Messing up is part of getting better – go figure!

For what must have been the gazillionth time I screwed up yesterday evening. Again. Felt unsettled and well, yeah, scared, because my brother was staying over for dinner and could not keep his stupid mouth shut and told a Halloween story. One of those “you know it’s really true, it happened to a friend of my grandfather’s dog’s cousin” stories that everyone knows are just made up nonsense to spook people with. Which made it hard to tell him to shut up, because come on, I got a little pride, too, and he’s younger than me and I didn’t want him to make fun of me for being such a wimp.

Anyway, so he told his stupid story. Mom had even asked if I wanted to hear it or if he should keep it to himself, but I didn’t manage to admit I’d rather not hear it. So by the time dinner was over I was spooked and terribly angry at myself and my brother and everyone. And as irrational as the thought is in the light of day, I felt like they didn’t care about me and were just the most awful family to have, which made me angry at them and snappy and unfriendly. I was half aware that below all that anger I was unsettled and scared and that I should really tell someone, tell ma . . . yeah, but you may guess what I did not do.

Instead I yelled at my mom when she tried to talk to me, yelled that I hated her, hated this family and wished they’d all die. Ugly stuff like that. When even while I was yelling, I already KNEW that was not what was really up, but it just made me angrier and yell more. Scream, really. And I am trying so hard to not do that anymore, taking my anger out on my family by saying the meanest things, hurting them. Yet despite all my plans I royally messed up. Big fucking time. And didn’t even care, just wanted to wreak havoc.

Now lucky stupid me, yelling at my mom is like yelling at a wall. She doesn’t yield. She doesn’t get angry. She just stays, listens, waits. Which makes me more angry initially, this fucking lack of a reaction, makes me yell more, makes me hurl nasty insults at her, trying to provoke some reaction – but after a while, when I realize she isn’t going to get angry or yell back, I start to cry with the unfairness of everything and feel like I got the worst possible deal in the whole wide world. It’s a strange feeling that for all its misery is painfully comforting. So of all the reasonable things I could be crying about, I end up crying about having gotten such a fuck-up of a mom who doesn’t even get mad. (Go me! Crying about being stuck with the person I’m the luckiest to have. Feelings sure are complicated!)

Anyway, while I’m feeling sorry for myself, my anger usually melts and I let my mom back in. It’s a bit crazy because disappointment of being stuck with her makes me cry, but at the same time I let her comfort me and that calms me down. Crazy minds sure tick in weird ways. But I guess the point of my post is that somehow she manages to turn a crappy situation around. I clearly messed up because had I just owned up about the Halloween story scaring me, chances are the evening would have been a much better one. So one could argue that once again I messed up and that’s that. My mom could be saying “I’m running out of patience with you! How often have we talked about admitting to feelings now?! A million times? Ten million? When are you actually gonna DO it?!” I’d be feeling like a failure. Well, or even more like a failure than I do anyway.

But that’s not what she said. She asked me to take her through how I experienced the evening. Which got me to realize that I was kind of aware all throughout the evening that I wasn’t REALLY feeling angry. Which is quite an improvement compared with how it used to be. We also reviewed together why I felt like I couldn’t own up to it. Because my brother and dad were watching. And why didn’t I feel like I could tell mom in private? Because I was watching myself, too, and was angry at myself for being such a baby. Because I lost perspective on the fact that I have reasons why I am so easily spooked and that it’s not because I’m a baby. So we reinforced that together and I felt better. I spent the evening cuddled up to her and that felt good, too. And my mom smiled and reinforced another thing as well.

She said “see how messing up is part of getting better?”

For a long time I believed she was only saying that to make me feel better. That it was just an empty phrase like “never mind” or “don’t sweat it”, which is said so often simply so we can stop thinking about crap. But messing up is part of getting better is actually the opposite. It means that in every slip, in every single messing up there is information about what went wrong, what worked better than last time, what was missing in order for it to work out, etc. And that it’s up to us to go look for it. That by doing so, we can learn valuable things. That with every messing up, we can get one baby step closer to where we want to be. That there is no getting better without messing up. And that even messing up big time can still be one step on the road to getting better, if we take time to look at it and learn.

Learning is only possible if we feel safe. My gut reaction to making mistakes, to realizing I messed up, is feeling unsafe. But realizing that messing up really IS part of getting better, an inevitable part even, makes it feel more okay. Safer. Safer to look at. Safer to admit to stuff. Safer to learn from. And then it really becomes part of getting better. Crazy, eh?

