Attachment Pain is Back

Things have been up and down over the last few weeks, but one thing is for sure. Over the past few days, attachment pain related to my therapist has sprung back in an overwhelming way and I find myself stuck in that place of rejection and hopelessness once again.

I thought that maybe I was starting to get somewhere with this attachment stuff. But unfortunately my attachment pain hasn’t really got much better. I think it possibly comes and goes in waves more than it used to, and the periods of it taking over my life are probably less frequent than they were; my therapist and I certainly have less numerous and catastrophic ruptures. However, I’m currently in a period of high attachment pain and I cannot say that the distress of it is any less than it has been before.

Sometimes when I’m not in as much pain I forget just how unbearable it feels. But now that I am IN it, it feels like this pain is all that has ever existed and all that ever will.

I love DBT. It has saved my life in many ways. But regardless, when it comes to these attachment difficulties, DBT skills never seem to be enough. I hate it when they tell me that this pain will eventually extinguish because I see no evidence of that. Instead it just seems to peak and peak and peak….. then keeps me stranded, alone, in the most excruciating emotional pain anyone could experience.

Sometimes DBT can feel a bit “surface” and like a mostly “top down” approach. But my belief is that I need to target this attachment stuff from the “bottom up”. My belief is that without the right sort of trauma work I won’t ever be able to fully heal from my attachment difficulties because they are a result of relational/ complex trauma that is pretty much ingrained within my cells. I am in a more trauma focused therapy at the moment although we still use DBT as an underlying framework. I am advised and encouraged to practice the skills as an addition to the trauma work, and my T constantly reiterates the importance of skills such as self-soothing and self-validating whilst we are doing this work.

However it still feels impossible and almost counter intuitive to soothe myself when the only one I want that from right now is my therapist. I am the last person I want any care from (I despise myself, I disgust myself, I want to punish myself, so why would care from myself feel nurturing or even possible!?). I understand that this is where I need to be (and is where the healthy part of me wants to be!) but how to get there is another story.

My therapist tells me the actions have to come first (“act as if”) and the feelings will follow eventually (albeit from the outside in). Like I said, I have little evidence of that as yet, but maybe as I continue with the trauma therapy things will start to shift from the inside out.

Do Not Forget this Pain: A Note to Self

Even though it’s hard to remember exactly what it feels like when you’re not in it, you know how bad it gets and how suffocating that amount of pain feels. The number of times you’ve been in that contorted mess of a state on the floor, wailing because the pain is so intense, so out of control, repeating to yourself through the tears “Make it go away, make it stop, I’ll do anything”.

But when anything doesn’t mean killing yourself, how far are you willing to go to “make it stop” in another way? A way that is by no means easy or painless, but a way that is a way nonetheless. If you give this your all, who knows, maybe it will make life feel more bearable and you won’t feel the need to die any more. If you kill yourself, you’ll never know. Remember how painful it gets and the utter desperation and willingness to do whatever it takes that comes with that.

It’s okay to be scared of the pain. But no matter how painful the next part of this process, it can’t be worse than the pain you’ve already felt so many times before.

Physical and Emotional Car Crash of a Day

Today my sister was in a car crash. She was taken in an ambulance to hospital in what could have been a critical condition. The ambulance crew said it is a miracle that she has come away with only the injuries she has (fractured lower back, messed up ankle, seatbelt burns, bruising all over) given the state of the car, and that if anyone had been in the passenger seat they probably would have died. She was on the motorway traveling in the fast lane (70mph), 5 cars were involved (my sister was the 3rd car) and over 10 people, and the entire section of the motorway had to be closed off. 

She was coming down from uni to see our Mum as a surprise for her birthday. She was 5 minutes away from turning off the motorway when the crash happened.

I am not making this into a long post. I am just so grateful that she is alive and physically going to be okay at least for the most part. Who knows how this will affect her psychologically; an event like this is surely traumatising and a shock to the system. 

But today got me thinking. It’s been a real roller coaster of an afternoon and I’m only just calming down from the shock myself. Life is so precious and can be taken from you in an instant. I never usually think that way, especially having wanted to die so many times before. I take life for granted because it’s not something I often value, because of my mental health difficulties and everything that entails. But today has changed my perspective – at least in this moment – and I am so fucking grateful to be alive.

My sister is lucky to have survived what she’s been through and she is going to get through this. I am lucky to have survived what I have been through and I am going to keep getting through this (the whole life thing) too.

Therapy is Tearing Me Apart

Recently I have noticed that every time I leave therapy I feel so much worse than I did when I arrived. I know all that cliché shit about how “it has to get worse before it gets better” and “no pain no gain” and all that. But recent weeks have felt different and I think she is feeling it too. It is as though the therapeutic relationship and current issues between the two of us are overpowering all the other work I need to do – so that literally the only thing we are talking about is “us” and the numerous ruptures in our relationship. 

I’m so tired of my issues with attachment getting in the way of, well, working through my issues with attachment. It is such a paradox. I go to therapy to try heal from my difficulties, but instead, because of the nature of my struggles and how attached I am to my therapist, I end up in more pain than I was in in the first place.

A couple of days after issues arise in therapy I may start feeling slightly more stable and at peace. I go to therapy for my subsequent session, and bam, I become dysregulated and emotionally, physically and mentally unsettled all over again. It feels like yet another lose-lose situation in my life. I am working really hard but these issues are just permeating through everything, making the healing process so much bloody harder than it otherwise would be.

I wish I had no attachment whatsoever to my therapist, it would be so much easier. Then I could just go to therapy, work on what needs to be worked on, and leave with a sense of closure. (I know it’s not that simple but ya know.) Instead, the therapeutic relationship just leads me to become even more dishevelled than I already am. 

My attachment issues are definitely my core struggle but it is just so ironic how this is also the core obstacle stopping me from effectively dealing with the core struggle! I cannot get over how messy the healing process from this is proving. It is just so disheartening how consistently “attachment stuff” continues to get in the way of my therapy, no matter how hard I work in all other aspects of my process.

