Off with Her Head! – Punitiveness

Despite the hiccups of last night I will not be deterred from finishing this last schema. Yay the last one! Going through each one of these has definitely given me a lot of insight into the method behind my madness. I hope you’ve taken something away from it as well. Now. Onto the last (very appropriate) schema!
Typical Presentation of the Schema
These people believe that people – including themselves – should be harshly punished for their mistakes. They present as moralistic and intolerant, and find it extremely difficult to forgive mistakes in other people or in themselves. They believe that, rather than forgiveness, people who make mistakes deserve punishment. No excuses are permitted. People with this schema display an unwillingness to consider extenuating circumstances. They do not allow for human imperfection, and they have difficulty feeling any empathy whatsoever for a person who does something they view as bad or wrong. These people lack the quality of mercy.
This schema is a HUGE problem for me. However for me it is almost entirely self-directed. I forgive and allow for “imperfections” and mistakes in everyone around me…. But not for myself. Not ever. I have no mercy on myself. I absolutely allow for extenuating circumstances for others. After all, no one can control everything! Except I should have somehow foreseen these things and made contingencies in the eventuality that something went wrong. I allow for other peoples mistakes because I’m afraid of losing them. If I’m kind and understanding they won’t feel bad and need to leave me. I know I’m not going anywhere though. And if I don’t do things right, I won’t be good enough, worth enough, and that might be enough to make someone not want to stay. So I have to push myself. Sometimes that push needs to be more of a shove.  
Ok, one addendum. I can reach a snapping point with other people too (I mean obviously). Even I have my limits. When Evil-Ex would pull his manipulative, abusive bullshit I reached a point where I could no longer forgive him, and frankly, believed he deserved to be strung up by the balls. I don’t think this is undeserved though. It takes an extraordinarily long time for me to reach this point. I absorb a lot. Once I have though, the split is pretty complete and I have no more tolerance for anything they do at all.
The best way to detect this schema is by the punitive, blaming tone of voice these people use when someone has made a mistake, whether they are speaking about other people or about themselves. The origin of this punitive tone of voice is almost always a blaming parent who spoke in the same tone of voice. The tone conveys the implacable necessity of exacting punishment. It is the voice of the “fire and brimstone” preacher: heartless, cold, and contemptuous. It lacks softness and compassion. It is a voice that will not be satisfied until the wrongdoer has been punished. There is also the sense that the penalty the person wants to exact is too sever – that the punishment is greater than the crime. Like the Red Queen (Gah! This is wrong! The Red Queen and The Queen of Hearts are two different characters! It’s the Queen of Hearts that shouts this!) in Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, shouting, “Off with his head!” for every minor infraction, the schema is undiscriminating and extreme.
My father would yell at me all the time ‘Girl! Watch that sharp tongue of yours’. He would tell me on an almost daily basis that my tone of voice was harsh and negative. I worked to successfully change this, but when I’m angry it slips right back into place.
Punitiveness is often linked to other schemas, especially Unrelenting Standards and Defectiveness. When patients have unrelenting standards and punish themselves for not meeting them, as opposed to simply feeling imperfect, they have both the Unrelenting Standards and Punitiveness schemas. When they feel defective and punish themselves for it, as opposed to simply feeling depressed or inadequate, they have both the Defectiveness and Punitiveness schemas. Most people with Borderline Personality Disorder have both Defectiveness and Punitiveness schemas: They feel bad whenever the feel defective, and they want to punish themselves for being bad. They have internalized their Punitive Parent as a mode, and they punish themselves for being defective, just as the parent used to punish them: They yell at themselves, cut themselves, starve themselves, or otherwise mete out punishment.
Trifecta! I have all three. Tell her what she’s won Johnny! Well Miss Haven, you’ve won a faaaaaabulous vacation to the depths of your own inner most hell … and because we like you so much we’ll throw in this box of razor blades as an added bonus!
Hey, at least I have a sense of humor.
Punishment. Punish myself. I feel the need to punish myself ALL the time. I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons I cut and burn is because I feel like I have failed at something I believe I need to do. Or to keep me on track so that I don’t slip. I also cut because I believe I am a bad person and deserve to be punished. It is also motivation to be better. I berate myself, {used to} cut, starve, deny myself pleasurable activities, seclude myself from the supports I need, and I’m sure a number of other things that I just don’t have the mental capacity to recall at the moment.
