To Expose or To Avoid?

I am doing a research assistantship over summer within a mental health team. Every week we have a research team meeting covering a specific area that someone on the floor is working on, or we get a specific training. 

Earlier, my supervisor let us know what the next research team meeting will be focusing on. I will not write exactly what it is here, but as it turns out, we will be discussing a very sensitive topic – one which is close to the bone for me. 

The academic, studious, motivated and rational part of me wants to go to the meeting, because it is a very important topic and the research around it is invaluable. Wearing my “professional” hat, I think it could be interesting and important for me to attend. I am sure I could learn a lot, and it may even help me understand myself and my experiences further. 

On the other hand, I can barely look people in the eye nor regulate my internal response when someone as much as mentions this specific topic. The emotional, fearful, traumatised Borderline me is far too scared to attend; there is no way I can go to the research team meeting if we are discussing what my supervisor told me.

It is too close to the bone for comfort. Anything associated with it has the potential to evoke a strong mental, emotional and bodily reaction in me based on my own past. It is not a straightforward reaction, nor one I am able to control at this stage. I am too vulnerable. I have not worked through it yet in therapy. I do not want to dissociate. Or have a panic attack! I don’t want to become dysregulated in the work environment, in my professional role. There are so many reasons to not go.

However, there is a catch. If I do not go to the meeting, I am worried that my absence will inadvertently draw more attention to me. People will wonder why I am not there. Although not everyone goes to the team meetings every week, most people do, and I have yet to miss a single one. If I miss this one – a particularly sensitive one such as this – I am concerned that people will know exactly why. They will know I am avoiding it; they will know it must be because the topic is something I have had experience of; and they will know that I do not feel able to face it in that capacity… they will probably then doubt my ability as an aspiring psychologist/ researcher/ academic. 

(The fact that a handful of them know I have BPD – or have at least seen some of my old scars – may make it easier for them to do the guesswork, if my absence is noted)

I do not know what I am meant to do. I want to email my supervisor to ask specifically what will come up, and ask if it is okay to skip the meeting that week depending on her answer. However, if I bring it up with her, she will realise why I am asking to skip the meeting and what it means. (She knows I have BPD, she knows a little of my history – it will not take much to put two and two together.)

I do not want anyone to know about it, nor connect me to the topic in any personal way. So I need to not avoid the meeting. And yet, I do not feel able to go to the meeting because of the topic and the reasons above. (My face went red at the mention of it by my supervisor within that five second conversation, and I start panicking at the mere thought.)

I feel stuck. I have been thinking about it for hours. The part of me that catastrophises is saying I should just stay home that day and pretend I am ill – so that I can avoid this whole palaver altogether.  

Overall, Emotion Mind says both DO NOT GO to the meeting and GO to the meeting at the same time, based on the different reasons and emotions above. I don’t even know what my Reasonable Mind is thinking. Either way, there is no middle option – I either go or I do not – and so I am at a loss as to what a Wise Minded decision would be. 

I do not often ask for advice on here, but any thoughts would be much appreciated with this one!

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12 thoughts on “To Expose or To Avoid?

  1. Have you done a pros and cons sheet? You have a good start on here but maybe get it all out on paper and see what weighs in more. Within that, include not just the consequences of not going but also the consequences of going and what might happen if you were to react badly. If you haven’t been able to address this in therapy yet and you face the risk of becoming emotionally dis-regulated at the meeting, that in and of itself could make going back even harder. I’m not telling you to go or not to go, just pointing out other things to consider. Look at pros of going and pros of not going. Then look at cons of going and cons of not going and see what really speaks to you at the end of it.

    Here’s another thing to think of: when airplane safety is discussed, it’s said you need to put your own mask on first before you help others. If this a case of you putting your own mask on? In other words, is it effective for you to be there for something that is triggering for you when you still need to work through it?

    Should you decide to go, definitely plan out skills you may need, how you can use those skills at the meeting and before and after. Maybe call your therapist for a coaching call (this would be a good subject to call her about).

    Hope this helps! Good luck with whatever you decide! Triggers are HARD!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you I was thinking of doing a pros and cons list but wrote the post instead – will write one tonight when I have some time, it’s a good idea and does help to have it down on paper to see – thank you.

      And yes, will definitely cope ahead if I go 🙂

      Although I think you’re probably right about the oxygen mask thing and that maybe I should skip it, regardless of those consequences… (If I went and ended up freaking out, people could easily guess that way too anyway right?)

