Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Monster in Me

I think that the most common misconceptions about BPD are that we are monsters and that we cannot, under any circumstance, change.

1. We are monsters
I've been doing a lot of research, reading a lot of blogs, and I notice that there is this definite negative overtone regarding borderlines...and the sad thing is, it's accepted as okay, even by other borderlines. There are more support groups for people "dealing with" someone who has BPD than there are support groups for people with BPD to get help. So first, to all you people who "have to deal with" some one who has Borderline Personality Disorder...I get it. We're difficult. We're an emotional roller coaster. Some of us have rages, temper tantrums, and are manipulative in various ways. But remember that these are all symptoms. They are not who we are. They're the signs of a pain so terrible is unfathomable to anyone who hasn't been on the inside of personality disorders, depression ect. If you think you're living an emotional roller coaster, stop for a second and have some compassion, because we have a constant emotional tornado ripping through our bodies.
And there are a lot of professionals who write about borderline personality for non-borderlines. I read so many negative phrases:
  • "If they're committed to change, they might improve". How about sending some positive energy our way? That's what we drastically need. Let's rephrase: "When they truly commit to change, they will improve". I'm not saying I'm cured, but I am committed to change. Every moment of the day I am mindful of my thoughts, and I am mindful of changing the way my brain is wired, and I HAVE seen an amazing difference already. IT IS POSSIBLE.
  • "...a wolf in sheep's clothing, but no less diabolical" Okay, we're not diabolical. It's not like we want to be manipulative. We're hurt, we're scared. I'm not saying that we do things the preferable way, BUT DO NOT MAKE US OUT TO BE BAD. Reading shit like these articles doesn't help anyone. Think of it this way...the Borderline who googles "Borderline Personality Disorder" is already one step towards awareness and change. Imagine the great set back we all face when every article we read confirms our greatest fear: that we are inherently bad. And for the friends/family these articles are being written for, it just makes it worse for them because they get a negative attitude about us, and since we're sensitive we pick up on it and freak out even more. It's a lose-lose situation. 
  • "At some point in this dynamic, you must ask yourself; "what's the payoff, in my wanting to be involved...?" Gee, thanks, thanks a lot. Way to help the Borderlines of the world, tell everyone they're not worth sticking around for. But we are. We're incredibly strong and resilient, because our disorder is the by-product of having survived something painful, something terrible. At one point, or maybe multiple points, in our lives, BPD has saved us from completely crumbling. But now we need to realize that we don't need these Borderline tendencies anymore...we can find the organic strength within and rise above the misery.
  • I read a lot about how borderlines make you feel guilty, make you hate yourself, make you tend to your every need...". Hey, we're out here trying to get help because we're owning up, admitting we have a problem and trying our damnedest to take responsibility for this. So how about you all grow a pair and take responsibility for your own emotions, too? On a more compassionate note, that's not to say living with a borderline is hard. BUT we have a mental illness. No one hated on Lennie for squishing the mouse (kudos to those who get the reference) don't call a severely Autistic kid dramatic and inappropriate for freaking out at a restaurant. But, the difference with Borderlines is that we can (and should) be held responsible for our actions. It sucks, yes, but we learn and grow. We can change, its just scary and it hurts like hell.
A good example of showing compassion for a Borderline is me and my mother. She is the angry, abusive, entirely disconnected from reality borderline. And boy did she abuse me. But when I see her, it does not trigger me, and I cannot feel anything but compassion for her, because I know that she lives in a world of sadness, darkness, and pain. I know how scary it is. And I know that she just wants love. She really does just want me close to her so badly. She doesn't mean to hurt me (now that I'm older its only emotional abuse, boundary violation ect). And when she does, now that I'm older I do hold her accountable for what she did, but I do so with compassion. When she read my diary and told my dad and Fred everything I wrote (and lied, and being curious about mushrooms turned into me being addicted to cocaine...), I told her that what she did was unacceptable and not okay under any circumstance. I told her that I love her very much, that I'm not going to abandon her or take her grandbaby out of her life, but that I am going to move away from her and take some space. This was the first time I ever responded to her with complete compassion, and you know worked. She apologized. She has NEVER apologized to me. EVER EVER EVER. I know she was trying to win me back, but hey, it's progress. I go visit her, we talk about neutral things, and she plays with Baby. And I can see how happy it makes her to be with Baby, so I send her little text messages about Baby asking to see her, or I send her pictures of him blowing the camera a kiss.

2. We cannot change
Wrong again! We can change. It's just so hard when everywhere we turn for help (family, friends, the internet, blogging...) we are faced with confirmations of our greatest fears (as mentioned above).
But we can change the way our brain is wired, and therefore the way our mind responds to things. "When your mind changes, your brain changes, too. In the saying from the work of psychologist Donald Hebb: when neurons fire together, they wire together--mental activity actually creates new structures". This is the opening sentence from the book I just started reading this morning, Buddha's Brain, the practical neuroscience of happiness, love & wisdom. If we can change our brains, we can literally change our lives.
I have already changed. I'm still experiencing borderline moments, but I call them for what they are. I recognize that I might be overly sensitive, but that it's okay to feel the emotion nonetheless. And then I let it pass. I'm working on healing my inner child, the child that longs for a mother and causes me to seek validation anywhere I can get it. I'm teaching my sex kitten find confidence in herself rather than in others (and teaching her that a vibrator is her new best friend...). And now, things that would have sent me over the edge just two months ago are now something that I observe and learn from.

Changing isn't easy. We cannot be changed...rather, the change must come from within. And to summon that change, we have to look within and face the darkness, the hurt, the anger, the hatred...and that is what's hard. That is where most of us get stuck. And so we look for ways to heal on google, and then we just find all this garbage about what awful people we are. Well here's my anger speaking: Fuck you, you try and deal with the shit I've gone through and come out more sane than I am. I'm hurt. Very hurt. We need to love ourselves, and having a little love, support and compassion from those around us is more of a conducive environment for healing than focusing on our symptoms. Yes, our symptoms suck. When you have a viral illness, you don't say that you have vomiting.

Okay, time to go to yoga. As I read my book, I will keep posting on how WE CAN CHANGE.

The Waif?

Oh Goly, gee damn.

Just when I was feeling better, feeling all Buddhist and like I was grasping some sort of control on my personality disorder, I start to feel the inevitable doom again. But then, I stopped it. I did it. It's working. My self-therapy is working. Kind of. That hopelessness is still deep down in the pit of my stomach, but at least now I'm feeling okay. I'm not focusing on the negative. It comes and goes. I feel a little rush of worry, anxiety, panic...and then it goes.

I have to be up in just over five hours. So I'm going to sip my chamomile tea, take my herbs, read a positive book about changing your mind, and I'm going to go to sleep. I'm going to overcome this. I want to write more about what went on tonight, but I'll do that tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Yoga FTW!

Tonight was great. Around 4pm, I felt a little down, because I read somewhere that BPD cannot be changed by just wanting to change and working hard to change your thought process. I felt as if I were suffocating, as if there was no reason to leave my little studio apartment. I could feel myself sinking, I could feel the ice cold water start to fill my lungs as the dark waters enveloped me.

But I promised my life coach I was going to go to her yoga class. And so I got my butt off the computer seat, put on my yoga pants, and got in the car only to realize that I don't own a yoga mat!! The studio I've been going to has free mats you can use. So I rush to target, but by the time I get back in my car there's no way I'll be able to make it to my life coach's class. So I stop at Jamba Juice, get my beloved Macha Green Tea, and relax for a little until the Hatha Yoga class starts at the studio I've been going to...I'm still in my $30 for 30 days trial period, so I might as well get my money's worth!

I have something called patella femoral syndrome (hoorah, another issue!). Basically, my hips, knee caps and ankles don't line up due to the fact that my knee cap isn't in line with my femur bone since the cartilage is (essentially) gone. Normally yoga is really hard for me, because I can't do the poses the "right" way. And being me, I always stress that people are looking at me, that I'm a failure, and I feel the need to be doing it perfectly. But today, I just did it the way it felt good for my body. And when my teacher started to tell me, out loud, that I needed to straighten my foot, I just said my foot doesn't go that way. And you know what?? It was OKAY. She was GLAD that I told her! And she told the class to take after me by doing what's right for their own body!

