How to know when you’ve truly stopped judging yourself

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Self-judgment: I definitely feel it almost every time I sit down to work on this blog now. Loud, brash, mean, and spiteful. I realize it’s been months and I realize I’ve let it slide and isn’t that just like me to go half-assed on something and what do I think I’m doing with my time and blah blah blah. Then I feel angry at myself and generally depressed and touchy and if my husband gently asks whether I’ve remembered to pick up hand soap (and I haven’t), I freak out and get defensive and wonder why I’m being so fucking over-sensitive and beat myself up for that instead, and the whole thing starts again but with a different theme.

But I realized something the other day.

Imagine a strange woman coming up and telling you, in a loud, critical, angry voice, “You’re purple! You’re so purple!” Would you be offended? Hurt? Or simply confused as hell? You know you’re not purple. You can see that you’re not purple. No one else is calling you purple. So this woman’s assertion that you are purple is incredibly easy to see for exactly what it is: purely a reflection of something about HER and the way she sees the world.

Now “purple” isn’t an inherently good or bad quality, and strangers’ opinions are fairly easy to discount since you know that they don’t even know you. Easier to shrug off. Let’s try something closer to home.

Imagine a friend with whom you get quite along well. Suddenly, one day, he stops you with an aggressive, angrily shouted statement: “You’re an awful parent.” Btw, in this scenario, you don’t have kids.

In light of the disconnect between what you know to be true (you’re not a parent) and what your friend has just attacked you for (you’re a bad parent), although you’d probably feel at least a little defensive/attacked at the tone, it’s unlikely his shouts would fill you with fiery emotions. On the contrary, you’d be more inclined to treat the criticism with unemotional curiosity, a genuine desire to understand what’s going on in your friendship at that moment: “What does that mean?” you might say. “I’m not a parent—how can I be a bad one?” Or “I guess you’re unhappy with me but clearly, you’re not telling me the real reason why.”

Maybe you see where I’m going with this.

Criticism only really stings if you (at least partially) agree with it.

Interestingly, my “wise mind” illustrated this entire point to me in less than a single second. That’s how long it takes to internalise core truths: they don’t even require language, or the time it takes to think of the words to describe them.

I’m thinking of a friend of mine who is driven into blind rage by her mother’s continued assertions that she is “selfish” for not having kids. My friend could not be a less selfish person: she gives generously to charities with her time and money, she is utterly devoted to her family members and bases her life choices on making them happy, and she is a wonderful friend and person. But part of her dynamic with her mom has always been this way: her mother planting seeds of guilt and self-doubt about her alleged “selfishness,” which my friend has now internalised to the point that it drives her crazy to hear this belief spoken out loud, because she’s hearing it subconsciously (from herself) all the time.

To my mind, you have two options to protect yourself and your emotional well-being when faced with extremely hurtful criticism:

  1. If it’s at all true, acknowledge and agree. “I can definitely be forgetful. It’s something I’ll continue to work on.” My husband taught me this one (without realising it) and WOW, is it effective. Nothing takes the wind out of my sails quicker than adopting this attitude. Combined with an apology (only if necessary of course), this is lethally effective at neutralising angry criticism. It empowers the person saying it because they’ve just turned their unsuspecting attacker into an ally AND a bully! I find myself immediately realising that we’re on the same team, and I apologize for being so critical.
  2. If it’s not even slightly true, firmly disagree with as little emotional energy as possible, and drop it: “Mom, I know that I’m not selfish and if you keep calling me that, I’m going to end the conversation.” Then move on. Despite all attempts by the other person to perpetuate the cycle of abuse they love to watch you struggle in—MOVE ON. Do so by physically leaving the conversation if necessary. As you stand up for yourself outwardly, bolster yourself inwardly as well; reassure yourself that you are NOT what this person’s saying and it has everything to do with them, not you. Trust me, unfortunately, I know from experience: there is nothing more frustrating than someone who flat out refuses to take your poison daggers to heart. This technique effectively bares the attacker to him/herself; without the other person engaging, the attacker is nothing but a twisted, unhappy troll venting spleen at nothing. [Note: Pushing this feeling on some attackers may actually be dangerous, as it forces them to experience the horrible emotions that they’re trying to thrust on you. Leave/get help immediately if you sense the situation is escalating or the person is becoming dangerously emotionally disregulated as a result.]

