July 2, 2010
It is hard to believe that just eight months ago, I truly thought my life was over. That there was nothing left for me to live for. That I was worthless, used up, incapable of ever being happy again. After years of struggling with debilitating depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and what I later found out to be Borderline Personality Disorder, I was tired of trying. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to give up the fight. Over a two month period I attempted suicide three times and overdosed on at least five other occasions. I coped with the pain of past and present abuse, trauma, guilt, and self-loathing with binging, purging, cutting, alcohol, drugs, and victimization. In order to survive, I either disassociated from my surroundings or changed my entire personality depending on where I was and who I was with. I didn’t know who I was from one moment to the next. Most people didn’t even know everything that was going on with me, because I was very good at putting on a mask. Life was chaos. Chaos was life.
I failed therapy after therapy. Medications made me even more suicidal. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder that things started to make sense. However, it still took me a little while to accept my diagnosis and to make the decision to change. It wasn’t until after my third hospitalization that something inside me snapped. I realized that if I didn’t commit to recovery now, I never would, and I would be miserable the rest of my life. It was a decision I had to make on my own. No one… not my family, not my therapist, not anyone… could make it for me. It was a deep, inner choice and true dedication to becoming healthy.
I am convinced that the one deciding factor to my success in recovery was my commitment in that critical and pivotal moment to becoming better.
Without that, nothing would have worked. Not the best therapy in the world, not the most perfect combination of meds, not even the most loving relationship. No…only that commitment that remained even in the most difficult, heart-wrenching moments when those voices screamed at me “Give up! Give up!” …that one small voice of commitment inside that remained, that whispered… “Remember, remember…” That is what made the difference.
My current state of happiness and healing did not happen all at once. It is a result of a lot of hard work, of a long and painful process. Healing, progress, recovery… They are all a result of a series of small, but very important, choices. Really, there is no such thing as a small decision. Every choice you make has vast consequences, no matter how insignificant it may seem at that moment. Remember that when you when you try to get down on yourself when you think you are “failing”… give yourself credit for the tiny successes…. They make more difference than you realize….For it is those seemingly small victories that accumulate and create something magnificent in the end.
Another thing that has greatly helped me in this process has been getting outside myself. The more I reach out to others, the happier I am. The more I isolate myself and retreat inside my own little world, the more depressed I feel. It is hard because I struggle with social anxiety, but just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get and the easier it becomes each time. One thing I love to do is bake, especially at night when I can’t sleep. But I don’t just do it for myself, I do it for my friends and family… There’s nothing more fun and rewarding than seeing the joy on someone’s face when you show up at their door with a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Talk about endorphin rush! Believe it or not, it’s little things like that that can really lift you up out of a rut. Try it. Experiment. Can’t hurt, right?
I also had to decide, at a point, to let myself be happy. For most of my life, whenever I started to feel happy, I would immediately begin to feel guilty. For me, I never felt I “deserved” to be happy, because only “perfect” people deserved to be happy. And since I was never perfect, I could never be happy. Took me a very long time, well… my entire life!… to realize that: 1) I am never going to be perfect, and no one is; 2) There is no such thing as “deserving” to be happy; and 3) I can (and should) be imperfect and happy simultaneously. Once I could accept that, emotionally as well as logically (and I still have to work on this daily, as a lifelong habit is hard to break) I was able to do things like enjoy the little things, be in a relationship, and get married (tomorrow!)
Something else I’ve had to learn and work on is boundaries, especially when it comes to helping other people at the expense of neglecting myself. I’ve always had a bit of a “savior” complex, partly out of a genuine compassion for others, but also as a result of low self-esteem. I need to love, but also be loved, as much of my self-validation comes from others’ approval. As a result, I tend to give everything I have to others, whether they deserve it or not, and am often left empty. I give others validation instead of encouraging them to validate themselves.
Over just the last couple of months, I have learned (the hard way), that unless I am taking care of myself first, I am not good to anyone else. I had to learn to step away a bit and focus on my own recovery, otherwise I was at risk of breaking down again myself. One day, when things have settled down and I am comfortable and strong in this new chapter in my life, I will return to helping others in their journey – it is part of who I am and always will be. I love helping others – listening to them, comforting them, being a help and support wherever I can. But I always need to be sure I am in a good place myself first, before I can be a strength to someone else.
