Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy

 

Yesterday was a productive day in therapy I think. I was in definite rapid cycle mode shift. I didn’t really feel like sharing anything, didn’t really know what to talk about, tired, irritated, hopeful, pleasant, irritable, angry.
She keeps telling me I have a healing, peaceful energy that I bring with me. That people are drawn to my natural ability to heal and ground. That I really have a wonderful influence and role model. Everytime she says things like this I get angry. I don’t see it, I don’t believe it.  
She was creating an assignment for another bulimic client of hers. She said this girl reminded her of me and in creating this assignment for her she was heavily influenced by the things I do to center myself. She handed me the assignment. As I read it was a wash of peaceful, calm, creative outlets to focus energy towards. Healthy things, not destructive. I could easily see how most of these things were influenced by me and my interests. I had these small flashes of, maybe I’m not so terrible as I think, maybe I do have redeeming qualities to offer, maybe how other people see me {positively} is not so inaccurate, not just a lie to make me feel better or manipulate me.  These small flashes were fleeting but they were like little mental peeks into a pretty part of my self-perception.
She’s very concerned about my bulimia. I only had the one incident this past week, despite wanting to more, so I say bravo for me. We’re working on why I feel the need to do this.
Triggers: The state that I am most likely to do this is when I am more stressed than usual, more emotionally taxed.  The times I am most likely to do this is when I am alone, when someone has just left.
Sometimes I think this is just practical. When I’m sitting down to a meal with someone I moderate myself easily and don’t binge. When I’m alone I have no moderator. I lose control over what I take in and then panic in a need to punish myself for this loss of control. Control is clearly an issue. Again she believes this has to do with the Punitive/Critical Parent schema.  She asked me if I believed this personality schema was all bad? I said no. There should be a part of your brain that lets you know when you are doing something wrong or detrimental to yourself or others. It’s normal. It’s when it takes over in an exaggerated, hurtful, debasing, demeaning manner that it becomes punitive and is no longer healthy or normal. This is the part that I need to work to correct. Sunday I wanted to binge after I left Friends and came home to my empty apartment, but I managed to stop myself. I was able to talk myself into just going to sleep. Ireminded myself that if I were to eat, I would feel guilty (I’d had a healthy lunch and a good dinner, no starving), eat more, and need to purge. Instead of indulging the cycle I convinced myself to lie down and just go to sleep. It’s not easy.  Not easy at all. I had to walk myself step by step through what I would end up doing and reiterate every sentence and reason for why I shouldn’t or didn’t need to; why just going to bed would be better.
NOTE: I should write out this process. Write down the feelings that come before the cycle starts in order to recognize them. Write down each action that would typically follow. Then write down a sentence to counter each action in order to bring me to a healthier conclusion. That way I have an established tool when this happens.
I showed Therapist my paintings and she was really impressed. She even wanted to give me a homework assignment having to do with expressing myself through painting. I can’t. I just can’t. She first suggested creating a picture of the Critical Parent when we talked about the unrelenting pressure I feel from my father. This idea immediately filled me with dread and anxiety like a sucker punch to the gut. I practically panicked when I told her I wouldn’t. I immediately thought of my dad and I don’t want to paint him. Especially since he is actually impressed with my painting. He thinks I have some talent here. Thinks I should look into taking some formal art courses (which I’ve never had) and pursuing this further. I don’t’ want this to be homework or a chore. I have so little time free to follow my love of this I just want to enjoy myself and let my ideas flow where they will. She tried to suggest another painting assignment but I’m not turning this into homework. I won’t.
Foreign relationship dynamic. I mentioned I don’t feel very connected to Lady Friend yet. I don’t know if it’s because it’s still early in our relationship or if it’s because when I first meet people I tend to actively keep myself held back. I don’t actually know her well and I’ve been so badly abused I hold myself at a distance. No one can plant a knife in your back without you first allowing them within arm’s reach. When people get close to you is when they can hurt you. It’s only been a month of casual dating though and she does seem to be very into me.
