you I gender ID neutral. In the GLBTT community I would call myself Queer.
I don’t see rigid definitions. I don’t believe in absolutes. With no absolutes comes a certain fluidity that blends from one area to another. Like a chameleon changing colors to fit the foliage as you walk through an unknown social jungle. The leaves and bark may change but the wind still bites without a solid shield from the elements.  
Because the Borderline may not have a full sense of self they may adopt the group culture in a desperate attempt to fit in, not be excluded. This works as long as the group is a stable set of characters. If things begin to vary from the norm, change, people have problems or things become socially tumultuous, this will affect the Borderline’s sense of stability. The group is falling apart, so she/he will feel like she is falling apart as well. If she/he’s based so much of herself on the group dynamic, and the group dynamic fails, it’s as if who she is crumbling down around her and she has nothing to grab onto for stability or control. Changing to fit the group has never been my social experience, personally, though that crumbling stability seems to happen all too often.
For me, in smaller social settings, I don’t blend. I stubbornly stick to who I want to be, think I am. I am me, I’m just not sure what that means most days. Not being able to attain a group identity, to fit in a with a set of people, always makes me feel Other. An outsider, looking in. I laugh with the group but don’t feel included in the joke.

This bleeds into my Dissociation, especially when my body image is a mess…