And when I went to Fred's house to see Baby, he was so happy to see me. He ran out with a big smile and brought me into the living room to play with him. And with the endorphins running through me, and with the success of just experiencing yoga and not letting my Manager voice ruin it, I had more energy to play with him and take care of him tonight than I've had in months...actually, ever. This was genuine energy. It wasn't a show, it wasn't something I had to work hard to do. We just had fun. And I got in the bath tub with him and taught him how to kick with straight legs (I was a swim teacher for fie years), and we had a splash fight. And he fell asleep, so peacefully, in my arms. It was wonderful to see a direct correlation between doing the things I want to do (yoga, meditation, herbs, ect) and my relationship with my son. He was SO happy. He didn't want me to leave his sight. He knew his mommy was 100% there for the first time in a looooong time.

And as I drove home from Fred's house to my little studio, I was happily thinking about the wonderful effect yoga had on me, specifically how just accepting that my body was different made the whole experience that much better. I can't physically do the poses like everyone else, but I can still stretch the same muscles and have the same spiritual experience. My body is just a little twisted. And then it dawned on body is twisted just like my mind is a little twisted. I might not think like everyone, and things may be harder for me, but that's okay. Because I am strong enough to change the way I think. I am strong enough to separate myself from my emotions and experiences. I'm strong enough to realize that I may have borderline experiences, but I AM NOT BORDERLINE (screams the crazy girl...haha).

I'm drinking my warm water, taking my bedtime herbs my Ayurvedic Consultant gave to me, and I'm going to get restful sleep for yoga at 8am =)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Another Beginning

So, I lost my job on Friday. It's Monday, and I already have another job. In fact, this job has better hours, I get every weekend off, and I get paid $10k more a year.

I'm looking forward to a new beginning. I get some time off between jobs to really clean my little home up, get it organized, get myself organized...I'm starting my Ayurveda Therapy, my Life Coach sessions, and now I won't be working crazy retail'll be a nice 9-5, Monday-Friday.

I want to live a better life. My place is a mess. I haven't done yoga since Thursday, I haven't meditated at all, I forgot to take my herbs last night AND this morning, and I haven't started reading any of my books. And I'm exhausted.
But, to give myself credit, I handled losing my job without having any form a breakdown.
And yesterday I saw my entire Mom's side of the family and I came out alive and well. I told one of my aunt's off and was SO proud of myself. This was the Catholic Aunt who has always given me a hard time about calling myself a Buddhist. Mind you, she is the most judgmental, cruel, compassionless person in my family. At least my mom puts a facade on, Catholic Aunt is just raging angry, emotional, dissociated with reality BPD. Yikes. It obviously runs in the family. Anyways, so Catholic Aunt was giving me a hard time about "being Buddhist" (which I actually don't consider myself to be, ESPECIALLY since identifying with a religion and labeling yourself is very not-Buddhist, and its also not very good for someone with BPD to allow themselves to latch onto identities), saying I don't go to a temple, and I like clothes too much to be a Buddhist. So I said, "I know I'm not perfect, but I was under the impression that followers of Christ were supposed to be compassionate and not judgmental." HA. Take that, you Catholic hypocrites. And she didn't give me shit for the rest of the day. Muahahaha.

And my Baby loves my mother. And she's so good to him. At the same time my stepdad realized my mom was missing from the front room, I realized Baby was missing. I found them sitting alone together in my mother's massive walk-in closet. She had made him his own special little Easter basket, and they were just sitting together playing. It was the sweetest thing. And Baby loves her so, so much, and I can see how good it is for my mother. They're so happy together. Since he isn't her child, there's absolutely no anger involved with him. Its the same with my grandmother and I. She never validated her children, never brushed their hair, never played with them, never expressed love. Granted, she had 9 kids, but still. With me, though, she was so loving! She always played with my hair, hugged me, spoiled me with attention and food...even to this day, she still treats me like her baby (in hindsight, I'm sure part of the reason my mom and aunts were so mean to me was because of jealousy and resentment). So it makes me happy to see my mom and Baby together, because I know he brings her happiness that isn't related to any of her inner demons.

I honestly don't hold any resentment or anger towards my mom. I understand that she's sick. I know I talk about how she hurt me a lot, but that's me trying to put the pieces together. Just as she has a distorted view of reality, I have a distorted view of her. One one hand there's the disgusted, angry mother raising her hand to hit me...and on the other hand, there's my mom sitting peacefully with my son, happy and validated by his unconditional and genuine love. On that hand, I see her pain. I understand the darkness that lies within her, and I know how terrified and lonely she must feel. I love her, and I will never stop, regardless of what she has done to me. I know she just needs love. I can't help her, she has to help herself, but I will love her.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Maybe Okay?

So, I lost my job.

And I'm surprisingly okay. I'm staying focused on the FACTS. I already applied for a couple of jobs, and I have an interview Monday morning. Ironically, its for a job that will pay me at least $5 more an hour, and I was already making good money at my old job, considering my age and lack of degree.

My biggest challenge on a day-to-day basis right now is Fred's dear mother, Beth. Beth is the bane of my existence, and she is absolutely kryptonite for BPD. I met Beth when I was fifteen years old, and she saw all of the abuse and pain I suffered growing up. She was like the mother I never had. We did volunteer work together, cooked together, and were both into the same spiritual/personal development topics. I even took her with me to the PeaceJam Conference in 2006 to hear the Dalai Lama (I actually snuck around security, HUGGED The Dalai Lama, and he said Namaste to me!). I loved her so much, and went to her with all my problems as if she were my mother.

When I turned 18, Fred and I broke up for about two months. It was a combination of graduating high school, turning 18, and the first feelings of engulfment. When we got back together, there was a notable difference. She made little snide remarks, and when I walked in it was OBVIOUS that I was not welcome in her home. I was very confused, because Fred's brother's girlfriend had broken up with him the previous year, and SHE was a bitch. She threw temper tantrums in public, whined 24/7, used him, wore tiny little skirts to family dinners, cheated on him, and talked crap about him. Beth always talked about how she missed the exgirlfriend so much, and she would always say that she was praying for her and still wanted her to come visit. What the fuck?? I took her to meet the Dalai Lama and am totally take-home-to-mom material....mothers LOVE me!
One day I cried to Fred because I felt so awful, so unwelcomed and mistreated. He then talked to his mother, who had an epiphany. Fred, his parents, and I had a group discussion about this epiphany. Beth realized (and admitted) that I "never had a chance" because any girl who dated Fred (she basically admitted that Fred is her favorite son) wouldn't be good enough, and anyone who hurt him or wasn't PERFECT was going to bother her. She went on to say that she was glad she realized this, because she never understood why she had to try so hard to force herself to act like she liked me. Whooooaaaa. Talk about my poor, eighteen year old heart breaking. And my fifteen year old heart broke, too, because I thought she loved me. And I found out that she was faking it.
So I gently voiced my hurt by saying "It really hurts that this whole time you were faking liking me, that you never liked me..."
She denied it, that wasn't it. I repeated what she had said and then tried to voice my feelings again, but her husband defended her and said "She wasn't faking, she was trying".
And Fred stayed quite.
My heart was broken, and I felt so invalidated. Everyone was so happy for Beth, it was all about how wonderful it was that she had healed. And I just sat there, my heart breaking into a million pieces. Not only did my own mother hate me, but now I find out that this bitch had been FAKING. How does a woman in her forties dislike a teenage girl who comes to her crying about how her mother abuses her??

