Don’t play chess with Death

Mistrust and Abuse. Since writing that post yesterday I’ve had the evening when Evil-Ex tried to kill me on my mind. I need to get it off my mind and the best way I know to do that is to write it down and let it go. So hold on, this is going to get a little rocky.
Cast of Characters:
Evil-Ex … Malignant Narcissist. Need I say more?
Cutie … Met Evil-Ex around the same time I did. He lead her on, pursued her, they dated briefly and turbulently. When they broke up he created elaborate schemes to get revenge on her, make her life miserable and ruin her reputation. He tormented her in a way that made her feel like she was the one going crazy and he was really on her side all along. Sound familiar? It certainly feels familiar.
Doc….  Evil-Exes best friend who was slowly coming to the realization that there was something truly wrong about his friend. Went out of his way to open up and protect me. He tried to do this for Cutie as well and developed a very meaningful relationship with her. Eventually they started dating in secret. All in all a really good guy.
Blondi… One of Evil-Exes lackeys friends that also had a crush on Cutie.
…and of course, Myself.
This particular story starts around Thanksgiving 2008. Evil-Ex and I were ‘solidly’ in a relationship and living together. Evil-Ex was trying to pass Cutie off onto Blondi. He and a lot of his little minions treated women like objects; something to be passed around and handed off when they were done with them. Cutie was trying valiantly to be friends with our group despite all she had been through. Unbeknownst to Evil-Ex, her and Doc were getting pretty close and she was interested in him. Evil-Ex was done with her. Evil-Ex decided that Blondi should have a shot with her so Blondi felt entitled to her. She wasn’t interested in sleeping with Blondi. Taking a true page from Evil-Exes playbook, he felt like he deserved this and not getting it, wanted revenge. Evil-Ex, being the ingratiating friend that he was, offered to do this. What was the revenge? Blondi wanted a picture of her crying for his birthday. Evil-Ex was more than happy to do this. He started talking to Cutie more and more; hanging out with her when I was out of own visiting family or with my own friends. He always waited until the next day or so to let it drop, trying to make me jealous. He actually told me what his intentions were, about his little game. I was sickened and nearly told her. He got to her first though and managed to play us against each other for a while. He told her a slew of lies about me to make her hate me. He told me she hated me for bullshit he had made up and let me believe she was trying to get back with him so I would be jealous and not want to help her.
This built up slowly for two months before The Party.
About a week before The Party (@Blondi’s house) Doc called me and told me that he was bringing Cutie, but not to tell Evil-Ex. I don’t remember if he knew what Evil-Ex was up to, but he didn’t want to give him the chance to prepare something to hurt her. I asked him if she hated me and he assured me that she didn’t. We decided it would be best to clear the air altogether.   
The night of the party rolls around. It was a dark, snowy night. We got all dressed up and fancy. About an hour after we arrived and started drinking Doc and Cutie show up. The look on Evil-Exes face could have melted glass. His anger was barely contained, but bubbling just below the surface I saw some anxiety when he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye. He’d been feeding me a steady stream of lies and smear trying to keep me from ever speaking to her again. He was paranoid that we’d confer and really be able to dig up the dirt on how truly terrible the deeds he pulled were. He was reasonably sure I believed him, but I’ve never been very predictable. This time was no exception.
As soon as he left the room, before he had time to think of anything further, I walked over to Cutie, asked her if I could talk to her for a few minutes and pulled her down into the den away from the party. I completely threw caution to the wind. “Look, I don’t know what you’ve been told, or what’s going on here, but I don’t hate you, I don’t even dislike you, I just don’t know you that well so I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe. I wanted to talk to you and get your side of the story. This is what he’s been saying to me…”  and told her what Evil-Ex was conveying to me about her.
We quickly got to the heart of his lies and uncovered the truth of what was really going on. I let her in on his game for Blondi as well, thoroughly ruining his ability to cause her more misery. Instantly we were allies.
As soon as Evil-Ex noticed my absence, then hers, he started looking for us. He barged downstairs, plunged between us, and dragged me back upstairs. Anytime we stood too close, sat too close chatting in a circle, he would wedge himself between us so we couldn’t ‘conspire’. There wasn’t any plan to do anything except figure out the truth. But that was enough. He was harsh, made jabbing comments, demeaning and cruel with almost everything he said to me. We drank more. And more.