We all worry and take certain judgments to heart because we convince ourselves that we don’t know “the truth.” We wonder if we really are selfish, fat, cruel, deceitful, annoying, clingy, stupid, boring, etc. etc. We fear we are those things, and that’s why they hurt to hear them. If we didn’t partially believe them, they couldn’t hurt.

Reassure yourself. You know the truth. You’re not selfish or deceitful or stupid. You’re human. You’re not perfect. You probably have been selfish or deceitful or stupid at least once in your life (I know I have). But you ARE none of those things… what you are is so much more than any one of those behaviours or coping mechanisms or mistakes or whatever you want to think of them as. Imagine if you took the massive amount of emotional energy that goes into consciously judging yourself, unconsciously judging yourself, reacting when someone else judges you, attacking someone else who you feel has attacked you, etc. etc. etc.

and just put it towards one single thing: doing better.

That’s my current objective though some days it feels so utterly impossible, I might as well be aiming for the moon….

 

Cat xxxx

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Anger: The Cage and the Key

I’ve read and researched a lot about anger but it’s still, by far, the emotion I struggle with most. The Tara Brach quote “Anger is armour” comes back to my mind time and time again: I get it on a conscious level: anger is the protector, it shows us where we are vulnerable. In this way, anger is both the cage (protecting but hindering us) and the key (crucial in pointing out places where we need extra care or work). But I don’t truly get it on a subconscious level: Why do I get SO angry at the thought of being misunderstood, alienated, isolated, left alone with my unbearable emotions?

When I am sad or depressed and allow myself to show it in front of my husband, and he doesn’t seem to feel the same thing strongly enough or understand enough (classic BPD, of course no one will ever understand enough), part of me literally hates him: I want to hurt him, make him cry, make him share this awful feeling with me.

I recently found two great articles—“What Your Anger May Be Hiding” and “Afraid to Rage”—and I go over and over them, trying to digest every word in a way that lets it seep down to the deepest level of my brain… sometimes words sit on the surface of my mind (the logical/”ego” part) but they can’t seem to permeate the part that really knows and understands them—the part that feels things, and uses those feelings to decide what is really true. As a result, I can hear all the “I’m here for you”s and “I love you”s in the world and still feel empty, alone and resentful of how little someone cares. So on my part, anger is my default response to gestures of care or attempts at connection when I already feel awful.

It must be beyond frustrating for those who love borderlines to say these things—to put such care and vulnerability into their words and actions—and get, at best, no response (if the borderline tightly suppresses their anger) or at worst, a blowout (if the borderline lashes out). So on my husband’s part, (suppressed) anger is both his response to my anger, and he also feels furious at himself for his inability to help me.

I’m not describing this particularly well (sorry I get rusty when I don’t post often), but you can see that the situation we’re in is hardly a honeymoon phase first year of marriage; it’s more like a spot where two forest fires meet, saying and doing hurtful things until the whole area around them is scorched and dead. Throw in the fact that we’ve moved countries (we are now virtually each other’s only support system and do not know anyone else very well here), and suffered a difficult loss this past summer, and the emotional soup has been boiling over pretty fucking frequently so far in our marriage.

I’m not sure how many borderlines can identify with me on this (I suspect quite a few could) but these are the things I notice about my anger:

-I notice that when I get angry, I immediately feel better if I hurt someone (by saying something incredibly cutting, for instance).

-I notice that once I’ve hurt someone in anger, and the emotion cools/the high wears off, I actually feel awful. My self-esteem plummets and I’m consumed with guilt about what a terrible person I truly am, deep down.

-I notice that when my husband gets visibly angry, my own anger almost instantly evaporates. It’s as though I’ve learned to stop exhibiting (or even feeling) anger once the relationship genuinely seems to be in danger (i.e., once the other person isn’t “safe” anymore and he really does seem angry). This is described in “Afraid to Rage” as a classic feature of passive-agressiveness, which develops when children feel that their anger isn’t acceptable: if anger endangers the child’s relationship with a parent, it puts their very survival is at risk (we can’t live without care when we’re young), so they start channeling the anger into “safer” expressions (heartbreakingly, it’s often against themselves/their own bodies).

-I notice that it REALLY bothers me—like to a nigh unbearable level—to NOT say hurtful things and lash out when I’m hurting. It feels like I’m invalidating myself and my emotions, and like venting them will give me power again. Never mind the fact that I logically know how awful I feel every single time I’ve verbally blasted some undeserving person in anger.

