Too much

Sometimes life is just too much. I don’t want this one anymore. It’s too hard. Too sad. Too pointless. I don’t know how else to say it. I don’t want any of this anymore.

I’m going to the movies with my Lady Friend tonight. I’ll smile and pretend everything is ok. But it’s not. It feels like everything is over. There’s nothing more for tomorrow.

I’m tired. So tired. I don’t want to always be so tired.

Bordering on Fear… of Success

A few days ago I talked about  Sabotage. I found an interesting article that touches on potential subconscious reasoning behind the fear of success and it immediately struck me as relevant to Borderline Personality Disorder and my experiences with it. I’ll talk about the relevant parts. You can find the full article here.
Fear of Success
The excitement of success can feel close to anxiety for some.
As a psychologist specializing in trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I’ve had firsthand experience coaching clients whose past experience feeds their current fear of success. For them, the excitement of success feels uncomfortably close to the feeling of arousal they experienced when subjected to a traumatic event or multiple events. (This feeling of arousal can be linked to sexuality, in certain cases where trauma has been experienced in that realm, but that is not always the case.) People who have experienced trauma may associate the excitement of success with the same physiological reactions as trauma. They avoid subjecting themselves to excitement-inducing circumstances, which causes them to be almost phobic about success.
There is another layer to the fear of success. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the road to success involves risks such as “getting one’s hopes up” – which threatens to lead to disappointment. And many of us-especially if we’ve been subject to verbal abuse-have been told we were losers our whole lives, in one way or another. We have internalized that feedback and feel that we don’t deserve success. Even those of us who were not abused or otherwise traumatized often associate success with uncomfortable things such as competition and its evil twin, envy.
In order to have a healthy relationship with success (and it’s flip side, failure, or disappointment), the first step is to learn to differentiate between feelings of excitement and a “trauma reaction.”

“I was looking up how the body responds to fear, and it said that when we sense fear the brain transmits signals and our nervous system kicks, in causing our breathing to quicken, our heart race to increase… we become sweaty, and we run on instinct. When we get excited or enthusiastic, doesn’t our nervous system work the same way?”


{Yes}, the physical reactions to stress and to excitement are very similar. So, when we experience a traumatic event—such as a car accident or a school bullying incident—our body associates the fear we experience with the same physiological feelings we get while excited. Once we have been through enough trauma, we start to avoid those types of situations that trigger memories of fear. For this reason, trauma victims can tend to avoid excitement, and that can lead them to avoid success.
I work with trauma victims to get past their fears and associations and help them embrace and follow the path to success and healthy recovery.
I have a very mixed experience with success. By all outward appearances I appear to have a very ‘successful’ life. I’m independent, well educated, employed in at a renowned laboratory, financially stable… and yet, none of these things feel like a success to me. They seem flat. Like I had a goal, I worked towards the goal, I completed the goal, but I have no excitement, no pride, not satisfaction from my accomplishments. I always find a way to temper my expectations of the outcome so that I never get my hopes up.
Or when I’ve finally come so close to a big goal that will earn me more respect and recognition I pull back.
I will work full throttle until the 10th hour and at the very end slam on my own brakes so that I complete what I need to complete but fall short of something as exceptional as I know I could produce. I self-limit and I don’t really understand why. I am so used to disappointment, being disappointed, that I don’t want to get my hopes up for one more thing only to be disillusioned yet again. If it’s a hope that I’ve had in myself and do not reach: Forbid! That will just point to one more reason I’m not good enough, a failure. If I put everything I have into something and it’s not good enough, than it means I’m not good enough. But if I hold something back, it doesn’t mean I’m not good enough because I haven’t put all of myself into it. There’s a reserve in the back of my mind that can say, well if I just did this other thing it would have been exceptional, and since it’s all hypothetical there’s no fear of failure had I put all my energy into it. Sounds ass backwards to me, but it’s true enough.
The Author even provides an exercise to begin overcoming this fear of failure:
  1. Recall an event where you were successful or excited when you were younger, and notice what you are feeling and sensing in your memory. Stay with the sensation of for 5 minutes. 
  2. Recall an event where you were successful and excited recently in your life, and notice what you are feeling and sensing. Stay with this sensation of for 5 minutes.
  3. Now tap into the sensation of a memory of an overwhelming situation. I suggest not to start with a truly traumatic event, at least not without a therapist’s support. Start with something only moderately disturbing to you. 
  4. Now, go back to visualizing your success story. Do you notice a difference?
I’m going to do this for the very first random things that pop in my head:
1.      My first thought was of complete work while I was in the 4th grade, showing my teacher work that I was proud of because it was extra work and I thought I did a good job. Excitement and anxiety. Anxiety is inextricably bound to this set of  memories. That the next one won’t be good enough. I must have done half a dozen extra things that weren’t asked of me. Each time I completed something I was happy with what I did and showed the teacher. Finally the teacher said she would no longer reward me with a sticker for this work. I didn’t know I would be rewarded when I began this work. I didn’t care about these small rewards. I was proud of my work and wanted to share with someone that I looked up to. I wanted the approval of someone I admired for doing a job that actually was above and beyond what I needed to be doing, but I didn’t want a physical reward. Just acknowledgement. She seemed annoyed so maybe I wasn’t doing such a good job. I stopped showing her more work.
Staying with this memory for 5 minutes is very uncomfortable. It’s such a little thing but I recall the hurt and disappointment that I felt, like I’d been abandoned by the approval I sought.
2.      Two instances:
– I just had a huge design review for a ‘part’ I created. There is some additional testing I need to run in order to verify more ‘worst case scenarios’ that were mentioned, but in general, my design is a complete success and will go into production within the next 6 months. I felt nothing. No anxiety, no pride, no fear, no excitement. Blank. Not only could I not get my hopes up, I completely detached from the experience. Even afterwards when it was clear that the work I’ve been pouring into the project over the last few months has been a success.
– Painting: This I actually have a small spark of pride about. I smile. I am content in my new found hobby despite the fact that I am a novice at this art. I have no expectations of mastery but I look at the work that I’ve done and I like what I see. I am calm and content when I’m painting. Focused. I’m happy in the recollection of this and look forward to the times I will be able to sit down with my brushes again. It’s not an overwhelming feeling. Not a huge welling of pride, but there is definitely satisfaction in this. This is the kind of feeling that I think should be associated with success.  
3.      A few months after I moved to NY I finally made a couple new girlfriends. I told Evil-Ex that I would be out late. We hung out at one of their houses, drinking, dancing, just having a good time. He texted me around 10p asking when I’d be home. I told him I was drinking and couldn’t go home for a while, why? He was very evasive. Panic began to set it. Anxiety began to suffuse through my entire body as my mind ran in directions that could explain why he wouldn’t answer my question. None of them good. I tried to sober up but I couldn’t force this process in order to drive home. I ended up falling asleep on the couch. I woke up at 6a to go home in a panic. As it turned out he had invited a girl over ‘for us’ because ‘he thought I’d be home’.  Just when I thought I had made a very positive, healthy step in establishing some independence and newer healthy relationships, it turns out that there were very negative repercussions.
4. Of course I feel the difference. I can also sense parallels in my anxiety to my 4th grade experience.   Doing something because I enjoyed doing it, only to have it turn out to cause me painful feelings. Painting is utterly separate in feeling. Curiously, when I’m painting it is something that is dependent only on me. There are no other people in this activity or feeling of success. It’s an experience I relish solely as something I do for myself. The others are dependent on other people. Coincidence? Doubtful. I think I have become so accustomed to disappointment that my feelings dissociate completely which is why I feel no anxiety or anticipation in preparation or in conclusion of the major review I had that was by all standards, a success.
The problem is, some anxiety is good. It’s what drives you and pushes you to try harder. I have a lot of anxiety, but it’s out of proportion or directed at the wrong things. I am absolutely confident in my abilities, until I’m not. I know I can accomplish everything I set out to, until I convince myself otherwise. This is a fear of failure. This is not acceptable.