By 1 o’clock I was well and thoroughly smashed. He made yet another verbal attack and that was as much as I could handle at the moment. Another of our friends took me into the living room where I sat crying onto his shoulder. He was being awful to me, to her, hell! To everyone! They just couldn’t see it. I didn’t deserve to be treated like this. At some point Evil-Ex came up behind us and sat down on the couch. As soon as our friend noticed he got up and left me to talk to him. I sat down next to him. He accused me of betraying him. I told him I just wanted the truth and I didn’t deserve to be treated the way he was treating me.
<Blur>
I don’t remember how he got me on the floor. That part of my memory is a black void. But there I was, flat on my back, lying on the ground with him on top of me. His hands wrapped around my throat, smashing my head into the ground. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t see. The room was spinning maddeningly from lack of oxygen and about two dozen too many shots of vodka. But my hands were free and my instincts from 15 years of martial arts took over. I was able to get him off of me. We collapsed lying there.
“I told you I can snap. See what happens when you push me?” This was all my fault? Apparently. Shame. Shame is what I feel now thinking back on this because all I wanted at the time was to make everything better. I wanted to fix it. He said he was going downstairs to sleep this off. I wanted nothing more than to curl up with him, have him wrap his arms around me and tell me we could figure this out. He refused and I didn’t push it. That was the first night my future Boring-Ex and I really hung out. He kept me company afterwards so I wouldn’t be alone. Treated me like a human being.
The next day we went out to breakfast with everyone who spent the night, pretended everything was ok. I actually thought it might be. When we got home we sat down to talk. Evil-Ex decided it was time for us to ‘take a break’. I agreed, reluctantly.
This was the beginning of the end for us. And possibly a blessing in disguise. We agreed not to hang out, not to even speak to one another for a while. I stayed away from our house as much as possible. Every night I went out with friends I hadn’t seen, or hadn’t had the freedom to see whenever I wanted. It took me about a week to realize what I had. Freedom. Every night I was going out with people that wanted me around. I was seeing people that treated me well. I was starting to laugh again. Enjoy my life again. Three weeks later he broke down, wanting me back…. But that’s a story for a different day.
Through all of this, I don’t feel like a victim. He tried to victimize me, but at no point did I completely roll over and allow it. It may have taken me a while but I always managed to fight back and look for the truth in what was happening. Ultimately, despite how horrible of an experience this was, I learned from it. That knowledge has made me a stronger person.  

Some People Want to Abuse You… But There Others Who Don’t

Hello and good morning! I hope everyone had a great weekend. Mine was hectic and crazed but even fun at times. More on that some other time. Today I’m elaborating more on the next maladaptive schema type.

Mistrust/Abuse
Typical Presentation of the Schema
People with the Mistrust/Abuse schema expect others to lie, manipulate, cheat, or in other ways to take advantage of them, and in the most extreme form of the schema, try to humiliate or abuse them.  These patients do not trust other people to be honest and straightforward, and to have their best interests at heart. Rather, they are guarded and suspicious. They sometimes believe that other people want to hurt them intentionally. At best, they feel that people care only for themselves and do not mind hurting others to get what they need; at worst, they are convinced that people are malevolent, sadistic, and get pleasure from hurting others. In the extreme form, patients with this schema may believe that other people want to torture and sexually abuse them.
Now. I think it’s important to note that these can be very real issues that are not unjustified. A lot of people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder have had major trauma and abuse growing up. I think this becomes a schema problem when you start seeing demons in EVERY shadow, not just the ones where it is justified. I’ve survived “friends” trying to manipulate me to suicide, people masquerading as friends to get me into bed, every kind of mental and emotional abuse, lying, manipulations, deceit, isolation, alienation you can imagine, attempted rape, rape, and my ex-boyfriend trying to kill me. Those are just some of the highlights. It doesn’t even touch on the extent of what I’ve been through in my life. I’ve actually suffered through a lot of abuse and my mistrust is justified. However. And this is an important However…. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there that do deserve to be trusted. The doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there don’t want to just take advantage of you or have ulterior motives. There are some pretty decent people. This becomes a schema problem when we impose the problems from the past onto people that don’t justifiably deserve the mistrust.
Goals of Treatment
The main goal of treatment is to help people with the Mistrust//Abuse schema to realize that, whereas some people are not trustworthy, many others ARE trustworthy. We teach them that the best way to live is to stay away from abusive people as much as possible, stand up for themselves when necessary, and focus on having trustworthy people in their personal life.