-For whatever reason, I don’t clearly remember a lot from my childhood, but I do remember feeling unmanageable levels of anger as a child and especially as an adolescent; I also remember taking out that anger on people who did not deserve it, and getting a sense of gratification from controlling or manipulating the people that I could (read: felt safe enough to) control or manipulate. To this day, I feel tremendous guilt about this misdirected anger.

-I also remember lying and stealing as a child, both of which are identified in “Afraid to Rage” as passive-aggressive ways of acting out grievances—of “stealing” or “grabbing” power back in a way that is much safer than overt rebellion.

-Without a doubt, my parents’ ability to express or respond to anger isn’t the best—but I don’t really know how to address/fix the impact that has obviously had on me. My mom is very much an avoidant person who feels uncomfortable with anger, and while my dad can be the same way, he also has a very bad temper that mostly comes out in sarcasm, bitterness, and harsh remarks. I get the sense that my husband and I learned similar “lessons” in different ways—i.e., that anger is dangerous and should ideally be suppressed.

All of this turmoil = increased depression and quite a few steps backwards for me in terms of BPD behaviours. Meanwhile, I see my husband suffering in many ways that are characteristic of suppressed emotions, or always being “the strong one” (chronic exhaustion, physical health ailments/rundown immune system, and gut issues/weight loss). More than anything, I think we both fight the exact same awful thought: that each of us is the reason the other person is suffering. I know that it’s not true for either of us to think that. But holy shit, sometimes it’s so bloody difficult to imagine how people do this for years and years on end (carry on a marriage complicated by emotional/mental health issues, I mean).

As I say, I know full well that anger is actually a symptom of how much I care, and how painful it is to feel the most vulnerable I have ever felt. Getting married is a pretty clear and scarily open declaration of your feelings for another person, and I suppose that this backlash was inevitable. BPD-me—the one saying “everyone will hurt you in the end, no one understands, no one could actually love you, etc. etc.”—cannot stand being wrong. I love my husband and I know we are destined to keep fighting through this storm together… but how do I keep anger from repeatedly setting us back along the way? Any tips from other (or former) borderlines?

-Cat xx

 

 

Everyone has a plan… until they get punched in the mouth

Life has been living up to this Mike Tyson quote lately, and in a way, I’m not overly surprised. Getting married about 10 months ago was a huge change for me, and not one that I felt entirely ready for. I don’t regret it… but I knew it’d be tough. Really tough. And maybe I’ve self-sabotaged a bit because of that knowledge, unconsciously waiting for it to get difficult until – SHOCK – it did.

These days, I manage my BPD (or I keep it in “remission,” rather) by keeping my environment and body as stable as I can. I actively avoid negativity/triggering things whenever possible, and I’m now that shockingly lame person who eats loads of fruit and veg, takes supplements for brain health, gets to bed early, and works out most days of the week. Until early this month, that is, when all hell broke loose, for reasons that are too long to go into here.

Anyway, self-care took a nosedive, depression came roaring back into my life, and severe anxiety started to creep into my every waking minute, which is weird, because I’ve always been a depressive (as in past-focused) rather than an anxious (as in future-focused) person.

Now my husband and I are embroiled in a horrendous standoff—the kind I’ve had with almost every single person who has ever been close to me at some point. The kind that goes “You just don’t care about me, you wish I was dead, and if you did care, you would do _____(fill in the blank with some unknown and impossibly intuitive action).” Why? Because I have BPD, and it’s what we do, isn’t it? Ruin our interpersonal relationships, in the same way, with the same weapons, over and over and over.

So I’m writing this from the heart of damage-control mode, and not really sure what we’re going to do. See a therapist? Did we really only make it less than a year without needing marriage counselling? I feel like such a fucking failure. I hate relapsing at the best of times but this feels like the biggest setback in a long time, like I haven’t made any progress at all, even though my husband tries to remind me that I have.

The BPDfamily.com website has actually been quite helpful to me today. I haven’t felt emotionally okay enough to show it to my husband or look at it WITH him, but I’m trying to see things from his perspective, trying to use it to get outside of my own head and corrosive thinking. And one post from a member there made stop in my tracks, so I’d like to share it here, verbatim:

20 Common Negative Assumptions in BPD thinking:

1. I will always be alone

2. There is no one who really cares about me, who will be available to help me, and whom I can fall back on.

3. If others really get to know me, they will find me rejectable and will not be able to love me; and they will leave me.