And now, with my depression, she just doesn't get it. We've talked again, and she apologized for never realizing how hurt I was. And she said it always just bothers her because she can tell I'm always trying to please everyone. So I was, once again, open with her. I told her about BPD, about my depression, and about how trying hard to make everyone like me is a part of my disorder. And the bitch still says snide little comments to me.
One day, in the midst of a REALLY bad depression, I could see that Fred was stressed and drained. So I offered him a back massage without wanting or expecting one in return. Keep in mind that I'm feeling like shit, and I'm his mother is nearby and in plain sight. But damn it, I love him and care about him and am trying SO HARD. When I was done massaging me, he had me lay on the floor next to him, and he started massaging my neck. Beth goes, "Huh, that sure was a short massage for Fred. How did it turn into being all about Holly?" I was so fucking angry that I got up and went to sleep for hours in the middle of the day. I don't know what to do with anger (because I'm afraid of turning into my mother), so I always go to sleep when I'm really angry. Right when I went to sleep, our son woke up. Fred got him and took him downstairs. As I drifted in and out of sleep, I heard various remarks from Beth, among them, "How is it that when Baby wakes up, Holly gets to take a nap and you have to do everything?"
I had a chat with Beth afterwards about these snide remarks. She said that she thought I was just "making it all about Holly". See, this bothers me because I put my son first for everything. I had to have the strength to admit that I am not being a good enough mother for him and do not live with him full time. I was angry, and instead of letting him sense my anger towards Beth, I completely removed myself from the situation. For some reason, Beth seems to just think I am inherently bad.
But, I had faith that after this specific talk, and after I really made it clear how hard things were at the moment, I hoped that she would have some fucking compassion. Wrong!
I don't get to see my son as often. When I was in a really bad place a few weeks ago, I only had strength and energy to see him for a few hours at a time. The day after I had that last chat with Beth, I show up to see Aiden and she says, "Oh, Mommy better read all those books to you to make up for lost time!" FUCK YOU! YOU THINK I WANT YOU RAISING MY SON? DO YOU THINK I WANT TO BE DEPRESSED? DO YOU THINK I FEEL GOOD ABOUT MYSELF FOR NOT BEING ABLE TO GIVE HIM EVERYTHING HE DESERVES? AND WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME, YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO COMPASSION OR STRENGTH! YOU'RE NEARLY FIFTY AND I'M MORE SELF AWARE THAN YOU ARE!
Ugh. And she LOVES to tell me what Baby is like, as if I don't know my own son.
The remarks go on and on. I just tuned her out. I gave up, to a certain extent, trying to win her approval. I'm stressed and anxious around her because I fear her judgment, but I'm done trying to please her for the sake of getting her approval. As soon as I'm healthy enough, Fred and I are getting our own place. And soon, when Baby is old enough, he will be in preschool and I will only see that bitch on my terms.
There was a recent comment that astounded me, though. After two weeks of tuning her out, I noticed that she was being so nice. She was making me food, making sure I was hydrated...just being so nice. And one Wednesday after therapy, she must've asked me ten times how I was doing. So finally I told her a little about IFS and my different "parts". I told her the story about the time my mother hit me so hard my nose bled, and how I ran into her arms. This is the epitome of a Borderline mother-daughter relationship, and is so twisted with the combination of evident physical and emotional abuse. I never told her that my mom physically harmed me. And you know what her immediate response to that story was?? "Oh, we need to watch and make sure you don't do the same to Baby".
Oh. My. God. Why would ANYONE think that would be the appropriate response to ANYONE admitting to physical abuse? And she KNOWS I have BPD, and she would dare insinuate something that would suggest I am a bad mother, that I would hurt my son? FYI, I do not have an anger problem. That is one BPD symptom I do not have at all. I have never hurt my son. And his needs are number one to me. I don't even want him to sense my depression, so I always make sure I am "running on all cylinders" when I'm around him. She has absolutely no compassion for me, and it drives me crazy. I was strong enough to calmly respond, "Well, I don't have an anger problem, so I'm not worried about that."
Since she just wants to assume that I'm inherently bad, her response is, "Well, you can control it."
I respond, "Well, that's what not having an anger problem means". Dumbass.
I don't get how someone can respond that way. And this would be one of the things I give up on while I'm doing my self healing, but I CAN'T because I have to deal with this woman every single day. She gets to raise my beautiful, perfect baby boy. I love him so much. He is the cutest, sweetest, smartest little boy ever.

Today I was sleeping (having a little depression from losing my job), and on his own, he came to find me, shut the door, and when I opened my eyes I saw two striking blue eyes looking at me over the edge of the bed oh-so lovingly. He said, "Mom!" and turned his chin up to blow me kisses. And in that instant, I said to myself that this is what I live for.

To conclude this, I will quote the Dalai Lama:
"In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher."

"It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them."

Beth is officially my teacher. I will learn not to give a shit about what ignorant, compassionless people think about. I will not be mean back to her, and I will use her has a daily challenge that will help me become a stronger, less borderline person.

And I love my son. Isn't he adorable?  These are from a park adventure today...

Friday, April 22, 2011


So it's 2:43 A.M., and I'm sitting here blogging.

I'm better today. While on one hand that's a good thing, it's also concerning because I find it slightly insane that 24 hours ago I was a depressed mess, and now I'm hopeful and feeling slightly enlightened. I guess I'll take what I can get, and since in this moment I feel good, I'm going to enjoy it.

I want to get better. But I'm afraid. I don't know who I'll be. My insecurities, my mother's voice inside of me, have always been the drive that has made me succeed. What will I do without that?
There are two things I tell myself in response to this:
1. I am not my personality disorder. I am not identified as BPD. BPD is an experience that I have, albeit a very overwhelming, insane, and difficult experience. But I am not my disorder.
2. I need to take credit for my success. Although a lot of my perseverance and drive can be credited towards my need to be enough to my mother, I would not have been able to accomplish what I have if I  did not have the talent and abilities. Also, with my mother's voice out of my head, it's not like suddenly I won't want to do well in life. Quite the opposite, I'm sure. I will still be competitive, outgoing, and driven, it'll just be for the right reasons. And what's better, is not only will I still be all those things, I'll be an even stronger person. Win-win, right?

I've decided that I need to work on letting go of the past. I will still give my inner child time to heal and be nurtured, though, and I will still acknowledge my emotions when the come, and I will let them go. But I want my big focus to be on the present. I'm not healthy enough to think too far into the future...that creates too much anxiety right now. So, each day, I want to set goals. And every month, I want to have a focus for my improvement.

Every Day, I will:
-Meditate in the morning
-Do a Sun Salutation in the morning
-Drink my Shadyrest tea
-Put all my clothes away before I go to bed

For the month of April:
I will focus on Presence. I will release the past and its burden of broken dreams. Actually, I take that back...I'm not ready for that at all, and I don't want to set myself up for failure.
Okay, so for the month of April...I will remember that my experiences are neither good nor bad. My thoughts create my reality, and will remind myself daily to simply allow myself to experience the world without judgment. I will acknowledge my emotions, validate them myself, and let them pass. I will read this every day to reinforce my monthly intention:

In the realm of matter, one and the same object can serve as a cause of happiness for some living beings, and a cause of suffering for others. Certain plants, for example, function as medicine for some creatures, but for other species they can be poisonous. From the point of view of the object itself there is no difference, but because of the physical constitution and the material state of the particular living being, that single self-same object can affect them in different ways. Then, in the sphere of our own experiences, the same holds true. A certain individual may appear to some as very friendly, kind and gentle, and so gives them feelings of happiness and pleasure. Yet to others that same person can appear harmful and wicked, and so cause them discomfort and unhappiness.

What this kind of example points to is that, although external matter may act as a cause for our experience of pain and pleasure, the principal cause that determines whether we experience happiness or suffering lies within. This is the reason why, when Buddha identified the origin of suffering, he pointed within and not outside, because he knew that the principal causes of our suffering are our own negative emotions and the actions they drive us to do.---Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I feel light headed and cold. I feel separate from myself. i found myself rocking back and forth. i found myself  using my meditation cushion as a place to sit as drew blood from my thighs. i found myself in insanity, and i knew it, i know it, but i can't get out of it.

how many antidepressants does it take to commit suicide? but i can't leave. i can't leave my sweet boy. and i hate that. i want to go. i want to get away from me. i want more blood. i dont like crying. its so cold. and i dont want to be a burden. but i feel like my life is ruined. and im so young. i know i'm smart and beautiful. and i've wasted it all. i have nothing but Fred and my baby, two boys i dont deserve. i want to rip my heart out. i want to be texted back. i want to stop living this life. i just want my baby.

i feel like i could stop feeling this way. i could control this, hide it, pretend. but the facade is exhausting. but this despair scares me.

Slipping Under

Okay, so I'm having a really bad day. I've tried really, really, REALLY hard to do positive things, such as my last post on Buddhism, and then I went to Ashtanga Flow Yoga, and I ate Butter Chicken and Jasmine Rice from Trader's Joe's while watching last night's episode of Glee on my iMac. Yes, I said it. I watch Glee. Go fuck yourself. Wow, anger. Okay, that's good, I let myself be angry. I know I'm probably being judged by Glee-haters, but I'm letting that go. For this moment.
And then Glee ended. And now I'm alone, in my studio apartment. And all that's left to do, all I want to do, is go find someone, ANYONE, to distract myself with. I want to text all the guys I know to go hang out. Except Steven. Because around him, I can be myself. And right now, I don't want to be myself.

I am trying SO FUCKING HARD TO MOVE ON. I am trying so hard to do better, to leave the borderline in my past. I'm doing GREAT at my job, and it's even been giving me an opportunity to practice thinking in shades of gray. I'm new at this job, so I'm not perfect, and I've made mistakes. And it's good for me because I've been able to remind myself not to get caught up in this moment, and to let my anxiety pass and welcome the next experience, which has always been success.