It gets better for a while but then it inevitably gets worse again. The whole thing is so slow, and I worry I am not making much progress, if any (with regards to this). I feel so stuck. It has been so many years of the same struggle. Maybe I would be better off being out of therapy?

Shame Vs Neediness

I feel like I am in a constant battle between acting on my feelings of neediness versus acting (or not acting) based on my feelings of shame.

Both are two of the strongest most intensely painful feelings on my spectrum of feelings, and yet both pull me in ways that are totally opposite from one another.

The neediness compels me to reach out to the people I rely on the most, to rely on them for my every need, to regress to my childlike state – yearning to be comforted, soothed, held, loved. I act like a baby trying to get her baby needs met. They can never be met. It breeds my attachment pain. And deep deep shame.

The shame drives me to cut myself off from needing anyone at all, to block myself from reaching out even when I need support, to shy away from the world and not let people into mine. The shame makes me want to be treated negatively, to be hurt, to be used and mistreated. The shame breeds shame.

I feel shame for being so needy, or I feel needy and alone for disconnecting myself because of the shame – and the spiral perpetuates.

I think the neediness and shame paradox is one of my biggest struggles; it infiltrates into many aspects of my life and dictates much of what I do (and do not) do. It is a lonely place to be. Stuck in the middle of an endless tug of war, it is certainly a catch 22 – I just cannot win.

Borderline and Alone

One of the most painful things about having BPD is the chronic, insatiable and infinite loneliness so many of us experience. Some days I feel so lonely that it physically aches, and I can feel claws of emotion inside of me causing me excruciating pain. The visceral sensations that materialise take over my entire body.

These are sensations one cannot put into words; I sometimes refer to it as “Borderline” pain, because it is so typical an experience for those with BPD. I have tried explaining it to others but they have found it hard to understand. Loneliness is one thing; Borderline loneliness is another.

I suppose it is a mixture of yearning and grief, sadness and shame, all rolled in to one. The grief aspect feels pertinent to me, but how can I explain that? I can’t. I haven’t even lost anything. I just never had it to begin with. I fear I will never feel like a whole person, and that it is too late to repair me now – the damage has been done. I am broken.

I feel like a lost puppy separated from its litter or a desperate child searching for her mother amongst a terrifying crowd. I feel like an empty floating lifeless vessel, or a newly born vampire – insatiably thirsty, panting and pacing in anticipation of her first meal. I feel like if I ever were to unleash the full strength of my neediness the world would not be able to support me. I am too much. The loneliness is too big. I am drowning in it.

The Paradox of Pain

I have been okay. I have been stable and okay for a week. Overall it has been pretty neutral, and for me, neutrality is a rather miraculous thing. 

Overall, I am trying to take these moments of okayness one second at a time and not overthink them, despite how unfamiliar and disconcerting it may feel.

But it is hard, because amidst the relative stability, I feel like I am lacking something. I feel like something is missing from my life. I feel like I can’t quite connect to it, or with myself, on a real and meaningful level. I feel like a spectator, watching, waiting, sitting bored at the sidelines.

I feel like maybe a part of me needs the pain in order to be able to connect? Like it’s the only way I know how to feel real and alive and full?

The ‘Borderline pain’ as I call it is such a catch 22: Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.

Mental + Physical Illnes = F*cking Ouch

So many people I know with BPD and other mental health conditions suffer from (chronic) physical ailments as well. 

It really upsets me because we are in enough pain emotionally, how is it fair to be in so much pain physically as well?  Like hello, I am trying to get my life on track here and this really is not helping. Is the universe trying to spite me? Am I being punished? Is this some sort of sick joke? Etc etc etc.

I know it is really unhelpful to think like this so I will try not to go with those judgments and be more descriptive: 

I feel like my spine is collapsing in on itself. I feel like it is crumbling, like parts of me are falling away from my centre and my centre is burning. It feels like there are a million tiny shards of glass pressing into the core of my lower back in a place that remains unreachable. Like thousands of tiny hands are scraping and pulling and searing my insides. I am noticing swells of shooting sensations and waves of dull aching tenderness and bursts of feeling like muscle is being torn from bone. 

I can just feel so acutely the sensations going on in my back right now and it is making me feel nauseous because of how viscerally overwhelming it is.

The only thing that helps is sleep. But I’ve been bed bound all afternoon with ice on my back trying not to succumb to the temptation of my mum’s (not so) secret stash of prescription painkiller medication (I used to abuse them). 

I am trying to distract, trying to mindfully “go into the pain”, trying to breathe, trying to zone out, trying to accept, trying to push away. You name it, I’m trying it.

And also, I know hands down I am one of my lucky ones and that in itself is depressing. My pain is transient and I have periods where it doesn’t get in the way of my life. On a day to day basis it can be anywhere from between 1-3 out of 5 on average and that feels manageable; I am used to it now and able to continue with my days. Today is especially intense and disabling but I know it will pass, I really do.

But there are people who suffer on a momentary basis with physical pain so debilitating I cannot even begin to imagine. Mental pain + physical pain = a recipe for disaster and my heart goes out to everyone suffering in this way. 

I think there needs to be some sort of medical revolution because mental and physical pain disorders are often so inextricably interlinked; and targeting them both together could really do wonders for the people suffering from them.

Therapy, Attachment, Trauma, Cognitive Distortions and Endless Tears

I struggle with the therapeutic relationship more than words can say. Today something happened at the end of my therapy session which triggered all my attachment-trauma related pain. I cannot even begin to explain it because it sounds so menial that words will not justify the impact it had on me. In short, it let to feelings of deep sadness, shame, and jealousy, and the perception that I was in some way being dismissed and rejected by her.

Despite having been in a relatively upbeat mood beforehand, I spiralled into a state of such high distress that I actually scared myself. I was so dysregulated that I was unable to be effective in accessing skills I otherwise would have. I knew I needed to ice dive but I also felt like I legitimately could not move. I was literally hyperventilating and weeping from the moment I got home until I collapsed into sleep after my system had totally exhausted itself, almost two hours later.