"Are you one of us?"

A Reader brought this article to my attention and I wanted to share it. It was on the front of the NY Times this past week. Marsha M. Linehan, as I’ve discussed before, is the pioneer of Dialectical Behavior Therapy which is one of the most prominent courses of treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder. I’m going to go through and underline some things I find particularly poignant. Maybe I’ll talk about them tomorrow. Regardless, I think it’s an insightful read.

Expert on Mental Illness Reveals Her Own Fight
Published: June 23, 2011

HARTFORD — Are you one of us?
The patient wanted to know, and her therapist — Marsha M. Linehan of the University of Washington, creator of a treatment used worldwide for severely suicidal people — had a ready answer. It was the one she always used to cut the question short, whether a patient asked it hopefully, accusingly or knowingly, having glimpsed the macramé of faded burns, cuts and welts on Dr. Linehan’s arms:
“You mean, have I suffered?”
“No, Marsha,” the patient replied, in an encounter last spring. “I mean one of us. Like us. Because if you were, it would give all of us so much hope.”
“That did it,” said Dr. Linehan, 68, who told her story in public for the first time last week before an audience of friends, family and doctors at the Institute of Living, the Hartford clinic where she was first treated for extreme social withdrawal at age 17. “So many people have begged me to come forward, and I just thought — well, I have to do this. I owe it to them. I cannot die a coward.”
No one knows how many people with severe mental illness live what appear to be normal, successful lives, because such people are not in the habit of announcing themselves. They are too busy juggling responsibilities, paying the bills, studying, raising families — all while weathering gusts of dark emotions or delusions that would quickly overwhelm almost anyone else.
Now, an increasing number of them are risking exposure of their secret, saying that the time is right. The nation’s mental health system is a shambles, they say, criminalizing many patients and warehousing some of the most severe in nursing and group homes where they receive care from workers with minimal qualifications.
Moreover, the enduring stigma of mental illness teaches people with such a diagnosis to think of themselves as victims, snuffing out the one thing that can motivate them to find treatment: hope.
“There’s a tremendous need to implode the myths of mental illness, to put a face on it, to show people that a diagnosis does not have to lead to a painful and oblique life,” said Elyn R. Saks, a professor at the University of Southern California School of Law who chronicles her own struggles with schizophrenia in “The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.” “We who struggle with these disorders can lead full, happy, productive lives, if we have the right resources.”
These include medication (usually), therapy (often), a measure of good luck (always) — and, most of all, the inner strength to manage one’s demons, if not banish them. That strength can come from any number of places, these former patients say: love, forgiveness, faith in God, a lifelong friendship.
But Dr. Linehan’s case shows there is no recipe. She was driven by a mission to rescue people who are chronically suicidal, often as a result of borderline personality disorder, an enigmatic condition characterized in part by self-destructive urges.
“I honestly didn’t realize at the time that I was dealing with myself,” she said. “But I suppose it’s true that I developed a therapy that provides the things I needed for so many years and never got.”
‘I Was in Hell’
She learned the central tragedy of severe mental illness the hard way, banging her head against the wall of a locked room.
Marsha Linehan arrived at the Institute of Living on March 9, 1961, at age 17, and quickly became the sole occupant of the seclusion room on the unit known as Thompson Two, for the most severely ill patients. The staff saw no alternative: The girl attacked herself habitually, burning her wrists with cigarettes, slashing her arms, her legs, her midsection, using any sharp object she could get her hands on.
The seclusion room, a small cell with a bed, a chair and a tiny, barred window, had no such weapon. Yet her urge to die only deepened. So she did the only thing that made any sense to her at the time: banged her head against the wall and, later, the floor. Hard.
“My whole experience of these episodes was that someone else was doing it; it was like ‘I know this is coming, I’m out of control, somebody help me; where are you, God?’ ” she said. “I felt totally empty, like the Tin Man; I had no way to communicate what was going on, no way to understand it.”
Her childhood, in Tulsa, Okla., provided few clues. An excellent student from early on, a natural on the piano, she was the third of six children of an oilman and his wife, an outgoing woman who juggled child care with the Junior League and Tulsa social events.
People who knew the Linehans at that time remember that their precocious third child was often in trouble at home, and Dr. Linehan recalls feeling deeply inadequate compared with her attractive and accomplished siblings. But whatever currents of distress ran under the surface, no one took much notice until she was bedridden with headaches in her senior year of high school.
Her younger sister, Aline Haynes, said: “This was Tulsa in the 1960s, and I don’t think my parents had any idea what to do with Marsha. No one really knew what mental illness was.”
Soon, a local psychiatrist recommended a stay at the Institute of Living, to get to the bottom of the problem. There, doctors gave her a diagnosis of schizophrenia; dosed her with Thorazine, Librium and other powerful drugs, as well as hours of Freudian analysis; and strapped her down for electroshock treatments, 14 shocks the first time through and 16 the second, according to her medical records. Nothing changed, and soon enough the patient was back in seclusion on the locked ward.
“Everyone was terrified of ending up in there,” said Sebern Fisher, a fellow patient who became a close friend. But whatever her surroundings, Ms. Fisher added, “Marsha was capable of caring a great deal about another person; her passion was as deep as her loneliness.”
“Everyone was terrified of ending up in there,” said Sebern Fisher, a fellow patient who became a close friend. But whatever her surroundings, Ms. Fisher added, “Marsha was capable of caring a great deal about another person; her passion was as deep as her loneliness.”
A discharge summary, dated May 31, 1963, noted that “during 26 months of hospitalization, Miss Linehan was, for a considerable part of this time, one of the most disturbed patients in the hospital.”
A verse the troubled girl wrote at the time reads:
They put me in a four-walled room
But left me really out
My soul was tossed somewhere askew
My limbs were tossed here about
Bang her head where she would, the tragedy remained: no one knew what was happening to her, and as a result medical care only made it worse. Any real treatment would have to be based not on some theory, she later concluded, but on facts: which precise emotion led to which thought led to the latest gruesome act. It would have to break that chain — and teach a new behavior.
