I can’t write much about today’s session…the target was to learn how to discern different emotions better. My therapist chose sadness and helplessness. The exercise was about thinking back and finding a situation where I had felt one of them (or both). And my goodness…it’s probably great and some sort of progress and whatever but right now it just feels like I spent a whole hour wallowing in self-pity only to dissociate horribly afterwards and cry my eyes out. I’m really not amused right now but I guess this thing that feels like weakness also has to be a part of it.
Wish you all a fluffy weekend!
People frequently tell me that I should talk more about how I’m feeling. That I should speak about what is going on inside me and that nobody would be bothered by it. Nevertheless I don’t like to speak about my personality disorder and the unpleasantries it includes without being asked to. Why? Just imagine:
Question: “How are you?”
Possible answer: “Right now I can’t feel my arms because there are just too many people in this room. It feels like everyone’s staring at me and I can hardly breathe. That’s why I would like to grab the butter knife from the next table and stab my thigh. How are the kids doing?”
Satisfying answer (smiling slightly): “A little tired but otherwise okay, thanks!”
Question: “Why are you never there for our Saturday brunch?”
Possible answer: “At that time I usually practice with my therapist and discuss traumatic events in a safe manner.”
Satisfying answer: “Oh, you know how I’m always so busy, most Saturdays we’ve already planned activities in order to get outside a little…”
Question: “Have you heard? So-and-so is seeing a psychiatrist every week!”
Possible answer: “If she’s going there every week it would probably be a psychotherapist, usually you don’t have to see your psychiatrist that frequently.”
Reaction: “Well it amounts to the same thing! Anyway, she has a screw loose…”
Possible answer: “I see. So do I have a screw loose as well, then?”
Satisfying answer (not too convinced): “Well I think it’s a good thing when people get help…”
Question: “So, how are things going with your…Saturday appointments?”
Answer: “Hmmm…it’s going really well all in all. Sometimes it’s exhausting. But I’m very glad to have my thera…”
Abrupt interruption: “You don’t have to tell me if it’s uncomfortable for you!”
Possible answer: “Does it make YOU uncomfortable?”
Satisfying answer: “No, no that’s alright.”
Talking about these things without being asked to can give the impression that you’re attention-seeking or even wanting to shock people. It can make people feel uncomfortable or actually get really awkward. Contrary to the general assumption that I have a problem with giving details about my illness the truth is simply that I’d rather answer specific questions where a person can decide how much they’d like to know instead of just rattling on and upsetting someone.
I noticed what it does if you “know too much” very early on in my life. In the schoolyard I was (among other things) unpopular due to the fact that I was often being too honest and nobody knew what to do when I started to talk about the things that were happening. That’s why I assumed that nobody could help me for quite some time. Even today I am amazed when I can just utter things I’ve been thinking for years with my therapist without her reactioin being worried or shocked or incredulous.
One cannot judge problems. Something that feels like hell for one person may be a piece of cake for another and I try to take other people’s problems seriously. But when the conversations during lunchbreak are about lost marbles and the newest favourite TV show and forgotten gym bags – how do you casually announce that you feel like your existence doesn’t make any sense? How do I do it today when I’m having coffee with someone? It feels wrong for me to take people by surprise that way. Radical honesty is amusing in the best case.
“Simply” talking about it is not simple because you always have to explain so much. Because you have to swear that no one has to worry. Because you’re not being believed. Because you’re being questioned for every smile (depressed people don’t smile, remember?). Because you’re suddenly being asked how you are in a completely different manner. Because you’re a spoilsport. Because nobody ever tells you just how much information they would like to have. Because thoughts you might regard as rather fluffy can shock other people and you have to stop before you’ve even really started talking. Because you can see what people really think on their faces. Because problems are being judged after all.
Because you’ve learned the rules in the schoolyard: There are satisfying answers and you’d better be giving them in order to avoid an unforseeable chain of reactions. “Simply” talking is often just possible with those who know “it” themselves – “it” being a specific symptom, for instance. But it is so important to talk to each other – also to people whose screws are neatly tightened and polished. If you actually want that…?
Today’s session was about the voice that is telling me about my needs and things I have to change. That voice exists – it made me talk to my superior, it screamed that I had to go to the other end of the world for a few months…it is there. But unfortunately I only hear it when I’m already in a crisis. Before I’m down on my knees I don’t think about the fact that I (am allowed to) have needs. I endure. I remain silent and build walls and bite through things until I have to flee. It has always been like that.
My therapist wants me to hear the voice earlier, to recognize warning signs and react to them. But that’s really difficult for me because like always I’m thinking that things have to be absolute: Either something works (totally) or something doesn’t work (at all). When something is basically working but a small problem comes up I don’t know what to do because I can’t classify the whole thing anymore. Then I fear that it doesn’t work at all anymore and everyone but me knows it – and that I’m going to be left or fired, for instance because I haven’t seen that a certain thing went from “works” to “doesn’t work”. And as long as I classify something as “works” I don’t allow myself to change anything.
