Some thoughts on trauma and suffering

As far as I understand it, almost every path towards BPD starts with an initial “trauma” that is, from the perspective of the victim, ignored, unnoticed or otherwise disregarded. I say “trauma” because as I’ve learned, the trauma can be anything – it doesn’t have to be something that anyone else would call traumatic. It can be coming home from school every day to an empty home, sick with loneliness. It can be a misinterpreted remark or gesture. It can even be something on television.

I grew up with the conviction that I had no right to my (seemingly inexplicable) feelings. I had no right to be angry, upset, depressed or emotional. I can still hear my teenage inner voice, berating myself for daring to feel these ways when elsewhere in the world people were facing what I considered real problems – disability, starvation, rape, torture, incarceration. I was severely fucked up and simultaneously certain that I had absolutely no right to be, making my various methods of self-injury doubly deserved in my opinion.

Unfortunately, my critical inner voice was only one among thousands (millions?) who believe that pain and suffering must be justified before they can be felt at all. The chronic cultural attitude we have towards emotional pain is just about the ideal breeding ground for serious mental illness – as is clearly being demonstrated at an alarming rate.

Because it’s not just trauma that destroys people – we all undergo traumas, of various definitions. Some seem beyond human endurance. But as Viktor Frankl notes in Man’s Search for Meaning, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”

When pain becomes an opportunity for healing, strength and connection with other human beings, it gains inherent meaning. It becomes bearable. When it goes ignored, dismissed, belittled or hidden, it exists in an echoing emptiness. The brain struggles to contextualize the experience and comes up blank – withdrawn, vacant, void of feeling. We know what we’re feeling but we also know we aren’t supposed to feel it – a combination that leaves the mind and body torn in warring pieces.

Even though part of me still resists it, even though I hate delving into it in therapy, even though I still have yet to really cry about it, I know that even just feeling the pain of traumas that I blocked for so long is going to be a major step towards treating my BPD. In that respect, having this new relationship in my life has been extremely helpful. I can’t get over how lucky I am to have found someone who knows it’s okay to feel, someone that takes the time to say, amidst my jabbering, “You’re allowed to be upset.” Developing the ability to express pain has been a steep learning curve for me (what with two decades of ingrained BPD behaviours), but so rewarding – I genuinely hadn’t figured out that people can’t dry your tears if you refuse to cry.

And on that note, another favourite quote from Man’s Search for Meaning

“But there was no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”

Do you have the courage to suffer?

Cat xxxx

This is what it feels like, looking back

This is what it feels like looking back – on love (‘love’) through the lens of borderline personality disorder…

Like the only air in the room came from between your lips.

Like every cell in my body had hands that were reaching for yours.

Like nothing would be okay until I knew we were breathing our final breaths together – only then would I know that you cared enough.

No love without death.

The darkest of fantasies, played out in the daylight. Ugly from every angle but one.

How could I have called it love? Or was it? Maybe I was right to use the word. Though now, all it reeks of is obsession. Desperation. Fear. Breathless and dark and smothering.

It felt like I could take all the blows life could lay on me – as long as it was you giving them to me.

He hit me and it felt like a kiss.

man-in-the-darkness-green

And now.

What a load of fucking bullshit.

 

He hit me and it felt like… he hit me.

And the darkness didn’t make it real. It just made it dark.

And the love/hate didn’t make it romantic. It made it exhausting.

And the games didn’t make it fun. They made it petty and cheap.

And our whole culture keeps buying into it. Love hurts. Love scars. Love wounds and mars.

 

Love does not hurt. Love does not scar.

Love feels like the rock beneath your bare feet.

Like the roots of the lone tree still standing after the storm.

Like spring’s buds reaching for sunshine after an endless winter.

Light that may be covered but never goes out. Not really.

Love builds and stretches towards the sky, ever higher.

 

That’s love. And you and I never had it. Thank you for showing me what I need and what I don’t.

La-Gabbia-785x549

Connecting to BPD (even when it’s seriously unpleasant)

Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nothing prevents blogging more than actually being happy with one’s life.

Even now I’m cautious to describe myself that way. I mean life isn’t perfect and obviously I’m not jumping-up-and-down full-on happy but I am edging towards a kind of content participation in life… which is a massive change from a year or even 6 months ago.

Which is to say: apologies for the long absence!

One thing I have been struggling with lately, is how to keep my BPD at the forefront of my mind – that is, acknowledged and dealt with – rather than divorcing it from myself completely (suppression) or falling in head first (depression). Once things start to get even a little bit better, I find the freedom from BPD to be an all-too-pleasant experience. I know it’s not really gone – I know it could come back and sometimes it feels frighteningly close. But I now realize that it’s important to actually stay connected to those really miserable parts of myself, even when I’m not necessarily miserable. This is a crucial part of working them into my whole self, my normal life and my improved outlook that involves all parts of myself working together.

So how do you deal with feelings of sadness, depression, grief, rage and fear when you’d be more than happy to just lock them away in the closet like you always did in the past?

Unfortunately, I’m really not sure.

I’m doing the best I can with the following strategies that do seem to help though:

1) Allow and acknowledge as many emotions as you can, without judgment. Notice when you’re sad. Notice when you’re inexplicably angry or frustrated. Notice when you’re depressed. Better yet, say it out loud if at all possible – maybe even to someone else. Part of fighting BPD is avoiding the “bury everything and explode” cycle that dominates the disorder. Acknowledging feelings relieves the pressure and simultaneously shows your BPD parts that you CAN handle emotions in a non-self-harmful way.

2) Keep up with therapy and meds. This is a tough one for me. My every instinct is to toss out the pills and immediately call up my therapist and tell her thanks, I’m cured, no more painful sessions to sit through, hooray! I find myself talking about stupid things that don’t really matter just so we don’t have to delve into something that I know will bring down my mood or even ruin my day. But I know deep down that the treatment is still a work in progress and to stop now would be supremely premature. Particularly with regards to the medication – I flippantly skipped a couple weeks of my Wellbutrin/Abilify combo and suddenly found myself wondering why I felt touchy, weepy, frustrated and generally low. Go figure. Don’t underestimate what chemical assistance is still doing for you.

3) Don’t let the words “I’m okay” or “It’s nothing” or “Everything is fine” come out of your mouth ever again (unless you really mean it). Even for little things. If you’re anything like me, chances are you have rarely, if ever, meant those words in your entire life but you’ve said them a LOT. And guess what? Saying them over and over and over has crushed your soul with your very own hands. I used to tell myself so many things about how the right person would understand, the right person would know I didn’t mean it, the right person would see the real me and how much I was actually hurting. All bullshit. All a waste of time. No – worse than a waste of a time: a recipe for borderline personality disorder. Treating yourself like your opinions and emotions and thoughts should be hidden behind a mask means you’ll never believe that anyone else thinks differently. I realize this one is absolutely terrifying and means exposing your raw emotions to the possibility of rejection. But remember that even if you do encounter some insensitive ass who reacts badly, it doesn’t mean better people aren’t out there and that you will not meet them someday.

4) Schedule time to reflect on your inner journey – ideally daily. This is so easy when I’m depressed (it’s virtually all I can do – in a bad way) and so hard when I’m “up.” But like acknowledging all emotions, doing this a bit at a time means I’m not going to crash and dwell on the things I’ve rejected for months.

So that’s what I’ve been focusing on. What have you found helpful in keeping a balance between your BPD/non-BPD parts?