4. I can’t manage by myself, I need someone I can fall back on.

5. I have to adapt my needs to other people’s wishes, otherwise they will leave me or attack me.

6. I have no control of myself.

7. I can’t discipline myself.

8. I don’t really know what I want.

9. I need to have complete control of my feelings otherwise things go completely wrong.

10. I am an evil person and I need to be punished for it.

11. If someone fails to keep a promise, that person can no longer be trusted.

12. I will never get what I want.

13. If I trust someone, I run a great risk of getting hurt or disappointed.

14. My feelings and opinions are unfounded.

15. If you comply with someone’s request, you run the risk of losing yourself.

16. If you refuse someone’s request, you run the risk of losing that person.

17. Other people are evil and abuse you.

18. I’m powerless and vulnerable and I can’t protect myself.

19. If other people really get to know me they will find me rejectable.

20. Other people are not willing or helpful.

I’ve no idea where this was originally taken from (as I say, a user just posted it on the message boards at BPDfamily.com), but it served to remind me of what I already know deep down. These are NOT MY THOUGHTS. This is BPD. Plain and (not that) simple. How is that someone can list 20 (TWENTY) statements that perfectly capture my thinking, word for word, when I’m most upset? Answer: because I’m clearly experiencing such a classic, textbook case of this mental disorder that I—along with all other borderlines—can agree with these highly personal statements. It’s a bizarre and very uncomfortable feeling to think that a thought that carries so much emotional weight is, at its core, really just a trick of the brain—a twisted mental process that I’ve internalized until it feels like it’s “the truth” or “the real me.” But it’s not the real me. Just my old frenemy, come to fuck up my life for a while, once again.

Hoping to see you all on the other side of this soon.

Yours in solidarity,

-Cat xoxox

Would I have BPD on a desert island?

An interesting hypothetical question that I used to ask myself all the time. Except I didn’t know what BPD was, so I’d ask it with respect to specific component/symptoms instead.

Ask yourself that question now (or if you don’t have BPD, ask a relevant version).

Would you still have an eating disorder if you lived entirely alone on a on a desert island? Would you still cut yourself on a desert island? Would you really be unable to get out of bed (or your coconut fibre hammock or whatever) on a desert island?

Your answer may be different from mine. For me the answer that came from within me was always the same: a half-hearted “I… don’t think so?”

I took this answer to mean that my mental illness was superficial and fake. That it was created, by me, for attention. That it had everything to do with other people and random circumstances and performance-related reasons, and very little to do with my actual brain/soul/self.

That was one way of looking at it. And, as was usual for me back then, it was an extremely self-critical and disparaging way of looking at it.

In a way, my old self was right: I probably would not exhibit many symptoms if I lived alone on a desert island. Why? Because so much of BPD is about interpersonal relationships. Triggers often come from how people treat us, what they say, etc.  That doesn’t mean I’d be happy living in total isolation (another situation I often mistakenly fantasized about), but I probably wouldn’t be triggered either. No real joy and no real misery.

And isn’t that the whole reason we put ourselves on (real or metaphorical) desert islands? To say “I’m done opening my heart to people” is to try and live on just such an island. The convincing fallacy is that without the highs, there are no lows. Unfortunately, life has a very effective way of making you feel its inevitable lows, regardless of what you’ve planned out — and once you’re cut off, there’s no one to help you with them. Womp womp. “No real highs and plenty of real lows” is the more accurate description of isolating yourself from other people.

But to say I wouldn’t have BPD on a desert island is only partly true. I probably wouldn’t self-harm, but I know I’d still feel sad, depressed, and maybe even suicidal at times.

The cool thing is, I now see the use of this scenario: I can use the desert-island question to determine, very clearly and quickly, when I need to feel something (an inner emotion) and when I need to say something (an outward action). It’s remarkably useful for someone who, once a wave of emotion hits, can’t always figure out what she wants or needs.

For instance, if I’m so angry that I’m about to leave the house, drive off, turn off my phone and leave a loved one wondering where the hell I am, I can (hopefully) take a pause and ask myself: Would I still be about to do this if I was dropped on a desert island right now? If the answer is no, then I know that what I’m doing is, in fact, about communicating my hurt to someone, and I need to say/do something — that is, I know that I need to draw my focus outwards, away from my own emotion and towards effective communication with others.

