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January 8th, 2011

Hope for the Borderline

 I have been spending my mornings researching my "Borderline Personality Disorder." I have spent my afternoons napping, my head reeling from the information I am trying to focus on. I use the term research loosely as it seems my brain is a sieve for facts to strain through like water. The Mayo Clinic's website lists the symptoms of BPD as:

Impulsive and risky behavior... Strong emotions that wax and wane frequently Inappropriate anger, sometimes escalating into physical confrontations Difficulty controlling emotions or impulses Suicidal behavior Fear of being alone The words above are rather benign compared to my own experience translated into countless horror stories of public meltdowns and private torment. BPD is one of the last in a trio of major mental illnesses for me to accept and begin to overcome. This one, above the others, has been the most elusive for treatment and the most crippling. Over the years, it has progressively become more out of control; by that I mean that it takes less to set off one of the symptomatic episodes. I have become more impulsive in spite of my efforts to control myself in the face of confrontation or stress. I have narrowly missed being arrested more times than I can recall due to an emotional outburst- usually rage over some real or imagined injustice. Living with the disorder has been a source of great humiliation and pain.

A month ago I began seeing a therapist that specializes in the treatment of patients with BPD. For years such a therapist has been unheard of because of the special nature of the disorder and the way it causes the sufferer to interact with people. Typically, we just don't get along. I feel blessed. It took me six years and a lot of wrong turns to find her. This is partly due to the illness itself, which fights for survival and partly due to poor State mental health resources.

We have embarked on a year long course of treatment that involves looking at and gently dismantling, the various dysfunctional coping skills, referred to in this therapy as Schemas or "modes," that I find myself operating from. Like a record needle stuck in a groove, I keep playing over and over tunes with names like: Abandoned Child, Punishing Parent, Detached Protector, Angry Child and the occasional, Healthy Adult.

These modes are the way I see the world, the way I interact with it. Stress, too much and a certain kind of it, will trigger an episode. If things are running according to plan, smoothly with no glitches then I am the sweetest, most capable and helpful woman you will meet. This means no schedule changes, or changes of any kind, really. If you are kind to me and considerate, I return the favor. Cross me, in the least, and its, "OFF with your HEAD!"

I am amazed at how ingrained the Schemas are. Even now, it all seems like a load of crap that I just need to get over; but this is what I have told myself for years and it has gotten me nowhere. I am blown away by how exhausted I am after an hour of therapy or reading about it, or writing about it. But, here I am. I'm still, here. I have hope that all that fight in me will prove to be my best asset after all.

For more on Schema Therapy: http://www.schematherapy.com/id29.htm

Be Well,

September 18th, 2010

 It is times like these, that I am so relieved to not be working. I had a Wednesday night goal for writing this post, life had other plans and I have been curled up in bed for a few days, instead.

If I did not know that I was suffering from a mental illness, I would swear that I was just a vapid drama queen; but I am suffering. Today, I write through the tears. I write because no matter how much I know I am loved by the people closest to me, I still feel alone. If that is not mental illness, I would not want to know what is. Today, I write because I refuse to give in to the doubt and self-loathing.

I am aware that most of this dark cloud is fall-out from the therapy session I had on Tuesday. My therapist warned me that this might happen. She likened it to frost bite. When the frozen limb begins to thaw and blood begins to flow freely through the veins, as feeling begins to return- there can follow an enormous amount of pain.

If I had a job this would be a day that I called in sick or, if I did go in to work, it would be a day where I had a melt down, got into trouble or went home early. For now, this blog is my job. I don’t understand it. In some ways, it makes me feel lonelier. Like when you hit the send button and all you hear is crickets afterwards, that is a lonely feeling. I also get really paranoid about showing my dirty underwear like this. I doubt in the validity of this whole project. Here I am… trying to sabotage a simple blog.

So. The most important lesson I have learned about living without a job, is to stick to my routine. On the bad days it seems pointless to get out of bed or brush my teeth, let alone stick to my writing schedule. When the clouds begin to lift (and they do) and I can look around again, I am so glad for the little things that I have to plug into-the simple things. Like clean, smoothly polished teeth and minty fresh breath, or a post written to myself, for myself.

