Realisations 

It is my second last day in California, and whilst I am immensely grateful for all the wonderful moments I have experienced, the trip has not been without its challenges. As a result of the more difficult moments, I have come to a number of realisations:

  • Why I find it so difficult to make even the most menial decisions:

    Whenever one member of the family asks another for their opinion or preference about something, it is usually met with some form of negative and controlling response. For example, whether it is choosing a meal, an item in a shop, or something so insignificant as a song on the radio, it is never good enough for anyone. The same applies to both the most and least important of subjects. After being consistently asked what my preference is in certain situations, and then met with comments such as “but why would you choose that?”, “I think it would better if you did this instead” or even just looks of judgmental disdain or disapproval, it increasingly grates on me. Why ask me what my needs are if you don’t really care enough to listen to them anyway? I would rather remain passive, apathetic and indecisive than have a strong preference in any direction only to be chronically shut down, dismissed, shamed or disappointed by my family. This struggle has spread to other areas of my life; I am so wary of making any potentially imperfect decisions in a multitude of contexts – because I am so scared of people around me responding negatively – that I simply do not make decisions at all. It is so much easier to not care, to respond with a simple “I don’t mind, you choose”, and to not experience the consequence of my voice being constantly stamped over. Of course it is not ideal, but it is certainly preferable to me than getting all the controlling bullshit I get for saying something *wrong* every second sentence.

  • Why I have such a fragile and complicated relationship with anger:

    When I try and express my anger with certain family members, I get mocked, shamed and made out to be the bad guy. There are many situations in my family when I am the most calm and contained one (at least externally) so usually when I get angry, it is genuinely justified. However, when I express it, it gets shut down and invalidated, my feelings dismissed. As a child I was very angry, but being constantly ridiculed and even punished for showing it meant that over the years I learnt to internalise my anger more, and take it out on myself. This has continued to today. I find myself getting headaches, my chronic pain gets worse, physical anxiety goes up and I can’t think straight. There is no where for the anger to go because expressing it doesn’t go well, and I’m scared I will explode because of how much power it has. Therefore, often when I get angry, it is followed by a period of dissociation. I become so aroused, and so stuck in that arousal, that my system can only shut down in an attempt to deal with it all.

  • How my dissociation manifests amidst my family in further ways and why:

    The constant stressful, dismissive and controlling behaviours of family members easily overwhelm me. The more exposed I am to these experiences, the more painful it is. The more I care, the more it hurts. It is therefore easier to disappear, fade into the background, shut myself down, make myself small, take up less space, silence my voice and reduce the addition of more stress to the mix of everyone else’s shit. I do this by dissociating. If I’m not mentally present to the toxicity around me, then I can cope much better than when I am fully exposed to it. Even if there physically, by shutting off mentally, it provides me with one way of navigating the chaos. When dissociated, I remain unphased by what would usually cause huge distress. Instead of feeling constantly on edge, angry, anxious, unheard and a victim of negative energy as a result of the interactions around me, I can disconnect instead – and it is one way I survive the uncontrollable unpredictable people around me. Instead of being pushed and pulled around by what goes on with them, I become immune to my environment. Dissociating is my shield. It provides (the illusion of) invincibility. Without it I would not have been able to get through the 3 weeks without some form of externally destructive behaviours.

  • Why romantic relationships don’t come easily to me:

    The two parental figures on this holiday spent more time bickering and controlling, yelling and cursing, than they did positively relating to one another. The holiday was just a microcosm of what I have grown up with; I have never seen a healthy relationship between any of my parental figures, almost every conversation is an argument, there are no conflict resolution skills, no productive listening abilities, no understanding of validation. There is more hostility than overt love, more control than encouragement, more shaming than compassion. They are both so negative towards each other, and it feels damaging to be around constantly. I cannot imagine nor foresee myself ever knowing how to be in a healthy relationship. All my “relationships” so far have been toxic, and half the time I haven’t even realised. I have not seen nor been taught an example of how to be in a relationship that works, and as a result it is something I feel completely hopeless and clueless about for myself.

