Lucid Analysis – Trials in Therapy

 I’m good at allowing myself into other people’s live, but not at letting them into mine.
This was the main point I took from therapy yesterday.
Therapist says I’m incredibly perceptive when it comes to determining other people’s emotional spheres. I tailor myself to match what I have picked up in another person. She says she sees me doing this quite often. I mirror people well. I don’t even realize I do this most of the time. It comes naturally. Though I do catch myself veering more towards positive stories and spins of experience when she seems to indicate that it’s what she expects to hear. Therapist often tries to explain my feelings on a subject before I’ve finished talking about what it is that I’m saying. Sometimes I correct her, other times I feel like I’ll be disappointing her if I’m not fitting her more pleasant description/expectation. I see how she interprets me, I understand how she wants me to be, I pick up on all the little body, facial, and emotive signals that tells me what she is thinking.
Her point, was that if I’m feeling a certain way about someone, it is often justified, because I am so perceptive and in tune with how other people feel.  Little of my hypersensitivity coming through. I’m hyper vigilant when it comes to paying attention to how people react to me.
This came about mostly because I was fretting about Tech Boy. I’m worried that I may be starting to like him too much. I’m still not sure if he’s ‘right’ for me. I’m starting to get paranoid if he doesn’t text me. He mentioned a female friend’s birthday is coming up and I felt a stab of jealousy (though I didn’t say anything ß— I know better).  I’m worried I’m getting too sucked into this, and I’m not comfortable with myself right now. I don’t know where this is going, or if it’s going anywhere. All the signs point to him liking me, but I don’t like me, so I think I’m projecting my fears onto him where they don’t exist.
I wanted to push away yesterday. Maybe the day before too.
Don’t do it, Snow!
I have trust issues. I’m still trying to figure out how much I can trust him, or if I can trust him at all.  What it boils down to is I don’t trust my own judgment when it comes to trusting other people. I’ve made too many bad decisions, misplaced my trust in too many people and had it come back to bite me in the jugular as I lay bleeding out on the sidewalk. Not that I haven’t made some good decisions. I have, but the good do not outweigh the bad for me. Especially when it comes to men. Sorry guys, I’m sure one or two of you are alright. (Aside: I feel pretty shitty thinking this way after what my boys at work just did – geezus I’m a terrible person). I don’t trust. I do believe people will hurt me in the end. This has been too much of my experience. I am very, very guarded. Justifiably.
However it makes me feel like I’m lying.  I hold back from the people that try to be close to me. I do not share my genuine self because it would make me vulnerable, open me up for the potential to be taken advantage of, and also because I feel like it is too much of  burden to place a lot of the badness that I’ve had in my past on someone. Instead of sharing, I shut down, or re-direct the conversation.
For example: On one of my dates with Tech Boy we were talking about how we felt about living in NY (we’re both originally from out of state).  I mentioned that my first couple years here were pretty rough b/c of my living situation but in general I liked NY. His response was a natural sort of “Well it couldn’t have been all bad”…. “No, I suppose it wasn’t all bad…”, but I wasn’t going to tell him about Evil-Ex. He does know that I had problems with an ex that I was living with in a vague general sense, but I’m afraid to get into the details of just how bad it all was. I don’t want him to think I’m weak. I don’t want him to know how much damage has been inflicted on me. I don’t want him to think I have too much baggage (because this is just unattractive).  I’ve had bad things happen to me and somehow I feel like this will make me a bad person in other people’s eyes. At the very least, it will clash with the impression that I give people of myself. In short, I don’t trust that him to not reject me. So I’m not open about everything there is about me. Since I’m not full disclosure, I feel like I’m hiding things, being secretive (which I am), and therefore not being honest.
Something like that.
If I’m always closed and guarded, it’s going to push him away in a different way. I’m sure he thinks I’m a little closed off. Therapist thinks I need to open up. I don’t need to come out with the worst of the worst, but I should let him in to some of the problems I’ve had in my past.  This will help him understand why I am guarded.
To my credit, I give people a chance ß— Both Roommate and Therapist have told me this. For everything that I’ve been through I haven’t shut myself down completely towards other people. I have in the past, but presently, I’m still trying to meet and get to know new people. I only share what I want people to know of me though. People open up their lives to me very easily (apparently I come across as very open and trustworthy), and I let myself stroll right into their worlds where I can take a look around and judge whether it’s safe for me…. But I don’t actually open up my own doors to them in what I believe to be a meaningful way. I may crack a window, but the drawbridge stays up and I have a few strategically placed snipers looming in the battlements. Overkill.
Therapist talked a lot, but I felt like I was pretty dissociated and floating through a lot of the session. I couldn’t really concentrate on what she was saying. I’ve felt like that the last few days. People will talk to me and it’s a struggle for me to pay attention, to retain the information they are telling me.

