Shadow of my Self

Losing control of my mask.

It was a weekend. A long, long weekend. I’m including Monday in this too, even though I was technically working. I took a day trip to Chicago for my job. Up at 4:30a.m. to fly out, back by midnight flying back.

Friday I hung out with Friend. I don’t know why I was there. Usually I feel some connection. I was alone in that room. Watching movies, geeking out, I couldn’t contribute. He kept talking, I wish he wouldn’t, I couldn’t think. I had nothing to say. I found myself mindlessly agreeing with him. About nothing particularly important, but I no longer had anything to say to him. He doesn’t even feel familiar to me.
No one does. Monday, waiting for my plane I texted all the friends I should feel close to. Nothing. Empty. Hollow tubes connecting where solid ties should exist. I don’t know what to do.
Saturday I knew it would be a bad day. As soon as I got home from Friends the night before I knew I was alone. Utterly. I slept as much as I could. Forcing my sleeping drugs down my throat to not feel. Saved by an unlikely source, my tattoo artist called me and I hung out at the shop going over his design. It’s not right, not yet. I’m obsessing over it. Figuring out how to make it more my own. I’ll sit down with him again this week, but I need to do it before Saturday when I’m having it done. I’m dreaming about it, how it can go wrong. How I’ll settle to not upset him since he put so much work into it already. But this needs to be about me, not just his talent. I will live with this and I can’t let someone else   I can’t. I have to remember this. Too often I let others have too much leeway. This is one area I cannot compromise. I’ll take this for me, because it is for me.
Sunday, I hung out with another guy I’m becoming friends with. I don’t know how to discourage him from liking me in a way that is more than I can offer, more than I care to offer. I don’t want to lead him on. I’m suspicious this is the only reason he’s around. I’m unable to not question his motives. I don’t know if I’m paranoid or perceptive. Got home that night and I finally gave in. Alone in my apartment I drank, ate, binged, purged. The last thought before going to bed should not be, this is how bulimia is supposed to be.
Monday I took a day trip to Chicago for my job. Up at 4:30a.m. to fly out, back by midnight flying back.  Me and a colleague, networking with others in my industry.
I couldn’t maintain my mask. People talk about masks occasionally. That image you present to the outside world to cover up what hides inside. The shroud thrown over your true Self to blend in with the crowd. Masking the madness within. It didn’t crumble completely. The weight of being someone I’m not for so long at one time, for someone that knows nothing of me other than the professionalism I present. There was no walking away. No slipping out to slough off the pressure pulling me down.
I work alone, occasionally mingling with coworkers. I can take a break when I need to drop the façade with no one monitoring me. During the day, meeting other professionals in my field, I held up. I held up for a long time. Too long. Usually I can walk away, take some time to release the pressure building up from crushing down my core. No opportunity this day. Not even a minute for me.

 

Walking the Ring I felt myself floating away. My mind reeling in that depersonalized spiral. My surroundings surreal. Watching the wall of electronics and machinery I floated two feet to my right. Hovering heady and light. I felt too tall; disembodied.  I’ve become so used to my dissociated emotions, but I have generally felt grounded. My body my own. Not this time.
Next, visiting a manufacturer, touring the machine shop my vision blurred. I viewed everything through a foggy lens that wouldn’t rub from my glasses. I love machine shops, the noise, the smell, the rush of productivity… too much, too much for me that day. I couldn’t focus my thoughts; I couldn’t tune my attention to what was being told to me.  I relied too much on my colleague to keep up the conversation. Interjecting only when I knew I needed to.
By the time we got back to the airport I could no longer project the professionalism. Not an emotional crumble, but too personal. Talk of school, spending my time alone, geekery, movies, forgetting to watch my pronouns, I felt like I was lying when I mentioned past boyfriends knowing that this was not my preference; knowing I did this only to redirect attention from a part of me I’ve embraced. I’m not used to repressing parts of me that I am believe in. Hiding in a closet has never been my way; however I never spend time socially with colleagues making it easy for me to never mention it. Professional is not personal, and my personal has no place in my professional. My identities don’t bleed together. There is no seamless transition. There is one, or there is the other. I tried to toe this line, but even talking about subjects that were safer I felt myself hunching over my beer, staring into the amber liquid looking for a way out. I played to my exhaustion, and his. It’s all I could think to do.
Coming into work this morning I feel well rested. I feel utterly out of place. This is not my environment. It’s wrong. Clothes that don’t fit, an office that is not me, air I can’t breathe. I no longer have a choice. I picked my path and now I have to see it through, but something broke. I don’t know how to pick up the pieces; glue them back together. The cracks in my armor are apparent to me and everyone will see that my façade is a fraud. I’m sure of it. I’m living someone else’s life.
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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.

Surrealizing – Criteria 9 / Part 4: Derealization

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

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

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