“I was in hell,” she said. “And I made a vow: when I get out, I’m going to come back and get others out of here.”
Radical Acceptance
She sensed the power of another principle while praying in a small chapel in Chicago.
It was 1967, several years after she left the institute as a desperate 20-year-old whom doctors gave little chance of surviving outside the hospital. Survive she did, barely: there was at least one suicide attempt in Tulsa, when she first arrived home; and another episode after she moved to a Y.M.C.A. in Chicago to start over.
She was hospitalized again and emerged confused, lonely and more committed than ever to her Catholic faith. She moved into another Y, found a job as a clerk in an insurance company, started taking night classes at Loyola University — and prayed, often, at a chapel in the Cenacle Retreat Center.
“One night I was kneeling in there, looking up at the cross, and the whole place became gold — and suddenly I felt something coming toward me,” she said. “It was this shimmering experience, and I just ran back to my room and said, ‘I love myself.’ It was the first time I remember talking to myself in the first person. I felt transformed.”
The high lasted about a year, before the feelings of devastation returned in the wake of a romance that ended. But something was different. She could now weather her emotional storms without cutting or harming herself.
What had changed?
It took years of study in psychology — she earned a Ph.D. at Loyola in 1971 — before she found an answer. On the surface, it seemed obvious: She had accepted herself as she was. She had tried to kill herself so many times because the gulf between the person she wanted to be and the person she was left her desperate, hopeless, deeply homesick for a life she would never know. That gulf was real, and unbridgeable.
That basic idea — radical acceptance, she now calls it — became increasingly important as she began working with patients, first at a suicide clinic in Buffalo and later as a researcher. Yes, real change was possible. The emerging discipline of behaviorism taught that people could learn new behaviors — and that acting differently can in time alter underlying emotions from the top down.
But deeply suicidal people have tried to change a million times and failed. The only way to get through to them was to acknowledge that their behavior made sense: Thoughts of death were sweet release given what they were suffering.
“She was very creative with people. I saw that right away,” said Gerald C. Davison, who in 1972 admitted Dr. Linehan into a postdoctoral program in behavioral therapy at Stony Brook University. (He is now a psychologist at the University of Southern California.) “She could get people off center, challenge them with things they didn’t want to hear without making them feel put down.”
No therapist could promise a quick transformation or even sudden “insight,” much less a shimmering religious vision. But now Dr. Linehan was closing in on two seemingly opposed principles that could form the basis of a treatment: acceptance of life as it is, not as it is supposed to be; and the need to change, despite that reality and because of it. The only way to know for sure whether she had something more than a theory was to test it scientifically in the real world — and there was never any doubt where to start.
Getting Through the Day
“I decided to get super-suicidal people, the very worst cases, because I figured these are the most miserable people in the world — they think they’re evil, that they’re bad, bad, bad — and I understood that they weren’t,” she said. “I understood their suffering because I’d been there, in hell, with no idea how to get out.”
In particular she chose to treat people with a diagnosis that she would have given her young self: borderline personality disorder, a poorly understood condition characterized by neediness, outbursts and self-destructive urges, often leading to cutting or burning. In therapy, borderline patients can be terrors — manipulative, hostile, sometimes ominously mute, and notorious for storming out threatening suicide.
Dr. Linehan found that the tension of acceptance could at least keep people in the room: patients accept who they are, that they feel the mental squalls of rage, emptiness and anxiety far more intensely than most people do. In turn, the therapist accepts that given all this, cutting, burning and suicide attempts make some sense.
Finally, the therapist elicits a commitment from the patient to change his or her behavior, a verbal pledge in exchange for a chance to live: “Therapy does not work for people who are dead” is one way she puts it.
Yet even as she climbed the academic ladder, moving from the Catholic University of America to the University of Washington in 1977, she understood from her own experience that acceptance and change were hardly enough. During those first years in Seattle she sometimes felt suicidal while driving to work; even today, she can feel rushes of panic, most recently while driving through tunnels. She relied on therapists herself, off and on over the years, for support and guidance (she does not remember taking medication after leaving the institute).
Dr. Linehan’s own emerging approach to treatment — now called dialectical behavior therapy, or D.B.T. — would also have to include day-to-day skills. A commitment means very little, after all, if people do not have the tools to carry it out. She borrowed some of these from other behavioral therapies and added elements, like opposite action, in which patients act opposite to the way they feel when an emotion is inappropriate; and mindfulness meditation, a Zen technique in which people focus on their breath and observe their emotions come and go without acting on them. (Mindfulness is now a staple of many kinds of psychotherapy.)
In studies in the 1980s and ’90s, researchers at the University of Washington and elsewhere tracked the progress of hundreds of borderline patients at high risk of suicide who attended weekly dialectical therapy sessions. Compared with similar patients who got other experts’ treatments, those who learned Dr. Linehan’s approach made far fewer suicide attempts, landed in the hospital less often and were much more likely to stay in treatment. D.B.T. is now widely used for a variety of stubborn clients, including juvenile offenders, people with eating disorders and those with drug addictions.
“I think the reason D.B.T. has made such a splash is that it addresses something that couldn’t be treated before; people were just at a loss when it came to borderline,” said Lisa Onken, chief of the behavioral and integrative treatment branch of the National Institutes of Health. “But I think the reason it has resonated so much with community therapists has a lot to do with Marsha Linehan’s charisma, her ability to connect with clinical people as well as a scientific audience.”
Most remarkably, perhaps, Dr. Linehan has reached a place where she can stand up and tell her story, come what will. “I’m a very happy person now,” she said in an interview at her house near campus, where she lives with her adopted daughter, Geraldine, and Geraldine’s husband, Nate. “I still have ups and downs, of course, but I think no more than anyone else.”

