April 6, 2010
“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself.” ~Jim Morrison
Last week I had particularly upsetting experience with a so-called “friend” who, after being rejected in the potential-for-romance department, ripped off the “I’m such a nice, caring guy” mask and revealed himself to be a self-centered, arrogant, and back-stabbing jerk.
Well, it happened again. Different guy, similar situation. Thankfully I wasn’t cussed out or called names this time, but his main complaint was that I only engaged in “small talk” with him and wouldn’t divulge all of my thoughts and feelings to him on a continual basis. He was puzzled by the fact that I had become “distanced.” He kept asking over and over again when we were going to hang out, why I had stopped talking to him on a regular basis, and I kept making excuses and avoiding until the truth finally came out.
Unfortunately, similar to the previous guy, he got to know me during a period where I took masks on and off as quickly and easily as I did tying and untying my shoelaces. The girl they knew was a personality specifically formed for them, who made them feel like they were her best friend in the entire world. Desperate to somehow alleviate the deep loneliness inside, I recklessly formed relationships with anyone and everyone and clung to each of them as an ultimately futile way of forming an identity.
I gravitated towards unhealthy individuals who tolerated my lack of boundaries and enjoyed their egos stroked. As I am becoming more integrated and unveiling my “true self” underneath the layers of false identities, I find myself drifting away from these people, seeing them for who they are. There are certain people I simply do not wish to have in my life anymore. They only serve to bring me down, and out of respect for myself and commitment to my recovery, I cannot allow them back in. I am now reaping the consequences of what BPD led to me to do and attempting to clean up the mess, if you will. It has not been easy or fun.
However, this time around, I was stronger. Even though, in the end, this guy “disowned” me as a friend simply because I was honest about my illness and straightforward regarding my new boundaries (which he refused to accept), I simply wasn’t as upset as the last time. I didn’t cry myself to sleep or have urges to self harm, which I was so relieved about. It just didn’t seem to be as emotionally devastating this time around, probably because I have gradually gained a better grasp my personal “Bill of Rights” (see March 28th post) and my definition of the title “friend.” In my world, a friend is someone who allows you to be yourself at all times, accepts you with all your weaknesses and imperfections, doesn’t expect to “get” something from you, and respects (even loves) your boundaries. To me, that is a true friend.
Anyone less than that is merely a poser, an abuser (heaven forbid), or simply someone who lacks the emotional maturity or skills to engage wholesome relationships with others.
After this experience I was overcome by a fit of “social spring cleaning” – I purged my Facebook friends list, going from 693 friends to 211. Most of those I deleted 1) I never talk to anyways; 2) probably don’t even remember who I am; or 3) have played a negative part in my life. All that remain are my family members, fellow church-goers, and my REAL friends. It was a cleansing process for me, and proof that you can take a distressing situation and use it for a good end. (*NOTE: I am not referring to the Facebook profile connected to this blog, which is merely for networking and advocacy purposes; rather, I’m referring to my personal Facebook page.*)
Speaking of Facebook… Why oh why did I have to be introduced to those horribly addictive Mindjolt games? Talk about time suck! In fact, I think I’m getting carpal tunnel playing that stupifying “Bouncing Ball” game. MindJOLT?? More like MindNUMB!!
I’ve been in a strange mood today – a little laissez-faire with a splash of awkward goofiness. I can’t say I’ve been particularly productive, but I haven’t been especially bored either. The day has flown by, but I can’t really tell you anything that I did! Am I having a brain lapse? Probably.
Lastly, I watched the movie “Girl, Interrupted” last night. My many and varied thoughts on it tomorrow… I reached the peak of my brownie-sundae-explosion-induced sugar high about five minutes ago and I will now be experiencing a crash in 3… 2… 1….
March 22, 2010
A couple of weeks ago I went and saw Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. I don’t care what some people are saying, I absolutely loved it. But then, I’ve always been a Tim Burton fan, not to mention a Johnny Depp fan… and an Alice fan… so put them together? I’m all over that!
There were a few things in the movie that really hit home with me. The story of Alice in Wonderland has always fascinated me – I think because I could relate to Alice in lot of ways. She is suddenly dropped into this world that doesn’t make any sense to her, and she’s expected to find her way home despite nonsensical advice from well-wishing Wonderland residents and a plethora of mind-boggling obstacles. Seeing Tim Burton’s version of the Alice story – which is actually more of a “Return to Wonderland” in which Alice is older, but apparently not much wiser (ah touché, Mr. Burton) – turned Lewis Carrol’s fairytale into an even more of a metaphor for my own life.