Oh my goodness, I can feel my firefighter coming out. I want to go flirt, I want attention, I want distraction. I want to be someone else right now. And I can feel a retired firefighter surfacing. I can see her staring longingly at the blade on my counter, imagining how cool it will feel against her inner thighs. How tangible the pain will be. How structured and predictable the pain is. She doesn't want to die, and she doesn't want people to see her cuts...she just wants to refocus, and since the pain can't go away maybe she can reject it.

Dear God, Please make me a bird, so I can fly, fly far, far away from here...

Oh God. I'm slipping. I can feel the darkness coming, taking me over. I tried. I failed. And I'm alone.

Right thought, Right Action.

Along the lines of connections, another thing that I recently discovered is even more meaningful and significant to me than I had original thought is Buddhism. 
When I was sixteen I took a major religions course at my Catholic High School...ironic, huh? Once I understood Buddhism, it was the first time in my life that I was able to move forward. For the first time, I took a peek at myself and decided that I wanted to change, and I knew that change had to come from within. I knew I couldn't wait any longer for my mother to nurture me...I had to do it myself. I know that I could seek love and approval from others when I didn't even give it to myself. I knew that my mind could do whatever it wanted. I knew I needed to let go and live in the present moment. 
Obviously, five years later, as I am struggling with BPD more than ever (it normally doesn't hit hard until the onset of adulthood, between 18 and 22), I haven't fully embraced these things. For a long time I did, until I fell off the bandwagon, so to speak. But I stopped living the Buddha because I never actually faced all the darkness inside of me. Some people try to say just move on. But you have to face your demons, and with Borderline Personality Disorder, you HAVE TO validate your emotions and your experiences as real. But, I'm learning to acknowledge my emotions, name them, but not identify with them. For example, "I feel depressed right now" rather than "I am depressed right now". I am not my emotions. I'm also learning to experience them. My entire life I have not expressed rage. SEE, not all borderlines have inappropriate rage ;) But, the reason I NEVER allow myself to be angry is because my Borderline Mother was SO angry that it terrified me to become her. And I saw how much her anger hurt me, and I just couldn't do that to others. I wanted to be the change I wished to see in her. And so I experience them, and I tell myself that my emotions are not bad, because they are just emotions. They will pass, and they cannot control me. Well, sometimes they do...a lot of times they do. But hey, I'm thinking positive here!! Right thought, Right Action. The thing is, my mother always made me feel as if my emotions were bad. She would read my diary and yell at me for the things I wrote. She would scream at me and degrade me when I cried. And I never had a good example of how to deal with emotion. So accepting that my emotions and experiences are not bad is hard to do.
Can't you see what an awful cycle it is for a Borderline, though? To feel as if our emotions and experiences and thoughts are innately bad only makes me feel like I'm a bad person, but then by feeling like a bad person, I'm only having more emotions and thoughts! So then I hate myself even more, and the cycle goes on and on, spiraling downward...
Back to Buddhism though. While researching BPD a month or so ago, looking for some form of treatment that would help me, I came across Marsha Linehan's DBT, which is largely derived from Buddhism! Then I found a book called The Buddha and the Borderline (Kiera Van Gelder). I bought it for my iPhone immediately, and started highlighting away. It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was reading my own experience, the first time I felt like someone else had been floating in the world of insanity like I had. And in the book I came across a quote that resounded inside of me: "All we are is the result of all that we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become". So wouldn't it make sense that, after hearing my mother tell me I'm worthless, disgusting, bad ect. for twenty years, that those thoughts would just become habitual? It's automatic for me to allow her voice to speak over my "true self", because that's all I know. But if I know otherwise now, and if I just keep thinking the right thoughts, then eventually will I become right action? Can I, overtime, replace the old way of thinking with the new? I feel like the mind is so powerful and can do anything. What if I just retrain myself?
You know, it makes me proud of my "true self", wherever she is. She's in there somewhere. And all this time, all these years, she's been trying to heal herself, trying to separate from the Borderline. She fell in love with Breakfast at Tiffany's, only to find out ten years later that Holly Golightly has BPD. She loves the song Blackbird, and, well, you read my last post. And she felt like Buddhism allowed her to be the free bird she wanted to be, and perhaps she's right, if Buddhism is essential the leading treatment for BPD. I'm proud of my "true self" for rising above, for always trying to keep separate from the Borderline even when the emotions felt like they were taking over. And that is one of the best things I can do for myself...separate myself from the Borderline inside me, from the hate, from my mother's voice. I am not my disorder. And my "true self" knows this, I just don't know her.

I had an INCREDIBLY shitty day today. And this is my therapy. Right Thought, Right Action. I'd say this is good progress. Let's see how long it lasts...

Blackbird Symbolism

I just found this...I love finding connections.

"Blackbirds are, for some people, considered a good omen. Others believe that the Blackbird brings the lessons learned in meditation. It is also associated with travel to the Otherworld and the mysteries found there. Blackbird people are good to call upon when spiritual matters are at hand, and often, while rare, they are the best people to have when in a group.

The blackbirds iridescent black plumage holds the energies of mysticism and magic. Druid legends say that the birds of Rhiannan are 3 blackbirds which sit and sing in the World tree of other worlds. Their singing puts the listener into a sleep or a trance which enables him or her to travel to the otherworld. It was said to impart mystic secrets.

Those with this medicine often have a hypnotic influence on others as well as an uncanny ability to move between the seen and unseen worlds with clarity (I know I can move between sanity and insanity with a clarity that is quite terrifying and unnerving). They make excellent shamans and trance channellers.

Blackbirds are timid and prefer their own company over the company of others. In humans shyness and insecurity in group settings is common. Vulnerable to outside influences those with this totem need to remember to clear accumulated influences from their energy field on a regular basis. The male's distinctive song during breeding season is loud and melodious with flute like qualities. Males often sing from high perches and both sexes produce a variety of sounds which include mimicking other birds.

Blackbird medicine people love to sing and have the ability use their voice to heal and inform. They are also good ventriloquists.

Blackbirds spend much of their time on the ground. Its locomotion includes walking, climbing and hopping forward and backwards. They forage for food in open spaces although cover is always near by. When foraging in leaf litter under trees they sound like people walking . In humans this suggests an ability to remain grounded in the earth energies while walking a spiritual path.

When resting the blackbird is frequently seen stretching, legs extended back, side wings in full extension, tail spread, and the head tilted to one side as if listening. Yoga and movement therapy are beneficial for those that hold this totem (Love it...I JUST started doing yoga as a form of therapy!). The blackbirds flights are low, short and undulating but fast and direct over open country. They move with determination and focus and can teach us how to do the same.

When blackbird flies into your life your connection with nature and the forces of creation increase. The magic of the underworld surfaces in your life. Awareness is heightened and change on a cellular level begins. The blackbird teaches you how to acknowledge your power and use it to its fullest

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Borderline Tattoo

One of my impulsive decisions that I made actually turned out to be one of the best things I ever did. I got a tattoo that I had only thought about for about a week, if that. The text says, "Dear God, Please make me a bird, so I can fly, fly far, far away from here". Then there's the cage, with blackbirds flying out of it and into a tree.

The quote, as I'm sure everyone knows, is from Forrest Gump. Jenny says this prayer when she wants to get away from her abusive home. I was never sexually abused, but I know how Jenny felt as Lynyrd Skynyrd's Free Bird was playing while she tiptoed the edge of the balcony, and she played on the borderline. They didn't say it in the movie, but I know that Jenny was still saying that prayer. And ultimately, what she kept running from as she switched identities every few years was herself. 

The cage and the birds were for being a Free Bird, because I always called myself that. The birds are blackbirds for my #1 favorite song, Blackbird by the Beatles. I realized, though, that the cage is actually Borderline Personality Disorder. And the song Blackbird is actually about a time when Paul McCartney saw a black woman being beat during the Civil Rights movement, he was so impressed that the focus of the movement was Non-Violent Communication. It's about singing in the dead of night, because none of us really want to show our pain. We put on this act around other people, but  when we are alone with ourselves trying to fall asleep with what we've become, it's hard. It's torture. It's hard trying to be so sure when you really don't know much about the world, or even about who you are. It gets depressing and hopeless wondering if you'll ever be able to transcend this suffering and rise above it all. But we take these broken wings, these abused, heart broken, dehumanized wings, and we will learn to fly. I'm just waiting for that moment when I can actually be myself, when I can be free of the borderline, free of my mother's hatred that has turned into my own self-hatred.