Throughout this time I had been calling and texting my therapist a commentary of what was going on for me, practically begging her for help. The texts came thick and fast; the desperation mounting almost to the point of threat, like how I ‘used to be’. I was convinced that she wasn’t answering me on purpose – that she was setting me up or testing me in some way – and my anger and urges off the back of this were off the charts for intensity. 

I don’t know how I didn’t give in. I was absolutely desperate for her to see just how much pain I was in – or how much pain she was ‘causing me’ to experience. (Although the fact that I was paralysed to the sofa may have had something to do with the lack of behavioural consequences.) I had wrapped myself up in blankets to weigh me down and hold me in an attempt to self-soothe, and there was no way I was leaving my cocoon in that state. 

Finally, hours later I received a very kind message from my therapist. She had been back to back in sessions and supervision which was why she hadn’t picked up my messages or calls or been able to get back to me earlier. The entire time I was convinced that she was ignoring me with thoughts of a scarily false reality taking over my brain, she had simply just been very busy. 

This failure to mentalise happens to me so often, and yet I never seem to learn. I don’t know what to do about my developmental trauma which is at the crux of it. When it lies dormant, it is as though it doesn’t even exist. But as soon as it is triggered, it becomes the end of the world for me and I go from 0 to 100 in an instant. 

I have been in so much pain today, and in ways, it has all been over nothing but an illusion. I have been bound by my past experiences and the hold that my past pain still has on me.

Having BPD hurts so much that words fail to even hint at the extent of the pain we experience. And having BPD but being in active recovery with near 100% symptomatic reduction hurts on a whole other level; because I cannot simply cut myself to release the pain I experience, I actually have to feel it all. 

I really need to heal from my past and do this trauma work, so that I am no longer stuck in this limbo state between symptomatic reduction and true recovery. 

To Say It Hurts is an Understatement 

Today has been so painful I cannot even begin to explain. 

As the dissociation lifts, I am flooded with everything my body and brain have been trying to protect me from.

Hello again old familiar pain which cannot be described through mere words on a page. 

Hello sadness so bottomless it has no end, and the waterfall of tears so powerful nothing can stop the flow. 

Hello loneliness which pervades no matter how many people surround me nor how desperately I try to fill the void within. 

Hello longing, and emptiness, and that familiar insatiable need I know so, very, well – too well.

There is no way, NO WAY at all, to describe how much life hurts right now. 

An Email to my Therapist

I sent this email to an old therapist a few years back. I feel pretty much exactly the same way with my therapist now minus the reference to eating disorder stuff. It all makes me so sad. I don’t know how to heal from it.

“I feel like I need to terminate our relationship because you can’t deal with me and I can’t deal with myself in relation to you and the guilt and shame I bring upon myself. I am too much for you and I am too much for myself to feel okay with being so dependent on you any more. I want to run away and start a new life where I can be normal and not bring pain or attachment to everyone around me. 

I am stuck between a rock and a hard place because I cannot find a balance – one extreme fills me with shame and guilt because I’m burdening and being selfish and needy, and the other with feelings of aloneness and yearning for connection because I’m effortfully withholding in an attempt to protect you, from me. 

This is the paradoxical conflict my life is based around – needing people desperately yet having such strong guilt and shame around it (my bulimia and bingeing), so instead trying to need no one and doing it alone – what I’ve heard being called “needless-wantless” (my anorexia). 

Everything is such a big deal in my head and I feel it all to the most extreme level of the emotion. Where someone else may just shrug their shoulders and move on, little things take everything out of me and it’s so exhausting. My emotions control me and are so much more powerful than I am. 

Specifically, please know that I feel powerless over the way I relate to you and that I do only want what is best for you and to not burden or hurt you any more.”

Spreading the Lurve ❤️

Last week in Mindful Society we listened to one of Mark Williams’ mindfulness meditations about practicing acceptance and sending love and compassion to all living beings in the world. 

This week, as part of the ‘homework’ we set ourselves, I intentionally tried to do lots of random acts of kindness whenever I came across the opportunity. 

For example:

  • Picking up an earring for a woman who dropped it on the floor
  • Saying thank you to bus drivers with eye-contact
  • Having a conversation with the man selling Big Issue on the corner by uni
  • Picking up a can from the pavement and putting it in a bin
  • Sending thought-out Xmas cards to people from my past who mean a lot to me 
  • Letting the man at the fruit stall keep the change I was owed
  • Going over my volunteering commitment for the good of the group and our purpose 
  • Giving up my seat for others on the bus/ tube
  • Letting people go in front of me in lines
  • Smiling randomly at people I pass in the street 
  • Giving people I love hugs 
  • Saying Merry Chirstmas to people behind the til in Primark
  • Etc

One reason that I’m really going for this is that I’m struggling to love the world right now. I’ve had a really difficult week. I’ve been angry and hurt. I felt suicidal until yesterday. When I’m struggling like this it’s easy to become willful and hateful, and to retreat into myself. It’s easy to go about life ignoring everyone I pass, scowling, lost within my thoughts and pain; missing opportunities in each moment to give something back to the world. 

Practicing random acts of kindness means I’m extending myself to a world beyond my inner experiences, and reaching out in this way in turn decreases the pain I am feeling. There is so much out there but my perspective narrows dramatically when I am stuck in my own pain. Seeing others respond positively to my positive intentions however restores a sense of purpose, hope and self-respect. It makes me feel like my life is that tiny bit more worth living. 

Sometimes the action has to come first, and then the feelings follow. Do something kind, feel good about oneself; do something to show your respect towards others, boost your own self-respect; do something for the greater good of the world, in turn start taking better care of yourself. Not always, but often, acting with intention in this way can really change the way I experience the world. 

The saying it’s the little things in life that count also feels fitting here. I have been baffled at how the smallest interactions (e.g. wishing a stranger Merry Christmas and it being met with such gratitude and reciprocation) have filled up even just a little of the spirit lost in me over this last week.