Patients who have healed a Mistrust/Abuse schema have learned to distinguish between people who are trustworthy and those who are not. They have learned that there is a spectrum of trustworthiness: People worthy of trust do not have to be perfect; they just ha ve to be “trustworthy enough.”
I have to say this is a problem I have. Cognitively, in my brain, I know that this is true, but I still fight with some black and white thinking here. Once my trust has been broken, or I’ve been sufficiently disappointed, it’s nearly impossible for me to regain my perspective and not consider someone untrustworthy. I’m trying though.
With trust worthy people, patients learn to behave in a differ way. They are willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, they are less guarded and suspicious, they stop setting up tests, and they no longer cheat others because they expect to be cheated. With individuals who become their partners or close friends, patients become more authentic. They share many of their secrets and are willing to be vulnerable. They eventually find that, if they behave openly, trustworthy people will generally treat them well in return.
Strategies Emphasized  in Treatment
With patients who were abused as children, a therapist must work to establish emotional safety. The goal is to provide a safe place for patients to tell their story of abuse. Most abuse survivors are intensely ambivalent about telling their story. One part of the patient wants to discuss what happened, whereas another part wants to hide it. Many of these people alternate between the two – just as they alternate between feeling overwhelmed and feeling numb.
Cognitively, the therapist helps reduce a persons over vigilance to abuse. Patients learn to recognize a spectrum of trustworthiness. Patients also work to alter the extremely common  view of themselves as worthless and to blame for the abuse. They stop making excuses for the abuser and place blame where it belongs.
Venting anger is of primary importance in the experiential work. It is especially important for patients to vent anger at the people who abused them rather than continually directing anger at the people in their current lives, or at themselves.
Imagery and visualization to create a safe inner place away from abusers is helpful. Finally, patients visualize themselves being open and authentic with trustworthy significant others. The thrust of treatment is first to help patients make the sharp distinction between the people in the past who deserve the anger, and the people in the present who do not; then, to help patients express anger in therapy sessions toward the people in the past who deserve it, while treating well those people in their current lives who treat them well.
Behaviorally, patients gradually learn to trust honest people. They increase their level of intimacy with appropriate significant others. When appropriate, they share their secrets and memories of abuse with their partner or close friends. They consider joining a support group for abuse survivors. They choose non-abusive partners. Patients stop mistreating others and set limits with abusive people. They are less punitive when other people make mistakes. Rather than avoiding relationships and remaining alone, or avoiding intimate encounters and staying emotionally distant from people, they allow people to get close and become intimate. They stop gathering evidence and keeping score about the things other people have done to hurt them. They stop constantly testing other people in relationships to see if they can be trusted. They stop taking advantage of other people, thus prompting others to respond in kind.
Abuse severs the bond between the individual and other human beings. The person is torn out of the world of ordinary human relationships and thrown into a nightmare. During abuse, the victim feels utterly alone, and, after it is over, feels detached and estranged from others. The real world of current relationships seems hazy and unreal, whereas the memories of the relationships with the perpetrator are sharp and clear. The therapist/patient relationship is very important. The therapist is an intermediary between the abuse survivor and the rest of humanity: he or she serves as a vessel through which the patient reconnects to the ordinary world. By connecting to the therapist, the patient reconnects symbolically to the rest of humanity.
Severed. I always feel cut off and separate, severed, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought of it in these terms or even because of the abuse I’ve suffered. Maybe I have and forgot, or just figured it was one more experience grouped with all my others. I sort of compartmentalize the trauma I’ve been through. I stick it in a box and try to bury it in my mental closets. Hide it away. But put in these terms it makes it so much clearer to me the impact that the abuse I’ve suffered has had on me. Abuse severs the bond between the individual and other human beings. I would add that abuse severs the bond between a person and themselves too.  I guess I always kind of think of the abused part as a separate part, and the rest as the protector part. I’ve split myself into pieces. I’m still working through just how big of a deal all of this stuff actually was on me. I haven’t faced it all yet, but I’m starting to recognize where a lot of my dissociation comes from. Why I dissociate the way I do.
Most survivors of abuse struggle with moral issues. They are haunted by feelings of shame and guilt about what they did and felt during the abuse. They want to understand their own responsibility for what happened to them, and to reach a fair, moral judgment of their own conduct.