The best thing I can offer the world and others is myself – healthy and whole, with a voice that is clear, strong, and true.
April 9, 2010
Have you ever confused a dream with life? Or stolen something when you have the cash? Have you ever been blue? Or thought your train was moving while sitting still? Maybe I was just crazy. Maybe it was the ‘60’s. Or maybe I was just a girl…interrupted. ~Susanna Kayson (Girl, Interrupted)
There is a scene in the movie, Girl, Interrupted (which I watched for the first time a few days ago) that really hit home with me. Almost to the point where it hurt. The main character, Susanna Kayson (diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder), is meeting with the insightful Dr. Wick, her psychiatrist at the mental institution in which she is staying. Dr. Wick asks Susanna if she is disappointed that she has come to a plateau in her recovery…
Susannah (S): I’m ambivalent. In fact, that’s my new favorite word.
Dr. Wick (DW): Do you know what that means, ambivalence?
S: I don’t care. It means, “I don’t care.”
DW: On the contrary, Susanna. Ambivalence suggests strong feelings in opposition. The prefix, as in ambidextrous, means “both.” The rest of it, in Latin, means “vigor.” The word suggests that you are torn between two opposing courses of action. Will I stay or will I go? Am I sane or am I crazy?
S: Those aren’t courses of action.
DW: They can be dear, for some. What world is this? What kingdom? What shores of what worlds? It’s a very big question you’re faced with, Susanna. The choice of your life. How much will you indulge in your flaws? What are your flaws? Are they flaws? If you embrace them, will you commit yourself to hospital for life? Big questions, big decisions. Not surprising you profess carelessness about them.
This near-perfectly expresses the dichotomy of thought I struggle with myself. These questions of who am I, really? Am I crazy? Sane? Normal? Strange? What is the real me? The girl that can function in society, is responsible, respectful, dutiful, thoughtful, hard-working, productive, even at some level… healthy? Or the girl that is careless, reckless, anti-establishment, flippant, I-don’t-give-a-crap-what-you-think, spontaneous, quirky, rebellious against authority, even downright deviant? The girl who holds doors open for people behind her, smiles, says please and thank you, crosses her t’s and dots her i’s, looks nice and neat, and keeps her room tidy? Or the girl who walks around with a “don’t-mess-with-me-if-you-want-to-live” sign on her forehead, inky black hair and black nailpolish, studded jewelry, speaking her mind loudly, scribbling lines of poetry in permanent ink on public buildings and restroom walls (ya, that’s pretty much as “delinquent” as I got), pretending not to care what others think but really caring very deeply to the point of changing her personality several times a day, with a “leave me alone” vibe and a complete disregard for societal mores? The girl who goes to work, to school, to church, spends time with family, and basks in the beauty of the sunlight? Or the girl who is only alive at night and a mere zombie during the day, is in and out of mental institutions, skips out of therapy sessions, and listens to angry music? The girl who eats her vegetables and exercises moderately, cares for her body, and respects herself? Or the girl who pours toxins into her body, abuses laxatives and diuretics, refuses to eat, or eats to the point of throwing up, exercises two hours a day, cuts, overdoses on meds, and does everything she can think of to destroy herself? Am I crazy? Or am I sane?
What about my personality traits and activities that don’t fit neatly into either category, that don’t lend themselves to the labels of “good” or “bad,” “healthy” or “unhealthy?” And by these I mean… Creativity that ebbs and flows with my ever-changing moods. Late nights of writing poetry under the covers with a flashlight. Unconventional ways of seeing the world. Unique quirks and habits. Random bursts of energy and spontaneity. Ability to know who people are and what their lives are like upon merely glancing at them. The gift of seeing people’s auras. Knowing that every person on earth has their own musical chord that uniquely expresses the color of their soul. The ability to feel immense pain, but also breathtaking joy. Melancholy brooding or, on the flip side, a vivid awareness of my surroundings, both giving birth to new ideas, new expressions, even new worlds. An acute musical sensitivity. Any of these things I can use for good or for ill. To use to inspire, to lift, to bring light into the world and to others. To create beauty. Or… To manipulate, to gain power over others, to plunge myself into the depths of darkness. With them I can soar through the pristine heavens, or delve into the murkiness of the underworld.