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Dissociation, emotional significance and why going through the motions is not enough

One thing I have come to appreciate so, so much is the power of emotional significance. I think it is the main reason why not a single therapy I attended before I came to live with my family did me much good. Thinking back on those years, I think I spend them in a state of near permanent dissociation. Which is the smart ass way of saying I was feeling numb and emotionally dead inside most of the time. In therapy, I listened, occasionally I was even willing to try and make sense of what we talked about, willing to try and get better, but nothing ever worked.

I did DBT. I learned about states of mind (wise mind, emotion mind, rational mind), emotional regulation and stress tolerance. I was taught “interpersonal effectiveness skills” (how fancy sounding). I learned “what” skills and “how” skills and whatnot. And didn’t improve. I did other therapies, too. In group settings. In one-to-one settings. Learned relaxation techniques. I don’t even remember all the stuff I did. And it doesn’t matter because I didn’t improve. After everything I tried I just felt like even more of a failure than before.

I think today I understand why. Because I only went through the motions. I tried to do what was asked of me, but nothing really reached me. Not on an emotional level. How could it have? I was not even emotionally there. I either felt like my feelings had been cut off – a painful, overwhelming inner emptiness – interspersed with triggered episodes that felt like a flood of emotion was pouring down on me like fiery rain, burning me up. Nothing in between. I went through the motions of therapy, but the feeling part of me wasn’t even there.

The feeling part of me only returned after I went to live with my family. Therapy never managed to retrieve it. I know the aim of good therapy is to make the people feel safe, but I never felt safe in therapy. I never felt safe with anyone. Not truly. And it took a long time until I felt safe with my mom – over a year. But as I started to feel safe, feelings returned. That in itself was enough to scare the shit out of me, but my mom helped keep it safe for me. Kept me safe. And suddenly stuff became meaningful.

Today I still dissociate easily. Ever so often I will just fade out. Most of the time I will keep on reacting, but I am disconnected. I don’t feel anything. I’m not aware of what’s going on in the same way. I have no emotional reactions whatsoever. I often don’t recall things, even if they happened only a moment ago. I kind of notice them when they happen, but then they fade. Or they don’t fade, but I feel indifferent towards them.

The difference is that today mom can tell whether I’m in a state of dissociation or not. She doesn’t ask me to learn new stuff when I’m not even fully there. When I’m not feeling anything, nothing is meaningful. Even when I go through the motions of doing something helpful, the new information doesn’t register where it is needed in the brain, because the emotional part is shut down. Some people say “fake it ‘till you make it”, but that doesn’t work for me. I used to fake it in therapy. I tried to follow the techniques that I learned, but they were empty, meaningless shells. Or I was the empty, meaningless shell. I don’t know.

When my emotional part is shut down, the only thing my mom focuses on is helping me get access to it again. Sometimes by making me feel physically safe by holding me, because that makes me feel safe. Sometimes by finding something that can penetrate the fog, like music or something she says to me or does. And sometimes by directing my attention at stuff. Or at dissociating itself. Helping me become aware of how “spacey” I am, so I can do my part to get out of it.

My plan for the future is that I want to try and be more aware of where I am at, emotionally, and to communicate it. It’s the first time I actually WANT to do that, instead of feeling indifferent towards it, and that makes a big difference. It is the very same skill that DBT tried to teach me, and I knew of its relevance, yet it was never relevant to me. Now it is. Because I can see in my mom’s face it’s meaningful to her. That makes it meaningful to me. Emotionally meaningful. I don’t just go through the motions anymore. Now it feels important and like it actually changes something. Yay for emotional significance.

Struggling with my Eating Disorder

Ever since I can remember I have not had a normal relationship to food. When I grew up, one of the biggest mistakes I could make was to help myself to food that was in the kitchen. I could have what I was given, but nothing more, and I believe I learned very soon that food could be dangerous and that food was something I needed to “earn”. My mother used food as a punishment, saying I didn’t deserve to eat what she bought if she was upset with me. (She called it buying, but it was food stamp food.) My stepfather used food as a reward, bringing home things like chocolate bars, candy or other treats for me, and often they would be the prelude or sequel to sexual abuse.