This enduring is quite exhausting, I used to be better at it. I took everything that was being thrown at me, I bottled it up, I endured. Always hoping that some day something would happen that would be the straw to break the camel’s back. I wanted to take it so far that I would have to lose control at some point. Go mad, crack, roar like a dragon, throw dishes, explode. It just somehow never happened. I always control myself. Even when I’m drunk I’m mostly occupied with trying to appear sober. I don’t destroy. I don’t scream. I can’t even bring myself to hit a cushion because I feel sorry for it – after all it hasn’t done anything to me. I inhibit myself before I even get started. I am the opposite of a rockstar smashing their hotel room without even thinking about it.
Now my homework is to wake the dragon after all because my therapist says that the dragon is my power and that I don’t have to fear it. I’m supposed to go into a tunnel and scream or hit a cushion after all…whatever. She says that nothing bad is going to happen. I’m not so sure about that…
First things first: I love my job. I love my tasks because they are quite varied, I love my team because it consists of colourful and open-minded people and I love the purpose our work has because I believe in it.
Nevertheless it’s a 40-hour week and nevertheless I notice how I can’t handle as much as a person who doesn’t do therapy additionally. At this point I’m working Monday to Friday at usual office hours and until I started therapy that was quite alright. But since November I’ve noticed how my power reserves have been shrinking. The fact that I can see my therapist on Saturdays takes a lot of pressure off me because I don’t have to work when I’m exhausted after therapy but it still feels like a six-day week.
Now, there is a very loud voice inside my head: You are a wuss. Others work 60 hours a week, have five different hobbies and an intact social life. These are first world problems. You have to handle this. You have no right to whine. You are in no position to make demands.
But guess what happened: I told the voice to please shut the fuck up…and then asked my superior whether I could work a little less. The reaction I was scared of (namely that I would be judged as unmotivated and ungrateful) didn’t simply not happen. My boss was really wonderful. Sie thanked – thanked – me! Because she thinks it’s resposible of me to come and talk to her before a longer sick leave could become necessary. And she said we would find a way.
In plain terms that means: From October on I’ll have every Wednesday off. A whole day just for myself! And in order to really use it well I’ve already made a plan with my therapist: The morning belongs just to me and I can use it for anything that’s good for me – be it cappuccino in the sun or yoga or simply sleeping in. The morning will be blocked for anything I don’t enjoy. And the afternoon can be used for everything that stresses me now besides work or simply doesn’t get done: Repairs in the flat, doctor’s appointments, buying new socks and so on. And in the Wednesday evenings I have dance class anyway – at which I’ll arrive well-rested from now on and not completely rushed after a long day at the office.
The voice I’ve mentioned above still wants to be heard by the way – right now it’s telling me that I’m definitely going to starve due to the reduced salary – but I know it’s not right and I can’t do anything but feel glad. Glad to have my wonderful superior, my team that supports me and above all to finally have more time and energy for the things that are important to me: My partner, my friends, my cat, my flat and my hobbies.
Sending you lots of positive energy!
As my therapist was first sick and then on holiday we continued after a four-week break today. And I am sooooooooooooo glad that she’s back! That she’s still here and hasn’t decided that she doesn’t want me anymore in the meantime (yes, my sick brain thinks stuff like that). Above all it was a catching up kind of session – I had much to talk about after the last few weeks. The successes, the failures. Interestingly we touched an issue quite intesely that I hadn’t even had in mind for today but it is a topic that’s not suitable for here. I cried but I also laughed heartedly, it was a bit of everything.
What I can learn from this session above all is that the most dangerous thing for me is my “Nothing matters”- mode I like to adopt. It comes when I feel guilty, or resigned, when I lose my faith in humanity.
On the other hand it’s good for me to look for things I can change in difficult situations and then do exactly that – as little as I like changes that just happen to me, as much I enjoy taking matters into my own hands and that’s something I have to keep in mind more often.
I wish you all a nice weekend!
The great blogger Elín (her blog is in German) commented on my post Relapse (the German version) and gave me an idea.
She wrote (I’ll try to translate): “…And yes, it is a huge success that you have lasted this long and an even huger one that you aren’t mad at yourself. Because there is no reason to as the counter doesn’t actually read zero. Imagine days where you self-harm as little stones that you carry around in a bag and for every day you’ve lived without self-harm you can put aside one of them. The bag has been getting lighter since November. And now you had a relapse so you put one stone back into the bag. But only ONE. What is that compared to all the stones you have put aside already? What you have achieved is not worth less than before just because one stone has been added again. You don’t start from zero. You keep going. And it will get easier as time goes by…”
I think this image is beautiful and I will alter it a little in order to celebrate my successes. My plan is to dig out the huge box of colourful beads that has gone unnoticed since my handicraft-phase a few years ago and to string one bead at a time for every day I stay “clean”. That way I can (hopefully) watch the string of beads grow day by day and enjoy it. And when a relapse happens I can see exactly what Elín described in her comment: That I don’t start at zero and that I have achieved a lot already.