I also feel like if I get to invested in someone something is going to happen and it’ll fall apart and all go to hell. It’s just a vague sense, nothing specific, but I always believe that if I let myself get to close to someone that is exactly when everything will go wrong. Catastrophizing, maybe?

Anyways, so I’m very attune to people’s emotional spheres. I have trust issues. I expect the worst. But maybe my issues with Tech Boy are a result of my own closed off-edness (ß– not really a word, I know). I’m closed off because I expect something bad, so he’s picking up on the fact that I don’t want to let him in and is therefore respecting my boundaries, which I perceive as him not trying to get closer, when it’s me that won’t let him even if he was trying, and that makes me paranoid and want to push away which actualizes as something bad happening. Is it all me? Or maybe he just wants something casual, light and fun, which is exactly what we have now, so he doesn’t feel a need to dig deeper and it’s just me wondering if there’s more scenery in Kansas (I’m totally stereotyping Kansas here – Sorry Kansas-anites (?)) .  That may not have made any sense.
Open Up, Stay Closed, Open Up, Stay Closed …. It’s not a simple decision. Therapist says small steps. The things I’ve been through are not too much for someone to handle if they’re someone that cares about me. Someone that cares won’t be judgmental. He’s already proven himself to be open to various aspects of my lifestyle that others might shy away from– shady stripper past, my bisexuality (Boring-Ex was super threatened by this), my extreme Geekery with +10 Nerdiness, isn’t threatened by my intelligence or that I make more money than him. I guess it’s time to do exactly the opposite of what I want to do (Push away) and start letting him in to the more intimate details of my life.  Slowly.
Does anyone else find it ironic that I can easily post the most intimate details of my life here for thousands of anonymous viewers to see, but I have the hardest time opening up to one person in real life? Yeesh.

It’s a nice thought anyways.

Why are Borderlines so Sexual?

The Why’s of Sex, Promiscuity, and Borderline Personality Disorder

Why are you so sexual my dear Borderline? That’s a good question isn’t it? One that does not come with a quick answer. This is a first. I’ve found almost no information on why sex seems to be such a prominent feature of Borderline Personality Disorder. What I have found has been only a paragraph or a sentence here or there. So let’s look at what I’ve found, what I feel, and what some of my own theories are.

One of the more obvious theories as to why people with BPD have such reckless sex lives is the fact that they constantly feel emotional emptiness. “Even when they find a stable emotional relationship their fear of abandonment causes them to become paranoid about the stability of their relationship and the validity of the love coming from their partner. A possibility for the reasoning behind sex and borderline personality disorder is that the sufferer of BPD actually tries to self-sabotage their relationship in order to end the relationship before they are actually abandoned by their partner. Another theory as to reckless sex and borderline personality disorder is that the BPD sufferer actually gets an emotional high from bonding with the sexual partner even if only for a short time. They are literally trying to fill in emptiness inside themselves and they try and try to fill that void with sex. After having a sexual affair the person with borderline personality disorder may not have the same amount of guilt as someone with non-BPD. The reason is projection; oftentimes people with borderline personality disorder project their negative behaviors onto others including their partners. This means that someone with borderline personality disorder who is having a reckless sexual affair may have a tendency to build a fake affair that their spouse or loved one is having in their head. They literally make themselves believe that their partner is also cheating and that they are therefore justified in having their reckless sexual affair.”

A previous article I mentioned notes that there may be a number of reasons for the more negative attitudes about sex. “First, many women with BPD are survivors of child abuse, which may contribute to overall negative reactions to adult sexual experiences. Also, women with BPD are more likely to experience a great deal of conflict in their relationships, so they may feel less positive about sex because relationships in general feel less fulfilling.”

Having these negative attitudes doesn’t however, justify why we may still have an attitude directed towards reckless sex. I would take this from a different angle and say that perhaps due to previous abuse there is a subconscious need for approval where it was not given, withheld, or used against us. Overt sexual behavior may be a way of taking back control, exerting control in the present where control was once absent.

Also, knowing that we have the ability to interest and consume someone with our sexuality or ability to seduce them is a form of validation of our own self-worth.
Those are my thoughts currently. I’m sure I’d have more but I’m utterly brain fried from today and yesterday at work. I’ll be sure to post more on this if the thoughts should arise.