Now this, this is the challenge. To identify the flaws. Are they flaws? And shall I indulge them? Would doing so condemn me to a life in and out of hospitals, on endless combinations of medications? To an emaciated body covered with scars? A broken life of guilt and shame? Ever sliding down and further down that slippery slope leading to complete insanity?
Identify. Challenge. Root out. Think. Discover. Dig down. Understand. Enlighten. Flaws… those things that hurt myself and others. Healthy behaviors… those things that preserve my dignity and my physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being while respecting the rights and feelings of others. And those things that don’t necessarily fit into either category? Those neutral gifts and attributes that can be used to help or hinder, heal or hurt? Creative flow, artistic passion, intuitiveness, quirkiness, originality, even some measure of oddness? These things are part of me… And will never go away…. I hope.
I asked my therapist about this today. My concern that becoming “healthy” would in some way rob me of the ability to feel deeply, to experience passion… That it would take away my vibrant imagination, my creativity, my ability to escape into a world all my own, my susceptibility to flashes of inspiration. I told her that I am most creative when I am depressed or “brooding,” or when I feel strangely “outside myself.” My pain – and sometimes, even my fits of elation – give birth to novel combinations of words and fantastic mental images, to a world of ghosts and of strangeness, of dreams and of nightmares, a world where the line between fantasy and reality is blurred. “I don’t want to give that up,” I said. “It’s part of me. Sometimes it’s all I’ve got.”
She told me that I already had the answer. “It’s part of me.” Those things that make me unique – that sometimes mingle, sometimes clash, to create my own complex personality and style of thinking, of expressing, of living – are essential aspects of who I am and will remain whether I am emotionally/ psychologically/ physically healthy or not. “You will just have to search to find that same inspiration from a different source other than your pain and depression, but the artist in you will never die.” She asked if she could read some of my poems. I can’t wait to show them to her next week. Of all the therapists I’ve had, she is the first to ever express such interest in my writing and my music. I’ve had doctors and therapists be interested in my I.Q., in my acting experience, even in my childhood imaginary friends… but never this. I left today feeling validated and important. I felt like a person. Not just a sick little girl.
“Big questions. Big decisions.” Yes, yes they are. Am I finding the answers? Slowly. Carefully. Painfully. Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Here a little. There a little.
Ambivalent still? A bit. Less ambivalent than I used to be? Much so.
Will I ever be truly “normal”? I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to be.
But then… is anyone?
April 3, 2010
I am so full of nervous energy right now I don’t know what to do with myself! I seriously feel like I could run five miles… Then I remember how much I hate running. So I’m thinking not.
I just attempted to cook myself some scrambled eggs, and I think more egg wound up glued to the pan then on my plate. I’ve always had terrible luck with eggs. Why do I even try? I should just permanently resign myself to hardboiled and be done with it.
Well, the real reason for this blog post is not to gripe about my pathetic lack of egg-cooking finesse, but rather to report on meeting my new therapist yesterday. I am pleased to announce it was tremendously successful! I felt comfortable with her right away and was able to open up fairly well. She didn’t focus on my past, which was a relief, and gave me some great insight on how my thoughts are connected to my feelings. I had expressed to her my frustration with the fact that I will wake up feeling great one day, and miserable the next. She said “I can guarantee that the thoughts you had the day before led to the feelings you wake up with that morning – you just aren’t completely aware of them yet.” That made total sense to me. She is having me keep a “mood log” so both she and I can keep track of how my emotions fluctuate throughout the day, and what thoughts or events trigger them.
She also gave me the option of communicating with her through email during the week if needed, and has me scheduled out for eight sessions. In general, she was very positive, validating, and seemed to be genuinely interested in me and my issues. I left feeling great.