Last night was the first time in a very long time that I had a nearly undeniable urge to cut (I didn’t. I restrained myself and didn’t give in to the impulse < — see,  progress). I should have known better than to let another guy into my life. Every time I tell myself I won’t allow it, won’t get close… and every time I forget. At least it’s not as bad this time. I haven’t let him get very close, and I’m not too attached yet. Believe it or not I still have a lot of distance between him and my heart. Everything just feels amplified with BPD. Sometimes a harsh reminder (read: punishment) is enough to keep that lesson clearly etched into my skin brain.
Goals of Treatment
The fundamental goal is to help people become less punitive and more forgiving, toward both themselves and others. To start it is important to learn that most of time there is little value in punishing people. Punishment is not an effective way to change behavior, particularly when compared to other methods, such as rewarding good behavior or modeling.
Each time a person expresses the desire to punish someone, it’s important to ask these questions:
“Were the person’s intentions good or bad? If the person’s intentions were good, doesn’t that count for something? Doesn’t the person deserve some forgiveness? If the person’s intentions were good, then how will punishment help? Isn’t the person likely to repeat the behavior when you’re not there to see? Even if the person behaves better next time, isn’t the cost too high? The punishment will have undermined the relationship and the person’s self-esteem. Is that what you want?” These questions guide people to discover that punishment is not the most beneficial approach.
People work toward building empathy and forgiveness for human beings in all their frailty and imperfection. They learn to consider extenuating circumstances and to have a balanced response when someone makes an error or fails to meet their expectations.
Ok, I have my abandonment fears theory. Why is it SO much harder to forgive myself than it is to forgive someone else? I’ve taken so much abuse from other people; you’d think the one person I could expect a little sympathy from would be myself.
Strategies Emphasized in Treatment
Cognitive strategies are important in building people’s motivation to change. The main strategy is educational: People explore the advantages and disadvantages of punishment versus forgiveness. They list both the consequences of punishing a person (or themselves) and of being more forgiving and encouraging the person to reflect on the behavior. Exploring the advantages and disadvantages helps the person accept intellectually that punishment is not an effective way to deal with mistakes. Becoming convinced on a cognitive level that the cost of the schema is greater than the benefit can help strengthen the persons resolve to battle the schema.
Because the schema is almost always the internalization of a parent’s Punitiveness schema, much experiential work focuses on externalizing and fighting the Punitive Parent mode. In imagery, people picture the parent talking to them in the punitive tone of voice. They talk back to the parent, saying, “I’m not going to list to you anymore. I’m not going to believe you anymore. You’re wrong, and you’re not good for me.” Doing imagery work with the Punitive Parent gives a person a way to distance from the schema and to make it feel less ego-syntonic. Rather than hearing the punitive voice of the schema as their own voice, they hear it as their parent’s voice. People can say to themselves: “This is not my voice that is punishing me; this is my parent’s voice. Punishment wasn’t healthy for me in childhood, and I’m not going to punish other people (or myself) anymore, especially the people I love.”
My problem here is, I don’t remember my parents yelling much at all; at least not until I was in middle school and high school. Then we SCREAMED at each other almost every day. My self-punishment started well before this. But when I was younger I just can’t recall. I don’t have a lot of memories from that age though so maybe. I do remember being spanked as a kid every now and again, but that was pretty rare and only for the bigger transgressions. I don’t think that would be enough to spark this. Then again, I can’t say either way.
The aim of behavioral strategies is to practice more forgiving responses in situations where people have urges to blame themselves or others. By practicing this they can compare whether the consequences match their dire predictions.
I don’t know how to forgive myself. I always feel like it’s my fault if something goes wrong because I put myself in that position. If a bad thing happens I have no one to blame but myself (even if it was someone else that hurt me < — I know this is faulty logic). I’m not even sure I see the point of forgiving myself. Will that help me make better decisions in the future? No. It would just feel like I’m not taking responsibility for my actions.
Special Problems with This Schema
This can be a difficult schema to change, particularly when it is combined with the Defectiveness schema. The person’s sense of moral indignation and injustice can be very inflexible. Maintaining the person’s motivation to change is the key to treatment. It’s important to stay focused on the costs and the benefits of the schema in terms of improved self-esteem and more harmonious interpersonal relationships.
My inner monologue is a capital B-I-T-C-H. < —- This is the more polite word I was thinking of actually. As bad as some people believe Borderlines are to others, that’s nothing compared to how bad we can be to ourselves. The way I treat myself is magnitudes worse than how I treat anyone else.