I certainly feel a lot more at one with the world when I am acting with an attitude of compassion and openness as opposed to hostility towards it.

When I am struggling to find a sense of purpose within my self, externalising in the ways described above helps invaluably. If in the moment I feel I am no longer able to exist for myself, at least I can continue existing for somebody else until my own pain passes. 

On Being Painfully Attached to My Therapist

It is a real pattern of mine to become attached to older women who are in a position of care or authority. Some of these attachments have brought great validation, comfort and healing; some have bred anger, upset and paranoia instead. One thing they all have in common however, is the emotional pain they carry with them. In fact, the pain I have experienced as a result of my difficulties with attachment is some of the most excruciating I have ever felt.

It may seem counter-intuitive to say that a relationship which provides holding and healing can also elicit such pain. But this is my experience, and it is exactly here that the problem lies. In fact, the more attached I feel to someone, the more pain the relationship causes me. It is a catch-22, a lose-lose situation, and I become stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Ultimately, I am in therapy because I want to make changes in my life and maintain them; because I want to reduce the intensity of the painful emotions I experience; and because I want to heal past traumas which affect me in my life today. Ironically however, the relationships with my therapists have often become so intense and complex that they take over everything else in therapy.

The depth of my attachment to these therapists has caused me to act in ways which haven’t been helpful to the relationship. I will use present examples of this with my current therapist. For instance, I will reach out to her in between sessions when I don’t need to, simply because I am feeling needy or alone. I will seek constant reassurance from her to the point that I am being paranoid and it will lead to a viscous cycle. I have tried to contact her outside of our agreed hours because I am so addicted to her support. I will send her abstract texts and she will not know if I am contacting her because I need to, or simply because I feel like I need her. Etc etc etc.

Because I am in DBT, this means that we end up talking about my Target 2 (therapy-interfering) behaviours in therapy, a lot, and it dominates the sessions. Of course we explore the issues on a deeper level, looking at my feelings, my motives, my past, my attachment history and the complex trauma related.

However, no matter how much we process things, no matter how much self-awareness I now have, it doesn’t make the pain go away, and there doesn’t seem to be a solution.

Having her in my life also means having to leave her (or her me, as it so often feels), and this means deficiency and emptiness once again. It is like her love is my drug and without her I am in the clutches of withdrawal. It is almost impossible to describe, but I will at least try.

Here is an excerpt of some writing I did a few years ago with another therapist, although the experience is pretty much the same:

“I have a gaping seeping wounded hole inside of me, centered in my core. Under the the illusion that this hole can be filled up with her love and affection, I seek as much of it as I can – although it never touches the sides for long. Sometimes it ends up becoming counter-productive; the more I get, the more I crave. The neediness does not go away.

I yearn for her love, affection, attention, validation and soothing. But no matter how much I get, I am always left wanting more. I feel like the neediest, greediest girl in the world (albeit 99% internally, which in itself is excruciating) and it is not a good look at all.

It has gotten to the point where if I don’t have contact with her at least once a day, it becomes pretty much all I can think about. I will debate with myself for hours about whether or not to contact her. If I do, I feel immense guilt and shame, or anger or hurt if she doesn’t respond how I want her to. If I don’t, I continue to ache, my immediate ‘solution’ ceases to exist and I get stuck knowing how to move on.

I want her to be there for me every single second of the day; to intuitively know what it is I need, even when she’s not physically present. I want her to pick me up and save me from all the painful emotions I feel inside, and to fix this chronic loneliness which does not want to budge. I want her to take me home with her, hold me and baby me and look after me for ever and ever, The End.

I do not know what happened to me as a child that could have led to this. It does not make sense. I must be inherently flawed.

I miss her every second I’m not with her, and it hurts so so so much.  I am constantly aching with the loneliness, yearning for something I cannot have – something which does not even exist. I am chronically aching, and I don’t know how to heal the wound. I am trapped within the confines of this emotional pain, and I don’t know how to escape it.”

BPD and Splitting

One of the DSM’s criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder is “a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation”.
This experience is also referred to as ‘splitting’, and is something I relate to and struggle with massively.

Splitting causes Borderlines to veer between two opposing extremes when it comes to interpersonal relationships, and can also present in how we perceive ourselves. At one time, feelings of intense joy, love and attachment towards a certain person will be evoked. At other times, this will flip to feelings of extreme hate, anger and other negative emotions, as well as an overwhelming urge to reject that same person.

Splitting can be seen as a defence mechanism, triggered by the Borderline’s super sensitive alarm system, detecting even the smallest of threats or reassurances when they arise. However, the tiniest hint from another such as a certain facial expression, or an action like cancelling an arrangement, can lead to such negative affect that it threatens the survival of the relationship. Usually these negative states arise as a result of perceived or imagined abandonment when emotions such as anger, fear, jealousy, envy and sadness are dominating.

Alternatively, when gestures of kindness and attentiveness are exhibited, it can lead to an immense desire for further contact and closeness with the person involved. This commonly leads to feelings of dependency on the person continuing to perform in this way, and attachment to the reality that exists right in that moment with little or no space for leeway. 

Unfortunately, it sets up the person being idealised to fail as soon as their ability to keep up this role starts to falter. Inevitably, this ends up disappointing and hurting the Borderline, who’s perception of the person once again flips from “all good” to “all bad”, into a state of devaluation

Essentially, the significant other becomes trapped in a cycle of perpetrator v.s rescuer in the eyes of the BPD sufferer. 

Furthermore, it will feel seemingly impossible to integrate both the “good” and the “bad” aspects of the person within these moments of intense emotion. Because Borderlines experience their thoughts and feelings as so strong and overpowering, it can become especially difficult to see anything beyond the immediacy of an emotional situation, or ‘the wood for the trees’ as such. Therefore, any past evidence to the contrary of the Borderline’s current reality goes out the window, and teleological thinking will occur. 