One thing she did emphasize with me was that she encourages her clients to push themselves out of their comfort zone and to be actively working towards something. She said that at this point it’s probably not a good idea that I have so much time on my hands, and that maybe I should start thinking forward towards my next step. To be honest, the idea kind of scared me. I enjoy my comfort zone, thank you very much! But after some soul-searching, I realized I have been getting maybe a bit too comfortable in my present situation. Perhaps I am ready to branch out a bit. – maybe start looking for a part-time job, maybe volunteer somewhere, maybe take a couple classes this summer… Something to think about.
Well, I am as restless as all get out so I should probably go find another outlet. Maybe play some Guitar Hero, maybe put on “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness in my room and dance around like a complete dork, maybe work on my Jack Sparrow impression, maybe take pictures of my ever-multiplying stuffed frog collection …
… Who knows? 😉
April 1, 2010
Drum roll please!…
…*Drum roll commences*…
I made it through the day!
AND was finally able to accept the fact that what happened on Tuesday is not a reflection of my self-worth. The guy was a… um, jerk… (I had to censor myself here) and I’m very glad to be rid of him. I’m learning how to set boundaries and to separate myself from poisonous people. And while I’m still in kind of a fragile mental state, I was able to get through today without succumbing to any self-harm urges and got myself to exercise, clean my room, and work on my blog.
Plus, I made an appointment for tomorrow with yet another therapist. It’s a woman, which I’m more comfortable with, and my old therapist said that she has a similar counseling style to her own. Wish me luck!
March 26, 2010
It is 8 o’clock in the morning… AND I AM AWAKE.
And I have already been up for TWO HOURS. This is highly unusual for me, especially as I didn’t go to bed until midnight. With the Seroquel, I usually sleep 9-10 hours. But I woke up at 6am, and just didn’t feel like sleeping anymore! Astounding.
Well, I promised myself I would write about yesterday now that I’ve had time to sleep on everything. I guess things always do seem better in the morning, or at least less emotionally overwhelming.
I have a confession to make. As I knelt down to say my prayers before bed last night (yes, I actually got on my knees instead of mumbling a prayer as I’m falling asleep as is my usual custom haha), I said “Dear Father in Heaven, I must admit, I am not very grateful for this day.” Then I just started laughing because I don’t think I’ve ever said that in a prayer before… but I’m pretty sure God has a sense of humor and was laughing along with me (I hope). But really, I wish I could have just skipped the day entirely.
For you see, yesterday was my first session with my new therapist. All day leading up to the appointment, I was a nervous, anxious wreck. I basically threw a mental fit that went something like this:
“What if I just lock myself in my room and refuse to go?”
“No, you can’t do that. You have to go.”
“But I just want to run away instead! Please please please don’t make me go?!”
“Grow up Edde. What happened to your commitment to recovery? This has got to happen no matter how nervous you are!”
“I know, I know. Fine, I’ll go… But I’m not going to like it!!!” (*insert pouty face*)
I think the worst part was sitting in the foyer waiting for the foreboding moment when the door would swing open and I would look upon the face of this stranger to whom I was about to “tell all.” Yikes!! I almost had a panic attack right then and there, but forced myself to breathe and calm down. “Get control of yourself Edde!”
At last, the door opened. He was tall. And intimidating. And very… professional. He shook my hand and said “Nice to meet you. Come on in this way and have a seat on the couch.” So there I sat, hands clasped, bending forward, while he nonchalantly leaned back in a comfortable lounge chair. I half expected him to prop up the footstool and maybe reach behind the chair for a bowl of mixed nuts, but he didn’t. All I knew was that while I was fretting and sweating and wishing I could be anywhere but there, this was all just a matter of course to him, and he was as relaxed as if he had been in his own living room watching tv. In any other circumstances, I would have found the entire scene to be incredibly humorous, but at the time I couldn’t feel anything but dread at the torrent of questions to come.