After her coming-out speech last week, she visited the seclusion room, which has since been converted to a small office. “Well, look at that, they changed the windows,” she said, holding her palms up. “There’s so much more light.”

Borderline Panic

Panic attack. attack. attack. No clue why.

Can’t breathe. Haven’t had one of these in a long time. Why, now? I don’t know. I don’t know.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Where the hell’s my towel? 

Attempt to channel my panic attack into something non destructive:

I’m feeling better now. I think my artistic therapy is helping. I freaked out hard, then sat down and started to paint. As soon as I started painting I began to calm down. Miracle of miracles.

Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy

Yesterday in therapy felt pretty useless to me (though after finishing typing this up, clearly it was not). We talked about the fact that I don’t attach to my mother and that my abandonment issues may have begun from the fact that she went back to work too soon after I was born (my mom was the primary provider. My dad worked hard, but it was my mom that had the traditional 9-5 job, or 10p-6a, as the case maybe). That I was displaying abandonment issues as early as 2.5 years old when my mom went into labor with my brother and I was inconsolable because I was afraid she wasn’t coming back. Of course when she did come back I was fine, and promptly asked her to return my brother…. I wanted a sister. That didn’t pan out (at least not for a couple years).
Therapist tried a Role Playing technique today. We were talking about my trust issues with my mother and why I don’t connect to her. The missing connection probably stems from what I just mentioned. When I was older, around 12/13 years, she began violating my privacy and reading my journals. Not even my thoughts were my own. What should have been a completely safe space for me to release my mental workings, turned into a vessel that was used against me.  I’ve never trusted her since.
Therapist: I want you to think of reasons your mother would have done this.  Why would she have gone this route to find out information about you.
Me: Well, she was asleep or at work all the time when I was awake so she didn’t see me much. She missed out on a lot of my life because she was providing for our family. By the time I was 12/13 I was already beginning to shut down towards my parents. Since I was incommunicative and it was probably becoming increasingly obvious that something was wrong with me, it was the only way she could think of to find out and understand what I was going through.
She would read my diary. Yes, I did a lot of things I shouldn’t have done. Smoking, drinking, messing around with guys/girls, sneaking out, vandalism, shop lifting, eating disorders … I wasn’t ashamed of what I’d done. I was ashamed of my thoughts; that I would think to do these things that weren’t ideal. Weren’t perfect. I didn’t think my actions were wrong, I thought there was something wrong with me for wanting to do these things. I tried even harder to hide all the bad parts of me, bury them inside where no one else could see them. When other people saw these things, there were repercussions, disapproval. Things that weren’t acceptable. I, wasn’t acceptable. I couldn’t stop how I was, so I hid me instead. Unfortunately this had the same effect as compressing a carbonated liquid. At the first good shake I was ready to explode. Eventually I couldn’t hold it in any longer.
If I was having problems, it meant I wasn’t perfect enough and nobody could see my imperfections. Those were their own shame. She violated my privacy and saw that shame. I still feel this. The act of making me feel ashamed for my rebellious nature, instead of trying to find a more constructive solution, left me with a complete lack of trust towards her, and towards myself. I already knew I couldn’t trust my own behavior. Now I knew I couldn’t trust hers either. She needed to let me come to her. Of course, I wouldn’t have. Catch 22.
I believe I should be perfect. I believe everything I do should be perfect. Or at least the best that I can do. Anything less means I’m not trying hard enough. I’m not doing well enough. I’m not good enough. And that means that I have something to be ashamed of.
I don’t know how to change this thinking yet.
Me: She didn’t mean to do this. She cared about me. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t in danger. That I was okay. Which I wasn’t. But she went about it in the wrong way.
I think it’s actually a pretty neat exercise. It’s very much, putting yourself in the other persons shoes and trying to come up with a perspective that they might have had. Put in this way I can understand what would have motivated her to do this. It doesn’t make it ok, but at least there’s some understanding.
Therapist is really positive. She keeps telling me what a joy I am to work with. How thoughtful and self-aware I am. I, don’t handle the praise well. I grin and bear it, but I don’t like it. I don’t believe it. It’s embarrassing to me. I don’t know why doing a good job, being what someone considers ‘good’, is shameful. I’m just going to let her down I think. Or since I know the extent of my inner nature better, she just doesn’t know how rotted I am inside. She’ll find this out eventually and be disappointed. It’s easier for me when she doesn’t praise me. It makes me want to pull back to a place where I can’t let her down. Which is too bad. We’d actually been talking about my blog and my process for many of my posts. How I’ll read or research something, write out my thoughts on it, write out how I relate to it… is a very insightful process. She’s proud of me for putting so much effort into understanding myself. She even said if there was such a thing as a prognosis for personality disorders mine is very good.
We talked about my bulimia more, which frankly I’m tired of talking about it. I did manage to stop myself from binging and purging after Lady Friend left Saturday. That was a good moment. However, I made dinner for Friend and his wife on Sunday and I couldn’t control how much I consumed.  I was fine the whole day, relaxed, gave myself time to get stuff done in a stress free time frame… until the end and I started to skew my timing when I had to run out for an ingredient I forgot, then it pushed back the baking time, which pushed back the dinner time. Time, time, who’s got the time? He helped me fry some stuff up while I got the rest of my prep done which helped. Of course this also means that I don’t feel like the dinner was entirely mine. Stupid, stupid. Only one minor glitch in the outcome of the whole meal, which was wonderful,   and I still was so stressed out thinking that it wasn’t good enough. Despite the praise I get from them and that I can taste for myself that things turned out deliciously. I think I take too much on. Instead of doing 4 courses, next time maybe I’ll just do 3. I’m not superwoman. I need to remember this.