Therapist’s first question was: So when was the last time you had a healthy, nurturing relationship like this? Blank. I honestly cannot remember. I’ve had a lot of long, emotionally unattached/unhealthy relationships or very short relationships that I’ve either bolted from or set on fire and burned to the ground. But not healthy, nurturing relationships. Therapist thinks that part of my problem may be that I simply don’t recognize this feeling. Since it’s not fraught with conflict and upset it’s such an unfamiliar concept to me that it doesn’t register with me as what a relationship should look like. Just let it flow as it will and try to be receptive to where it goes without putting pressure or expectation on it.
Future consideration: Telling Lady Friend about my BPD. I haven’t really dated seriously since my diagnosis {having been very involved with Friend for so long and he knows} so I haven’t had to have ‘a talk’ about my BPD with someone. I don’t know how much to tell her. When is appropriate to tell her? What will happen if I tell her? Or if I even want to tell her at all? Honestly I think she’d probably take it in stride. I’ve mentioned things like my past OCD, anxiety, and my issues of object constancy; sort of bringing up pieces when the conversation is relevant. I don’t know though.
Holy crap let me tell you how freaking irritated I get with Therapist. She talks so bloody much it drives me insane. And she gets on this one topic of inter-subjective fields that I want to gag her. I know her perceptions of inter-subjective fields and how she wants therapy to be a safe space for me and how since I’m very perceptive that she doesn’t want her life or the spaces of her other clients to interfere with my space because therapy is just about me and she doesn’t want these other influencing spheres to cross any boundaries. I drift off and cannot focus on a word she says. Or if I do I just get so irritated and angry I don’t want to listen to her.
Especially since I don’t think I have boundaries.
She asked me what I meant by this. I don’t know honestly. It seems to me that I’ve always held such rigid beliefs, hid so much of myself away, feared embarrassment or humiliation for so long – very, very rigid boundaries… then after living with Evil-Ex, he would take every little piece of ammunition he could gather against me and if he perceived a vulnerable point in me or an opportunity he would use what he had against me to humiliate me. What strikes me is my reaction or lack of reactions. I have almost a casual resignation to these experiences. They happened. There’s nothing to do for it now. I believed I would feel a certain way, that my world would be impacted in a way that was so detrimental, and yet, it wasn’t, nothing that I believed would happen, happened. In fact, probably no one cared at all. Just me. So if all these rigid ideas and beliefs that the thought of having them crossed created so much anxiety in me, if they’re not what I believe they are, is anything I believe what I think it is. Is any of this imposed rigidity necessary? It seems to me that regardless of whether I believe I need these things, when I’m presented with a violation of them, I continue on anyways. Move on. Nothing stops. Nothing ends. Do I need these concepts of boundaries at all if they aren’t enforceable? They no longer seem to be there anyways.
In a way this may seem very Zen. Therapist is pretty adamant that boundaries are necessary to establish for oneself. I can see how this is unhealthy for me because in regards to myself, I’ve let things like rape and assault wash over me. I detach, dissociate, repress, and continue on, but I don’t devastate. In the moment, maybe, but it doesn’t last for long. If it doesn’t last, than are they really hurtful? If I pull myself together and keep going was it really so traumatic? Would having boundaries have helped me out of these places or prevented me from being there in the first place? Probably. But not having boundaries didn’t kill me. What doesn’t kill you and all… but do I really want to continue to test that theory? No. There absolutely are things that are inappropriate. Violations no one has a right to breach. Just because I got through does not mean that I no longer need to build these back up; reestablish what is acceptable for the future. Having gone through it before, lived through it before, does not make it okay for it to happen again, even knowing that it is survivable. Should be more than mere survival to really live.
Around and around my ruminations go.  
Homework: Create a space within you in order to establish boundaries which you believe are acceptable for your life.
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Lucid Analysis: Trials in Therapy