Sure enough, in his calm, quiet, articulate voice, he asked me about… Everything. For most of the hour we reviewed my entire life history from age three onward. It is stressful in the first place to have to talk about everything you have ever experienced, but when it is a complete stranger you’re talking to, it’s at least ten times worse (add to that the fact that I was intimidated, self-conscious, and wondering with every word I spoke whether he had “sized me up” yet). My heart was pounding, my breath short, my muscles tense, and my chest tingling with anxious energy. I was not comfortable at all.
While I proceeded with my “word vomit,” he furiously jotted notes on a yellow pad of paper, which made me paranoid. What was he writing about me? What conclusions was he coming to? I hadn’t even finished the session and I was already over-analyzing! We went over the various things that I struggle with – in fact, he made a detailed list and read it over with me to make sure we got everything. Then we picked two things to work on first – binging and the urge to self-harm. So that was ok. What concerned me more were his observations about the source of my mental and emotional instability.
First, he said he believed that the abusive relationships I found myself in during college were probably more traumatizing than the sexual abuse I experienced as a child. That was a strange concept for me at first, but he said that as he watched me describe both experiences, it seemed that I became more disoriented and emotionally distraught when describing those traumatizing relationships than I did when discussing my childhood experiences. I recognized that as well, and I believe that is because I had already worked through those things with my previous therapist, so it is not as stressful for me to talk about anymore. Also, it wasn’t until after those relationships that my borderline symptoms really became severe, even though I have manifested a number of them since I was young. His conclusion was that on top of the depression, anxiety, and BPD, I am also suffering from PTSD. Super. Collecting diagnoses now, am I?
Another thing he pointed out was the contribution of what he perceived as my “isolation” during my later childhood and teenage years. I was homeschooled from second grade until college, and he believes that because of that I wasn’t able to develop good coping and social skills. I’m not sure if I completely buy that, but I do see how my feeling “different” contributed to my issues with self-esteem and relationships. I was always “the smart one,” “the talented one,” “the good girl,” – I was made to feel somehow different from everyone else, which was tough when all I really wanted was to fit in. Even in college, I never quite fit in socially. I have always felt that there was something somehow “wrong” with me, that I was a social/intellectual/emotional “misfit.” I think it was because of this that I began trying to be what I thought people wanted me to be. I became a chameleon of sorts, attempting desperately to blend in with whatever crowd I was with. Their interests became my interests, their values became my values, their attitudes towards me became my attitudes towards myself, etc. I lost all sense of self in conforming to whatever situation I was in or person I was with. At the time… It worked. I finally had friends, I finally felt like I was “fitting in.” But the trade off? I became a hollow shell. I had a hundred different masks that I could switch from moment to moment. While I was bright and lively and fun on the outside, I was dying on the inside.
At the end of the session, he gave me a list of books he wanted me to check out, and also a website where I could download “hypnosis” sessions. I’ve never been involved in any kind of hypnosis… I’m not opposed to it, but I’m curious how it will work. My only hang-up is that it costs about $12 to download one session… And he wants me to start off with at least three. Without a job right now, money is tight… But I guess I have to make sacrifices, right?
On the way home, I just cried and cried. For some reason, I felt hurt and I didn’t even know why. I felt somehow invalidated, for no real reason! Looking back, I think my it was because when I told him I had been diagnosed with BPD (by two different psychiatrists, I might add), he smirked like “Well, I’ll be the judge of that.” That’s fine… But I just have a repulsion to the whole “know-it-all” attitude that some therapists and doctors have. I don’t know. My tears were not only of emotional exhaustion, but also of sadness and anger that my previous therapist just had to move two and a half hours away. I miss her so terribly. She was so reassuring, and always said everything perfectly. And she never made me feel in the least bit uncomfortable, invalidated, or intimidated. I still plan on calling her today, because I don’t know if this new therapist she recommended is the right fit…. Though maybe I just need to suck it up and stop being a cry-baby.