It took me a while to link my current eating habits (lol, well, struggles) to my childhood experiences, but once my therapist F brought it up, and I spoke about it with mom, I think those experiences probably left quite a deep mark on me. One of those trauma related things that have been etched into my brain and are hard to get rid of. Maybe because those stuff was so relevant back then. I don’t know.

Anyway, I’m diagnosed with an EDNOS – an Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. For me it’s anorexic symptoms with occasional binge eating spells, but none of them have much to do with body image. I don’t usually care what I look like or about my weight. I’m not afraid of certain foods and I don’t monitor my caloric intake either. When I ate normally, I don’t feel bad about it either. It’s not the food itself that matters to me. I don’t care what it does inside of me once I’ve eaten it. It’s not about looks or weight or health.

But what I struggle with often is the eating itself. I think my eating disorder falls into a self-harm category. Especially if I feel bad about myself, I feel like I don’t deserve to eat. That I must starve myself as a punishment. I aim for the misery of feeling terribly hungry and the torture of looking at food, right in front of me, and not having any. And while one part of me, the part that is hungry, would like so much to eat, the part that’s in control of my mouth refuses. Even if I have the food in my mouth, like because someone persuaded or forced me to have a bite, I can’t swallow.

The opposite can also happen: that I feel like I want to eat anything I can find. I usually do it in secret, and once again I go for the punishment factor. Getting discovered and punished for taking everyone’s food (it doesn’t happen here, with my family, but my imagining the scenario fuels the behavior). Feeling disgusting for having eaten like a pig. Feeling full to the point of “pain-full”. But this kind of binging happens far less often than the restricted eating. Maybe once every three or four months. Unlike refusing food, which happens several times a week, or lasts several days at once.

When I feel okay I don’t have any such issues and can eat normally, like it’s no big deal.

At the moment I’m struggling with the restrictive eating and even when I know it’s really silly and that I CAN eat just fine, every meal is exhausting. My mom doesn’t usually put too much pressure on me if I can’t eat, but when I’m not eating for several meals in a row, she doesn’t just tolerate it. In a way I’m glad she doesn’t, but even so, many meals end in tears.

I wish I could just rewire my brain.

BPD and F***ing Mood Swing Sunday

I hate the mood swings. One moment I can be feeling totally fine, happy even, like it’s going to be a perfect day – and then something happens. Nothing big, nothing meaningful even, just something minor that I see or hear or even just think about and my mood crashes. Sometimes I don’t even know what brings the mood swing about.

Today was a good day, until I went from being happy and content and looking forward to the rest of the day to feeling empty and like I can’t stand being within myself anymore. I try to do things to keep my mind off the feeling, but it’s impossible. I’m irritable and literally everything annoys me to no end. I can’t even be bothered to write more about it now because I feel myself going ever more angry inside.

I wish I knew how to make it go away!

Making Good Childhood Memories

Maybe one thing I like best about my mom is that she is an undeterred optimist. Not in the sense that she sees everything through rose tinted glasses, and doesn’t acknowledge of really crappy shit happening – on the contrary, she is aware of those things and is not one for sugarcoating stuff that’s fucked up. But to her, as long as there is life, there’s always hope. There’s always room for improvement.

I remember I hated her positive outlook. How could someone who’s seen so much shit still be so optimistic. When it’s in your face day and night for a long time, though, it becomes contagious. And I want to believe that she is right, too.

my childhood

So one thing she says is that it’s never too late for happy childhood memories. That we can still make them together. Not to pretend the crap ones never happened, but to give them a counterweight. To add happy memories. Only when we’re in the mood, because it works only when we get a special mojo going. It’s impossible to do on command, just by going to the motions, but at the right moment it can be awesome.

So what do we do?

She reads children’s books to me. I was never one for reading, but she can read in a way that’s fun to listen to. She makes the stories come alive. I can actually sit still long enough to listen. I snuggle up to her when she reads. I love that.

We watch children’s movies together. I mentioned it yesterday in the random questions already, my most favorite film in the world is “The Children of Noisy Village”, which is an old film (from the 60s, I think) about six Swedish kids living on three farms next to each other and their childhood adventures. Not adventures in the sense that there’s drama and they need to overcome bad obstacles, but just little adventures like getting to care for a lamb, sleeping on the family’s hayloft, trying to see a water spirit or rescuing a dog. I love this film. I can’t count how often I have watched it. Watching it is like experiencing a tiny little bit of the innocence of being a child with a happy childhood.