I found an article written by Jill Brown, in which she makes observations similar to mine (full article at http://singlemindedwomen.com/women-relationships/alice-in-wonderland/)
Throughout the film there is a debate as to whether or not this is “the” Alice; the real Alice of before, now grown up, who has the courage and spirit to help the suffering characters to defeat the tyrannical and oppressive rule of the Red Queen. Alice goes through her own doubt and self-discovery during her adventure to try to discover for herself whether or not she is indeed “the” Alice, the champion of good and right in this magical reality.
This reminds me of the part in the Alice in Wonderland book when Alice first runs into the Caterpillar:
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)
Like Alice, I will wake up in the morning as one person, and through the course of day feel like I’ve been transformed into three or four different people, all before the sun goes down! Part of my disorder is that I have a hard time with stable identity and emotional regulation – “changing with the wind” so to speak. I’m definitely working on that, but it’s not easy. The slightest thing can completely change my entire mood, attitude towards myself, decisions for the day, etc. Because of that, I can get really confused about what is real and what’s not, what’s me, and what’s not me. Is the person who is crying/laughing/angry/happy/sad right now “the” Edde… or some other Edde that has decided to momentarily inhabit my mind and emotions? Is this an imposter, or the champion that will one day conquer this monster called “Borderline Personality Disorder”? Like Alice said, “I can’t explain myself, Sir, because I’m not myself you see!”
I think the most compelling scene in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and the one that resonated the most with me personally and will with all the single minded women out there, comes about half way through the film when Alice is doubting her significance and role. She doesn’t believe she’s been to Underland before, thinking her previous voyage was just a bad childhood dream and so she doesn’t want to step up and help the Mad Hatter in his rebellion and resistance against the Red Queen. While she expresses her reluctance to take action, the Mad Hatter says to her something along the lines of, “You used to be much muchier before. Yes you were much more Alice the last time we met. You have lost your muchness.” (Jill Brown)
Last week I posted on my Facebook as my status: “Edde is finding her muchness.” A good friend commented saying: “Your muchness is where it has always been! In your child like spirit – Children are much more courageous before they are taught to fear. Remember your wonderland Alice.” I thought about how true that was. Little children are naturally… “muchier.” They don’t usually sit around wondering who they heck they are and why they do what they do… They’re just… them… Before the cruel world teaches them to fear, to question their worth, to lose touch with their spirits. In her childhood Wonderland, Alice started to doubt herself. Not only was she constantly changing size, she was always being asked “Who are you?,” “Are you sure you’re real?,” “What is an Alice?” The only way she could ever get back to reality was by standing up for herself, stomping her little foot, and proclaiming her identity. Then she could return to the world of grownups and hold her own. Tim Burton expanded on this dimension of the Alice story. Alice had to first believe she was the champion meant to slay the Jabberwocky before achieving that magnificent feat, thereby gaining the courage to return to the real world and assert herself as a strong, independent woman. This underlying message of empowerment can resonate with everyone who has tried to figure out who they are in this crazy, nonsensical world.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)
I think it’s safe to say Alice and I have have a lot in common haha!
But really… I think every girl is a real-life Alice in her own unique way…Trying to make it through the maze of this strangely confusing yet stunningly beautiful wonderland called “life.”
February 26, 2010
Right after I wrote yesterday’s post, I went to see my therapist. During the session I was able to process more of what had happened the night before, as I was still struggling with whether to trust my own opinion of myself or believe someone else’s perspective of who I am. While I just couldn’t believe that I am permanently broken, I was still experiencing doubts about my worth and my chance of recovery. I mean… I know I have things I need to work on, but I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m doomed to forever battling these demons. Like this is who I am and that will never change… If that’s true, why not just give up now? I just couldn’t accept that, but there was still that voice in my head saying “See? It’s true. You’re a horrible, weak person. Someone else doubts your ability to succeed, so you must just be a failure.”
It’s that same voice that leads me to hurt myself, to binge, to run away, to lie, to ultimately give up on myself. It’s that voice that I fight every single day. Sometimes I can make it shut up. Sometimes it screams so loudly I can’t hear anything else. But my therapist helped me see that for the first time… there was another voice in my head that was even louder than this one. It was the voice that said “No, you don’t have to believe that. That’s just his uneducated perspective. You’re better than that. You know who you are. You know you don’t have to give in to self-doubt and self-hatred. You can get better, and you will.”