I also found out yesterday that my Cobra insurance will only last as long as the company I previously worked for exists. Turns out, the company will likely be dissolving next month which means… Bye-bye insurance coverage! If that happens, I will have to go back to the counseling services provided by my church, as they charge half of what a typical therapist would. Even then, I will be paying from my savings account, which I’ve already spent more than half of with all the medical bills I’ve collected over the last few months. Sigh…
Well that’s my rant about yesterday. Thankfully I’m not feeling anxious about it anymore, which is progress for me. Typically things like this stress me out for days at a time, but I’m pretty much over it now… Well… Until the next session… 😉
March 25, 2010
I had all the best intentions of writing about my experience with my new therapist today, but I am so emotionally drained that I’m just not going to push it. I will probably be able to think about it clearer after a good night’s sleep anyways. Right now I’m simply going to pop some popcorn and watch a comedy I picked up from Redbox called “Paper Heart” and relax from the intense mental/emotional work I did. Ok now I feel lame… I should be able to bounce right back, right? Instead of crying all of the way home and wishing I had my old therapist back? Ugh… I need to stop beating myself up. And over-thinking. Ok, fine, I’m done… I know, I’ll post a song that my friend shared with me a couple of weeks ago. It always seems to lighten my mood a bit… (Seriously, I bet you can’t listen to this without feeling at least somewhat more cheerful)… Ok really, I’m done writing now!
March 8, 2010
Today was my last session with my current therapist. She just moved to San Jose and will be working there full time. I’m going to be transitioning to another therapist that she recommended, but I’m still sad. I’ve worked with her on and off for about two years now, and it will be strange seeing someone else. However, this therapist she recommended seems to be really good, and he specializes in borderline personality disorder, which is a major plus. Also, she’s going to talk to him about me and give him my file, so I don’t feel like I have to completely “start over” and retell my entire life story. Trust me, there are things in past I really don’t want to have to bring up again. Still, I don’t know him, so I’m a bit nervous, but my therapist said she feels I’m in a really good place right now so she’s not too worried about the transition. I’m sad to see her go though… She’s seen me through a lot.
Anyways…This constant fatigue is really frustrating me. I mean, I know I’ve been doing a lot of mental and emotional work lately, and I’m still adjusting to my medication but… Come on! You’d think I would be able to get by without sleeping 11-12 hours every night and then needing a nap in the middle of the day! I’m doing everything right in regards to eating well and exercising… But maybe I need to force myself to adjust to a more normal sleep schedule. Staying up until midnight and sleeping in until noon just isn’t practical. So one of my new goals this week is going to bed by 10pm and not letting myself sleep past 9am. Hopefully I’ll be able to scale my hours of sleep down to 8 or 9 hours a night eventually… But this is a start. I’ve also worked my way up to 60 min of exercise a 5-6 days a week, and I’m going to add in working on my abs as well.
Sigh… speaking of tired…I’m going to sign off. Goodnight.
March 2, 2010
One of the books I’m reading as part of my therapy is “Boundaries” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. Itbasically teaches you about setting and maintaining healthy boundaries with yourself and other people, and addresses issues that arise when boundaries are not maintained. It helps you learn what you are responsible for and what you’re not, and when to say “no.”
The lack of boundaries has always been an issue for me, and until I started therapy, I really had no grasp of the concept. I didn’t understand that I wasn’t responsible for everyone else, and that others did not have a right to invade my “space,” in a sense. I didn’t even understand that I had the right to say “no” without feeling guilty, or that I could be in control of what (or who) does or does not have a place in my life. This book has been very educational and has helped me to recognize the need for boundaries in my life and the tools to create them (and stick by them despite pressure from others).
Last night I read the chapter on “The Ten Laws of Boundaries.” The principles described here really hit home with me, so I wanted to write about them and how they apply in my own recovery:
Law #1: The Law of Sowing and Reaping
Basically, this is the law of cause and effect. This is simple reality. You can’t avoid consequences. If you overspend, you will most likely get into debt. If you eat right and exercise, you will have better physical health. Obvious, right?However, in human relationships, some people try to save others from this law by stepping in and reaping the consequences for someone else. For example, if every time you overspent, your mom stepped in and covered for you, she would be keeping you from experiencing natural consequences, and you’d never learn anything. You would do it over and over again.