Mom encourages me to make childhood experiences. One day I found my siblings old swing and she put it up where it used to hang from a big branch in the front yard so I could swing. It was silly, but it was fun. And I now have a memory of my mom putting up a swing for me, and of swinging while she watched and took a picture because she wanted to keep the memory for later.

We play games together. Board games and cards. But also clapping games like Miss Susie and Sevens. We often play “I Spy” when I’m bored. And sometimes hide & seek. And when I’m really lucky I can get her to play tag with me, in the garden. My sisters play it with me when they’re home. I know I’m too old, but it’s still fun. It’s making happy childhood memories.

We take time to do childhood things. I never carved a pumpkin for Halloween in my life before I came to live with my family. I never dressed up as anything. I never helped decorate the house for Christmas when I was little. I never got to help with baking and decorating cookies. I never got to have a fort under a table or between chairs by hanging blankets over stuff. I never got to play with a squirt gun in the Summer, when it’s hot, hiding and ambushing someone, or having a squirt gun fight. I had no memories of anyone playing ball with me in a way that’s fun. But now I have memories of all those things.

We laugh. I would never have thought something simple as this is a childhood memory thing, but it is. Sometimes my mom is silly or funny, for no other reason than to make me laugh. And it works. It’s not easy for me to just laugh in a way that comes from inner happiness or silliness, but when it happens it always makes for a good memory.

There’s more, but it’s hard to think of everything.

What I feel is important to add is that even the happiest memory can be painful, or at least bittersweet for me. Like all good stuff happening, good memories can be really hard to cope with. Ever so often a happy moment will suddenly change into me crying or getting angry and hating everything. The happy stuff can be terribly painful. But mom knows. She will just stop what we were doing, and gives me room to be sad or angry in a way that’s safe, and once I let her, we’ll talk about it. And even when it can be hard, at the end of the day I find it helps to have happy childhood memories. Even when I only made them now.