It is really wonderful to have readers like that – thank you thank you thank you!
Somewhere I read that everything feels worse and more dramatic as a teenager because the brain is still evolving and cannot yet relativize that well – so you can’t actually feel that things pass.
The brains of borderlines also show more activity in areas that are connected to “drama” and less in places that regulate emotions – this is a very un-scientific way to put it but Latin is a little bulky for my purposes 😉
Therefore I continue (still very un-scientifically) by saying that it makes perfect sense that I often feel like I’m still 14. I know in the hard moments that they won’t last forever but I just don’t feel it. When I’m fine I can never believe that I will ever fall again and when I’m scared it feels like I’ll never be happy again. That makes it hard to cope with strong emotions such as rage or despair. When everything feels incredibly bottomless and terrible it doesn’t help much to know that the sunshine will one day not feel like pure scorn anymore. It also makes possible consequences of dysfunctional behaviour seem irrelevant – when I feel as if the pain will never stop a few more scars don’t matter…even though of course I do rationally know that this feeling is not forever as well.
The past few days I have been telling myself several times an hour: It will not hurt forever. I will not be scared forever. I will not feel like a walking failure forever. It will not be hard forever.
And even though I don’t feel it: The truth is that nothing lasts forever.
…at the wrong time.
The wrong pictures that are never good.
The wrong people who are calling me.
The wrong places I’m going to.
The wrong smile I put on my face.
The wrong week in the diary because it’s still not therapy time again.
The wrong bustle that keeps me from listening to my thoughts.
The wrong clock that is going backwards and catapulting me back into the past.
The wrong things I only do because I don’t know what’s right at the moment.
And still the thought that someday everything will be just right.
Last weekend, the time had come. The counter reads zero again. I have persevered since November, and since April I have come to terms with the fact that the issue of self-harm is not over for me and that it was just a matter of time until I’d run out of energy.
There wasn’t even a definite trigger, not some huge thing I could name – rather a thousand little things that got me in this numb state that makes me care about nothing at all. Maybe I could even have kept on fighting. I did use skills, I exercised, I wrote like a madwoman. But it wasn’t enough. After a few days that felt nearly too stable I was being reckless. The wrong songs at the wrong time. And then all the things that aren’t actually reasons: Therapy break. A fight. Insecurities, feeling overwhelmed. People who threw old stories at me. A cutter that was lying around at the office. An empty bathroom. An oppurtunity I could have passed.
I don’t feel as good as I used to “afterwards” and I think that might be a success – if the “positive” consequences stay away it might become easier to stop. What I’d expected was this mental clearness, was deep sleep, was that the fog would go away. And what I got was…nothing. I am still numb, still tired, still empty. It confuses me as self-harm used to be one thing above all others: reliable. And now it’s not anymore. I am nearly glad that I didn’t refrain from it any longer because now that the high doesn’t happen the longing that has tormented me for weeks might not happen again either.
I don’t want to dismiss what happened but I think I lasted well, it was clear that the relapse would come at some point and I refuse to be angry with myself for it. Maybe that is progress as well.
Take care out there!
Some time ago I talked to my therapist about alcohol. Especially at the beginning of my therapy she used to ask me if I actually never get drunk, if I could keep a record about that etc.
Meanwhile she doesn’t ask anymore as there have been so many situations where I haven’t been drinking and I never had to fight in order to achieve that. It has never been important to me and even though I occasionally like to drink one or two cocktails I have never liked the feeling of being drunk. I could never put my finger on the reason for that. Many people who know me have suspected that it’s because I’m a control freak and while that might be true it was never enough of an explanation for me.
Currently a therapy session was about dissociation. About what it feels like for me. As if I wasn’t 100% there, as if everything was just passing by, as if I had tunnel vision. These initial feelings might sound familiar to the sane people here as well: Fatigue can feel like that. Or mild drunkenness. Only when dissociation gets worse the numb body parts and the hovering and the “watching- everything- from- outside” start.
Another session was about self-harm. What makes it so useful for me. The absolute clearness it grants me, the silence in my head, nearly like a performance-enhancing drug.
And then my therapist suddenly said the sentence that made me understand why I’ve never liked alcohol, why drugs have never been a temptation; in short why I left this one thing out that would match my diagnosis perfectly: “You want to be the opposite of drunk!”
Me, a person who is so often not there, a little muzzy, confused, tired but also pumped – I just want to be “sober”. Just be “there” and see clearly and think clearly. I don’t get how one can like the feeling that everything is just floating by. It only increases my urge to self-harm. I don’t get how one can like it when the inhibition threshold drops – as I have to constantly fight impulses that would make me appreciate some inhibition. And yes, I can hear that it sounds like what my friends say after all: Like control freak. But it’s so much more. It’s longing for the way they take being sober for granted. For being able to choose when things are supposed to float by. For the opposite of drunk.