Lucid Analysis – Trials in Therapy

This has been a week of health stuff.
Found a real doctor this week. No I haven’t been sick, but I haven’t had a primary care physician in a very long time so I figured it was about time to get one. He was very nice and seemed really on the ball. Something odd I’ve noticed about myself… the only time I am ever self-conscious about my scars is when I go to the doctors. Whenever the nurse reaches for my arms to take my blood pressure I can almost see her biting her tongue as her eyes run over the deeply pronounced white lines running up and down my arms. As I’ve mentioned before… I don’t hide my scars, they’re a symbol that I’m still alive, that I made it through a very rough time for me. I don’t purposely wear long sleeves or lots of bracelets so I often forget that medical professionals will actually take a look at me and pass some kind of judgment. At the same time when my new Doctor actually asked me, “Are those scars self-inflicted” I was a little impressed. Most people avoid it. Of course I answered truthfully, yes they are. All he said after that was, “Do you have someone you can talk to about anxiety and stress?” “Yes, I have a therapist.” He seemed satisfied with that.
Yesterday was Psychiatrist and Therapist day.
Psychiatrist extended my leash to two months! When I first started going it was every two weeks, then  fluxuating between every two weeks and every month. It’s been once a month now for a while. Yesterday she asked me if she thought I would be ok going two months and instead of coming into the office for my Rx, she’d give me a refill. Progress! Seriously, Pristiq has been nothing short of a miracle drug for me. Nothing, nothing, has helped me out the way this has. No side effects, and my baseline mood has been Okay! Not Depressed, not even mildly Depressed, but Okay, even Good some days. This, in and of itself, is extraordinary for me.  
This is especially great for my productivity at work. I’ve accomplished enormous amounts of work and the fast pace, high stress doesn’t seem to be getting to me at all.
Therapist has really noticed the improvement in my mood as well and she’s quite proud of me.
Though she is noticing that I am avoiding my feelings and avoiding thinking about the future. At this point I really feel like I’m just living day to day. I don’t see the future for myself. I don’t know where it’s going to go. I have no goals, no expectations, no path… except to keep on doing what I’m doing. One day at a time.  
She’s concerned that I’m not putting any thought into what I want out of my relationship with Tech Boy. I mean, first off, it’s a little early to call it a relationship. It’s definitely too early to think about whether I see a future with him. Putting that kind of pressure on it takes out the fire. I just want to feel. I like playing house but do I think he can really handle who I am? If I’m honest, we’re very different people. We’re both engineers, both very athletic, like the outdoors, scary movies, and cooking (and he’ll eat just about anything which is a total bonus in my book), but he doesn’t read, is more into parties and drinking, hunting/fishing, paintball, electronics… yanno, real guy stuff. He doesn’t satisfy that artistic creativity and mystical spirituality that I adore. The element of fantasy that I like to lose myself in. These are things that I really bonded with Friend over. However, where Friend was too soft and I wish he’d be more aggressive, Tech Boy seems to have a more natural aggression which I enjoy. Hell, Lady Friend had the art, the spirituality, the intelligence but a complete lack of aggression and I couldn’t keep hold my interest. Is it all a trade off? In the end do some things not mean as much as you think? This is why I can’t really think about a future… I come up with lists and ruminations of all the things I want and compare and contrast and is this right and will I miss that if he doesn’t have it or what if I decide that there is a thing, something I really do want, that he doesn’t encompass, but we’ve already gotten so involved that I can’t just end it and it’s too late. I’ll have hurt him and driven myself crazy in the process of obsessing about how things should be but in reality never actually are. Bloody hell, I’m going to do this anyways, but I’d like to at least enjoy the ride for a bit first. Is that too much to ask?  
Therapist kept talking about making sure to take it slow and really get to know each other. Asking if he’s respectful and this and that. Then she said, “You’ll set appropriate boundaries though right? You’re good at that, right?” I actually laughed, “No.” I may have a massive amount of internal conflict when it comes to being physically intimate with men, but it doesn’t stop me. I have an uncanny ability to ignore what is best for myself and do what feels good in the moment. Especially as I know I will use physical intimacy as a means to avoid emotional intimacy. If I can distract someone with my body they won’t think to get close enough to actually see me. Keep their eye focused on the superficial and they won’t see all the damage buried below the surface. They won’t see what’s bad in me. Sometimes it’s just easier to have sex than it is to talk about things I’m not sure I want to talk about.
I’ve been avoiding writing my letter to Friend too. Honestly I haven’t done this at all. I don’t want to. I don’t want to think about how I feel about him. I don’t want to feel anything about him. I don’t want to bring those feelings back to the surface because frankly, it still pisses me off. I’m still angry at him, I still have a lot of resentment towards him, a lot of disgust and hatred towards his wife. How they handled everything with me was incredibly selfish and insensitive. I was good enough to shoulder all their problems, be there to take care of them, be his sole support system, but when all was said and done, they completely tossed my feelings aside and changed things so abruptly it was like running into an emotional wrecking ball. And I was expected to just accept it and move on.  Because, yanno, that’s how I roll. Wrong. Grr. Ok, clearly I have a lot of feelings on the subject, but still. Therapist thinks I should tell him! She thinks I should write this letter and actually express these feelings to him! Is she kidding? No, I’m not going to do that. I’m not letting him that close to me again. He doesn’t get that kind of emotional ammunition anymore. He decided he didn’t care about me enough so he’s not privy to the more vulnerable places I have. Therapist thinks that if he was really as good of a friend as I think then he’d be able to handle it and acknowledge how I feel. Yeah? And what if he doesn’t. What if all he has to say is too bad, it was fun while it lasted but you were alone there? I can’t handle hearing that. Close, but not too close, and that would definitely be too close.
Still she thinks my ability to remain friends with him, has been good for me in many ways. While at the same time it has probably extended my grieving period because I see him so frequently and he talks to me every day. It’s important that it didn’t just end. So many of my relationships just stop (or explode) and I never speak to that person ever again. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not, but it’s pretty typical. That I am able to continue working through my feelings and issues with him and remain friends with him allows me to face my pain on some levels and forces me to deal.
She’s also still concerned about my throwing up. I was doing really well with no bulimic instances for a bit, but then I did on Sunday after Tech Boy left and again Wednesday night. I was really lonely and I just needed something to do to fill the space. She thinks I’m doing this as a way to avoid dealing with the emotional emptiness I’m feeling from the loss of prior relationships. It’s a theory. Instead of dealing directly I’m trying to fill the void in other ways. Maybe, maybe not. I just don’t want to get fat. I don’t want my flaws to be visible.
Therapist set some Homework assignments for me and for the life of me I can’t remember what they are. I need to start writing in my journal every day again. She definitely wants me to write this letter to Friend – which btw, I will NOT be reading to him. It was something about Friend, something… GAH I can’t remember. I hate that. I’ll have to call her. Ugh.
Ok, that’s it for now.