Another symbolism in my tattoo is from Breakfast at Tiffany's. 
 The first part of the movie that is a part of my tattoo is this:

Holly (to Doc): You mustn't give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get, until they're strong enough to fly into a tree, then to a higher tree then to the sky...
This is why I have the birds flying into a tree. Eventually, the background of my half sleeve will be the sky.

Paul (to Holly): You know what's wrong with you, Miss whoever-you-are? You call yourself a 
free spirit, a wild thing. You’re terrified somebody’s going to stick you in a cage. Well, baby, you’re 
already in that cage. You built it yourself. Its wherever you go, because no matter where you run, 
you just keep running into yourself."
I've spent the last few years of my life running away, and I recently realized that I was running away 
from myself. And I kept "failing" because no matter where I went, my demons were there, waiting. But 
now I know that I CAN'T run away from myself, and I'm going to have to face it, deal with it, and learn
to live with it...I will be a free spirit, free of my mother's hatred, and my own self-hatred...someday.

Holly (to Paul): Nobody's going to put me in a cage.
Paul: I want to love you...
Holly: It's the same thing!
Paul: No, it's not! Holly!
Holly: I'm not Holly. I'm not LulaMae, either. I don't know who I am!
FYI, in case you all didn't realize it, Holly Golightly has BPD. I find this ironic, because this movie has been my favorite for nearly a decade, and I just recently made the connection.

I picked a peach blossom as the tree because in Taoism, the Peach Blossom is a symbol of longevity. "The peach tree is a tremendous Chinese symbol for longevity as well as other auspicious attributes. Each element of the peach tree has significant meaning. The wood of the tree was said to ward off evil, and ancient warriors would craft weapons from the wood. Taoist magic was made with the petals of the peach blossoms - the effects were known to put men into an intense trance of love. It is said that the Peach plant of immortality located in the Kun Lun mountains would produce the fruit only once every 3,000 years. When this happened, the Eight Immortals would gather and eat of the magic fruit, assuring their immortality." I want to ward off the evil brewing inside of me, I want to love myself (once I find myself), and I want to live on forever through writing and helping others.

I have, unfortunately, removed the photos of the tattoo for anonymity purposes.

My Loner, My Sex Kitten, My Mother

To follow up with my IFS info post...

Today I felt a deep sorrow for one of my "parts", especially since I often try to ignore her and am quite successful. This is my loner child, the girl I was growing up. She was so undesirable, so friendless and awkward, that I do my best to keep her from resurfacing and ruining the facade I've put up of being confident, happy, nonchalant, ect. I feel like I'm a more desirable person now to be that the facade, though, or is that really me? I can list dozens of things that are good about myself, and when my therapist asked me to do so, it was easy for me. What she pointed out that is interesting, though, is that the way I describe myself is as if I was talking about someone else. There is, without a doubt, a complete dissociation and disconnect. What I always wonder is if the facade is really me...perhaps I only think its a facade because I have so many issue that conflict with my "true self", and since I have a problem believing that I can be insecure in a moment but overall be a confident woman (black and white thinking at work...), it makes it seem as if who I am is actually a front. Or maybe I am just a failure; just insecure, annoying, undesirable and weak...I may be a strong person, and I'm trying hard, but I'm also a wonderful little actress. And the bottom line is, I have to TRY to be who I WANT to be. I would think that the "true self" would just be. The personality disorder may make it difficult to just "be" who I am though. I really don't know. Talk about identity crisis.

So back to my loner part. I really don't want to acknowledge that she ever existed, because she threatens who I want to be very much so. But today, I was so sad. I felt her pain. And I just meditated about her for awhile, and I was able to watch her grow. I saw the ghost of her, the sweet, confident, secure little girl. She had a best friend, Rebecca. And when she switched schools, all the kids teased her for being smart. In the 2nd grade, I was tested at 11th grade reading level. But she didn't care. She kept reading classic literature at recess, and she was, for the most part, okay being different, because reading made her happy and she had a best friend anyways. She still tried very hard to fit in at times, but her mother wouldn't let her listen to spice girls or play sports like the other kids. But this little girl wasn't ruined yet. Then, when she was able to go back to school with Rebecca, young Holly had changed. Her parents had divorced, and her mom had emotionally abandoned her, replacing her old life with a completely new one, with a new husband and a new baby. It was a life that Holly wasn't encouraged to fit in. And Holly's mom was mean...the emotional abuse started to get really bad after the divorce when Holly was 8. And suddenly, Rebecca didn't want to be friends with Holly anymore. People teased Holly for being flat chested, for not be able to play any sport or recess game well, and for being "boy crazy". And it broke Holly's heart to lose her "Best Friend for Forever".

So once again, Holly switched schools. This time, she went to a Catholic School that had 30 kids in each grade, and nearly all of them had been together since Kindergarten. She went there starting in 6th grade, and by this point she was desperate for friends. I can see the identity crisis starting, I can see her attaching to ANYTHING if it meant being approved of. One girl did Irish Dancing, and even though Holly is Mexican and German, she wanted to Irish Dance. The girls all had soccer moms, but Holly couldn't get her mom to put her in sports. It was a Catholic School, so Holly tried to become religious. But everyone saw right through her. She was annoying, a copycat, a loner.

One of the things that traumatized my Loner Child the most was the game "Dynamite". There was a square area that you played in, and everyone ran around. It was every kid for himself. You would get the ball and throw it at someone to tag them out, like dodge ball. If you caught a ball, the person who threw it had to sit down. Well, needless to say, Holly sucked at Dynamite. And so they'd always gang up on her. One day, a day where she was trying SO hard to not to fail and lose, a couple girls grabbed her arms and held her down. The other kids circled around, and they kept throwing the ball at her, over and over and over again. And no one ever came to rescue her. And she was just held there by her classmates, being hit by a red dodge ball until the bell rang. And no one knew that they were torturing and traumatizing a girl who would go home to an abusive mother. I feel so bad for my Loner Child. I feel bad that she was so alone, so desperate. And it's sad, because even though the kids did that to her, she would still do anything for their approval, to be a part of something.

And that tendency, to keep seeking approval from people who hurt me, comes from my mother's abuse. One time when I was about 5 years old I really wanted a book from the top of the bookshelf. My mom wouldn't come help me even though she was just a few feet away, so I started to climb the bookshelf. But it started to fall a little bit, and my mom came and grabbed me. She hit me so hard across the face that my nose started to bleed. At first I ran away, but I needed comfort, love and acceptance so badly (I didn't think that then, I just know that's what I needed in retrospect) that I immediately turned around and ran into her arms. She held me close and pet my hair with the hands that had just hit me. And I didn't care. All I cared about was the fact that she was holding me.

When Loner Child went to High School, she found a good niche of friends that were studious like her. She joined Cross Country, Swimming, Mock Trial, Get Up/Stand Up, and Earthwise. She found Buddhism. She was Varsity Captain of Swim, President of Mock Trial (won Best Prosecution Attorney in Bay Area), President of Get Up, Stand Up club and Vice President of Earthwise Club. She had a list of things that created  an identity. She started finding herself, and she also started finding out what people wanted. She is a good little actress. I am a good little actress. And once I grew out of my awkward stage and developed into a woman, I realized that I could for sure find a way to not be rejected. I know that I am objectively beautiful, and sexy. I don't go a day without being stared at and compliment, by men and women of all ages, in a sexual way and in a platonic, objective way. And that's how my "fire fighter" was born. My "Sex Kitten" part. She can have her pick of guys, for the most part, and she knows it. She distracts herself from intense, unbearable emotions by escaping through sex and flirting. She knows what men want, and she can give it to them. And no one rejects the Sex Kitten.

Today was okay. Fred said I could use his credit card to buy myself an iPad 2, which I have wanted for a long time and really want to use for work. They're sold out everywhere, but I'm showing up when Target opens tomorrow at 8am since they have a truck coming in. I have therapy at 9am, so it'll be good timing.

Fred is amazing. He's been in my life since I was fifteen, so we've known each other for just short of six years. Our connection is unlike anything I've ever experienced, seen, read about or heard about. Its better than the Notebook. Yeah, I know, right? AND he knows I have BPD. And he's so kind and patient, and he does everything to help me through it. He gives me unconditional love and holds me when I need to be held. He shows up late at night with prosciutto and cantaloupe when I'm feeling extremely depressed. He leaves me alone when I need to run away. He's also my baby's father. Yes, I have a fifteen month old son. And my son is amazing. He is incredibly intelligent, intuitive, and adorable. He has big blue eyes and is going to be tall like Fred (he's 6'4"). Fred is so understanding of how everything is for me, and he does everything he can to help me be a good mother. I'm actually a really good mom, despite my BPD. I've always wanted to be a mother more than anything (probably because I wanted to give what I never got), and I'm very maternal and great with kids. I taught swimming for 4 years and was always the best teacher. I could get ANY kid to stop crying and teach ANY kid to swim, even the autistic ones. Fred just knows that I can't be mom 100% of the time right now. My son is so young that he does require a lot of attention and energy, and with my depression, energy isn't something I always have.