  • Instead of missing people, I pretend they don’t exist:

    When I was little I had to get used to the people closest to me not being around. I adapted by learning once again to dissociate from my feelings of sadness and loss, because as a kid it was too much to deal with in any other way. I went from missing certain people and depending on them, to being immune to the unpredictably of when they would and would not be around by simply *not caring*. Still to this day, I don’t tend to miss family or friends back home when I am or they are away. It puts me in an awkward position when they tell me they miss me and cannot wait to see me – as I don’t relate to that feeling, but also do not want to upset them! The only people I miss are the people I am attached to, e.g. my therapist. Aside from her, I feel like I could go for months without missing anyone. It’s ironic because even though I don’t miss them, I am not left without the deep loneliness. I haven’t seen my sister in months but I feel nothing? My best friend has moved country but after a single breakdown, I forced myself to become immune to that too. It is like I forget people exist, because then it doesn’t hurt when they’re not around or we are apart for long periods of time. I am always reminded of this when I go on holiday in how profound the disconnection I feel from “home” becomes, and in my inability to really feel emotionally connected to anyone I know intellectually I do have back there.

  • There are certain toxic people I really do not want nor need in my life; my self-respect is growing:

    Being away I have had limited interactions with friends over social media. The friends I did speak to showed interest and compassion in everything I shared – and vice versa – we shared only pleasant interactions. Then there are those who seem only to care about and get in touch based on their own needs. In the past I would have just let people walk all over me, stayed silent when affected by their behaviour or put their needs ahead of mine. But now, when confronted with those who don’t listen to my own needs or respect my boundaries, who have such high standards that no one will ever be able to live up to them, who are judgmental and invalidating of my experiences and feelings, and who I really do not miss nor feel the desire to contact whilst away, I feel no need to pander to them any longer. In fact, contact had been more of a bother than a pleasantry and I am happy because it has forced me to think about what I want. A sour interaction was the last straw for me and forced me to reconsider my values and needs. It enabled me to gain some perspective and practice some self-respect in terms of what I want from the relationship – or if I even want it at all. I am very much relieved. I don’t owe anyone anything, but I know what I owe myself.

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13 thoughts on “Realisations 

  1. As always I love reading your blogs (is that what you like to call them?)…The part I related to most is of not missing people due to making yourself immune to them. I’ve done that with those I’ve loved mostly because the fear of rejection is so overwhelming I go numb to them. I have even done it a few times with my husband that I loved more than anything in the universe….the defences just go up like a barricade between my mind and feelings towards that person…and with others I’m attached to, I go into hate mode to protect myself from hurt….I must get that book, ‘go away/don’t leave me’…have you read it and if so do you recommend it? I’m very attached to my home and my dog as I truly believe they are the only things that are rock solid in my life…I just cannot bear the thought of being let down again by someone that says they will always love me….stupidly though I have always been the author of the undoing of the relationship…but hey that’s BPD for you eh!

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    • Yes my parents are divorced and I never ever allowed myself to miss the one I wasn’t with as a kid – dissociating from the shock, fear and loss is how I coped with it. And that’s generalised to all aspects of my life really. I feel really guilty as my mum misses me a lot and I’m just like “meh”, totally numb. As for my sister it’s like she doesn’t exist. I feel like a terrible person! I’m sorry you relate to this experience! Thanks for sharing this comment with me. I do the same and go into hate mode with my therapist and consider quitting therapy and never seeing her again etc etc. I have read that book; it’s okay but not my favourite I wouldn’t recommend it as it’s quite outdated and therefore has inaccuracies (published 1989!). What about the Buddha and the Borderline? Or The Siren’s Dance? They are more like novels (both true accounts) so not purely for educational purposes, so it depends what you’re looking for. X

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  2. Wow, some very wise mind thinking here. I relate to a lot of this myself and some you have put a name to that I didn’t even realize about myself. It is fascinating how our childhood shapes us so much and then we have to spend the rest of our lives trying to undo some of that shaping, especially if it is damaging. Like myself, I also hold in anger, suppress it and then it comes out in a more destructive way. And somehow, I have to unlearn that and learn to let out my anger at the time when it’s not as bad so that it doesn’t build up.