      Last problem – my therapist is away! Which is really hard…. I’ll try speaking to her step-in but that’ll be hard too as we don’t know each other too well. Lots of obstacles for this one!

      I really appreciate you commenting 🙂

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  2. Does it really matter if people assume, deduce or conclude that the phenomena or experience personally applies to you? Will their assumptions or hypothesis regarding you actually impact you negatively and in what respect? Is it a real risk or is it more about your fear (and possibly reasonable need) to avoid your feelings over this, which might include ‘shame’. If the latter, then it’s all about what’s in your head and how you cope with that as opposed to the impact that other people can have on you and your career. I hope I’ve not misunderstood but want to prompt you to think carefully about what is it you really fear and which of either avoidance or confrontation of that fear is currently in your best interests. Not an easy one to exercise judgement upon!

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    • Not sure if you are experienced with borderline personality disorder but YES, this kind of thing does matter to those of us who suffer from it and especially when it comes to a trauma that one is still trying to work through, the last thing one wants to have to deal with is judgment and invalidation. Yes, a lot of it might be in our heads but it can have a huge impact on our self-esteem. And something big like that can create a bit of a setback.

      I know for me, with my trauma, it was such a big event it was in the newspaper. In fact, it was such a big thing, it was voted one of the top stories in my community for that year. My maiden name was all over the newspaper which lead to a number of difficulties in the immediate aftermath. Being a writer and being interested in writing for a freethinker’s group I’m in, it took me a very long time to reach the point where I could comfortably write something that would go in the local paper. Before I did so, I did a search to make sure that my name didn’t come up associated with the event that had occurred now 13 years ago. Irrational, very likely. But at the same time, I’m extremely grateful that people were not on Facebook then like they are now. In the end, I was able to write for the paper and thankfully nothing came up on that event. People just made comments on my hair style and weight which was bad enough! I would hate to think of the comments I would have gotten had they been aware of my history.

      It can be hard to get past those feelings of fear especially when it is connected to something traumatic that happened to us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Janeen. Thank you thank you thank you.

        It breaks my heart to hear about what you went through and how hugely that must have impacted your life. I can’t imagine something so traumatic being publicised in that way, the thought sickens me. I am happy to hear how you approached it with such courage, strength and resilience… that must have been excruciating. Well done on publishing that article, very brave of you xx

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    • Yes to a person with BPD it really DOES matter. Whether it is in our heads or not is irrelevant, the feelings are still there. Struggles with invalidation are one of the core issues many of us have to deal with. Believe me the struggle is real.

      Janeen, you have given some really sound advice and I completely agree with what you are suggesting. I can’t really add much more.

      Keep up the blog Babble. I can’t begin to explain how much it helps me. Much love xxx

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes unfortunately it really does matter – please see everyone else’s comments as they expand very helpfully and accurately. Thanks though, I know that you don’t mean anything hurtful by this and appreciate the thought. Just wish it was so clear cut! Take care..

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  3. What a stressful situation! AND pretty dialectic too! good and bad, want and not want.

    Janeen’s advice is pretty solid sounding. Coping ahead might help you make the decision effectively. put yourself in the situation and imagine the worst outcomes happening and the best outcomes happening and how you’d do deal both and if you can live with those outcomes. Do your best to stick to the facts and not mind read – who really knows what those people will think or even notice?
    In my own experience with exposing my trauma I found that reactions were better/easier to deal with that I had expected.
    I know this event is coming soon for you. If there is another place you can just talk about your trauma – just to get it out in the open – even to complete strangers somewhere that you’ll never see again.
    For me doing this thing was so hard and I cried a lot however I found that it helped to give my trauma less power over me.

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    • Yes, all the words of wisdom from you all are really helpful. I think it’s more about my own shame than others’ reactions but that makes it no easier sadly! Anyway, even if I don’t necessarily have an answer just yet (am in the process of figuring this whole thing out), the validation, care and support of my commenters mean so much to me. I will at some point talk to my therapist about it all, when she is back, as we are moving on to trauma work. It’s just been quite a hectic time as we have both been away a lot, etc. I’m sorry that you’ve had your own share of this stuff and am glad to hear that the power lessened upon exposure of your trauma and hope you are getting to a place of greater peace with it all xx

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