Security Blanket

Next up on my look into some more Associated Features of Borderline Personality Disorder:  
(C) Individuals with BPD may feel more secure with transitional objects than in interpersonal relationships:
Ex.  a pet or inanimate possession
I love my cat. He loves me. My cat is the only man that will never leave me. I honestly believe this.
First off, I am not a cat person. I grew up with giant dog breeds. It wasn’t until I rescued my cat while at University that my appreciation began to change. That said, if you come between me and my cat, say a bad word against my cat, attempt to harm my cat, I will come after you and at the very least give you a verbal lashing enough to flay your spirits.
It sounds a little obsessive. Maybe it is. I found him just before I began grad school. I rescued him from boys with a golf club, this starving skin and bones stray. For 3 days he didn’t leave my lap, no matter how hungry he was, he wouldn’t eat unless I was next to him. He’s been with me through grad school, through graduation, moving upstate, out of state, all over NY, through boring relationships and bad… he’s just about the only constant I’ve ever had in my life. And he loves me. Is my attachment to my cat unhealthy? No, I really don’t think it is. It’s not like I’ve given up my life in order to cater to my cat. He’s a cat. He’s pretty self-sufficient in that puppy-like way where he greets me at the door when I come home and sleeps at the foot of my bed. Not even kidding.

He’s a comfortable, familiar, stable presence.

People let you down. People leave. He hasn’t. He doesn’t. He won’t. He depends on me and in a way, I depend on him.

That’s really the heart of it I think. It’s the idea of a security blanket. Mine just happens to be a cat.
A comfort object, transitional object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations. This is common with children. However for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, quite often there is a deep seeded abandonment issue rooting back to that crucial period of time when these transitional objects were so necessary. Where a more neuro-typical person eventually develops beyond the need for such stabilizing objects, the person with BPD has not.
Here’s a psychological approach explaining WHY comfort objects are useful.
When the young child begins to separate the ‘me’ from the ‘not-me’ and evolves from complete dependence to a stage of relative independence, it uses transitional objects. 
An infant sees himself and the mother as a whole. In this phase the mother ‘brings the world’ to the infant without delay which gives him a ‘moment of illusion’, a belief that his own wish creates the object of his desire which brings with it a sense of satisfaction. Winnicott calls this subjective omnipotence. Alongside the subjective omnipotence of a child lies an objective reality, which constitutes the child’s awareness of separateness between himself and desired objects. While the subjective omnipotence experience is one in which the child feels that his desires create satisfaction, the objective reality experience is one in which the child independently seeks out objects of desire.
Later on the child comes to realize that the mother is separate from him through which it appears that the child has lost something. The child realizes that he is dependent on others and thus he loses the idea that he is independent, a realization which creates a difficult period and brings frustration and anxiety with it. In the end it is impossible that the mother is always there to ‘bring the world’ to the baby, a realization which has a powerful, somewhat painful, but constructive impact on the child. Through fantasizing about the object of his wishes the child will find comfort. A transitional object can be used in this process.
            (- Or what should be a constructive impact on the child. I suspect for those with BPD this was an experience more traumatic than is typical and from here defense mechanisms begin to form.)
The transitional object is often the first ‘not me’ possession that really belongs to the child. These could be real objects like a blanket or a teddy bear, but other ‘objects’, such as a melody or a word, can fulfill this role as well. This object represents all components of ‘mothering’, and it means that the child himself is able to create what he needs as well. It enables the child to have a fantasized bond with the mother when she gradually separates for increasingly longer periods of time. The transitional object is important at the time of going to sleep and as a defense against anxiety.
In a later stage of the development the child no longer needs the transitional object. He is able to make a distinction between ‘me’ and ‘not-me’, and keeping inside and outside apart and yet interrelated. This development leads to the use of illusion, symbols and objects later on in life.
Now the problem is. Someone with BPD may not have been able to make that full transition to the later stage of development when the transitional object is no longer necessary. I would hypothesize that this is at the core of most abandonment issue explanations.
My security blanket growing up was an actual blanket. A yellow blanket. I loved this thing to death until I think my parents threw it out without telling me.  My mother also, was not around much when I was growing up. My parents believed that one of them should always be home for us at all times so that we wouldn’t be left alone. Sounds perfect right? Maybe. Maybe not. My dad worked days. My mom worked nights. Which meant she was sleeping during the day and awake when we were asleep in order to provide for us.I only ever saw her for an hour or two at dinner. She would have loved to have spent more time with us. THAT I know, but the way my parents decided to do things this was just the nature of our reality. My dad was always the one to get us ready for school and home when we got back. I’m much more connected to my father. Are there psychological implications to this? Probably, but I’m sort of just figuring this out as I type so it’ll be something to bring up in therapy tonight.

Growing up everything I had, was shared. My room, my toys… later my siblings were a constant study in lack of privacy, stealing clothes & my stuff (typical younger sibling antics), and having my journals and diaries violated by my mother. Even my thoughts weren’t my own. I have NEVER recovered trust towards her for this. What this means to me, is that nothing has ever been just mine. I hold to some things very hard because I feel a definite lack of having anything that belongs to me. Or that I belong to. Everything is separate while I have an intense need for something to be connected with.
I buy a lot of things. I spend a lot of money. I, have a lot of things. Now. I wonder if this has anything to do with the psychological reasons behind impulsive spending as well. Surrounding yourself with possessions as a means to create a protective den of stuff that is yours and will not leave. Hm.
Having these objects or pets… they don’t let you down the way that normal relationships always do. They’re comfortable and stable. Something easy to hold on to because they’re not going to suddenly change or decide they want to be different. They provide a reassurance that we need and don’t otherwise feel we have (usually). At least, that’s what I think.
*My thoughts are a little disjointed today. I just had a major design review and presentation at work.