So there’s that. To fill an emotional emptiness with a physical, well ::grins:: I don’t have an argument for this. I also believe that when it comes to sex, people with BPD are more likely to be sexually open and adventurous. We can be virtually uninhibited. Or exactly the opposite. I’ve noticed a trend towards the extremes. Either we’re all or nothing. So you may have borderlines like myself that are ALL for sex or those that have severe issues from resultant traumatic experiences and avoid it whenever possible.  

Another theory comes from Thomas R. Lynch, a psychologist at Duke University. He and his colleagues found a clue in the reading of facial expressions. “The researchers asked 20 adults with BPD and 20 mentally healthy people to watch a computer-generated face change from neutral to emotional. They told subjects to stop the changing image the moment they had identified the emotion. On average, the people with BPD correctly recognized both the unpleasant expressions and the happy faces at a much earlier stage than the other participants did. The results suggest that BPD patients are hyperaware of even subtly emotive faces—problematic in people who are intensely reactive to other people’s moods. So, for example, a hint of boredom or annoyance on a person’s face that most people would not notice might produce anger or fears of abandonment in a person with BPD. Conversely, someone with BPD might see a happy expression as a sign of love and react with inappropriate passion, leading to the whirlwind, stormy romances that rock the lives of people with BPD.”

I’ve talked about hypersensitivity before. It’s very easy to read too much into what we see in someone else and I do think this theory has some validity, but I don’t think it’s substantial all on its own. This may be a contributing factor but not the main reason.
I’ve said before that I use sex as a means to be close, but not too close. It’s comforting. It allows that very real, very human connection that makes me feel less hollow and alone, while maintaining my safeguards.  I’ve been so hurt and traumatized due to past abuse and experiences that while some part of me does need this closeness, at the same time I do not trust it. There’s something more personal about letting someone into my mind, than into my body. If I can distract them with my body, they’ll have proven themselves not trustworthy enough to get into my mind, but at the same time, I have someone near. I’ll have validated my own paranoia and satisfied my need to not be alone. How’s that for messed up. When I’m alone I feel empty. Sex is one of those ultimate expressions of being not alone. Having your life literally interwined in the arms and legs of another, it’s an encompassing experience, without being completely consumed. There’s the ability to maintain a distance while holding someone close. Or maybe there’s some overdeveloped primitive instinct that if we find a partner, let them into our lives in such a way, we will develop a bond. And from there maybe a lasting one. The more partners, the greater the likelihood of this happening.