Go to your room. You’re Grounded! – Dysfunctional Parent Modes

Rotten, right to the core. You don’t deserve to have this. You’ll never be good enough. If you weren’t so worthless you could do that. If you weren’t so dirty I might love you. You deserve to hurt for what you did (didn’t do), bleed for that, cut for that, so next time you remember to be better.
Hello. Meet the Dysfunctional Parent mode.
This mode fucking sucks.
Dysfunctional parent modes are internalizatinos of parent figures in a person’s early life. When someone is in the Dysfunctional Parent mode, they become their own parent and treat themselves as the parent treated them when they were younger. They often take on the voice of that person in their ‘self-talk’.
There are two common types: the Punitive Parent and the Demanding Parent.
Punitive Parent
The Punitive Parent angrily punishes, criticizes, or restricts the child for expressing needs or making mistakes. The most common associated schemas are Punitiveness and Defectivenss. This is especially prominent in patients with Borderline Personality Disorder or severe depression. Patients with BPD have a Punitive Parent mode where they become their own abusive parent and punish themselves. “I’m bad, I’m evil, I deserve to be punished”… and as a result may cut or self-harm.
The function of this mode is to punish the person for doing something “wrong”, such as expressing needs or feelings. The mode is an internalization of the parent figures rage, hatred, loathing, abuse, or subjugation of the person early in life. Signs that you’ve slipped into the Punitive Parent mode are things like, self-loathing, self-criticism, self-denial, self-mutilation, suicidal fantasies, and self-destructive behavior. In this mode all you hear is that angry, punishing voice that rejects the good and shines a spotlight on the bad. You might become angry at yourself for having or showing normal needs that your parent didn’t allow you to express.
Demanding Parent
The Demanding Parent pressures the child to achieve unrealistically high parental expectations. The person feels the “right” way to be is to be perfect and the “wrong” way to be is fallible or spontaneous. This is often associated with Unrelenting Standards and Self-Sacrifice schemas. When someone falls into this mode they shift into a mindset where they set high standards for themselves and drive themselves to meet them. The Demanding Parent mode isn’t necessarily Punitive though. The Demanding Parent expects a lot but may not blame or punish. Most frequently, the child recognizes the parent’s disappointment and feels ashamed.
Many people have a combined Punitive and Demanding Parent mode, in which they both set high standards for themselves and punish themselves when they fail to meet them.
That would be me.
I’m so familiar with this dysfunctional parent mode it’s almost tragic. I definitely speak to myself in a harsh, punitive manner, but I’ve found that I’m primarily mired in a state of Defectiveness. Feeling defective is my default setting and being punitive is how I try to ‘correct’ my defectiveness. I have a very strict idea of what and who I should be. I often feel the need to punish myself when I feel like I’ve failed at something I’ve set out to do, or I need something that I don’t know if I have a right to need, or I can’t stop feeling some way that I wish I didn’t feel. This was one of the primary reasons I would cut and burn myself. I talked about this as a reason I would cut months ago.  It’s a little bizarre to see myself, my thoughts and patterns, reflected in the reading and research that I’ve been doing. It’s also kind of reassuring to know that there’s been a lot of effort put in to understanding where these thoughts and actions come from.
I have to say though, while my father was often very critical, he was never cruel or harsh. He may have been insensitive to the emotions needs of his first female child, but he was in no way abusive and I know he loved me a lot.  Demanding, not Punitive. I truly believe that there is something in my inborn temperament that made me particularly susceptible to his criticisms. My earliest memory of him was a constructive criticism (a drawing I did when I was 3 years old) and so many of what memories I have are of him pushing, guiding, teaching us to be better at whatever activity or pursuit we were participating in. In fact, until my BPD and depression really started presenting when I was 12/13 years old, I rarely remember him being angry at all except for the occasional spanking when I did something really objectionable. Of course, once I started acting out, I ACTED OUT, and the screaming fights between us were epic. Still, he never hit me. I pushed and pushed and while he got monumentally pissed at me, he never stopped loving me. I wonder if this isn’t some subconscious standard I have for a partner. If I can be a monster and they still stay, maybe that ‘proves’ that they really love me and won’t leave? No need to tell me how ass backwards this kind of logic is.