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Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy – Idealization & Devaluation

I forgot to post about therapy this week because my work week has been so freaking busy. So here it is. Late, but I got some important stuff figured out…

Let’s get the bulimic stuff out of the way first, shall we? Therapist has come to the conclusion that clearly my bulimia is triggered by being alone. Heh, gee, ya think? She did mention a theory that I found interesting. She said that eating disorders are correlated to relationship issues; connected with issues in childhood revolving around letting go or interrupted relationships. This theory makes absolute sense in connection to Borderline Personality Disorder. I’ll have to think on this more but I can definitely see how this would fit. At least in part. I still believe that a lot of my issues have to do with control and a need to be ‘perfect’. We’re working on ruling out things that trigger me and working on ways to preemptively prepare myself and avoid having to engage this behavior.

The really important thing we talked about?
My relationship with Friend is turning into a healthy friendship. Therapist seems to think most people can’t do that. She thinks it’s because I’m a sophisticated thinker. I think I’m a glutton for punishment… but after a while you get used to it and it’s not as harsh anymore. You build up a tolerance and pretty soon it doesn’t hurt you so much anymore. Ok, maybe it’s not all that. Maybe it’s not that at all. I don’t think it’s because I have some sophisticated point of view though. I’m afraid of losing him. I cannot let go of people. Not unless they’ve done something truly devastating and he simply hasn’t. In fact, other than being a little clueless since the sexual element of our relationship subsided he’s really been nothing but good to me. That doesn’t mean that things don’t still dig at me occasionally. It’s still painful for me to see him putting so much effort into a loveless marriage but frankly, do I really want to be with someone that is blinded to the realities of his life? No, not really. Plus I’m moving on and that helps. I’m not going to lie. Watching him have a stifled, sexless, awkward marriage while I’m out living it up… well, I’m amused. At the same time… I’ve stopped pushing away. For months now I’ve been trying to find some kind of balance with him. No, I haven’t told him this. I’m trying to figure out myself and how I fit with him. For months I was cool, reserved and very aloof with him. Distant. I refused to talk about personal stuff. I shut him down when he tried to talk about personal stuff with me. I kept conversation and interaction familiar and platonic, but removed. I’ve noticed over the past month though, that I’m reattaching to him, in a healthier way.

I idealized our friendship, our relationship. I’d convinced myself that he was absolutely perfect. Everything we shared, had in common, it MEANT that we were right to be together. And maybe I’m not entirely crazy in my thinking, but the fact of the matter is he’s married and that’s not going to change. (Reminder: He’s in an open marriage. His wife knew about the full extent of our relationship.)  When things changed I was utterly disillusioned but being Borderline I’m not able to make a smooth transition from one state to another. Change makes me panic and I immediately devalued him and hated his wife. At the same time I was afraid of losing him from my life entirely. I was in constant conflict about whether he should even be in my life and not being able to fathom losing my friend. I was pain personified and I didn’t know how to make it stop so I let it ride. I can deal with pain. It’s so familiar to me I almost don’t know how to function without it. But I’m learning. And things have slowly been changing with me, in regards to him, so that I am able to enjoy spending time with him, and not vilify him. Or idealize him.

Some things he did that were incredibly helpful to this process: When we first changed our relationship he’d written me a letter telling me he did love me as a friend and let me know just how much our friendship meant to him. I’m not going to lie and say I believed a word he said. Everyone lies. But it’s been nearly 6 months now and I can look back on that letter and see that the things he’d said still seem to hold true. He’s still here. He gave me the space I needed without pushing me, and didn’t leave. Even when I was horrible to him, even when I said things to make him angry, to push him away, to try to force his hand… he called me on my behavior and didn’t let me run away.

I’m beginning to think that getting past that first major devaluation in a relationship is an important step for someone with BPD. I’d tentatively wager that going through that first major devaluation is probably the best thing for a friendship/relationship in the long run. It shows that you can come through such a thing intact, and that it is possible to have relationships that continue to thrive even after, which will cultivate a new kind of trust. That lasts. At least, that’s what I’m coming to understand currently.

Check it out. Accidental relationship hope =)
How did I learn to channel my anger….

Therapist often tells me that I have a calm, healing presence. I almost always counter this with ‘now, I didn’t used to’.  To which she responds: I just can’t imagine it, you don’t appear that way at all. Of course you wouldn’t see that, you’ve only known me for 8 months. You didn’t know me when I was destroying my house, kicking down doors and putting my fist through plate glass. I did realize that I had a major turning point when I began my major costuming endeavor though. About 6 years ago I did my first major costuming vacation. I spent a month making 13 full outfits. I channeled all of my attention and energy into that one goal and was rewarded with one of the happiest, peaceful and most freeing experiences of my life. I don’t think I realized it consciously until recently, but having a creative out (as I mention way back in Escapism) is crucial for helping me calm my anger. That or fighting really. I did mixed martial arts for 15 years and am looking to get back into it. It’s a safer form for my aggression, but as that’s not currently on my agenda… art! Finding something you love, something you can immerse yourself in…. is therapeutic all in and of its own.

That’s not to say it always works or that I’m not still angry. I am incredibly angry. All the time. But having resources to focus it are crucial.

Therapist is also happy that I’m cultivating a new relationship with my Lady Friend. She noted that I seem to be incredibly comfortable in my sexuality. I consider myself bisexual? Yeah, I suppose. Really, I’m just sexual. The frequency of my problems and personal issues are GREATLY reduced with women, and being monogamous with men is always disastrous for me. I can be with a woman in a monogamous relationship and be content, but if I’m in a monogamous relationship with a man I feel like I’m denying a part of myself and I become incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin and in the relationship until I’m afraid it’s going to end. Yes, my parents know and accept this. Without problem, without hesitation. As far as I know. It’s not really up for discussion, I just let them know and they can choose to support me or not, but they always have.  She also thought to allay my fears that things were not sexually normal. I’m just so used to using sex as a tool, that in a healthy relationship these things progress organically and will happen when they do. Which is a relief. So odd for me though. I’m just, not used to this. Therapist is actually very proud of me for allowing myself to take safe risks. With all of the problems I have letting people close to me, I’m allowing myself another chance. And I’m doing it differently. I’m trying to remember how my past relationships have gone and I’m actively trying to remember that I need to do things differently.  It’s only been a month, and traditionally it takes a little longer for my real crazy to kick in when it comes to relationships, but I am doing things differently and so far it seems to be making a very beneficial difference. 