My therapist helped me see just how far I’ve come. Just a little while ago, an experience like that would have destroyed me. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from cutting or maybe something even more drastic. I would have believed those negative things, because I had absolutely no sense of self. But now I do have a sense of who I am, even if it’s just an inkling. At least I have developed enough self-knowledge and self-respect to be able to disagree with someone else’s opinion of me instead of adopting it as my own, as has been my habit for my entire life. That is huge progress for me.
February 25, 2010
Well, I took a small step backward last night. I won’t go into what triggered the self-destructive behaviors… But, basically, I was in so much emotional pain that I regressed into cutting myself again. However, I have to give myself some credit, because after just a few pretty minor scratches I realized that, as horrible as I felt, I didn’t want to go down this road again. So I took the knife to my mom and begged her to stop me, but then experienced a full-blown panic attack. I was pretty much hysterical and it took me a long time to calm down. I hadn’t felt that way in weeks… It scared me. The events that triggered felt traumatic and overwhelming at the time, and I went right to that automatic coping mechanism, both to numb the emotional pain and act out the self-hatred I was feeling in the moment. I guess it was just proof that I still have quite a ways to go before I don’t regress to that place in my mind again. It was awful… For a second I thought I was going to have to go to the hospital again. In fact, I think it was that thought that ultimately stopped me and made me force myself to calm down. I could not go through that chaos for the fourth time… No way.
Again on a positive note, my anxiety attack could have turned into an all-night binge-fest… But it didn’t. I was actually able to calm myself down much quicker than in the past, and though I cried myself to sleep, I was able to sleep. So although I do have a ways to go, I have made some significant progress. And I’m going to keep it in my mind that next time I feel this way, I will find some other way to relieve the emotional pain I’m feeling… Maybe finding someone to talk to immediately, or even just letting myself cry until the pain subsides. I don’t know… At this point I’m really not sure what my alternatives are. Of course I know there are other and much healthier ways I can cope besides cutting, binging, overdosing, etc… It’s just hard to think of anything else in the moment, when I’m in that self-loathing, overwhelmed mindset.
However, in order to make this a “fall forward,” I need to come up with a plan for the next time I’m feeling self-destructive. And as hard as it might be, I also need to deal with both the events that triggered the attack and the resulting thoughts and feelings that overwhelmed me.
One of the thoughts and that coursed through my mind, almost as a plea, was “This is not who I am. This is not who I am…” Last night I had been made to feel like the borderline symptoms I struggle with are a part of my being, are who I am at the core. That hurt so much because I hated those things I used to do. They were not me. THEY ARE NOT ME. Borderline personality disorder does not define me. How could it? I know myself better than anyone… And I know that the real me is above and beyond the illness I deal with. It is so painful to be misunderstood. I already struggle with shame and guilt, both for things that weren’t my fault and things that were… And I am trying to overcome them and make them better, and work through those things that happened. To be told that I would always be this way was like a stab at my very core. I couldn’t handle it. I know I can overcome this… and I am desperately clinging to that knowledge. I know I have made mistakes and I am not perfect. But certain major mistakes I made, I am confident I will never make again, because I have learned from them. As I work through therapy and make healthy choices, I know I can get better. I have to. I want to be me again… Or rather, be that real me I know is inside and that I am discovering more and more every day.
Another thing that consumed me last nightwas looking at the past and some of the poor decisions I made that hurt both myself and others, and wondering… What was me and what was the illness? That thought tortures me because while on the one hand I can’t bear to think that some of those things I did were brought about because of my own weaknesses and negative things about me, separate and apart from my disorders, on the other hand I want to take responsibility for my actions and make reparations. What should I feel guilty for and what should I accept as an aspect of my disorder? Or does it even matter?
After my panic subsided, I came to the conclusion that in the here and now, it doesn’t matter. Moving forward, it doesn’t make a difference. Guilt and blame shouldn’t even be playing a part in this. What happened, happened. The mistakes I made, were mistakes. I hurt myself. I hurt other people. I got myself in situations that were dark and destructive. I can’t torture myself over whether it was a completely conscious decision, or something brought on by the mental state I was in at the time… If I’m going to move forward, I can’t think that way. I am making amends to myself by getting therapy and practicing making healthy choices. I can make amends to those I hurt by apologizing and then just being the best person I can be. I can’t change the past. I need to look forward towards full recovery and put the past behind me as best as I can…even if that means finally dealing with the unresolved, painful memories and feelings so I can lay them to rest forever.
I think, all things considered, I can look at last night as a “fall forward.” Though I regressed in some of my behavior, I was also able to de-escalate fairly quickly, identify the triggers, and deal with the overwhelming thoughts and feelings. Ultimately, I was able to regain control and move on. And I am proud of myself for that.