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  3. I absolutely love reading your posts! You found so much insight on this trip and I believe you will hold on tightly to it for times for come. Never give up, struggles only make us stronger xx

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  4. I was briefly involved with someone whom I met when she had only a few weeks left in our city before she was scheduled to move away for school. (This is a person who, it has been suggested to me by my own therapist, who has never met her, might have BPD. She definitely struggles with depression and PTSD. She’s the subject of many of my blog posts, in fact.) We got involved with each other knowing that it would end as soon as it began. We had initially planned to see each other right up until she had to go, but she cut it off because it was getting too serious and she was feeling overwhelmed and panicked because she wasn’t ready for it, having recently come out of a long-term relationship. She said that she needed time to work on her own issues. It was true. She wasn’t ready. She was kind of a mess. Soon after ending things with me she ended up in the hospital after a suicide attempt. That’s a pretty clear indication that she wasn’t just giving me the old “It’s not you, it’s me” routine. It really was her.

    I really wanted to reconnect with her, but she became very aloof and noncommunicative with me. We saw each other one last time before she left, at my insistence, because I couldn’t stand the thought of having her go without saying goodbye in person. She promised we would be friends. But then after she moved she ignored my messages and eventually unfriended me on Facebook, etc. It was as if she were pretending that our “relationship”, such as it was, never took place.

    It was shocking to me that someone could go from being extremely warm and caring to totally cold so quickly. I miss her really badly and I want to reconnect with her, even though she’s in a different city now. I still have very warm, loving feelings toward her in spite of everything. It seems incomprehensible to me that someone I felt so close to and so connected with, even for a very brief time, could not miss me even a little bit.

    I promised to leave her alone for a couple of months, and that was about six weeks ago. I have written her a very, very long letter that I’m not sure I will ever send to her. (It would have to be by FB Messenger, because I don’t have any other way of contacting her.) My therapist advises me against contacting her because she feels I should not be pursuing a relationship with someone who is emotionally unstable. I think I need an outside perspective on this whole thing from someone more empathetic.

    Anyhow, I tend to ramble on. Sorry. I really just wanted to say thanks for sharing your insights. The bit about not missing people who are close to you really made me think.

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    • Wow this sounds complicated and painful, for the both of you. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this and can only imagine how challenging it is. I’m not able to write a long response right now, but I will say this:
      I have to agree with your therapist, although perhaps not for the same reasons. It sounds like you desperately want to be in contact with this person – and that is totally understandable, the most natural thing in the world – I’m just wondering if that is making you blind to the fact that she is clearly not making contact for a reason. Whatever those reasons are, I think it would be wise to respect them. If she has cut down contact and connections with you, that is her choice, and she will have her reasons no matter what they are. Considering you have reached out already and not heard back, I am not sure what more you can do. I know that you want a certain outcome, but is this what she wants? It doesn’t sound like it, from what you have written. And considering the suicide attempt after she broke it off with you, it sounds like she is incredibly vulnerable and knows what she needs – which is not to be in a relationship right now, or have any connection to whatever occurred between you two.
      Perhaps, if you think about it this way, you will have your answer: do you love and care for her enough to let her go…

      Take care. I can only imagine how painful this is/ will be for you X

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      • I’m sure you’re right. It’s just really hard to accept. As much as I feel that we would be good together, and good for each other, if we could make it work, the fact is that she is emotionally unavailable and I need to accept the very real possibility that I will never see or hear from her again. I totally understand that she cut off contact with me in order to protect herself and that I have to let go of my own desires, and even my own notions of what might be best for her. I hope that she gets the help she needs.

        Maybe some day she’ll feel inclined to connect with me again, but I guess I have to leave that decision in her hands. I know she struggles with feeling worthless and unlovable, so the notion that I feel the way I do about her might be unfathomable to her. (She actually warned me not to fall in love with her, because, as she put it, “I’m not worth it.”) Sadly, love doesn’t conquer all. Sometimes love isn’t even close to being enough.

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