Did you see that? – Hallucinations, Distortions and Hypnogogia

I have so much I want to post all at once =( I completely forgot to post my Lucid Analysis from therapy this week (stupid busy at work this week and I didn’t have time to post Monday so now my whole schedule is thrown off). I may do that tomorrow because it was a rather insightful session. 
So continuing on with the Associated Features of Borderline Personality Disorder.
(B) Some individuals develop psychotic-like symptoms when under stress:
          Body image distortions, ideas of reference
          Hypnagogic phenomena  
Hallucinations: I can’t personally speak for hallucinations. I have never had this problem except for one time and an experience involving Absinthe, but that really has nothing to do with BPD. Friends wife has, on occasion, experienced bipolar related hallucinations. They can be visual, auditory, or sensory. Unless you consider that bugs crawling on your skin sensation a hallucination when there aren’t any bugs there. I’ve had that before, but only after I found an actual bug crawling over me and was a little ooged out.
Body image distortions: I’m not even going to expound on my issues with body image and dysmorphia. You can read about it more here. In terms of self-perception I have almost no concept of how I physically relate to another person from a physical measurements point of view. People and myself are measured by their presence in my mind. If I don’t have any respect for you, you can be 6’7” and 300lbs but you’ll register as someone nonthreatening and therefore smaller. If you’re someone I do have a great deal of respect or caring for, in my eyes you will seem taller.  Additionally, my perception of myself (has nothing to do with this), I just always think I am bigger than I am. No, not in an “I’m so fat”, kind of way. I need to physically stand side by side someone looking into a mirror to get an accurate idea of just how discrepant our sizing is. Otherwise I feel like I’m of a proportion similar to them or that their sizing is more ideal than my own. I don’t think I’m describing this well, it’s hard for me to convey. It’s a sense that I am not proportionate to those around me.
Ideas of Reference: involve people having a belief or perception in which irrelevant, unrelated or innocuous phenomena in the world refer to them directly or have special personal significance: ‘the notion that everything one perceives in the world relates to one’s own destiny’.  
Not my issue. I pretty much believe my place in this universe is innocuous in itself and I don’t believe in destiny at all. I am in control (or should be) of my own future.  To me this is something of a paranoid feature and my paranoia just doesn’t extend that far.
Hypnagogia is the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep (i.e. the onset of sleep).
I find this one rather fascinating… among its many names, it’s also referred to as the Borderland state. Fitting, eh? I have a lot of hypnogogic phenomena.
Transition to and from sleep may be attended by a wide variety of sensory experiences. These can occur in any modality, individually or combined, and range from the vague and barely perceptible to vivid hallucinations.
Sights – sensory features of hypnagogia are phosphenes which can manifest as seemingly random speckles, lines or geometrical patterns, including form constants, or as figurative (representational) images.
 I can’t figure out if this means with eyes open or closed. I assume closed because it’s the state between wakefulness and sleep. For me I have like this awful web of black tar that coats everything behind my eyes. It’s utterly bizarre. I just had this sense last night. I remember thinking it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen this.
Tetris Effect – People who have spent a long time at some repetitive activity before sleep, in particular one that is new to them, may find that it dominates their imagery as they grow drowsy, a tendency dubbed the Tetris effect. When the activity involves moving objects, as in the video game Tetris, the corresponding hypnagogic images also tend to be perceived as moving. The Tetris effect can be tactile as well.
I don’t really get this one, but it seems neat.

Sounds – Like the visuals, hypnagogic sounds vary in intensity from faint impressions to loud noises, such as crashes and bangs (exploding head syndrome). People may imagine their own name called or a doorbell ringing. Snatches of imagined speech are common. While typically nonsensical and fragmented, these speech events can occasionally strike the individual as apt comments on—or summations of—their thoughts at the time. They often contain word play, neologisms and made-up names. Hypnagogic speech may manifest as the subject’s own “inner voice”, or as the voices of others: familiar people or strangers. More rarely, poetry or music is heard.
I don’t know if I hear anything in particular when I’m hypnogogic, but I’ve been told I talk in my sleep. Clearly and often.  My Roommate, Friend, lovers, family have all told me that I talk in my sleep. As far as I can tell it’s most often at this point of bordering on sleep. Hey, it’s better than snoring I guess (which I’m told I do not do). 
Sleep paralysis – Humming, roaring, hissing, rushing, zapping, and buzzing noises are frequent in conjunction with sleep paralysis (SP). This happens when the REM atonia sets in sooner than usual, before the person is fully asleep, or persists longer than usual, after the person has (in other respects) fully awoken and causes them to be unable to move their body and limbs.
It’s not permanent, but it can certainly be a little disconcerting. I’ve never had this but some friends have mine have mentioned it.
Lucid Dreaming – This is  my favorite. Lucid dreams are dreams in which you are aware that you are dreaming. In a lucid dream, the dreamer can actively participate in and manipulate imaginary experiences in the dream environment. Lucid dreams can seem real and vivid. There are a couple different kinds and I experience both:
A dream-initiated lucid dream (DILD) starts as a normal dream, and the dreamer eventually concludes it is a dream.
A wake-initiated lucid dream (WILD) occurs when the dreamer goes from a normal waking state directly into a dream state, with no apparent lapse in consciousness.
I love dreaming. The dream world is one of my favorites to occupy. To feel your body moving through a world foreign to the one it’s actually settled in, it’s, trippy. Lucid dreaming can be cultivated by anyone really, not just those with PDs or some mental taxation. I highly recommend it.  
None of these are specific to or exclusive to Borderline Personality Disorder. Not by any stretch of the imagination. However they’re often triggered by stress and anxiety and being Borderline pretty much means you’re more prone to these triggers than average.