Splitting can be confusing and tiring for those on the receiving end of the relationship with a BPD sufferer. However, struggling with BPD myself, I can honestly say that my personal issues with splitting – namely attachment and rejection related – and how they affect my wellbeing, are some of the most painful experiences I have to endure. Explaining to non-Borderlines or even those on the other side of my splitting tendencies doesn’t do much at all in the way of justifying how painfully shitty the whole process can feel.

For example, today in therapy I became absolutely furious with my therapist because I felt she wasn’t listening to or understanding me. I became incredibly dysregulated, tense, angry, shaken and hurt. I perceived her as being all “bad”, as provoking me on purpose, as messing with my brain, as hating and rejecting me because she wasn’t meeting my immediate needs… I could go on. I stormed out the session, slammed the door, deleted her number off my phone and decided never to talk to her again. I was so angry that I wanted to “punish” her by walking in front of a bus and showing her just how much pain I was in via this (not so) brilliant plan.  

Literally a few (8 or so) hours later, we were on the phone (I know her number off by heart, as it so happens), making up. I was expressing my continuing struggle off the back of our session, the pain the relational conflict was causing me, and how badly I wanted to resolve it. I told her how angry and hurt I was after our session earlier on and how I had gotten through the thoughts that I should kill myself using skills. This time around, she was so validating, attentive and gentle. I felt heard and seen and supported; my needs being met exactly as they hadn’t been earlier, but exactly how I needed them to be there and then. By the end of the conversation we were laughing together as I lightened up and even cracked jokes relating to our relationship and my rekindled love for her. I missed the “good” side of her so much and didn’t want to hang up the phone call, end the conversation, or risk losing that connection. I felt so attached again, and joked to her that she has to spend all of the break during DBT skills group with me and nobody else tomorrow to show me she loves me. 

Sounds kinda like this experience, and many more similar others. 

I remind myself so much of the main character Charlie from the movie ‘Lovesick’ – a shitty but awesome must-watch comedy for all interested in the topic. 

Loneliness

I struggle with loneliness. I think a lot of people do. We are so *interconnected* in ways in this modern day society, and yet, so many of us still feel so painfully alone. This is something I experience, and to a rather intense and overpowering degree at times. It has certainly gotten better over the past few months of my recovery, AND that doesn’t mean it no longer hurts like a mo-fo too.

Most of the time when I am with close friends, family and even colleagues, I tend to be okay – at least comparatively so. If I am having an especially difficult time however, it can be more challenging to come out of the distress no matter who I am with. For me, this is the worst kind of loneliness, and I call it loneliness amongst a crowd. Fortunately though, at least for the most part, being around people recently has been helping me invaluably. I place a huge amount of value on the connections I have in my life today. In fact, I probably live for these connections.

The thing is, it isn’t realistic to expect to be surrounded by people 24/7. I am lucky with the structure I have at the minute as I am with people most hours during my day. But being alone, at least for short bursts of time, is not something that can (or even ought to) be avoided.

The scary thing is that it is during these times I struggle the most, at least based on past experiences. It is when I am alone that I find myself sinking into a seemingly bottomless pit of distressing feelings and subsequent urges. It is when I am alone that somewhat ‘old’ emotional and cognitive experiences come back to haunt me with a vengeance. It is when I am alone that I am most likely to “screw things up” for myself and perhaps too those around me. It is when I am alone that I tend to fall apart; either internally, externally, or both.

Is it really a surprise that my cravings for bingeing, for self-harming, for engaging in other ineffective behaviours, become so pronounced when I’m physically alone, considering this loneliness is so excruciatingly painful? Of course not. It makes total sense. The loneliness is so debilitating to the extent I would *rather* destroy myself through avoidance-based self-destructive behaviours, than simply sitting with the feelings.

Last night however, and like many post-treatment-in-Boston nights, I did something new and effective. I relied heavily on my skills to get me through my feelings of loneliness as well as the desire to overeat. I was home alone with around four hours to keep myself company and four hours to (try and) stay sane throughout. I didn’t jump straight into ineffective behaviours such as rummaging through the freezer for ice cream, delving into unexplored drawers for easily-abusable medication, or stalking old therapists on social media. Instead I made a serious and conscious effort to use what I’ve learnt over the past few months and actually put something effective into place to help me get through the evening – without worsening the situation.

I also wanted to prove to myself that I could rely on my own skills and the awareness I have at least on occasion, without having to call my therapist for crisis coaching so urgently. Instead I texted her to let her know what was going on for me and informing her about how I was managing it – and this in itself enabled me to stay skilful and keep myself motivated to not go downstairs and raid the cupboards! And to increase the dependence on myself to get by, instead of on someone outside of me to cure me of challenging feelings – which long-term would simply be counterproductive.

I split a few hours into 15-30 minute slots. I went on my Balance/ Wobble Board in an attempt to ground myself first of all. Then I practiced the E in ACCEPTS for Opposite action to Emotion (of loneliness, sadness & anxiety) by writing a blog post about my Birthday – one of gratitude, happiness and freedom from distressing feelings. (I purposefully didn’t talk about what was going on in that moment because the aim was to be effective, healthily distract, and not enable my cyclical thoughts and feelings.)

I then listened to some upbeat songs and was Mindful of the lyrics and the music. Another 15 minutes went by during which I used the A (for Activites) in ACCEPTS (distraction techniques) by Mindfully colouring in my Secret Garden colouring-in book. I continued to practice Mindfulness by trying to describe to myself what it was I was experiencing – feeling, thinking and sensing – without going into judgmental or self-defeating thoughts. I did some Self-Soothing by getting into my PJs, repainting my toenails and then dabbing my favourite lavender-scented oil onto my pillow. I employed a ton of Cheerleading Statements and Encouragement (the E in IMPROVE) by gently using words of reassurance like “You can get through this”, “It’s going to be okay” and some slightly more amusing words of wisdom like “YOU GOT THIS SHIT!”.

Lastly, after getting ready for bed and practicing focusing on the Sensations (the S in ACCEPTS) of the taste of my toothpaste as well as the coolness of my oscillating fan, I put myself to sleep by reading my book – “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl – for half an hour or so. (A book I would highly recommend, by the way!)