Thought Control is Mind Control

I found an article written by Dr. Amen who’s a psychiatrist, neuroscientist and brain-imaging specialist. It’s about how to conquer negativity and encourage positive thoughts. It’s not about Borderline Personality Disorder per say. It’s aimed at people that do have negative thoughts but are basically ‘normal’ (meaning: don’t have a personality disorder). However I found what he had to say runs parallel to BPD.
The article is about negative thinking, what he calls ANTs = Automatic Negative Thinking. These are thoughts that automatically pop into your head, but don’t necessarily have any rational hold. Or if they do, they run away with you instead of allowing for the ability to come up with solutions instead of dwelling on them. The thoughts that jump into your head automatically after something triggers them and refuse to go away. For me these thoughts run rampant and spin me down into a dark hole that I can’t climb out of.
He goes on to say that powerful thoughts can lead to physical reactions. Negative thoughts actually release chemicals in your brain that do make you feel bad. The opposite is true too, the happy, the positive can lead to chemical release that makes you feel good.
Therapists have identified 10 ‘species’ of the automatic negative thoughts. (I think the term ANTs just sounds ridiculous. I can’t take it seriously.)
1.)  All or nothing (thinking in black and white).  This is what Splitting is.
2.) Always thinking (overgeneralizing). Well, yeah.
3.)  Focusing on the negative (ignoring the positive). When things are always bad, when nothing turns out how you need it to, when every little thing shakes your foundation, it’s hard to think about the positive. On the other hand, if you swing {hyper}manic, it’s the opposite, everything can be positive, everything is superhuman, everything is achievable. I think the mood swings of someone with BPD can be a little too changeable for this, but generally speaking I think the principle here is true.
4.) Think with your feelings (believeing negative feelings without evidence). Obviously. BPD is all about emotional dysregulation. Emotions that take control, cloud your judgment, and make you act in ways that most people wouldn’t.
5.)  Guilt beating (thinking in words like “should”, “must”, “ought to). I do this a lot. Believe I should be other than I am, should have done something better, was not good enough at something else, failed myself in some way… I tell myself that I’m not good enough if I can’t be perfect.
6.)  Labeling (attaching negative labels to yourself and others). For someone with BPD I think this is an extension of Splitting. I label someone as all good (ex. Roommate). I label someone as all bad (Friends wife). It may be both all good, or all bad for the same person at different times, depending on the last interaction (ex. Friend or myself).
7.)  Fortune Telling (predicting the future in a negative way). Hopelessness, abandonment, believing that eventually everyone will leave, things will always turn out devastatingly wrong. Just walking into a situation and knowing it’s going to turn out bad for you. I find this usually happens worse when it’s something I really want.
8.)  Mind Reading (believing you know what someone else is thinking). This goes hand in hand with hypersensitivity. When you’re so attuned to what someone does, if there’s any variation, anything to shake that tenuous stability, there’s no helping the wild thoughts that run away to figure out why someone has changed in some way. Even if that change is miniscule.
9.)  Blame (Blaming others for you problems). If he just did this, if she felt this way, if I wasn’t so misunderstood… these tend to be the kinds of thoughts I have to give ‘reasons’ for my negative feelings. 
10.)               Denial (refusing to admit you have a problem). Heh, I don’t think this is really my issue, or anyone’s issue that has BPD and is seeking help or treatment. Well, maybe. Identifying ALL the areas that need helping I can see where there can be denial.
The first step is to realize these things are a problem. Keeping in mind that these thoughts happen may help figure out how to change them.
Everybody lies
To combat these he makes a good point: Thoughts can lie; they lie a lot. However you don’t have to believe every thought that pops into your head. But how do you determine which thoughts you can believe? All things in life aren’t positive, some things are negative. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean you’re wrong, sort of thing. The problem is they feel like the truth. These are what automatically popped into my head, and it’s pretty obvious to me that they’re self-defeating in term of incorporating a helpful idea. I often fight against things that are good for me, and I don’t know why.
In order to get ahold of these thoughts and recognize which ones are not rational he makes a suggestion. Write them down. “The simple act of writing down your thoughts helps get them out of your head and begins to diffuse any negative feelings so you start to feel better”.  This is something I do almost daily. I’ve kept journals since I was 12/13 years old. For me it only tends to be a temporary fix. It doesn’t help the irrational thoughts from coming back in the future, or even the next day, but it does help me get ahold of them and allow me to work through them at the time. I can’t always write as soon as I have ridiculous thoughts, so often they  stay with me for days, weeks. When I do have time to write I do feel calmer. I’m able to look at the problem and try to sort things out. If nothing else, it reminds me of the things I need to talk about in therapy. My therapist encourages me to write every day. If I’m comfortable I read what I’ve written in session so that we can work on these things.    I try to write everyday but sometimes I’m just too busy or I don’t want to… and sometimes I want to dwell on my problem. I want to hold things to me, believe that these things are true, not my fault, feel misunderstood so I can believe these kinds of thoughts are justified. I know this isn’t rational but sometimes I hold things to me and don’t want to let them go.  I know this is something I need to work on. I can generally get my thoughts down on paper, and it does help me put things into perspective for a while.

Continue with: write down the ‘negative’ situation that brought about the negative thoughts and feelings, identify the moods felt during the situation, write down the automatic thoughts that were experienced when that certain mood was felt, identify the evidence that supports these thoughts, identify the evidence that does not support these thoughts, next identify the fair and balanced thoughts about the situation, and finally observe the new mood and think about what to do.

The problem with this article, for me, is that when you have a personality disorder you can’t just think your way out of the barrage of overblown thoughts that accost you . Beat you into submission mastered by your emotions.  You feel them whether you want to or not and no amount of telling yourself otherwise alleviates them. If it was as simple as remembering a few principles**, PDs wouldn’t be a problem for anyone that wants to change.  I can’t internalize a lot of these, and unless I read them every single day, my neurotic thoughts will crowd out the helpful ones. Maybe other people can remember them and use these techniques to keep some calm. Find a little relief. A way of infusing some rational explanation into the irrational behavior.  
** This is the point of therapy. However therapy realizes that it takes time, practice, and work to change these behaviors. It’s not as simple as reading an article.