To Write Love On Her Arms

I promise

Week of Reflection. Since I’m feeling inspirational today I wanted to talk about one of my favorite non-profit organizations. I donate to a wide variety of charitable organizations, mostly environmental and wildlife. This is one of the only people centered organizations I give to. Why this one?
To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.
The vision is that we actually believe these things…
You were created to love and be loved.  You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story.  You need to know that your life matters.
We live in a difficult world, a broken world.  We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments.  You need to know that you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck. 
We all wake to the human condition.  We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss.   We know that pain is very real.  It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real. 
You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible. We’re seeing lives change as people get the help they need.  People sitting across from a counselor for the first time.  People stepping into treatment.  In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline.  We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take.  We want to say here that it’s worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it’s possible to change. 
Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone. 
The vision is that community and hope and help would replace secrets and silence.  
The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in America and around the world.
The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends, and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.
The vision is better endings.  The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love. The vision is people breaking cycles, making change.  
The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.  
The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.  
The vision is hope, and hope is real.
You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.
That’s straight from their Vision on the site. They have some great Facts about Depression, Addiction, Self-Injury, and Suicide as well.
Every year they have a collection of days where they make a request that everyone actually write Love on their arms. Once, twice, as many times as you want. The point is so that people will see it and ask why you have Love written all over. People send pictures of their expression to the site, post them on their social networks, text them to friends, and spread the word.  I think this ‘event’ has passed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still do it whenever you want. It’s a good thing to share, a good message to send. I wanted to let you know.  
I never cover my scars with this, but I write it between them, above them, around them, over and under my family tattoo. It’s silly but I love it.
It should be pretty obvious why I relate to this particular organization, having struggled with and continuing to fight, against all of these issues. While a lot of what I write in this blog is about how tumultuous and sad/angry/hurt I often feel. About the facts, statistics, and issues of Borderline Personality Disorder… My goal is to educate. To understand the label of BPD and see past it, to see the person Beyond the Borderline Personality. In knowledge comes understanding. In understanding comes hope. With hope there is the possibility for a better life. A life worth living.

3 Months Clean

Milestone-ish. Well, maybe not a milestone, but something worth noting. 
I’ve been self-mutilating thought free for about 3 months! Hah. I never say ‘self-mutilating’ because in my head this automatically transposes to self-mutating and then I have the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme song running through my head.
I haven’t cut myself [purposefully] since October/November… sometime around then. Before that, not since April. I often have very long periods between episodes since I’ve gotten older. While I may not actually harm myself, the thoughts are still there. Persistent, in the back of my head, whispering, poking, prodding, any time I feel off or see something sharp. Which is every day. Every day I have these thoughts. I’ve never been without them. Not since I was very young.
I noticed about a month ago, that something was missing. How do you notice an absence of something? You don’t. At least not right away. I just woke up one day, someone mentioned something, and I had one of those ‘Huh, well that’s weird’ moments, but good weird. Realization.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it is for me. I don’t expect that I’ll never have thoughts of harming myself again. It’s kind of like that best friend you’ve had since childhood that you just want to punch every time you see him because you annoy the crap out of each other but you still end up playing together because he’s familiar. Maybe my friend went off to boarding school for a semester. I’m not sad to see him go. Also, why I decided my injurious behavior is male, I don’t know….. and now that I’ve thought about that for three seconds. Anyways.
The last scars I inflicted on myself (5 months ago?) are still very discolored, raised and noticeable. I don’t mind, not really. As mentioned previously I make no effort hide my scars. They’re kind of like any other body-mod to me. But there are mentally healthier ways to modify your skin.
So Yay me!  It really is a good thing.

Rescue me: Conceptions of Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 2

I’ve talked about self-destructive behavior before but not from a damsel in distress sort of perspective. John G. Gunderson’s next conception of BPD is: 

– Repetitive self-destructive behavior, often designed to prompt rescue:  

Self destructive behavior is always an indicator that 
something is wrong. What exactly is wrong is sometimes impossible to pin point. There may be no rational idea of what it is, only a feeling that something isn’t right, necessary, and not there. When you can’t identify the cause in yourself, it’s a natural extension to look outward, to someone else for ‘answers’. When you can’t help yourself, maybe someone else can. Now, I will say that a lot of people that embrace self-destructive/masochistic behaviors may not be looking for rescue or help. It is an indicator that there is something wrong but many people that display such tendencies keep these hidden. I’ve fluxuated though I tend to keep it hidden.

For those that don’t make an attempt to hide these behaviors, they are very often a cry for help. When you have no idea what is causing such empty, hollow, toxic feelings it’s like your mind has been dropped into a pit of despair with no way to claw yourself out. This might be a foundation for why people with BPD latch on so tightly to those close to them. Look to them for help to pull themselves up. Or to be their savior and pull them out of the dark completely.  Talking through problems is normal, but someone with BPD doesn’t feel things normally. Feelings are intense, often brutal, needing release /right now/, causing the person to act out in ways that will gain them attention. Attention that will make people notice /right now/. Act, right now. Attention from someone that will care for them, care for them enough to stop them, to protect them from themselves and the emptiness or hurt that is so pervasive. Rescue them from themselves. 

In general and especially when I was in college I kept my self destructive behavior completely hidden. I didn’t want help. I didn’t want to let anyone in. I didn’t want anyone to know I was in pain. I didn’t want anyone to know I was vulnerable. It was my way of coping, reminding myself that I was still alive, connected to the world when I had no one to lean on.