I still felt lonely but it wasn’t the desperate yearning type of loneliness. It was more a sad and raw loneliness which I was both a) able to honour and validate and b) somehow get through without causing any harm to either myself or anyone else. It wasn’t the animalistic, visceral, I’m-going-to-surely-die sort of emotion I had been experiencing earlier during the evening. It was a lower-level sadness which co-existed alongside the genuine belief that it would pass and that perhaps I would feel okay again in the morning.

And I did.

And also, on a side-note, I got through the unbearably hot weather today with my scars – the kids with their innocence and happy-go-lucky sprinkler-playing selves, and me in my sleeves with a whole lot of anxiety and sadness. Unbearable it was, but get through it I did. And hopefully the weather will be slightly more manageable from here.

Thank fu*k today is over. And ironically, I can’t wait to be alone.

BPD, Depression, Anxiety and PMS

Since getting back from Copenhagen just over a week ago, I had felt noticeably lower, more anxious, and much more volatile than before I left. Yesterday specifically, I had the most emotionally and mentally challenging day I have had to deal with in a long time, and I was convinced I was relapsing psychiatrically. Today (and sorry if this is too much information for ya) my period started, and I have honestly felt so much lighter, incredibly relieved and so grateful for the reprieve after a contrastingly painful previous few days.

Although this is a common pattern which occurs most months for me, I always seem to be equally surprised and baffled by the sheer impact my hormones and PMS can have on me. When I am in the midst of it all for a week or so beforehand, I become increasingly self-judgemental, convinced that my mental health is worsening, and ultimately end up perpetuating the pained state I am in by seriously catastrophising. I cannot seem to attribute the increase in symptoms to the fact that I am simply due my period as an alternative and nearly always fitting explanation! Instead I dig myself into a rut of increased depression, paranoia, hopelessness and pain, with the worst part being the conviction I have that I am relapsing and will never feel stable again – an ineffective cognition which only drives the dysregulation deeper. This is despite the fact that pretty much as soon as my period does arrive, the number and intensity of my symptoms dissipates, the internal chaos calms down, and my sense of hope and relative stability is restored once again.

Here is a list of some of the symptoms I experienced over the past week or so prior to today:

  • Increased sensitivity, even to seemingly menial stimuli.
  • Feeling the need to cry but not being able to…
  • … Or alternatively not being able to stop crying.
  • Increased volatility in terms of mood swings and reactivity.
  • Decreased motivation and drive in many aspects of my life: work, family, friends, hygiene.
  • Decreased motivation to being alive, i.e. life apathy…
  • … And suicidal thoughts…
  • … Accompanying an impending sense of doom…
  • … Or total and utter hopelessness.
  • Increased urges to self harm.
  • An increased desire to get drunk.
  • Increased paranoia…
  • … e.g. Thoughts that I am “being tested” or that others are “out to get me”
  • Feeling inadequate in social interactions both mentally and behaviourally…
  • … e.g. Decreased ability to make eye contact or act interested in conversations.
  • A much shorter temper with family, colleagues and friends, as well as with the girls I nanny.
  • An unfamiliar sense of urgency and impatience.
  • Desperate clinginess and attachment to my therapist J.
  • Even more intense reactions to rejections (perceived or real) to usual.
  • Slower return to baseline than usual.
  • Increased impulsiveness.
  • Compulsiveness around food and a tendency to overeat.
  • More intrusive and obsessive thoughts.
  • An overwhelming fear that I am not in control of my illness and that it is taking over me again.
  • The conviction I am relapsing psychiatrically and will never be able to get out of it.
  • The desire to avoid and isolate.
  • Intolerance towards those around me.
  • Increased physical sensations.
  • Increased body flashbacks.
  • Inability to fall asleep or sleep restfully.

I didn’t realise when I started writing this list^ just how extensive it would be. I need to actually start tracking my cycle so that when I feel myself slipping I can see if there is a correlation or not. When I realised this morning that the past few days’ distress coincided so accurately with the onset of my period, it came as such a relief. It’s time I download an app so that I can Cope Ahead (of time) next month and every month after that!
I feel so clear-headed and relieved to be back to my ‘normal’ self again.

Attachment Difficulties in Therapy

This morning I attended the penultimate Mindfulness class of the DBT Skills Group I am enrolled in. Today my therapist was cofacilitating the group again, with another therapist. My experience of seeing mine in these groups is one of anxiety, hyper-vigilance and discomfort. For some reason, whenever I have seen my (past and present) therapists outside of individual sessions, irregardless of whether the interaction has been for therapeutic purposes, I become pretty dysregulated.

In such situations, I feel like I am being watched and judged, and that she is analysing my every move. This makes it even harder for me to speak up in the groups, as I’m constantly wary of how I’ll come across and what she will think of me. It influences how I interact with the other members of the group, how I sit, how much eye contact I make and with whom, what I do during the break at half-time, etc. Everything becomes about her and what she will think of me in the circumstances, and I lose myself completely in this attachment-triggered “dance”.

Today I was under the impression that she was judging me more than usual (not that I have any evidence whatsoever that she actually ever judges me). She specifically asked me something in front of everyone, and it totally threw me. She didn’t “pick on” anyone else, yet she targeted questions at me twice, and she knows how bad my social anxiety can be in the group and how hard I find it to share. Honestly I felt as though she was testing me, “doing this to me” on purpose, and intentionally pushing me into a situation I felt uncomfortable in. I felt like she was prodding me to speak up as though she thought I had something to hide. I felt like I was being accused of a wrongdoing, or shamed for something I was unaware of. I’m sure this is me being paranoid, but it was my experience all the same.

Feeling caught off guard and in need of confirmation, at the end of the session, I decided to play detective and test our relationship theough a two-way interaction. I wanted to see if she would act any differently to usual with me, within the context of a little chat (just us) as opposed to within the group itself. It ended up feeling uncomfortable and not as safe and holding as she usually is with me. I don’t know why but I just felt so empty, unfulfilled and deficient in relation to her, and like she wasn’t as friendly or close to me as usual. It felt stilted and awkward and emotionless. I am convinced something is “going on” or “not right” between us. She usually has so much more to say to me and makes me feel so contained and cared for. Today she just seemed so distant.