I’ve found that I have a tendency to “step in” when it is not wise that I do so. Sometimes I have this “savior” mentality where I feel like I want to save those I love from ever being hurt. I’ve gone to great lengths to “fix” something for someone else, but by doing that, I not only drain myself, but I take power away from them – I keep them from experiencing the consequences and learning from them. This is called codependence. I have also been in relationships where my partner attempted to do the same for me – to “rescue” me from pain naturally occurring from the choices I made. In those relationships, I never really grew… I assumed that whenever I “messed up,” my partner would step in and “save me” (usually in an emotional sense).
Law #2: The Law of Responsibility
Cloud and Townsend write: “We are to love one another, not be one another. I can’t feel your feelings for you. I can’t think for you. I can’t behave for you. I can’t work through the disappointment that limits bring for you. In short, I can’t grow for you; only you can. Likewise, you can’t grow for me… You are responsible for yourself. I am responsible for myself.”
This kind of goes right along with Law #1.We are responsible “to” people but not “for” people. This was an important thing for me to learn, as I have always felt responsible for other people’s happiness. I felt if I couldn’t make everything all better for them, I was failing them. In reality, they are responsible for their own feelings. I am ultimately responsible for mine.
Law #3: The Law of Power
Under this heading there is a Bible verse that really hit home with me. It expresses my own feelings about my struggle with the thoughts, feelings, urges, tendencies brought about by depression, borderline, etc:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keeping doing…waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members (Romans 7:15,19,23).
This is a state of powerlessness, a state I know very well and fight against every day. Though I do not have the power in and of myself to overcome these patterns, I do have the power to do the things that will bring the fruits of success later on:
- I have the power to agree with the truth about my problems.
- I have the power to submit my inability to God. (I cannot make myself well, but I can call the Doctor! I can ask for help from my therapist and those I trust.)
- I have the power to search and ask God and others to reveal more and more about what is within my boundaries. (Communicate and be open to evaluating myself).
- I have the power to turn from the negative I find within me. (Not that I’ll be perfect, but I can recognize that those things aren’t good and take the steps I need to replace negative behaviors with positive).
- I have the power to humble myself and ask God and others to help me with my developmental injuries and leftover childhood needs.
- I have the power to seek out those that I have injured and make amends.
The serenity prayer says: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. In other words, “God… help me to clarify my boundaries and to know what I have the power to overcome myself, and what I need to turn to You and others for help with. Help me to know what is me and what is not me.”
Law #4: The Law of Respect
If we want people to respect our boundaries, we must respect theirs as well. Hearing “no” has always been hard for me. But if, we love and respect people who tell us no, they will in turn love and respect our no. “Freedom begets freedom.” When we accept that others have the right to set boundaries with us, we feel better about setting our own.
Law #5: The Law of Motivation
We fear that other people won’t respect the boundaries that we set with them. This is quite an issue that I struggle with. I’m afraid if I tell people no, or be specific about my needs, they will be disappointed, angry, or hurt (I’ve learned to fear this from past experiences). I’m afraid I will be abandoned. Sometimes we do a lot for other people, not out of love, but out of fear. Fear that we will not be loved anymore if we confront them or say no. This is a false motive that keeps us from setting boundaries, and it includes:
- Fear of loss of love, or abandonment.
- Fear of others’ anger.
- Fear of loneliness.
- Fear of losing the “good me” inside. (“I’m being selfish/unloving”)
- Guilt (When I say no, I feel bad)
- Payback (You receive things with a guilt message, so you feel obligated to give back)
- Approval (The other person becomes a symbolic “parent”)
- Overidentification with other’s loss. (Haven’t dealt with their own losses so they feel someone else’s sadness to a much greater degree)
If I do things for others for any of these reasons, I’m not really free. I’m not doing it out of love and being a good person. I just get bogged down more and more. “Let God work on the fears, resolve them, and create some healthy boundaries to guard the freedom you were called to.”
Law #6: The Law of Evaluation
Sometimes we assume that if we set boundaries, we will get a negative response. Though this is sometimes true, that doesn’t mean we should avoid boundaries. Ultimately, when we set boundaries, the result is good for both you and the other person (in the long-term). It leads to honesty, relief from guilt, and better communication of who you are and what you need. Though it may be difficult because setting boundaries sometimes requires confrontation and hurt feelings, if we do not do this, anger and bitterness will set in because we are not being open about our own limits and needs. Doing so also gives the other person permission to be honest as well.