I've hurt Fred a lot, and the amazing thing is that he doesn't hold it against me because he knows exactly why I did everything I've done. He understand BPD, and even though he doesn't understand Depression, he validates my experiences as real nonetheless. I've asked him why he loves someone like me, someone so messed up, especially after all the hurt I've caused him. And he told me that it's because he sees my soul. Maybe he knows my "true self". I know what he sees as my true self, and I sure hope that is my true self. Around him, I never have to put up any walls. I never have to put on a face or act a certain way. I can get emotional, irritated, and angry around him. I can be completely needy.

And that's exactly why I ran away from him (numerous times). Well, I thought I was running away from him, but what I was really doing was running away from myself. Since I could be ALL of me around him, since all of my "parts" could come out and be accepted, I was terrified, because I can't accept them. Being with him was forcing me to look myself in the mirror, and I just couldn't do that. And I felt like I was suffocating, like I was in a cage. On one hand I could be completely relaxed with him, but at the same time, since he didn't make me put on a facade, I felt like I had lost my identity. I realize now that this is called "fear of engulfment", and it's a fear as terrifying to borderlines as abandonment.

He proposed to me. He took me on an Eastern Caribbean Cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world at the time. I wore a gorgeous deep, pacific blue evening gown that matched his eyes perfectly. During dinner, in front of thousands of people, he had our song (Always and Forever by Heatwave) start to play and he asked me to dance. He held me close and told me how much he loved me, how he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, how he wanted to make me happy because I make him the happiest man in the world. And he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. The diamond was nearly flawless (literally). He even put it in a Tiffany's box since Breakfast at Tiffany's is my favorite movie (in case you haven't noticed). A couple months later he started looking into buying us a house. And the "fear of engulfment" set in so deep that I ended the engagement and was immediately dating someone else. I was so scared. But the new guy had a strong identity, which I loved, because it was something to attach to. The escape was perfect, because I had a well defined facade that I needed to act out.

I ended up breaking his heart, too. Although, I don't think he really loved me because I never let him know me. Fred, on the other hand, adores me. He doesn't identify me as my personality disorder. He sees something else. I really wish I could believe in that something else, but my Manager Part gets in the way...and that part is the voice of my mother.

I grew up listening to my mother telling me I was disgusting, worthless, a failure, fucked up, stupid, selfish...she told me that she wanted me to cry, she wanted to see me suffer. She told me that I was the reason she got cancer. She told me that if I left her, if I abandoned her, she would die and it would be my fault. She told me that I disgusted her, that I needed to get away because she didn't want to look at me. She never spent time with me, she never went to my swim meets, mock trial competitions or senior activities. She didn't even go to my eighth grade graduation. She always acted as if everything I did wasn't good enough. She was never proud, never impressed. It didn't matter that I was taking 5 advanced classes and had a 4.3 GPA.

She didn't defend me, either. My stepdad caught me hugging Fred (my boyfriend of one year, at the time) and he took me outside and called me a "fucking slut" over and over again. I went crying to my mother, and she told me "You know he doesn't like public displays of affection". I went to my dad's house, and he was PISSED. He called my mom, demanding to talk to my stepdad. When I saw my mom again, she was infuriated with me. She told me "what happens in the house, stays in the house". I said, "Nothing should happen in this house that I can't tell my FATHER about". She said, "No, what happens here stays here". I asked her, "So, if my stepdad hits me, I can't tell my father?" And you know what she said, "No. The first time it happens, I deal with it. The second time, we talk about taking it out of the house."

Talk about a slap in the face. My own mother wouldn't protect her sixteen year old daughter. After she said that, I moved out of her house and into my dad's. I still had to go there every other weekend, though. And even though they live in a mansion, they turned my room into a storage room. They wouldn't make enough food for me to eat dinner.

And so in my mind, my borderline, my manager, and my mother are all one voice. Hers is the voice of hatred that seeps into everything. She makes me feel like I can never be good enough. And its that voice, though, that makes me keep trying, because I am the type of person who wants to succeed. But now I've realized that I never think I'm good enough because I don't know what enough is. Since my mother was never proud of me, never satisfied, her voice inside of me has no concept of success, either. So I'm in this perpetual state of hopelessness, because I'm working my ass off towards a goal that doesn't exist.

Internal Family Systems Model (IFS)

Internal Family Systems Model (IFS) is a method of treating Personality Disorders, in particular those with Borderline Personality Disorder. For me this is helpful because I am realizing that there are different "parts" of me with their own voices, moods, emotions, ect. So here is the gist of IFS for those who are interested, straight from the official website.

"The Internal Family Systems Model (IFS) has evolved over the past twenty years into a comprehensive approach that includes guidelines for working with individuals, couples, and families. The IFS Model represents a new synthesis of two already-existing paradigms: systems thinking and the multiplicity of the mind. It brings concepts and methods from the structural, strategic, narrative, and Bowenian schools of family therapy to the world of subpersonalities. This synthesis was the natural outcome that evolved after I, as a young, fervent family therapist, began hearing from my clients about their inner lives. Once I was able to set aside my preconceived notions about therapy and the mind, and began to really listen to what my clients were saying, what I heard repeatedly were descriptions of what they often called their "parts" -- the conflicted subpersonalities that resided within them. This was not a new discovery. Many other theorists have described a similar inner phenomenon, beginning with Freud's id, ego, and superego, and more recently the object relations conceptions of internal objects. These ideas are also at the core of less mainstream approaches such as transactional analysis (ego states) and psychosynthesis (subpersonalities), and are now manifesting in cognitive-behavioral approaches under the term schemata. Prior to IFS, however, little attention was given to how these inner entities functioned in relation to each other. Since I was steeped in systems thinking, it was second nature to begin tracking sequences of internal interactions in the same way I had tracked interactions among family members. As I did, I learned that parts take on common roles and common inner relationships. I also learned that these inner roles and relationships were not static and could be changed if one intervened carefully and respectfully. I began conceiving of the mind as an inner family and experimenting with techniques I had used as a family therapist. The IFS Model, which evolved as a result of this exploration, views a person as containing an ecology of relatively discrete minds, each of which has valuable qualities and each of which is designed to -- and wants to -- play a valuable role within. These parts are forced out of their valuable roles, however, by life experiences that can reorganize the system in unhealthy ways. A good analogy is an alcoholic family in which the children are forced into protective and stereotypic roles by the extreme dynamics of their family. While one finds similar sibling roles across alcoholic families (e.g., the scapegoat, mascot, lost child), one does not conclude that those roles represent the essence of those children. Instead, each child is unique and, once released from his or her role by intervention, can find interests and talents separate from the demands of the chaotic family. The same process seems to hold true for internal families -- parts are forced into extreme roles by external circumstances and, once it seems safe, they gladly transform into valuable family members. What circumstances force these parts into extreme and sometimes destructive roles? Trauma is one factor, and the effects of childhood sexual abuse on internal families has been discussed at length (Goulding and Schwartz, 1995). But more often, it is a person's family of origin values and interaction patterns that create internal polarizations which escalate over time and are played out in other relationships. This, also, is not a novel observation; indeed, it is a central tenet of object relations and self psychology. What is novel to IFS is the attempt to understand all levels of human organization -- intrapsychic, family, and culture -- with the same systemic principles, and to intervene at each level with the same ecological techniques.

Managers, Firefighters, and Exiles

Are there common roles for parts across people? After working with a large number of clients, some patterns began to appear. Most clients had parts that tried to keep them functional and safe. These parts tried to maintain control of their inner and outer environments by, for example, keeping them from getting too close or dependent on others, criticizing their appearance or performance to make them look or act better, and focusing on taking care of others' rather than their own needs. These parts seemed to be in protective, managerial roles and therefore are called managers. When a person has been hurt, humiliated, frightened, or shamed in the past, he or she will have parts that carry the emotions, memories, and sensations from those experiences. Managers often want to keep these feelings out of consciousness and, consequently, try to keep vulnerable, needy parts locked in inner closets. These incarcerated parts are known as exiles. The third and final group of parts jumps into action whenever one of the exiles is upset to the point that it may flood the person with its extreme feelings or make the person vulnerable to being hurt again. When that is the case, this third group tries to douse the inner flames of feeling as quickly as possible, which earns them the name firefighters. They tend to be highly impulsive and strive to find stimulation that will override or dissociate from the exile's feelings. Bingeing on drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or work are common firefighter activities.