I waited to see if she would say anything which I could take as a loving or attentive act… but that really didn’t happen. I feel so stuck in feelings of abandonment and in my head the only solution is for her to make contact with me.

I am wondering if the emotions and paranoia I’m experiencing are being intensified as a result of the reduced contact she and I are having. The fact that I am used to “having” to contact her daily for a check-in (aimed to desensitise me to my anxiety around calling her) meant our relationship was nurtured daily, and our connection grew quickly during this time. Yesterday this contact was stopped, as we both agree I am desensitised enough to feel able to call her in a crisis. However, despite the agreement and initial knowledge I had that this regular daily communication would be temporary, I still feel extremely rejected. I wanted her to tell me that I still had to call her. I wanted her to continue giving me this special time and attention. I wanted her to see how much it’s been helping me to have this regular contact with her.

But she didnt, she can’t, and she probably won’t. And so now I feel like she doesn’t love me any more.

All day I’ve craved some sort of positive interaction with her, and I can’t accept that I won’t be able to speak to her properly until Tuesday during our session (unless for crisis coaching). I want to call her and explain, but know I’ll feel weak and shameful if I do. Why am I so needy? My solution is to wait until tomorrow when I can see how I feel from a more Wise-Minded perspective, and let go for now, try to be one-mindful so that I can enjoy my evening, and be present with my friends.

I HATE YOU DON’T LEAVE ME I LOVE YOU GO F*** YOURSELF

This post might be long, messy and convoluted, but that is exactly what the situation is, and I’m not going to censor the chaos. No siree!

I’ve only ever been in love once. Let us call him ‘L’. We were best friends for a few years from early adolescence, and things developed slowly, then quickly, into a more romantic relationship as time went on. On the one hand, he had my back, he was my rock, he knew things about me before even I myself did, and he treated me at times with such gentleness and love. On the other hand, he could be grossly unpredictable, frustratingly unreliable, unhealthily reckless, and selfish beyond belief.

I was and always have been blinded by my love for him. It didn’t matter what he did or how badly he treated me; I forgave him remarkably quickly, took responsibility for his mistakes and let him take advantage of me time and time again. If I’m honest, he is someone who has caused me some of the worst harm and hurt over the last decade of my life.

It is so complicated and multifaceted I can hardly explain. One day, to cut a long story short, he left. He left me for another girl who he had been seeing whilst we were together. He left me at a time I was heavily dependent on him. He left me just a week after a huge event in my life. He left me when my mental health was on the floor, and he damaged it even further. He left me bruised and battered and all alone – maybe not physically, but certainly emotionally and mentally.

I was broken and baffled by the situation, and the rejection knocked me for a long time after. I had no idea what exactly had happened between us, and still to this day am not entirely sure (despite his vague and meek recognition and apologies to me since then). I missed him desperately, but hated his guts for treating me in the way he did, too. It was a time of much uncertainty, distress and poor coping behaviours. I felt traumatised, but I couldn’t stay mad with him either – something got in the way like it had done so many times before.

Aside from L I have only had a (small) handful of “relationships” but I’ve always been contrastingly avoidant and uninterested with these guys compared to with L. I have never felt the same way I have felt towards L with anyone else. In fact the only experience I have of ‘typical’ Borderline romantic relationship is that which I have had with him. I seem to flip from one to the other: With L I am besotted, addicted, and he controls my world. With the others I’ve been disgusted, avoidant and triggered instead. The intensity of the emotions and attachment I have had with L for so long have meant that I’ve never been able to open myself up to loving anyone else or getting vulnerable in the same way as I have been able to with him. He has been my “one and only”, and I’ve never imagined the possibility that I could be with someone else with the same long-term passion. I am crap (*DING* – judgement) at relationships and have very little “normal” experience. But with L, it doesn’t matter. Despite his (MANY) imperfections, he remains perfect to me. I become deluded, he renders me delusional.

This is despite the fact that over the past few years, L and I have maintained minimal (and even then rather fleeting) contact, and there hasn’t been much of a relationship at all. It doesn’t seem to make any sense that I can still love him after all this time, and yet, this is my truth. Despite all the shit he has put me through, every time he contacted me, I would get those familiar stomach butterflies communicating to me the messy complex feelings I still had towards him. I would have to restrain myself from diving into anything a ‘normal’ person would deem “too keen” (or simply ineffective), especially as the desire to be with him would shroud me completely and emotionally I would be in his clutches again. He would make me lose control, he had such power over me.

Anyway… About a month ago L contacted me saying that he was back from uni and in London, and we got talking. On the outside I played it easy, trying to act aloof and chilled, but inside I was squirming with a whole range of emotions. Excitement, anxiety, fear, impatience, happiness, anger, sadness, trepidation, shame, guilt, just to name a few. We ended up meeting for a drink. I went back to his. It was the illusion of perfection. ‘One thing let to another’… and you know the rest.

Over the next few days he was ALL I could think about. If he didn’t text or call me, I would sink into a place of despair, anger, desperation and total rejection, no matter what the reason. His phone could have died, he could have been in a council meeting, he could even have been asleep. But the interactions (and lack of them) impacted me profusely. I took anything that wasn’t an outright expression of love and commitment to me to be a rejection. He had control over me again. I was sinking, and fast.

We met a few further times, and all seemed to be going contrastingly well in person. We would cuddle, watch crappy movies, talk for hours in his room, Starbucks or the park. His Mum was so happy to see me after so long, and I was happy to be a part of his life again. We spoke about our past, and I tried to be honest with him, and him with me. He told me that if he could choose anyone, it would always be me, and that I’ve always meant something more to him than other girls, in a way that words cannot justify. He made me feel special. He made me fall for him again. He made me think that this could actually be going somewhere.