I still struggle with this. For a very long time I considered myself at least partially responsible for the abuse I suffered. It was my fault for being there, it was my fault for putting myself in the situation (even though there was no way I could have known that it would happen), and therefore my fault for allowing it to happen. It was my fault for not being able to leave because I couldn’t control how I felt. I was in love with my abuser, on more than one occasion, and I couldn’t do what I knew was best for me because I was afraid of losing my heart. I couldn’t control my emotions so I blamed myself for the way {t}he{y} treated me, for what they did to me… but you know what? It wasn’t my fault. It was theirs. I may have been in love, but I didn’t ask to be treated that way, I didn’t want to be treated that way, I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. It wasn’t my fault they were monsters. They made the choices they did because they were bad people, and that wasn’t my fault.  I couldn’t predict what was going to happen, and at the time I wasn’t able to take the steps that have been healthiest and safest for me. I can’t change that. But what I can do is learn from it and not make those same mistakes again. I can make better choices in the future. I can allow better people into my future. I’m still working on it, but it is possible.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – Stats and Facts Part 3

Approximately 25% of those with BPD/ERD also meet the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder.
So let me tell you a story. I had to go to a counseling session because I made a very poor decision concerning alcohol and driving. I had to have a psychological evaluation and talk to a social worker about my past and stuff. First off, let me tell you that I hate, HATE, talking to shrinks that are not of my choosing. I don’t believe it’s any of anyone’s business to ask me such personal questions, intimate, details of my life. Especially when they inevitably make snap decisions and diagnosis because one session is not enough time to understand anyone. So anyways, I had this session. The guy (the only male counselor other than my psych I’ve ever talked to) started asking me questions off of a list of psych questions. It was clear that he cared precisely zero about me as a person. He just needed to get through his checklist. Throughout the interview he ask me questions, then instead of letting me talk, cuts me off and proposes his own theories and tangents. So he’s asking me these questions when he gets to the section on pysical/mental/emotional abuse. It’s at this point I’m debating whether or not I want to tell him the truth or just get him to skim past this. I decided that the truth would work to my benefit as it was part of why I landed there in the first place. So as soon as I start saying yes to some of his questions his eyes light up and he proclaims that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. WTF? He didn’t even ask me to elaborate on the situations he was asking about. He just went on and on about PTSD, cutting me off when I tried to elaborate, and got way to excited about my potential mental disorder. It was clear that PTSD was his pet subject. So while I have technically had a diagnosis of PTSD, I don’t believe it. It makes me wonder how accurate some diagnoses are too. People are human and therefore subject to their own biases.
And while I might fit the technical criteria for PTSD, the incidents that made him jump to this conclusion had less lasting traumatic effect on me than did a really bad car accident I was in while I was at university (years after my BPD emerged).
So let’s take a look at what PTSD is (and how I potentially fit the criteria):
Causes – Psychological trauma:
“PTSD is believed to be caused by either physical trauma or psychological trauma, or more frequently a combination of both. PTSD is more likely to be caused by physical or psychological trauma caused by humans such as rape, war, or terrorist attack than trauma caused by natural disasters. Possible sources of trauma include experiencing or witnessing childhood or adult physical, emotional or sexual abuse. In addition, experiencing or witnessing an event perceived as life-threatening such as physical assault, adult experiences of sexual assault, accidents, drug addiction, illnesses, medical complications, or employment in occupations exposed to war (such as soldiers) or disaster (such as emergency service workers).  Traumatic events that may cause PTSD symptoms to develop include violent assault, kidnapping, sexual assault, torture, being a hostage, prisoner of war or concentration camp victim, experiencing a disaster, violent automobile accidents or getting a diagnosis of a life-threatening illness. Children or adults may develop PTSD symptoms by experiencing bullying or mobbing. Preliminary research suggests that child abuse may interact with mutations in a stress-related gene to increase the risk of PTSD in adults.”
Criteria:
The diagnostic criteria for PTSD, stipulated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV (Text Revision) (DSM-IV-TR), may be summarized as.
A: Exposure to a traumatic event
– This must have involved both (a) loss of “physical integrity”, or risk of serious injury or death, to self or others, and (b) a response to the event that involved intense fear, horror or helplessness (an event was “outside the range of usual human experience.”).
Yep. Definitely had a few such instances involving abuse and a particularly bad car accident.
B: Persistent re-experiencing
– One or more of these must be present in the victim: flashback memories, recurring distressing dreams, subjective re-experiencing of the traumatic event(s), or intense negative psychological or physiological response to any objective or subjective reminder of the traumatic event(s).