The Self

One other key aspect of the IFS Model also differentiates it from other models. This is the belief that, in addition to these parts, everyone is at their core a Self containing many crucial leadership qualities such as perspective, confidence, compassion, and acceptance. Working with hundreds of clients for more than two decades, some of whom were severely abused and show severe symptoms, has convinced me that everyone has this healthy and healing Self despite the fact that many people initially have very little access to it. When working with an individual, the goal of IFS is to differentiate this Self from the parts, thereby releasing its resources. When the individual is in the state of Self, we can work together to help the parts out of their extreme roles. I had no clue about the Self until I began this journey almost twenty years ago. Like many other young people in the sixties, I had experimented with meditation for respite from my inner cacophony. From these experiences, I sensed other dimensions of myself but had no framework to understand them. I was also an athlete and, on the football field and basketball court, had occasionally entered that delicious flow state in which my mind was still and my body could do no wrong. Like most people, however, I was primarily concerned with finding ways to counter the undercurrent of worthlessness that ran through my psyche. I believed the inner voices telling me I was basically lazy, stupid, and selfish. That's who I thought I really was. I was led to knowledge about the Self less through direct experience than, later as a therapist, through witnessing what happened to my clients as I helped them explore their inner worlds. I had several clients in the early 1980s who began talking about different parts of them as if these "parts" were autonomous voices or subpersonalities. As a family therapist, these inner battles were intriguing to me, and I began asking clients to try to alter them in the same ways I'd been trying to change their family's communication. It seemed that many clients could actually converse with these thoughts and feelings as if they were real personalities. For example, I had a client, Diane, ask her pessimist voice why it always told her she was hopeless. To my amazement, Diane said it answered her. It said that it told her she was hopeless so she wouldn't take any risks and get hurt. It was trying to protect her. This seemed like a promising interaction. If this pessimist really had benign intent, then Diane might be able to negotiate a different role for it. Yet Diane was not interested. She was angry at this voice and was telling it to just leave her alone. I asked her why she was so rude to the pessimist, and she went on a long diatribe, describing how that voice had made every step she took in life a major struggle. It then occurred to me that I was not talking to Diane, but rather to another part of her that constantly fought with the pessimist. In an earlier conversation, Diane had told me about an ongoing war inside her between one voice that pushed her to achieve and the pessimist, who told her it was hopeless. It seemed that the pushing part had jumped in while she was talking to the pessimist. I asked Diane to focus on the voice that was so angry at the pessimist and ask it to stop interfering in her negotiations with it. Again, to my amazement, it agreed to "step back," and Diane immediately shifted out of the anger she had felt so strongly only seconds before. When I asked Diane how she felt toward the pessimist now, it seemed as though a different person answered. In a calm, caring voice, she said she was grateful to it for trying to protect her and felt sorry that it had to work so hard. Her face and posture had also changed, reflecting the soft compassion in her voice. From that point on, negotiations with the pessimist were easy. I tried this "step back" procedure with several other clients. Sometimes we had to ask two or three voices to not interfere before my client shifted into a state similar to Diane's, but we got there nonetheless. I began to get excited. What if people could get extreme voices to step back simply by asking them to, not only in negotiations with other parts, but with family members, bosses, anyone? What if the person who was left when the parts stepped back was always as compassionate as Diane and these other clients had become? When they were in that calm, compassionate state, I asked these clients what voice or part was present. They each gave a variation of the following reply: "That's not a part like those other voices are; that's more of who I really am -- that's my Self." Without knowing it, I had stumbled onto a new way of helping people access the Self that is well-known in many spiritual traditions, but I didn't realize this until years later. At the time, I was thrilled to have found a way to make therapy so much more effortless and effective for my clients, as well as for me. Diane and the others began relating to their parts in ways that the parts seemed to need. Their emergent compassion, lucidity, and wisdom helped them get to know and care for these inner personalities. Some parts, like Diane's pessimist, needed to hear from her that, while at one time she had been very hurt and needed to withdraw, she no longer needed it to protect her in that way. Subpersonalities, like the pessimist, seemed like inner trauma victims, stuck in the past, their minds frozen around a time of great distress. Other parts needed to be held, comforted, loved, or just listened to. The most amazing thing of all was that, once in that Self state, clients seemed to know just what to do or say to help each inner personality. It gradually became clear that I didn't have to teach them how to relate differently to these thoughts and emotions they were calling parts because they would either automatically begin doing what the part needed, or they would begin asking questions that would lead to ways of helping the part. My job was mainly to try to help them remain in the state of Self and then get out of their way as they became therapists to their own inner families. Since I was still a family therapist, I also experimented with this Self-leadership approach to interpersonal relationships. When I could help family members get their parts to step back and let their Selves communicate, they resolved long-standing issues on their own with little guidance from me. Rather than reacting to each other's extreme views and positions, the Self in each partner seemed to have an automatic empathy for the other, just as individual clients had for their own parts. They could sense the hurt behind their partner's protective walls and weren't afraid of losing face by apologizing for how they might have contributed to that hurt. I began to see the potential of Self-leadership for healing but was frustrated because these flights into Self-leadership often would not last long, and in subsequent sessions the inner and/or outer family systems would revert to their old patterns. Plus, many clients couldn't attain Self-leadership to begin with. Their parts wouldn't step back or would do so only temporarily. I would later learn that for Self-leadership to be a lasting presence, we needed to heal the parts that swam in their inner pools of pain and shame. To access those parts, however, we had to get permission from the parts that protected them. Not knowing that then, I could only glimpse the vision of what helping people access their Self could do, but that glimpse was so exhilarating that I devoted my professional (and much of my personal) life to pursuing it.

The Self-Led Person

I was also finding that the Self wasn't just a passive witness state. In fact, it wasn't just a state of mind, but could also be an active healing presence inside and outside people. It wasn't only available during times when, in therapy or meditation, people concentrated on separating from or witnessing their thoughts and emotions. Once a person's parts learned to trust that they didn't have to protect so much and could allow the Self to lead, some degree of Self would be present for all their decisions and interactions. Even during a crisis, when a person's emotions were running high, there would be a difference because of the presence of Self energy. Instead of being overwhelmed by and blending with their emotions, Self-led people were able to hold their center, knowing that it was just a part of them that was upset now and would eventually calm down. They became the "I" in the storm. Over the years of doing this work, it becomes easier to sense when some degree of Self is present in people and when it's not. To rephrase a joke, you get the impression that "the lights are on and someone is home." A person who is leading with the Self is easy to identify. Others describe such a person as open, confident, accepting -- as having presence. They feel immediately at ease in a Self-led person's company, as they sense that it is safe to relax and release their own Selves. Such a person often generates remarks such as, "I like him because I don't have to pretend -- I can be myself with him." From the person's eyes, voice, body language, and energy, people can tell they are with someone who is authentic, solid, and unpretentious. They are attracted by the Self-led person's lack of agenda or need for self-promotion, as well as his or her passion for life and commitment to service. Such a person doesn't need to be forced by moral or legal rules to do the right thing. He or she is naturally compassionate and motivated to improve the human condition in some way because of the awareness that we are all connected. Whenever I begin describing this Self-led person, it triggers parts of me that feel inadequate. While there are times when I can remember embodying some of those qualities, there are more times when I'm a far cry from that person. I believe that this is one of the mistakes that some organized religions make. They hold up the image of a saintly person as a model of what their followers should be, yet they provide little practical advice on getting there, other than by using willpower or prayer. As a result, people feel chronically inferior and get angry at their emotions and thoughts that aren't so evolved.