(I forgot to mention that I recently found out, from a number of sources, and then L himself, that he has just come out of an extremely messy relationship. In this relationship, he had apparently been horrifically abusive – including physically and sexually – to the point that he was taken to court and subsequently granted a restraining order which he now isn’t complying with.)

Today we had a conversation, and it went something like this:

Me:    “L, I need you to be honest with me – are you still sleeping with your ex?”
Him:  “I don’t really see her anymore, why?”
Me:    “Friend A and B were talking about us and this information got passed along to me so I needed to check it out with you”
Him:  “What do you mean they were talking about us? Fuck that. There is no ‘us’.”

When he said that, it broke me. I was on the bus, and had to get off because I felt a panic attack of sorts evolving inside of me. I was about to erupt. I felt myself burst from the seams, the anger unleashing, and all my hatred towards him stewing to the surface.

I was on my way to pick up one of the girls from school, and so I had to be SO effective with managing my feelings. I did it though, I actually did it. I tolerated the distress, and managed to get through the afternoon without externalising my internal turmoil destructively, and without putting the little’un at risk.

After I had calmed down, spoken to my therapist J, a handful of friends, and smoked far too many cigarettes, I sent him a message letting him know that I will not be seeing him any more. I told him that I deserve to be treated with respect and that if the last few weeks have meant nothing to him, then I’m not interested in continuing with our (non)relationship, full stop. I finished the message with a ‘I wish you all the best’, which in my head felt like some sort of “alternative rebellion” (as we call it in DBT). It was an empowering and paradoxically “kind” way of saying ‘Fuck you, we’re over’. It also means that I have nothing I can beat myself up for, I have remained a GOOD PERSON throughout the entire situation. I genuinely feel like I have the upper hand on this one, for the first time in I don’t know how long.

I hate him. I love him. I hate him.
And I still love him. But this has really been the last straw. I’m not going to put myself through this crap again. I’m hurt, I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m ashamed, I have many regrets. But ultimately I know I’m doing the right thing. Now I just have to maintain it. No running back to him again. I have to move on.

Doctor Doctor…

I went to the doctor about my symptoms this morning (outlined here). She examined me and couldn’t seem to find anything wrong. She reckons that the physical pains and discomfort I’m experiencing are related to my emotions, specifically anxiety, and that they don’t appear to have a clear underlying medical cause. 

I feel disappointed. I wanted there to be a strictly endogenous, not psychological, and therefore “tangible” reason for the flare-ups I’ve had recently – as though a label or a diagnosis from a medical professional would justify my pain. 

I’ve had this experience many times before, including, and especially, regarding my mental health as well. I was always looking for some kind of physical explanation to explain my fatigue, my mood swings, my anxiety, my physical aches and pains. Receiving the diagnosis of BPD was such a relief (amongst other things) for some reasons, because at least I had a name that explained what I was struggling with – which meant I wasn’t alone with it in the world. However, I still continued to look for medical explanations to further justify my experiences. I thought that I would be taken more seriously by friends, family, society and medical professionals if I were to have a physical condition responsible for a variety of my struggles. I didn’t care if it was thyroid-related, anaemia, a blood disorder, or something even worse. I admit that there was a time I prayed for something as horrific as cancer. Anything but *just* a psychiatric infliction! I wanted to be taken seriously, and for people to rush to my side with the desperation and urgency I was experiencing so intensely inside. I also thought that if what was “wrong” with me had a strictly medical, not psychological cause, then I would be more likely to find hope, and a cure. 

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just thought I would share some of my experiences. It’s hard to write specifically about what I’m referring to. There is a lot of shame and embarrassment surrounding it. Some of my symptoms are very personal and intimate, and I’m upset that there is little I can do about them in the way of medical management. I have another appointment with the doctor next week to further explore these issues. 

I wish I could have more freedom from the pain I’m referring to, both emotionally and physically, and for them to stop perpetuating one another in such a viscous and aggravating cycle! 

In Pain

Recently I’ve been experiencing a noticeable increase in various physical symptoms and aches, and over the last few weeks these have been negatively impacting me on a number of levels. I’m curious about what exactly is happening in my body, whether these ailments could be psychological in origin and hence psychosomatic, or if there is something medical going on which I can perhaps address more practically.

I’ve heard about and read a few research articles regarding the relationship between BPD and pain, and I personally relate to the current findings completely. There seems to be a central paradox in the literature which is dependent on the context the pain is in: Whilst patients tend to display an exceptionally high pain-threshold during episodes of self-harm (during which pain is self-inflicted), within the context of more generalised, chronic and endogenous pain, the experience is one of acute sensitivity and intolerance.

This certainly rings true for me. I may have inflicted pain upon myself to an extreme degree in the past and felt totally desensitised to it. But right now, I just cannot seem to deal with the more generalised, widespread (and somewhat chronic) pain I am experiencing. It is not self-inflicted and feels totally out of my control – and perhaps it is this external locus of control further influencing my negative experience of it.

From headaches, stomach aches, back, neck and shoulder aches, to jaw tension (TMD), strange IBS-like symptoms and extreme nausea, these physical symptoms are seriously getting me down! It is as though I can feel every single cell in my body that is malfunctioning; the pain is so acute. Every spasm, every twinge, every stab, every misalignment, every ache magnified ten fold. It HURTS!

I’ve also read a ton about how Mindfulness is incredibly effective in the management of pain, and this is something I am experimenting with currently and aiming to implement into my life even more. I’m also hoping that the new “vegan thing” will help settle my body as part of my motivation for trying a new eating regime includes for the physical benefits to my sensitive and reactive system.

I’m just trying to remember what I learnt in DBT over and over: that Pain + Acceptance = Pain, whereas Pain + Attachment = Suffering. And this doesn’t just apply to emotional pain, but physical pain too. To maintain a stance of relative detachment and not let the physical pain take me over entirely, Mindfulness, Radical Acceptance and Turning The Mind are key:

I may be in pain, AND yet I don’t necessarily have to let this lead to suffering