The other day I saw this list of Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms & Associated Features. A few of them I’ve talked about already, but I found others fascinating.
(A) Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder may have a pattern of undermining themselves at the moment a goal is about to be realized:
(B) Some individuals develop psychotic-like symptoms when under stress:
(C) Individuals with BPD may feel more secure with transitional objects than in interpersonal relationships:
(D) Premature death from suicide may occur in individuals with this disorder, especially in those with co-occurring Mood Disorders or Substance-Related Disorders.
(E) Physical handicaps may result from self-inflicted abuse behaviors or failed suicide attempts.
(F) Recurrent job losses, interrupted education, and broken marriages are common.
(G) Physical and sexual abuse, neglect, hostile conflict, and early parental loss or separations are more common in the childhood.
I want to talk about a few of these over the next few days or so. So let’s begin shall we…
(A) Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder may have a pattern of undermining themselves at the moment a goal is about to be realized:
         dropping out of school just before graduation
         regressing severely after a discussion of how well therapy is going
         destroying a good relationship just when it is clear that the relationship could last
Stopping short of a major goal: I remember studying my ass off at University for weeks, only to ‘burn out’ the week before a major exam. I couldn’t look at the material anymore. I’d work myself up so much, convinced that ‘if I didn’t already know it, I wasn’t going to get it’. I’d create some mental excuse or justification for why I couldn’t study anymore. Inevitably I wouldn’t do as well as I had the rest of the Quarter. This ‘failure’ would work to kick me in the ass again and I’d redouble my efforts to get back on track for finals. It was a constant rollercoaster. Or I’ll slack off and push off completing a project until just before it’s due, practically setting myself up for a negative review. I’m almost asking to be fired. Except I’m not, and nothing could possibly be worse.
Regressing severely after an accomplishment: This. Is something I’m concerned with. I’ll be doing really great with, say, healthy weight loss, but as soon as someone recognizes this or we talk about how well I’m doing, I take a major fall back, nearly destroying all the progress I’ve made.  It makes me wonder if therapy is good for me or not (I know it is). I honestly have no idea why this is. Except that maybe I’ve been working for something for so long, wanted a goal for so long, that when I accomplish it, and it’s recognized, now there’s all this additional pressure to continue performing at this heightened level and if I don’t I’m going to inevitably let someone down. It’s that pressure I can’t stand the thought of. It’s suffocating.  
Destroying a ‘good’ relationship: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lived through this. This was like every good period with Evil-Ex I ever had. Or every good period with any person really. Granted with Evil-Ex that was in no way entirely my fault, but I’m sure I sabotaged myself repeatedly.
Sabotage. Yes. That’s the word I want. This is self-sabotage.
Self-sabotage is a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actions that create a roadblock to success by working against your own self-interests.  It is when we consciously want something but subconsciously we make sure we don’t get it.  When we say we want something and then go about making sure it does not happen. Ultimately it’s due to a lack of self-esteem, self-worth, and self-confidence.
Fear of success.  Deep inside, there can be numerous reasons you do not want to succeed.  These are referred to as limiting beliefs.  You must overcome these limiting beliefs and break free from your fear of success.
         I found a really interesting article on the psychology of Fear of Success. Maybe I’ll post that as it is very relevant to BPD.
Unworthiness:  is the belief or feeling that you do not deserve success.  This is due to low self-esteem and or a poor self-image.
People with a Borderline Personality Disorder often have such an unstable sense of self that it’s impossible to believe well of oneself because they don’t really have a good sense of who they are to begin with.
It takes a lot of effort to keep in mind that you are not only worthy of success, but it is your right to live in abundance and pursue happiness.
Lack of belief in abilities.  Not believing you have enough education. Not enough experience. Goals are too farfetched or unrealistic. You must do everything on your own or it won’t be your success anyways.
This is something I struggle with constantly. I need to remind myself that I do have the background, education, and experience to do what I am doing. I have to force myself to remember that no one knows everything. Not even someone in their established field of decades. Life is a learning experience and all aspects of that are a continuous learning process. It’s ok to not know everything, not be the best at everything, as long as the determination to improve and push yourself forward are there.
Working against true desires.  Unfortunately a lot of people don’t know what they want to begin with. Or work towards what someone else wants instead of their own desires.
This is so often the case with BPD. I have a terrible time making up my mind. I am constantly asking people for what they would prefer, or for opinions to help. Too often I do things that other people would prefer than what I might want. Then again, I don’t always know what I want so does it really matter if I do something I know someone, anyone, will appreciate.
Amusingly I can get a million opinions and which will help me make a decision, but it’s often not the majority opinion and does come back around to what I may want. Like, I need to exclude options for various reasons to narrow it down. If there’s one thing I like, but it doesn’t seem popular, but I’m still drawn to it despite it not being popular, that usually means to me, that I like it and that’s the option for me. Or if I really can’t make up my mind, any decision is better than no decision and I might as well go with the majority opinion.
Often though, I do things because I know other people will like them despite not having the time for my own stuff, resources, or whatever. I put my hopes into making someone else happy, and even if they are, I’m left with something of an empty victory because I’ve reached my goal, but there’s really no personal satisfaction.
Looking for approval from outside. Instead of being able to accept me and my abilities I often find myself looking for outside validation. This can have either/or/both the same reactions as asking for opinions. It’s really just an extension of that b/c it’s asking for opinions on me and my abilities. I can either go with it, rail against it, or flounder somewhere in indecision. No matter which way the thing to remember is that the only truly important opinion is our own. We need to develop the ability to like who we are on our own.
Basically, self-sabotage is like a game of mental tug-of-war.  It is the conscious mind versus the subconscious mind where the subconscious mind eventually wins.  Welcome to Thunder Dome. Two Consciousness Enter, One Consciousness Leaves! The conscious mind can carry out actions and work toward a goal, but it will not be long before the subconscious mind reveals the true feelings and beliefs and takes control over actions.  The key to eliminating self-sabotage is making sure that your conscious and subconscious mind are in harmony.  This is much easier said than done, and I don’t have any failsafe advice on this. It helps me to write down positive affirmations and keep them with me though. Since I have such a hard time internalizing things, having something that I can reference whenever I need to is very helpful.
For someone with a Borderline Personality Disorder these successes are often in the ability to maintain healthy, functional relationships. They are absolutely not limited to this though. Obviously.  

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