Fighting love (and losing badly)

Very little grows on jagged rock.

Be ground. Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are.

You’ve been stony for too many years. Try something different.

Surrender.

-Rumi

I know chances are that I don’t even have to say/explain this if you’re reading it, but BPD has pretty much made me very anti-love for the majority of my life. As in I hated relationships, hated affection, hated intimacy, hate hate hate it. All of it smacked way too much of all kinds of things that frightened the hell out of me, from trusting and relying on someone, to experiencing actual happiness or warmth.

Again, this would probably seem so bizarre to most non-borderlines, and yet I’m assuming its totally “normal” and intuitive behaviour for you if you’re bothering to read this. Anything wonderful, especially love, can be snatched away so easily, lost so quickly for the borderline, that to have those things is to be in constant state of terror about when the good feelings will disappear and the darkness will flood back in, stronger and darker than ever.

But in line with my recent post on actively working to capture and internalize good memories (since we’ve certainly got no problem internalizing the opposite), I wanted to go out on a limb here and describe something that I hope brings even a little bit of good to someone else’s day, the way it brought a smile to mine.

The new relationship I’ve started has moved fast – too fast (a part of me would argue) – and its really scary. I try to slow it down, reign it in, keep the brakes on, but in reality I am just more and more blown away each day by how wonderful this guy is. It’s crazy how much I want this to work – not just “work” in a BPD way (read: you play the hero, I play the victim, and you save/care for me every minute of your life), but really work in a full-on adult relationship kind of way, which would be totally new territory for me.

Recently, a subject came up between us that really triggered me. My instinct was just to get out of the conversation. I started to get upset, which for me, means I started to dissociate and “leave” the scene even before I managed to mumble that I was actually leaving the scene. But he told me to stay and held my hand and just kept saying the kinds of things that I couldn’t believe someone without advanced therapy training would EVER think to say. Things like: you’re so strong; you can change this; you’re not alone; you’re here now and I won’t let anything bad happen to you. Without pushing at all for more information he made me feel understood. Without playing the parental or hero role he made me feel cared for. Without any professional training he made me feel better in my worst moments than any mental healthcare professional has.

Then he said there was something he wanted to show me and he went and got a small, flawless black beach pebble to give me. In disbelief I heard him start to explain how he kept it on his dresser where he could look at it as a reminder to stay focused entirely on the detail of the moment, and not drown in worry or regret. It was mindfulness from someone who (to the best of my knowledge) had never heard of “mindfulness,” didn’t know anything about the years of therapy I’d had in the concept, couldn’t imagine how much what they were saying resonated with me. Even more astonishingly, this is someone I would have seen as thoroughly “normal” while I was firmly in the “crazy” camp. Funny the lines our minds draw, and how false and misleading they can be. When I told him I would have seen him as the last person who needed to work at staying mindful or positive, he said, “I think I work a lot harder at it than you think I do.” Huh.

There are people out there who are going to understand. They’re not perfect, and my BPD really really wants them to discount them for that. But they do exist. Kind of terrifying. And kind of amazing.

Although I remain extremely cautious about jumping into this whole love thing headfirst, I am willing to step into the water. I’m hoping with everything I have that it turns out to be as good as I think it will be.

wildflowers

 

Cat xxxx

EDIT: To anyone reading this now (over three years since I wrote it), I just thought I’d include a note to say that this man and I have now been married nearly 8 months. For real. I’m not going to lie and say everything is ‘happily ever after’ all the time, because it’s not. We’ve had (and continue to have) a few difficulties, and a lot of them have to do with my BPD-esque background/ingrained behaviours, but… a lot of them don’t. I might be the only newlywed who feels excited when we have a stupid fight, because guess what? THEY DON’T END WITH ME WANTING TO DIE. We may fight, we may say hurtful things, but then we say that we’re hurt, and we apologize and make up. AND IT’S WORKING. When I look back on some of these posts, I realize why I feel so excited about those “dumb fight” moments. They are proof that I have changed. A lot. In a way that makes me feel happy and strong and hopeful (not fake, empty or “different” like I once feared). And if I can change THAT much, trust me—anyone can. ❤

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Recommendation: a self-help book that actually helps

“The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future – it is always and already here.”

– Tara Brach

Recently, I read a heartbreaking interview with a mother whose daughter had committed suicide after over 20 years of living with BPD. Just before she had died, she had told her mother that the years of therapy, hospitalization and pharmaceuticals had been a complete waste because at the end of the day, “there was no safe place inside her.”

So true, and so sad. I believe that with that sense of “safety” within us (ideally created by caregivers when we are very young), we can bear just about anything. But when there is no place within ourselves where we can retreat and recover when we are rocked by emotional storms, no amount of external attention will ever be enough.

The process of creating safety – that sense of a strong, trustworthy inner awareness who knows you and can take care of you from the inside out – is so unique to each individual’s experiences. That’s why I’ve been drawn to a lot of writing on self-healing lately.

My favourite self-help guru so far, hands down, is Tara Brach, whom many of you are probably already familiar with. I think her best book is her most recent one, Inner Refuge.

"The biggest illusion about a path of refuge is that we are on our way somewhere else, on our way to becoming a different kind of person. But ultimately, our refuge is not outside ourselves, not somewhere in the future - it is always and already here."

Brach’s approach is a blend of spiritual and psychological. I’m not saying I love everything about it – if you’re prone to negative, cynical thinking like moi, it can seem quite hokey or saccharine at times, but trust me, it’s worth sticking it out. What I love about her approach, though, is that it is very much “right brain”-based. She cuts through all the crap that never really works  (i.e. different methods of fixing, improving, transforming, analyzing and assessing ourselves as problematic objects) because it only comes from a place of emotionally removed, left-brain judgment.

Rather than writing as a mental health professional, Brach writes more like a modern-day shaman. She advocates a lot of feeling, experiencing, body-based healing and therapy, and powerful, primal wisdom in the form of legends, spiritual teachings, parables and poetry. Her knowledge of psychology and physiology is impressive, but equally impressive is her understanding of the limitations of science and left-brain thinking in sorting out what is actually wrong with our highly advanced and also highly anxiety-ridden, depressed and miserable culture.

Am I gushing a bit? Probably. I really like this book and I think it has a lot to offer, especially for those with BPD. I recommend reading it slowly if possible – like a couple chapters a day – and taking down personal thoughts and reflections as you go, because A LOT of this book will hit home if you struggle with constant feelings of inadequacy, isolation, depression, anger or overwhelming longing for love and acceptance (really, don’t we all?).

Cat xxxx