Above all, I know that I do what I can. Sometimes that is not very much, but that is okay. Tomorrow is another day.

Have a great weekend!

Be Well,

 My new therapist told me today that I do have a job; a full time job taking care of myself. My boyfriend, my beautiful Davey, is working through his own mental health issues and my therapist also said that taking care of him is my part time job. The same truths work in reverse, too, so together we are working like 300 hours a week or something, not bad!

I have been out of a paying job, this time, since May of 2009. As usual, I was barred from the property and finally stripped of my remaining scraps of self-esteem. My husband kicked me out of the house, too-but that is another story-the point is, I was beyond depressed and I found myself adrift on a kind of cloud of suicide. Until recently (ah, the miracle of medicine!), I have not been able to leave Bedland except for a few brief and painful outings. I was shaken and stirred for about a year and a half. I’m still writing my way out of it.

It is not the poverty that bothers me, in fact, in twenty-one years of working, I have never made more than $9,000.00 in a single year. My social security statement proves it. The thing is, I thought that being out of a job and unable to return to one meant that I was not allowed to enjoy my life. After all, without a job what does my life mean? I kept telling myself that I was useless and cried endlessly about being broken, shattered. Through every season, I was wrapped tight in a thick woolen blanket of self-loathing and doubt-sunny days or not.

I was and am clinically depressed, true, but I was making myself suffer even more because of this false belief about self-worth. The grip of my illness has lessened, for now, and I see clearly that I cannot afford think in such a way. Time is the one thing I have and more time is the one thing the everybody wants. By those standards, David and I are millionaires.

I have suffered many years for my inability to hold a job. I have suffered more for my inability to believe in my intrinsic self-worth. For years I have masochistically kept myself from doing what I love. I am a creative person by nature. I have been an artist who will produce no art all in the name of being miserable. Silly girl.

I, and many like me, have been given the gift of time. We must not join the ranks of suffering Americans who have no identity without their jobs and paychecks and stuff they spend their paychecks on. On our good days, we must rise and find that thing to do that connects us with another human being. We must find that thing that we always wish we were doing and do it!

This is such a revelation for me that I think it is best if I just go ahead and make this a three part series.

Be Well,

 There is a fine art to living in a capitalistic society without a job. If I leave the house or turn on the tube I am told that I need, in fact, want about a million things. Somehow, my self-worth is tied to whether or not I go to some building, do a little dance for nine or twelve hours and collect a pay check at the end of two weeks.

Even if I wasn’t mentally ill, I still wouldn’t get the basic work template. There are a lot of really bad jobs out there. The worst job I ever had was mopping the jizz from various male patrons off the floor of a little closet while standing in heels and my underwear. The best job I ever had, feeding and ministering the poor, I didn’t even get paid for.

I could probably never prove it, but I have lost all the jobs I ever had because I am mentally ill. While it is not information that I volunteer in an interview, folks generally figure it out by my second or third middle-of-the-shift-melt-down. There is usually crying, sometimes yelling and always shock on the face of whoever had, “just been bragging” about what a great hire I was. Then there is the ever popular, 90 day melt-down: always crying, lot’s of yelling and utter frustration on the part of everyone involved. The one year explosion though, this is my personal favorite: crying, yelling, spitting, the throwing of near-by objects and typically I am barred from ever returning to the property.

I want to work. I am just not most people’s definition of a good employee. I am highly sensitive to the subtle non-verbal cues of others. When I have been at one job for too long work becomes like family (I have no sense of boundary) and family is a real bad word for me. It’s the PTSD and comes from the seventeen years of abuse I suffered as a girl. I will have to live with it on some level for the rest of my life.

I spend much of my time trying to calm my nerves-I am an extremely nervous girl. It’s the reason for all the crying and yelling. It’s the reason I have to spend so much time alone in a darkened room. It’s why I like “cubbies” to hide in and why some days I cannot lift my head from a blanket.

I am not a victim, I am a survivor.

Finding ways to spend all the slow-going time productively and without spending any money is a survival tool that I am learning to wield mightily. I am learning a new lexicon, I am learning to find my self-worth from other things. I am trying to create a new paradigm for myself and let me tell you, it is a lot of work! This is proving to be the hardest, most rewarding job I have ever had….the non-job job.

Be Well,

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