Conversely, when I’m on the brink of crying over something someone’s said, I ask myself the same question, and the answer is almost always yes — yes, I would still want to break down sobbing alone on a desert island. That’s how I know that I need to feel something, experience something and draw my focus inwards instead of outwards.

I don’t mean to oversimplify: obviously, there’s a lot more to it than this, and it’s far from easy for me to step back, ask myself this question, then calmly answer it and react appropriately. But you know me: I’ll take any and every helpful tool I can get when it comes to handling my emotions, and I’ve found this rather odd mind set to be a pretty insightful one at times. I hope it can help someone else too.

Cat xxxx

 

Make Peace with Your Unlived Life

A somewhat airy-fairy title for an article from the Harvard Business Review, which is why it caught my eye as I was plodding through my usual work (i.e., providing source information for boring-ass business article after boring-ass business article).

Of course, it was mostly in relation to career stuff (it is HBR, after all), but I soon found myself engrossed in this piece, identifying more and more with the author’s thoughts on the many identities we try out (mentally or physically/actually) throughout our lives.

As I’ve written about many times, BPD and identity issues are inseparable. And the further I move away from the throes of living in the midst of this disorder, the more interested I am in finding out how it happened, and how it relates to “the real me.” When did my BPD start? Why? How can I prevent it taking over my identity (my “inner theatre” as this article calls it) ever again? How can I avoid contributing to BPD in myself or in anyone else?

That’s why my skin began to prickle and my stomach tensed as I realized that I was essentially reading a how-to manual for creating BPD—one that I had experienced first hand:

Donald Winnicott elaborated on the idea of the “true self” and “false self.” He explained that beginning in infancy, all of us, in response to perceived threats to our well-being, develop a defensive structure that may evolve into a “false self.” He suggests that if our basic needs are not acknowledged—not mirrored back to us by our parents—we may presume they are unimportant. Complying with our parents’ desires, we may repress our own desires, not actualizing what we really like to do. We may believe that non-compliance endangers our role in the family. In addition, we may internalize our parents’ dreams of self-glorification through our achievements. But this acquiescence to the wishes of others is an emotional lie. It comes at the price of suppressing our own needs. In our efforts to please others, we hide and deny our “true self,” which in turn leads to self-estrangement. If that’s the case, the “false self” will get the upper hand. It becomes a defensive armor to keep the “true self” at bay and hidden.

Of course I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a more succinct and accurate account of how my own BPD developed. To this day,  I struggle tremendously with the notion of my parents’ expectations, and the idea of how horrified and ashamed they would be to see “the real me” (that is, to know everything about me and how fallible I really am).

Part of me (a logical part) knows that’s probably not true: my parents will always love me, and they’d be the first to say that all they want is for me to be happy. But it’s hard to shake those defensive structures that we developed as kids, no matter how unnecessary or unjustified they might’ve been (and I’m not saying mine WERE unjustified… I do think that my parents’ actions and behaviours spoke louder than their words ever could in terms of creating a need for defenses; saying “I love you no matter what” once or twice doesn’t negative hundreds of instances that implied strong disapproval).

But I don’t want to blame my parents, because lord knows we all do enough of that already in the mental health realm! And anyway, my parents raised three other kids without BPD, so it’s obviously not fair to say they’re the “cause” of my BPD. Rather, I want to know why some people can take disapproval, punishment, even trauma, and turn it into something totally unlike BPD, while others can’t take much of anything without developing this (or a similar disorder). Is it chemical? Circumstantial? Will we ever know?

Part two of my attraction to this article has to do with the “making peace” part—not only with one’s “shadow self” or the parts we don’t show the world, but also with all the chances that we never realize, the choices to the left when we always took the right. This sense of loss, and the desire to accept that loss, is huge in my life right now. I’m not sure it necessarily has to do with BPD (I feel like it does), but every time I’ve made a big decision in my life, I go through a period of intense grieving (usually totally internal/mental) for whatever I didn’t choose. Given that I’ve probably just made the biggest decision of my life this past year (getting married), I probably should have expected this deluge of feels and (in a way) regrets, but, whaddyaknow, I didn’t. :/

I realize that this post is kind of scattered and nonsensical, so please excuse my sharing it; I kind of see it as a true reflection of the sense of identity that I have right now: muddled, messy, and not very convincing—really more questions than answers—but also, the best that I can offer at the moment. ❤

Cat xxxx

When is BPD “Cured”?