Law #7: The Law of Proactivity
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Cloud and Townsend give the example of someone who has spent years being passive and compliant, and then suddenly exploding out of nowhere. Though this reactive phase of boundary creation is helpful (especially for victims) and frees that person from a feeling of powerlessness, being stuck in this phase does not allow for the development of proactivity. “This is where you are able to use the freedom you gained through reacting to love, enjoy, and serve one another. Proactive people show you what they love, what they want, what they purpose, and what they stand for. These people are very different from those who are known by what they hate, what they don’t like, what they stand against, and what they will not do.”
I went through my own phase of “reactivity” and “rebelliousness,” in a sense, where I felt like I was fighting against people and ideas all of the time. While it made me feel powerful, it was also a very negative place to be. I started to pass off judgments about people without even really thinking, and I just felt like arguing all of the time. I eventually realized that’s just not where I wanted to be and needed more positivity and love in my life.
Law #8: The Law of Envy
Envy focuses on what others have or have accomplished, or in other words, outside of our boundaries. It can lead us to neglecting our own responsibilities can become a destructive spiral downward. Instead of envying what someone else has, look at yourself and figure out why you feel like you’re lacking so much. Why are you resentful? Do you really want that? Then you need to work on yourself, instead of focusing so much time and energy wishing you could be like someone else. Comparing yourself to someone else never leads to growth. Taking inventory of your life and your desires does.
Law #9: The Law of Activity
God gave me the ability to take initiative. He will match my effort, be he doesn’t do my work for me – that would be an invasion of my boundaries. Passivity and “shrinking back” never pays off. I am supposed to try, to put the effort in. I’m going to fail and make mistakes, but at least I’m trying… And that’s what’s important. The “trying” part is completely my responsibility. When a baby bird is ready to hatch, if you break the egg for it, it will die. The bird needs to peck its own way out of the egg. This strengths the bird and allows it to function in the outside world. If you rob the bird of this responsibility, it will die. If God or others “hatch” for me, I will ultimately fail. I won’t have my own strength to get through life. That’s why problems and struggles are so important, and why God doesn’t fix everything for us. If He did, we would never learn and grow.
Law #10: The Law of Exposure
“The Law of Exposure says that your boundaries need to be made visible to others and communicated to them.” Because of the fears described earlier, we set “secret” boundaries. We withdraw, resent, or experience the pain of someone’s irresponsibility instead of being honest about how they effect us. If boundaries are unexpressed, relationships suffer. Nothing good ever comes from lack of boundaries. If they’re not exposed directly, the will be communicated indirectly (passive-agressiveness) or through manipulation.
We need to make sure people can see us clearly. Boundaries help us to be seen and heard. If we do not communicate our needs, desires, things we are uncomfortable with… we hide parts of ourselves in the darkness. “When our boundaries are in the light, that is, are communicated openly, our personalities begin to integrate for the first time. They become ‘visible’ and then they become light. They are transformed and changed. Healing always takes place in the light.” This was incredibly eye-opening to me. It helped me to understand at least part of the reason why I struggle with feeling like a real person and why I’m different depending on who I’m with or what situation I’m in… It’s my lack of boundaries and communication. I’m so afraid of “losing” people, of being rejected or abandoned, I “hide” myself and allow anything and everything into my person. My personality is not integrated. Once I start setting boundaries, being honest about who I am (my needs, wants, beliefs, values, etc), I will start to feel “real” and I won’t “lose” myself around other people. And this will allow myself to heal and discover who I really am. Amazing!
I wanted to share all of this because it has taught me so much. My goal is to work on having healthy boundaries with other people, so I can feel better about myself and have successful relationships. This is just one chapter of the book… The rest talks about boundary myths, boundary problems, how boundaries develop throughout your lifetime, etc… I might be writing about this book again sometime soon. There’s just so much information to process… Wow, I just pretty much wrote a book of my own. They’re going to kick me out of the library here in a minute so… Goodbye!