Qualities of the Self

Let's continue examining this presence we call the Self. To clarify this discussion, I find it useful to differentiate between what people report while meditating -- while being reabsorbed into the ocean -- and what people are like when their Self is actively leading their everyday lives. If meditation allows immersion into a seemingly Self-less oceanic state, then the Self is a separate wave of that ocean. It is that oceanic state which seems so difficult to describe. People report feeling as if they have no boundaries, are one with the universe, and lose their identity as a separate being. This is accompanied by a sense of spaciousness in body and mind, and can be an experience of great contentment, often with moments of bliss. They often feel a pulsating energy or warmth running through their bodies and may sense a kind of light in or around them. People encounter different levels and stages as they deepen their meditative practice, which the different esoteric traditions have explored and charted. Here we are more concerned with what people are like when they bring some of that awareness, spaciousness, and energy to their daily tasks and relationships -- again, when they are a wave rather than the ocean. What qualities do they report and display when they live in the world yet hold the memory of who they really are? What are the characteristics of Self-leadership? I don't know the entire answer to that question. After twenty years of helping people toward that Self-leadership, I can describe what my clients exhibit as they have more of their Self present. As I sifted through various adjectives to capture my observations, I repeatedly came up with words that begin with the letter C. So, the eight Cs of self-leadership include: calmness, curiosity, clarity, compassion, confidence, creativity, courage, and connectedness." (Dr. Richard Schwartz, Ph. D)

Depression, darkness--an excerpt.

Here is a glimpse into my mind in the depths of one of my harder depressions:

March 29, 2009

And so this darkness consumes me, controls me. No matter how hard I try, I feel like I'm drowing quickly, painfully. This awareness is like water penetrating my lungs. Feeling the darkness creep up on me and knowing it's irrational is awful, because no matter how hard you focus, its grip on your soul is only stronger. Understanding the depths of my own despair, of the Borderline that my mother planted in me, only exhausts me. I've been climbing mountains, staying strong, healing for years now, only to realize that I'm at the base of the mountain.

And people say things like stay strong, I'm praying for you, it'll be okay, stay hopeful. But they don't know anything about this darkness. This fear. This awful monster inside of me.

They don't know how I just want to fly away. There's no going back now, though. I'm too aware. I can't play pretend, I can't hide behind a different facade every few years. There's only one place left to fly to. Unless I can find my way to peace here, that is. But the pain is so awful I don't know how much longer I can bear it. I can't endure so much of this.

Yesterday my car smelled like Raid, the ant-killing spray. And the poison smelled so sweet, and for a second it made everything feel better. I wonder if that's how the ants feel...peaceful before they go. I wonder if in that moment, that moment of peace, if death feels worth the release from life, from enduring and hoping for a better day that never seems to come. For a day that is mountains ahead of you. Or I wonder if in that sweet, pain free moment, people remember something that was worth living for...a lover's kiss, disneyland, a baby's smile.

But what if the pain makes it impossible to experience these earthly things that others find worth living for? What if the only peace left is in the sweet poison, in the release.

Worst Employee of the Year

This morning, my alarm didn't go off. Or, maybe it did and I was so exhausted that I turned it off without realizing it. Either way, I woke up to my manager calling me, wondering where I was. I had a managers meeting that started at 8:00am...and it was 8:09. Fuckmylife, right? And it doesn't help that I have to drive 45 minutes, in traffic, to get to work. And I work in retail, so you're supposed to look cute and fashionable every day. Thank goodness for my unhealthy and impulsive shopping makes picking out a cute outfit in ten seconds a lot easier.

And then I get to work only to find that I did a shitty job closing the night before. And the other two assistants are obviously shutting me out. I have this competitive air that girls seem to pick up on even when I'm specifically trying NOT to be competitive, and so girls tend to not like me. I pretend like I'm okay with this, but I'm not. I have to wonder what the hell is so wrong with me that makes people ALWAYS dislike me eventually. I can feel the other assistants making me an insignificant part of the team. I notice how I'm left out when they post pictures on our website. And I can feel the anxiety growing inside of me, and my sensitivity to the world around me increasing by the second. Dr. Marsha Linehan says that people with BPD are like third-degree emotional burn victims. We can't handle any external stimuli. And it's true. Just being late (yeah yeah, I know, it happens) send me into this awful downward spiral. Suddenly I feel like I can't do this job. I start to freak out, because I have no other job to run to, and I have rent. And they're going to start pushing me out, alienating me, rejecting me, and I'll get so emotional that I know I'll start to fall apart and get fired. And then I can't pay rent. Then, I'm fucked. And then, I start to hate myself. I don't actually think "I hate myself"...instead, its this awful, dark feeling that sweeps over the body. It pulls me under, and it's like drowning deep beneath those violent, raging waters. And I'm spinning so fast that I'm disoriented and can't tell which way is up and which way is down. Am I just being paranoid? Is this the borderline taking me over? Of course. But that doesn't make it stop. It only starts to make it worse, because I feel hopeless. I take all these steps to move forward, but I'm still drowning. And now, it's worse, because before I didn't really know I was drowning...I was protected by ignorance, by the ability to blame someone else and run away. Now, I know that "no matter where I run, I keep running into myself" (I can thank Breakfast at Tiffany's for helping me with this epiphany). Now that I've finally stopped and looked myself in the mirror, situations like today are excruciating. I can feel the borderline coming in and consuming me, drowning me, like the pains of ice water penetrating your lungs as you drown, and die a slow, terribly death. Except, you don't die. You just keep suffering.

Hi, I'm Holly. And I have Borderline Personality Disorder.

Okay, so my name isn't Holly. But I do have Borderline Personality Disorder. I'm also battling depression, and I have anxiety attacks on a daily basis that stem from my BPD issues.

I've always loved writing, and since I was ten years old I kept a diary. Looking back at the first page of my first diary, I realize that, deep down, I always knew I had BPD. My ten year-old self wrote, "I have so much hatred, and I need to get it out. So I bought this diary...". I'm sad for my ten year-old that age, a child should be innocent and ignorant to the pains of reality.

But... "Unhappiness does not come from the way things are, but from the difference between how things are and how we think they should be" -Creflo Dollar

Back to writing though...

So here I am, ten years after putting a pen to my first diary, writing this blog. A part of it is for the same therapeutic reasons I've always had; but also for a bigger reason. For a long time I didn't know what was going on inside of me. Emotions came and went, my life would have extreme highs and even lower lows. I kept running away from something, anything...and then one day, I figured out what I was running away from: myself. The awareness of the monster, of the darkness, of the borderline, inside of me is terrifying. There is nothing more painful than knowing that something is creeping inside of you, seeping through your good intentions and spoiling your hopes and dreams. And at times, at those darkest times, it feels as if nothing can stop the monster.

I honestly don't know if anything can stop that monster, but every day I fight that monster, I fight to be better. Objectively, I know that I'm a good person. But the borderline inside of me is like a separate part of me, a part of me that seeps into every thought and action without being invited. And the borderline tells me I'm worthless, a failure, disgusting, and hopeless. And the borderline has eyes--my mother eye's, filled with hatred and disgust for me, for ten year-old me.

I have moments where I can feel my "true self" rising above, surfacing above the violent, raging waters. But when I surface I hardly have time to gasp for air before I'm pulled down again, down into the darkness and despair of BPD.

It is in having these juxtaposing experiences, though, that I am able to work on separating myself from the monster. I do not hate myself, even though sometimes I feel like I do. In reality, I hate the borderline voice permeating into my life uninvited.

I feel like I have been awakened, and its like I opened my eyes under the dark waters of BPD and Depression, seeing things that people don't often see or cannot communicate to the rest of the world. There are people in my life who just don't understand Depression or a Personality Disorder like BPD...I somehow got lucky enough to have two of the disorders that are most stigmatized and that people are most ignorant to. And it hurts SO much to have only perpetuates the issue. I cannot stand being judged, I NEED validation, and all I want is acceptance and unconditional love. Needless to say, people thinking I'm a screw up, crazy, emo, ect. does NOT help.

And I know there are more people like me out there. And we need each other, and we need the people in our lives to understand, or at least seek to understand. So I'm putting my heart and soul (just not my name) out there, in hopes that this blog will become a window for SOMEONE to see into a world that is misunderstood and stigmatized. Or maybe it'll be a window into a world that you're living in. I want to help people with BPD, people who are suffering Depression, and people who know other BPD/Depressed people.

Saying "Don't worry about what other people think" to someone with BPD is like telling someone with an Anxiety Disorder, "Don't worry!". But for some reason, when I try to tell people this, they just don't understand a personality disorder that is so seemingly functional. I know for me, people just always ended up thinking I was annoying for wanting to please everyone. And then they wouldn't like me, which would only perpetuate the issue. So, I hope that by raising awareness of BPD and perhaps shedding enough light on the topic for people to just ACCEPT US, maybe, just maybe, it'll be easier for people to get help.

Ironically, admitting that I have BPD has been something that really helped me start transcending my suffering into growth, compassion, and healing. It was in validating the fact that I am not BAD, but instead "just" have a condition that I need to learn how to effectively live with, that first made me realize that I didn't have to hate myself.