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I’ve written before about being “cured”, and when I looked back to find the post where I mentioned that, I was shocked to realize it was (almost) a whopping two years ago. !!!

It seems a bit naive to use that word at all. In the two-year period since that post, I’ve achieved a lot of things that make me feel cured (I no longer self-harm, I’m not in therapy or on any medication, and I’ve even managed to form a healthy romantic bond and get married <note: this bizarre fact needs to be the subject of its own post (or several) one day), but I would no longer use the word “cured” for any mental illness tbh – and maybe not for any illness at all.

It’s an odd thing to say – cured – because it implies that you are exactly the same as you were before an illness/event affected you. But we’re never really the same. Not after cancer, or schizophrenia, or surgery, or any other massively dynamic shift in our bodies and/or souls. Things have changed on a cellular level, and sometimes the very building blocks that make up our entire worldview seem to have undergone alchemical transformations.

I love the comic above by Hannah Hillam, because it illustrates what I’m saying perfectly (and so much more succinctly). BPD will never be out of the picture entirely for me. And in that sense, I don’t think I’ll ever be cured. Instead, it will probably just always be there, in the background, affecting my choices with low-level input and threatening to engulf me if I don’t keep it in check. I’m (oddly?) okay with that. When you compare the two panels, I guess it makes sense why I’d feel okay with that.

Just to be out of the situation on the left is incredible; I hope I never take that freedom for granted (even though sometimes, I can already see myself doing exactly that). I remember – vaguely and in the way we can never truly remember acute pain – what it felt like to want to die. Every moment was agony and every breath taken grudgingly, wishing it could just stop. Trapped in my head with something cruel and hateful, something that criticized everything about me in screaming tones that I couldn’t block out even as I pressed my hands over my ears and literally begged it to be silent. Unable to stop the images that flashed through my mind, images of my own suicide and too many horrible things to mention – things that convinced me further that I was fucked up and would be better off dead.

As I sit here writing this, I shudder to remember that place, that feeling. But I’m not foolish enough to think it’s a place I have left behind forever. The door to that world is still there in the hallway of my mind, closed but not barred. I can walk past it – I often do – and make the choice not to go in there. But I remember what it was like to feel unable to choose, to be trapped in there and unaware that there was even a way out.

The other reason I’m not in a hurry to use the word “cured” is because I also think that it can lead to a false sense of security. Once we feel (or are labelled) “better,” it’s very easy to veer back towards the same habits that may have caused us problems in the first place. The stage I’m at now is one of hyper vigilance in this respect. I don’t read the news if at all possible (especially now…). If someone says something hateful, mean, triggering, even callous or careless, I leave the room or pointedly change the subject. I let myself get upset or cry, no matter how small the hurt, processing what happened and validating it. I rarely watch movies or TV without reading detailed synopses and reviews online, so I can avoid upsetting content. I eat with my health in mind, take certain supplements for brain health every day, and try not to have more than one alcoholic drink at a time (and even one is rare).

But most most most importantly, I check in with myself constantly; I invest a LOT of time and energy into making sure I never get to the point of depressed, and hopeless, waiting for somebody to say or do something to make it better – because this, to me, was the trademark sentiment of BPD, the mind frame, in a nutshell, that kept me feeling victimized and codependent, caught in borderline cycles of abandonment and anger. If I’m feeling like no one is meeting my needs, I go above and beyond to meet my own needs that day – and I try to do that with as little bitterness/animosity as I can towards the people that I believe have “let me down” (by not meeting said needs… I’m not great at that part yet, but I’m slowly getting better).

Does this sound selfish and self-absorbed? Like I refuse to listen to the plights of refugees and just buy myself cupcakes and manicures instead? I don’t mean it to, but even if it does sound that way… frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn. I know what I’m capable of and what I’m not capable of at this particular moment. And I no longer feel much of a need to justify myself or wallow in guilt when I know it only makes me useless and sick. I donate to causes I believe in, I help in ways that I can, and I look forward to the day when I can devote myself even more to the nitty-gritty of remedying the world’s endless pile of horrific injustices. For now, it’s enough to be getting better. It’s enough to be as close to “cured” as I may ever be.

Cat xxxx

p.s. a very loving shoutout and hug to anyone still reading, in spite of my patchy record of posting over these last couple years! xo

 

 

What I Wanted to Say

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It could be the title of my ongoing autobiography. There are so many things that I’ve wanted to say to people and never did. Some of them are hurtful, or defensive, or damning. They are about being “right” and (self)righteous. But I don’t find it too hard to let go of those ones anymore. I think it’s probably for the best that they go unsaid (at least, unsaid to those people.)