Hypersensitivty: Conceptions of Borderline Personality Disorder – Part 4

Criteria 5 of the latest list from John G. Gunderson. Taking a deeper look into this one was the original reason I wanted to get into these conceptions more thoroughly. Along the way, in even a few days, my own perception of what this means to me has evolved.
– Hypersensitivity, meaning an unusual sensitivity to nonverbal communication. Gunderson notes that this can be confused with distortion if practitioners are not careful (somewhat similar to Herman’s statement that, while survivors of intense long-term trauma may have unrealistic notions of the power realities of the situation they were in, their notions are likely to be closer to reality than the therapist might think)
Hm. I’m wary of this because I don’t want to confuse it with distortion. So I found a couple of definitions that seem pretty accurate to me.

1.) Hypersensitivity (also called hypersensitivity reaction) – Hypersensitivity reactions require a pre-sensitized (immune) state of the host.  
       This definition refers to the immune system, but I think it fits with the mental state of the Borderline Personality as well. We are pre-sensitized to the emotions projected from ourselves and from the world, making the additional pressure compound even more.
2.) Being hypersensitive could be described as being allergic to life. For the highly sensitive person (HSP) a seemingly ordinary day can be overwhelming. Even the most subtle of stimulants a person encounters on a daily basis can be over-stimulating. Energies associated with touch, noise, scent, light, etc. are often too quickly or deeply absorbed by the HSP. As a result, the HSP may become mentally confused, emotionally upset, and/or physically uncomfortable. Hypersensitivity is also associated with a heightened sense of awareness and intuition. This makes being a HSP or empath a two-way street.

For me, hypersensitivity comes most often in social interactions. Too many voices, too much noise, too many people, too close. Voices volleying back and force. The crush of noise pressing inside my head, filling my mind and making it frantic, reaching for the quiet. Bodies sharing my space, not leaving me enough room, not enough air to breathe. Too many eyes falling on me, dissecting me. Turning me inside out so all I can feel is the falling back into myself.
Flashes, too bright, 8 mm film reels, projection noise, film flapping, screeching halt, Go, padded hallways constricting as you make your way through, goose down filling your lungs soft and suffocating.
It’s almost impossible to follow one line of thought, every external conversation clashing with the internal monologues branching off and running away in my own head. The noise is deafening, lost in the static. Everything comes too fast, and I can watch myself, too slow, cover my ears and hold myself together.  That slow motion screen shot of a woman screaming, curled up in a corner, pulling at her hair to make it all stop…. Except it’s just another day, at the dinner table, in a friends living room, out to lunch with co-workers.
Other days it’s like feeding off of other people’s energy. Calm people are the best. This is one reason I do like Friend so much. When it’s just us, the influence between us is very calm, almost silent. Still. Other people, most people, have fragmented energy, turbulence that rolls off of them in waves. It’s clear in the motions, their manner and speech. Impossible to ignore, it permeates the thin skin separating us and their energy leaks in, pushing our own out. It’s too easy to feel what they feel. Confusing. I have a hard enough time figuring out my own feelings most days. The last thing I need is to figure out someone else’s and pick it apart to figure out which is mine and which is foreign on top of that.
Most days being hypersensitive isn’t too much of a problem. Eyes are the worst. I hate people watching me, looking at me. I keep to myself. Keep random conversations to a minimum. I’ve perfected a determined pace and lack of eye contact that keeps my interaction as little as possible.  Oddly, I love being out in the machine shop or the lab floor. I’ve always loved being out in the shop. The metallic smell, the loud machines, everything running and operating, noisy and dirty… mechanic. Machines. Not people. Machines don’t overwhelm me. Just people.  
Other times I think this contributes to reading too much into other peoples actions. Bridging the emotional gap between a normal relationship and the distorted one. Every compliment is uplifting, creating a warm glow. Every small gesture a glimpse into what another person is feeling. If you can see it, it must be there. You can read more in a person’s body language than from what they’re actually saying more often than not. Picking up on the unspoken cues, especially when they’re in conflict with the verbal ones, is a mess. Thoughts collide and become a confusing mash of disbelief and desire.  Not knowing what to believe and what you want to be true. Even the smallest negative reaction, building on other actions pointing down a path you don’t want to travel. Noticing everything. When someone pushes back, even a little, it’s obvious. Why? Because we look for it. Hoping it’s not there, but expecting it, seeing it, is frightening. Then what do you do from there?
All of it. It makes me cringe. Stops my breath and curl into a ball. Flight. I can’t fight it out and expect anyone to treat me as sane. I walk out, walk away. Learned to hold it in, until I can get myself out. Getting out is the only thing I know to do. Remove myself from the source, the scene, until I can get a handle on my reality and calm down. Stabilize myself enough to go back and keep going. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I have to leave completely, go home and go to bed, or just drive aimlessly, left alone to the quiet night. I like the darkness. My monsters lurk in the light.