You be the judge. I often have distressing dreams but they’re no longer terrorizing. Intense negative responses: If you consider an inability to let most guys touch me without utter revulsion, freaking out and regretting any instance where it occurs outside of my comfort zone, constantly disavowing any intimate male companionship (this never sticks) and quickly second guessing, overanalyzing their motives… or… when I’m a passenger in someone else’s vehicle I often have knee jerk reactions with braking too hard, or getting to close to other vehicles. This causes me to pull back, hard knees to chest, my heart rate to speed up, grabbing onto the ‘oh shit’ handle and my breath catching in my throat. I prefer to drive.
C: Persistent avoidance and emotional numbing
This involves a sufficient level of:
– avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, such as certain thoughts or feelings, or talking about the event(s);
– avoidance of behaviors, places, or people that might lead to distressing memories;
inability to recall major parts of the trauma(s), or decreased involvement in significant life activities;
– decreased capacity (down to complete inability) to feel certain feelings;
– an expectation that one’s future will be somehow constrained in ways not normal to other people.
Heh. After some such events I severed contact with certain people, wanting nothing to do with them or those that are involved with them. Avoiding situations where I might even have the possibility of running into them. Not places that I was sure they would be (though of course I won’t go there) but places they might be, where there is even a small chance of it. After one incident in my early 20’s I completely repressed events, only recalling it years later after I found a journal that I had written immediately after and then completely forgot about. I still only have flashes of this, not a full recollection. Decreased capacity to feel certain feelings. ::smirk:: I often have a complete inability to feel feelings at all. This problem is what lead to the diagnosis of my Dissociative Disorder. When I have extreme stress, loss, and/or conflict I depersonalize and derealize from my life and even my own body. I do absolutely expect that my future will be constrained. My present is currently constrained in ways not normal to other people. I have a Borderline Personality Disorder. I’m pretty sure, by definition, this qualifies for ways not normal to other people.  I believe this has more to do with my depression than any traumatic experience that I suffered after this problem began.
D: Persistent symptoms of increased arousal not present before
-These are all physiological response issues, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, or problems with anger, concentration, or hyper vigilance.
Long posts need more pictures
I think they need a better phrase than ‘increased arousal’. This did not immediately inspire thoughts of heightened awareness if you know what I mean. I have always had extreme difficulty with sleep. I had insomnia for years that still occasionally creeps back (last night for example – so freaking tired). Even with the prescribed medication that I’m on specifically to help me sleep I have a hard time falling asleep, staying asleep, and once I wake up, calming my brain down enough to return to sleep.  Anger, hah, see this post. My therapist just brought up my sense of hyper vigilance yesterday as a form of self protection. All of these things, however, were a problem well before any real trauma that I suffered and were not the result of bad experiences that I can recall. I imagine that some of the experiences I’ve had since the onset of this most likely exacerbated the problem.  
E: Duration of symptoms for more than 1 month
– If all other criteria are present, but 30 days have not elapsed, the individual is diagnosed with Acute stress disorder.
How about years? Does years count? Acute stress disorder seems more accurate to me though.  Don’t ask me why. Maybe I just don’t want to have PTSD too.
F: Significant impairment
– The symptoms reported must lead to “clinically significant distress or impairment” of major domains of life activity, such as social relations, occupational activities, or other “important areas of functioning”.
– I’ve had significant distress and impairment in social relations since I was 12 years old. This was at the onset of my clinical depression and anxiety disorder. Both precursors to my BPD. By this point my abandonment issues were also in full swing. But, again, not due to an experiences that could be considered very traumatic. I think it has more do to with a predisposition to feel things in a way that is not normal to most – BPD.
So yeah, after this very long personal assessment, I am still not a psychologist or psychiatrist and am therefore not qualified to diagnosis myself. Thoughts?
Abuse is very common in the lives of people with BPD. It is often one of the root environmental contributors to the emergence of the borderline disorder. I do not have any doubt that many people with BPD also suffer from PTSD. Recognizing this is very important for treatment because it helps understand some of the underlying factors that need to be worked through and healed.
I do wonder if PTSD leads to BPD, or if being predisposed to BPD leads to an increased sensitivity to situations that feel traumatic but would not normally be considered a traumatic event required to define PTSD.  Then again, if something feels a certain way, a situation is perceived a certain way, doesn’t that make it reality for the person experiencing it? Therefore the event occurring is in fact something very traumatic.
I don’t know.  Most likely it is a co-morbid issue building and feeding off of each other.