It’s incredibly embarrassing for me to admit that I have ever done this with the intention of gaining someone’s attention. In high school I did this more times than I care to admit (though not as much as I could have), but only with one specific person.  Be it a cry to help stop my eating disorder or threats of suicide, I needed to know someone cared. Someone that I wanted so badly to care for me, to care. Oddly when I was cutting or burning I rarely let anyone know and hid this as best I could.

Evil-ex would spin me out of control so bad that I would have complete nervous breakdowns, destroyed by the shear levels of anxiety and inability to maintain my own sanity. I needed to remember that I was connected to something. Instead of cutting I would beg him to take my knives away and keep them from me. This got his attention but also contempt. I never got the care or support I so desperately needed. Eventually I no longer needed to injure myself. Dating him, living with him, was more painful than anything I could do to myself.
The few times Boring-ex and I broke up were the only times I got emotional with him at all. I couldn’t stand being with him most of the time. But I was frantic at the thought of losing someone else once I had ended it. The last time we broke up was actually a shock to me and I acted out without thinking, made a veiled threat of suicide… he needed to know how badly he had hurt me. I needed him to remember I wasn’t someone he could throw away. Wanted him to take back what he’d said and want to take care of me. (This was immediately after we broke up so of course I wanted him back). While I did injure myself, I didn’t actually have any intention of killing myself, but he didn’t know that. This got the cops called on me and a trip to the psychiatric ER. Fail.  
The only commonality between these incidents; none of them have ever gained me the outcome I’d hoped for. Never once, did I get the kind of love, protection, or caring that I wanted. Utterly ineffective and only resulted in more pain and drama for everyone involved.

Considering I have an 18 year history of self-harm the times I’ve done it with the desire to have someone care for me are relatively rare. Except in my most turbulent periods, generally I’ve never believed in anyone enough to rely on someone to rescue me.  I have to rescue myself. Everyone else just let’s me down.
I’ve also come to the realization that this is a terrible way to get attention. While yes, in the short term it may inspire immediate reaction and attention, once the initial shock is over, it often inspires fear, disgust, and the people you want to be closer to push away. Most people can’t handle, or don’t want to be the rescuer. Regardless of how much you may want someone to rescue you, someone else will not see it this way. Having such a big responsibility thrown at them is scary and may cause them to draw away in order to avoid the drama and frustration of dealing with someone that is incapable of dealing with themselves. Your average person also isn’t equipped mentally or emotionally to handle such situations. Going to someone you care about, telling them that you need help and support to get professional help is a much wiser course of action that will be much healthier in the long run.  

Pulling the trigger

Unfortunately I have a lot of these.
– Being alone when I need friends (specific friends) – my loneliness is the worst trigger I have.
– My best friend not texting or IMing back – feeling ignored, abandoned, automatically thinking I’d done something wrong that caused this lack of attention.
– Seeing women that I wish I looked like.
– A friend sending me artistic nudes – reminding me of how I used to look or thinking that since I don’t look that way I am not good enough in his eyes.
– Seeing highly stylized clothing that I love but can’t yet pull off.  
– Going over my calorie count for the day – loss of self imposed control .
– Clothes not fitting right – remind of control lost.
– Not getting enough sleep.
(I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting)
– Finding something from friends lost. Thoughts/situations that remind me of them…  
Causes me to drink. Causes me to eat more. Causes me to obsess about my weight. Causes me to indulge my bulimia (purging and exercise). Causes me to feel like I have failed myself. Lost control of the structure I’ve imposed on myself to fix my body image. Making me so self conscious of my mistake that I can’t bear to let anyone else see me. Compounding my loneliness. Restarting the cycle. Once I’ve lost control for the night, it feels like the entire day has been ruined. That there is no point continuing to try. I might as well continue to indulge the spiral. Spinning down into the dark recesses of my mind. A black hole of cyclic thinking. Nothing solid to hold onto to pull myself back from the horizon of events about to unfold. Sucking me into a vortex from which there is no escape.
I drink to escape my own mind. I want it to dull the racing that pushes me towards the edge faster. I’ve begun to realize that this has exactly the opposite effect. It may slow my thoughts, but it doesn’t change their nature. Knowing this, I’ve been able to suffer this less often. I look to more healthy means of escapism (discuss more here) to distract myself.
I don’t weigh myself everyday or almost ever. I can’t bear the thought of the scale. I measure my waist. I go by how my clothes fit. If they don’t give me what I want to see, I obsess. Every time I renew my promises to work on it. My dedication is restored, but in the mean time, I am more depressed because I’ve let my goal slip from my grasp. I work on it, but everything seems hopeless. Failure.
I have the unfortunate tendency to see myself as either all good, or all bad. If I maintain my structure for the day I have done well. I am good. If I’ve slipped off the path I want to travel I feel worthless. Lost my control. I don’t even have the strength to get through one more day on track. I am bad. I am either white or I am black. There are no shades of grey when it comes to myself. This something my therapist has me working on. I remind myself that one day does not destroy the progress that I’ve made.
I’ve learned to look at every day as a new opportunity. One day does not determine the rest of my life. Does not end my world. I may not have been exactly what I wanted the day before. I may have messed up, but the next day is a new chance. I remind myself that if something is really important to me, I have to work on it. I have to put in real effort. There is no immediate gratification when I am trying to change my lifestyle. For as much as I want change right now I need to remind myself that some things take time, but as long as I am willing to push myself, I will reach my goals. There’s always another opportunity to reaffirm what I want for myself, and to work towards it.  
It also helps me to set longer term goals, giving me something to aim for. This allows me some room to be more flexible, to be less rigid in my thinking. Less black and white.
– Seeing bloody images.
– Friends complaining about tiny injuries.
– Beautiful scars.
– Needing attention – Being so alone, removed from the world, that I can’t/won’t be out with friends.
I also have a tendency to punish myself. To remind me that what I did was not acceptable. Traditionally this has manifested as self harm or damaging thoughts. Over the last few months though these thoughts have disappeared. Self harm is almost always on my mind even though I very rarely act on it. My control has gotten very good and I only act on it maybe a couple times a year. But the thoughts are always there at the back of my mind. Until a couple months ago. That I haven’t had these thoughts, is something new, something good. I didn’t even realize that they were missing until yesterday. I felt I messed up, but instead of wanting to punish myself I reminded myself that I could start again in the morning. That this one incident wasn’t a permanent mark. At least, not as long as I didn’t leave one (I mean this figuratively as much as literally). I still feel like yesterday was an all bad day for me, but I have hope that today will be better. That I can have the will power to set me back where I want to be.  There are still days I’m so lonely and really need friends, but the other three no longer seem to hold any power of me. That’s an accomplishment all on its own.
If I can overcome some of the more destructive triggers I have, there’s hope that I can overcome the rest.  