 
Yesterday was stress beyond reason; read to quit my job, quit engineering, become a librarian, or a personal trainer, open a yoga studio, ANYTHING, that was not the pressure I have at work.  I looked into certification programs and e-mail department heads about enrollment. I couldn’t see the point of continuing on. Everything I’ve done until now, pointless, useless, futile. My LIFE is pointless. Not worth living or having if I can’t do this {one} thing right. I grabbed at options, ideas. Even as I did so I realized just how much is required to achieve those and I know just how I’ll be able to do it all but it all seems to big, too overwhelming. I see all the obstacles, I have no sense of time…I can see how long it will take, but the dread and anxiety of not having it achieved, the uncertainty, is paralyzing. I don’t have it done now so it feels futile. Like I’ll never get there before I even begin. Fortunately I’m not so out of control that I quit things on the spot.
I can’t say I’m not still thinking about finding a new profession, but I’m less stressed out today.
Let’s go back shall we. The focus of yesterday’s therapy session was my anxiety attacking about work. I am the newest engineer on my team. Everyone else has been here for years. I hired in a couple years after the project began. Everyone knows more about this project than I do. I feel incredibly behind in my knowledge. I’m afraid that I won’t measure up to the demands that are required of me because I don’t know everything already. I’m afraid this will reflect poorly on my ability and on my intelligence… because somehow I have not jacked in and assimilated all prior knowledge generated on this project. This fear paralyzes me. I can’t move forward. I’m mired down in the belief that I’ll never be good enough because everyone else will always know more, have accumulated more, knowledge. I don’t have the history of collection to be of a standard proficiency for what I perceive is my position.  
Once I’m stuck, I beat myself down harder into the muck. I’m afraid to even open drawings and my design programs for fear that I will look at it and have no idea what is required of me. Like suddenly everything will have changed and become completely foreign; every e-mail will be a judgment or termination.
I want to flee from the potential failure into something I won’t be so open to criticism with.
Therapist brought me around to things I might enjoy doing. Her immediate suggestion was to pursue costume design. Find a theater company and hire on to create costuming. I immediately slammed my foot down on this. I’m not a professional seamstress. I’ve never had schooling for fashion. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to live in the city.
Why didn’t I go to culinary school… b/c I’d have to do this, and it would make me hate that, and I wouldn’t have the freedom to do what I really love about cooking in the first place,…  
Stop.
I mire myself in all the details. Bombard myself with the ‘why nots’.  I see the end before anything has a chance to even begin. I psych myself out of ever beginning. If I don’t start, I can’t fail. Can’t let anyone down.
Therapist asks who I’m afraid I’ll let down if I don’t succeed? If I were to choose a different career?
Myself. My father. My friends.
Everyone jokes around about my genius; they introduce me to new people as Haven the rocket scientist, etc etc. I hate it. It just feels like more pressure to be something I don’t believe I’ve earned. Don’t believe I’ve earned <~~~ is a problem all of it’s own. I have multiple engineering degrees, was the sole female graduate in my Master’s program… and yet, I still don’t believe what I do is good enough. More specifically it’s my father. I’ve mentioned before how critical my father is, even though he was not actually discouraging. He never said anything like ‘you suck, you can’t do that, you’re not good enough”. It was always, everything I did could be better. Nothing was ever perfect, or just good on it’s own, or good enough. It was “that’s good, but here’s what you can do now, or should do next, or how it can be improved, how it can be better”… how you can be better. I don’t believe I’m good enough at anything. Everything about me is flawed. As a result everything I do is somehow deficient. I enter into everything believing that I won’t be able to do it good enough, that I won’t be good enough.
Trigger. Therapist made a point of recognizing that this is something that triggers me severely. Specifically my Unrelenting Standards schema.
Unrelenting Standards Schema: The underlying belief that one must strive to meet very high internalized standards of behavior and performance, usually to avoid criticism. Typically results in feelings of pressure or difficulty slowing down; and in hyper-criticalness toward oneself and others.  Must involve significant impairment in:  pleasure, relaxation, health, self-esteem, sense of accomplishment, or satisfying relationships.
Unrelenting standards typically present as:  (a) perfectionism, inordinate attention to detail, or an underestimate of how good one’s own performance is relative to the norm;  (b) rigid rules and “shoulds” in many areas of life, including unrealistically high moral, ethical, cultural, or religious precepts; or (c) preoccupation with time and efficiency, so that more can be accomplished.
When I’m met with any kind of criticism or something I perceive as criticism I freeze. I set my standards so high, put so much pressure on myself, that when anyone presents me with any though/critique/opinion in opposition or enhancement to what I’ve done, it feels like an attack on the rigid standard I’ve set for myself. I destroy myself, debase my accomplishments, and my immediate response is “I’ll never be good enough, I should quit now before everyone sees how incompetent I am.” When in reality this is not true. My Punitive Parent kicks in and I mentally and emotionally punish myself.
Punitive Parent – The Punitive Parent schema mode is identified by beliefs of a patient that they should be harshly punished perhaps due to feeling “defective”, or making a simple mistake. They may feel that they should be punished for even existing when “punitive parent” takes over the psyche. Sadness, anger, impatience, and judgmental natures come out in “punitive parent” and are directed to the patient and from the patient. Even a small and solvable issue or unrealistic perfectionist expectations and “black and white thinking” all bring forth the “punitive parent.” The “punitive parent” has great difficulty in forgiving oneself even under average circumstances in which anyone could fall short of their standards. The “Punitive Parent” does not wish to allow for human error or imperfection, thus punishment is what this mode seeks and what it desires.
Lesson: Recognize triggers!
I was ready to quit my job, sink to devastation about disappointing everyone in my life, lose hope and hold on my life completely. Recognizing the things that trigger me is so crucial in order to gain control of them. In recognizing them I can work to prevent their reoccurrence. Even when I can’t prevent them entirely I can work to form strategies for dealing with them. Therapist wants me to make sure I don’t let the Punitive Parent reign. I need to take a step back and remind myself of all the things I have accomplished, that I am good at, that I am skilled with. I’m the only one that sets my limits. In second guessing myself, berating myself… I, I, am the one that holds me back and keeps me down. No one else believes these things of me. Hell, most everyone else probably has a clearer picture and better appreciation of my skills than I do. They don’t limit me. They aren’t keeping me down. I am.
Homework: Work on silencing the inner punitive voice that constantly demeans me. Counter the self-doubts with positive affirmations. This! This, is not a quick process. This is in fact, one of the major overarching goals of therapy for BPD. It’s good to know your goals though =)

…but beautiful.



For the record. This morning I kicked myself in the ass. Opened up my software and had the first analysis model done within an hour. The second I will have completed by the end of the day. I have no one else to remind me that I’m competent. No, I don’t know everything. It is impossible for me to know everything. In fact, no one expects me to know everything. Not even everything about all the things I’m assisting in. I put this pressure on myself. Life is a learning process.
Note: Sleep on it. I was much more rational in the morning.
And as a more pleasant aside. Went on a date with my new Lady Friend last Saturday. She bought me a book – a mix of Sci-Fi, humor, and Eastern Wisdom. I’m seeing her again this weekend =) It was a really, really nice night. I was all butterflies and nervous. The hostess thought we were the most adorable things ever.
I’m seeing Psychiatrist next Tuesday =P