What I truly regret not saying are the unspoken words of love, forgiveness, admiration, and truth. Why should it be hard to say those? I’m not sure – but I find myself totally incapable of speaking them.

Every time I get together with a certain friend of mine (the word “friend” feels really, really inadequate here) – every single fucking time – I psyche myself up. I tell myself that this will be the time. And every time, I leave our get-togethers kicking myself because I can’t say these things.

The most frustrating part about it? I feel like I’m enacting my parents’ flaws/problems – I feel like I can’t say the simple things that are kind or loving because they couldn’t say those things to me (I forgive them for that, but I’ve never said THAT to them either :/). Against all my therapy and progress and self-awareness, there is STILL a really really deep-seated/childhood-based aversion to love and the expression of it. It’s so fucking exasperating. 😦

Here’s what I should have said on any of the many occasions that John (not his real name) and I have gotten together since my massive breakdown that led to me moving out of our shared place, and what I still hope to say one day (and yes I could cop out and send this as a letter but to me it would show a lot more growth if I could (ever) say these things out loud.)….

John:

You know when something’s really wrong – some flaw in your happiness, some wound or old scar in your heart – and it’s so deep and familiar that you feel it in your body as soon as you wake up, but it takes your conscious brain a few minutes to remember what it is?

For me, that feeling, that wound, will always be the memory of the way that I treated you during the worst years of our friendship.

It’s not often that you meet someone who feels destined to be in your life. It’s not often that you have so much in common – from your interests to your backgrounds to your personalities to your thoughts and behaviours – that you click as well as we always have. It’s even rarer that you think “Huh. Suddenly and almost immediately, I absolutely adore this person like my brother or my oldest, closest friend.” Many of my happiest memories are of you and me, having fun together the way only two bosom friends (to quote Anne of Green Gables) can. Maybe things would have been easier and simpler if we just loved each other in a “normal” heterosexual type of way. But we didn’t, and I’m glad we never tried to pretend that we did.

Part of what made it so easy to thrust you into the role of my caretaker, saviour and other half (not that this excuses it) was the fact that you do feel like my other half in so many ways. Part of me feels like you know everything I’m about to say – even what I’m saying right now – without me having to say it. But I don’t want that to be a reason to leave these things unsaid. They need to be said.

Words have never been less adequate than when I say that I am so sorry for all of the things I said and did while I was falling apart for all those years. If I could do something – anything – to make it so none of that ever happened, I would. I feel like I could buy you a private island or give you my firstborn kid as an organ donor or something and it still wouldn’t even come close to repaying you. I owe you everything, and one of the worst thoughts I can have now is remembering that for years – years that must have been fucking hell for you – I did my absolute best to hurt, maim and ruin you in response to all your help and love and self-sacrifice. It’s almost unbearable to know I can never undo it, and I can never apologize enough.

I know that you and I belong together the way that family do. I could pretend to burn a bridge with one of my siblings or cut ties with them, but the possibility that they might be unhappy somewhere in the world would make me miserable inside, and mean that my happiness was not complete. In the same way, it doesn’t matter if we don’t see each other or speak for years; I can’t really be okay in life unless I know that you’re okay. I could get famous and rich, and win a Nobel prize and end animal cruelty and have a perfect marriage and six healthy happy kids, and still be like, “But where’s John? Is he happy with his life?”

And that’s the main reason I’m saying this now: the hope that this will make you feel better or happier, if there’s even a chance that this can achieve that. If there’s any part of you that ever doubts or regrets the way you handled the lowest points of our relationship, please let me put those doubts and regrets firmly to rest. (FYI: This is to make you feel better, not me – so please don’t feel you need to respond at all.) I just want to say you did absolutely nothing wrong, and no one could have handled that situation better than you did. All the things that should have hit me about 5 years earlier than they did finally sank in when I stopped living at the farm. It is not an exaggeration to say I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for you, and that I will forever remain in awe of the patience, strength, bravery and selflessness that it took to do what you did for me.

I could say a lot more, but rather than ramble on, I’ll try to confine myself to saying how sorry I am one more time, and telling you how much you will always will mean to me—not only for the invaluable friendship you have given me but for the uniquely wonderful person that you are.

Love always,

Cat