Hiding Scars – Criteria 5 / Self Mutilation

 I detest that look of pity in your eyes. I do not want your attention. I do not want your sympathy. No one hates whiny emo brats cutting for attention more than people that truly know the meaning of self harm.
“…Self injury may be used to garner attention, but this is not the focus of chronic, repetitive self injury. The fact is that people who self injure make a great effort to hide their bruises and scars, and are loath to discuss their inner or outer pain. Self injurers rarely seek medical attention for their wounds, and are wary of seeking support from the mental health services. Self injury is private and personal, it is hidden from family and friends…”
I’m curious about this statement in regards to myself. When cutting/burning, I often hide the healing wound, but once it’s healed I make no attempt to hide my scars. Pushing too hard, going to deep. I often end up having heavy scars that raise up and never fade. My scars are permanent. I find them beautiful and not in any way a sense of shame. They’re more a badge of courage showing myself I had the will to brave the pain and fight. With the exception of professional situations, I also don’t divert attention from them, this doesn’t mean I deliberately try to attract attention, nor do I deny their origins, I simply wear my scars as they are another part of me.
Why don’t I hide this? What is different about me that I don’t do this?
I am also at conflict with discussing inner and outer pain. There was a time that I would flat our refuse to discuss my feelings or emotions. Only over emotional whiny girls complained about their feelings. I was tougher, stronger, didn’t show my pain. Buried it deep beneath my surface. Eventually, I would turn them off and completely disassociate from them until it was no longer possible to feel them. I would not seek anyone to talk to. I dealt with it in my own manner.
I don’t mind talking about my feelings now, however listening to myself speak it sounds ‘matter of fact’. I can discuss things, I can try to pin point the origins and causes of my feelings, hash them out with others, but it’s rare that I hear or feel any of that emotion when I discuss it. It seems a clinical analysis like a doctor discussing a patient when trying to convey what should be something very personal. I may feel something, but in discussing it, I detach, and more often then not, those feelings go away. It’s like I’m discussing how someone else feels, so logically I can’t convey emotion that someone else would feel because I wouldn’t be feeling somone else’s emotions. More than logic, I actually feel nothing. I image that from an outside perspective it makes me difficult to relate to; to talk about deep or distressing emotions but display a passively neutral, almost cold reserve. How can someone feel this way, and have no outward display or affectation? I wonder if people even believe me.
From another aspect, I may have no trouble talking about it because I’ve already had just about everything possible used against me to humiliate me, abandon me, or injure me mentally and emotionally. Fear of humiliation, rejection, etc. are primarily the reasons I imagine someone would withhold how they are feeling. Having become accustomed to this, there is little point in withholding. Especially as in a twist of defense mechanism I decided to simply take everything about me and put it out in the open myself, instead of fearing that someone else would do it.
Open, but detached.
Sometimes I wonder if I talk about how I feel for the benefit of others. People feel helpful, closer, when you let them into your inner thoughts. Trusted, relied on. There are very few people that I seek out to discuss such things. These people are those that I would trust and keep close. With others it’s easy to recognize that people like to listen and feel satisfaction when they are able to provide advice, or guidance, or their own words of wisdom. It’s amusing to see the self-satisfaction in others. These are the times I feel less than nothing about the things I talk about. I tend to become agitated or annoyed with the simplistic, simplified, prosaic, platitudes that people spit out. Maybe I’m hoping that someone will tell me something I didn’t already know; but I am generally disappointed. I become annoyed at the suggestion that I was not intelligent enough to have come up with such an obvious conclusion. Odds are, I have; many, many times for many different instances, and am too polite to tell you that your suggestions have nothing to do with my world. I also know these suggestions are not actually meant to insult my intelligence, but that little voice in the back of my head says they should know I’m smart enough to have thought of that myself.
My openness may also be a way to push people away. Not let them get close in the first place. If they see my scars maybe they’ll judge me and keep themselves at arms length relieving myself of the responsibility of maintaing the distance. Ultimately it makes it easier for me to protect my core.

Potentially protecting myself from future external emotional harm

Cut to the quick – Criteria 5 / Self Mutilating behavior

Another hallmark of the Borderline personality is Self Harm.
Criteria  5: recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats, or self-mutilating behavior.
People don’t understand cutting, self harm. It’s almost always met with expressions of repulsion or revulsion. “Only whiny emo kids need to do that for attention.” Or “Why would you hurt yourself!?!”. It creates disgust or something to look down on, fear or a scapegoat. This comes from people that have not taken the time to understand it. Once you unmask the monster, it begins to make more sense.

I stumbled upon cutting by accident. Well not completely an accident, but I didn’t know it was a thing, then. I was ready to commit suicide. Slit my wrists. I was testing the waters, to see how it felt.
I was 13.
It was then that I realized that this made me feel better, more alive. Hold to life harder. Not make me want to end it. At the time, I didn’t completely understand why, but it jolted me back to reality and grounded me. There are three primary reasons I self-injure. The first is most important so we’ll start there.
1.) To Remind me that I’m alive. 
— I look out for myself, unfortunately my subconscious is less than thrilled with me. Self harm reminds me that I am alive when I otherwise feel like I am not attached to anything. When I dissociate, I could be walking along a road, stumble in front of a car and part of my brain would think it unnecessary to jump out of the way b/c I feel so far removed from my own sense of Self.
My dissociative disorder is a way to deaden my nerves to such things as past abuse. It’s a defense mechanism against emotional trauma. Unfortunately it is not selective and now takes over during my day to day more than just for specific harmful interactions. I’m not necessarily unhappy about this. I do still connect with the rare good people I have in my life, but I often lose that feeling of connection. When I am unconnected I am left with something of a cold rationale, logic. I’ve learned to utilize my disorder to my benefit, but as a result it leaves my life a very dreary place and me numb to the world around me. Feeling nothing.
To see my blood flowing, hot and thick, reminds me that I’m alive. The sharp wounding a reminder that there is something left to feel. Extreme forms of physical sensation bring me down to earth, back into myself and I remember that I am fully alive in the now. So in a sense, my self injury is helping me look out for myself. Keep me alive. 
My Self harm counterbalances my Dissociative disorder, now. I don’t know if I’ve always had a dissociative disorder as it’s a recent diagnosis, but I do know that I’ve always felt separated, other.  
2.) Punishment, for when I believe I’ve done something wrong, or not well enough.
— I have to be perfect. Everything I do must be done right. And I do a lot of things at one time. Things are very time dependent and synced to provide the perfect outcome.
What’s funny is, I don’t actually believe in the concept of perfection. The concept of Perfection to me is also a concept of Stagnation. A point where there can be no further growth or progress.
Cutting to punish myself, helps push myself, to keep me striving to do better because what I just did was not as good as it could be.
3.) Controllable Pain.
— This may be more a result than a reason but it is worth including. It’s also a pain that can be controlled. When everything surrounding you seems to hurt (emotionally, mentally) beyond your ability to influence, cutting is a pain that is manageable. Provides control.  Welcome to an aspect of Self Harm that most people don’t understand. Self harm is a physical (outer) representation of emotional/mental (inner) pain. As the physical wounds heal, so the psyche represents the mind healing, the real inner wound heals. It’s a process I can see, touch and feel. Know that something is healing the way it should and that there is hope that other things will be able to heal as they should.  
As for my self-injury I appreciate many forms. I cut, I burn, I fight, I scratch. Fighting is probably my favorite (as in mixed martial arts, not petty arguments with people). I walk away covered head to toe in bruises. I’ve used oven racks and irons to burn. I do prefer cutting most though. I have two pocket knives of significant sentimental value. What many find surprising is I’ve never used razors. Scissors and broken mirrors I will use if I have nothing else, but never such a traditional tool as a razor.
I don’t do it so often anymore, only during times of extreme stress, but that’s still more often than most people think is healthy. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as it helps me. You can tell me it’s fucked up all you want, but I do what I need to do.
I feel strong again for enduring the trial. Having deadened the nerves to things that might otherwise hurt and filling in the cracks of my mental armor with blood and scar tissue. Sometimes I feel like I am clad in full platemail. Other times it’s like I’m walking beneath an icy sky, bare.