Get-to-know-Lola Saturday – 25 Random Questions

Though I’ve been thinking about several more serious topics, and even started to write down some thoughts on them, I’m not in the mood for serious stuff today. Still exhausted from the bracelet disaster. So I thought why not ask myself some random questions and answer them, kind of like a party game, only without the party. LOL. So there we go. I found those online and I guess they are random enough.

 ~~~

1. What time did you go to bed last night and were you alone?
After 11:30, and nope, not alone, mom was with me.

2. If you could be given ANY gift what would it be?
A brain that works more normal. One that doesn’t go off balance so easily. Seriously, I’m not good about receiving gifts, but I’d take that in a second!

3. What was the last film that really moved/disturbed/thrilled you and why?
Mary Poppins. We watched it on DVD yesterday evening and it always moves me.

4. What is your favourite TV show of all time i.e. you’ve seen them all, can watch it over and over again and quote lines from it?
It’s not a TV series, but last year I discovered an old video tape of “The Children of Noisy Village” which my siblings watched when they were little, and seriously, even when it’s silly that I love it, because it’s a kids’ film and it doesn’t even have much of a storyline other than six kids doing kids things together and having fun, I love it. I think it’s my most watched film. I love that there’s no real excitement at all, no bad stuff happening, just six kids having a happy childhood. My mom bought the book, too, and reads it to me and I love every second of it.

5. What’s your favourite way to wake up and what’s the first thing you do?
Favorite way of waking up is not alone and the first thing I do is being grumpy. I’m usually tired in the morning and can’t stand it when people are cheerful.

6. What would you call yourself if you could choose your own name?
I’d keep calling myself Lola. My name is about the only thing about me that stays the same, and I think if I’d change it I’d feel like I’d lost that last bit of identity that has at least always been the same. Like if I’d be called some other name, I’d totally not know who I was anymore and if I was still me.

7. If you had to do a bushtucker challenge (you have to eat insects/grubs etc) what would be the worst thing you had to eat?
Anything slimy. Or rotten. Or insecty. I’d be no good with a bushtucker challenge. I have trouble eating normal stuff on many days, so no thank you to eating gross shit!!

8. Whats the worst/most embarassing CD/Album you’ve ever owned and do you still have it?
I think I’ll have to pass this one, because I only own P!nk CD’s and I love them all. I have some other songs on my mp3-player, but none that I’m embarrassed about.

9. What would be your dream vehicle (bikes, cars, boats, batcar and millenium falcon is allowed!)?
LOL, I’d love a to have driver’s license in the first place. And if I could choose any car, I’d love it to be black with some pink. And a cute scull on it. With a bow tie.

10. Whats your favourite fantasy people sandwich?
Uuuuhhhmmmm… I’m afraid I don’t get the question. That probably means I’m uncool or something.

11. What characteristics do you dislike in yourself?
That answer would be an essay if I gave it serious thought. So I’ll just name the first three ones that come to my mind: emotional instability, inability to sit still and impatience.

12. Your favourite item of clothing and why?
I can’t say, any “favourite” of mine changes so often. But if it’s black and a little pink, chances are I’ll like it.

13. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be and who would it be with?
I’d love to see a beach. Any summery beach. With white sand and the sea and waves and maybe palm trees, like in the cheesiest vacation adverts, and I’d love to have it to myself. And to my family, because I’d want to be there with my family.

14. If you could have any animal/creature, what would be your ultimate pet be?
A protection dog. One that would give me cuddles and lovies, but would be fierce and aggressive towards anyone who wants to mess with me.

15. What did you want to be when you were little and do you think you ever will be?
I never thought about what I wanted to be. I still have no idea.

16. What’s the next planned event you’re looking forward to in your life?
Next planned event would be Thanksgiving. And I’m not exactly looking forward to it. Or my birthday. Or Christmas.

17. What were you doing before you started this?
I was bugging my mom who was trying to have a nap.

18. What was the last thing you ate that you really shouldn’t have?
The question should be: what was the last thing you didn’t eat that you should have. Answer: lunch. Struggling with the eating disorder at the moment. 😦

19. If you were an ice cream/haagen dazs/ben an jerrys flavour what would you be?
Chocolate. Simple as that.

20. Who was the last person you spoke to that you didn’t want to talk to?
Some old lady at the supermarket who asked if I could pick something up for her that she dropped. I hate it when people I don’t know talk to me. Well, but I didn’t exactly speak to her, so I don’t know if that counts.

21. What was your favourite toy as a child . . .and now?
I seriously don’t remember if I had any favourite toys. I don’t even remember if I had toys. I suppose I did, but my mind draws a blank. Now my favourite toy is a stuffed rabbit my sister gave me.

22. When was the last time you cried laughing and why?
Difficult one. I don’t often cry from laughing. Laughing often makes me sad and I end up crying, but not from laughing, but because of it. But that’s different. I don’t know if I ever laughed tears.

23. What is stashed under your bed/mattress?
A large family of dust bunnies, happily mating and multiplying, I suppose. And probably random stuff I kicked under there when I didn’t want to clean my room up, but wanted to present it as a little cleaner than before to get mom out of my hair about cleaning up.

24. What did you dream about last night?
Don’t ask. Disturbing shit.

25. What are you really afraid of?
A lot of things. Everything, in a way. But most of all, losing people I love. Losing their love. That’s my biggest and worst fear and the one that troubles me the most.

 ~~~

So there you go . . . 25 random things about me. If you’re in the mood, consider answering some questions, the same or your own, about yourself, too, and leave a note saying where I can find it. 🙂

Coping with good stuff and BPD

Earlier today I wrote this:

“Dad just came home for lunch, like he sometimes does if he sees a client in our area, and he gave me bracelet. Said he saw it in a store on his way back from the client, and it reminded him of me, because of the black and pink beads, so he bought it for me.

The day was fucking fine until then!!

Been crying and screaming like crazy over the stupid bracelet. Still crying. I never asked for it. It’s not my birthday. I didn’t expect to be given anything. I didn’t ask for it. I feel overwhelmed.

I’m afraid to have disappointed him by not managing to be happy enough. I’m angry that he never even asked if I wanted anything. I hate myself for not being able to handle it better. For not being someone who even deserves the fucking bracelet. For feeling suspicious and upset in the first place. I have thoughts of self-harming. Considered to open a door, put my hands in the doorframe and kick the door shut. But mom is watching me. She knows I want to hurt myself. I don’t want her close, but she’s watching me. So I don’t, because she wouldn’t stay away if I did.

So I’m writing this. Letting her read it before I publish, because I don’t care. As long as she stays away. If someone was around to fuck me I’d let them, but if she wants to hug me now I’ll slap her. I swear I will. I don’t want a fucking bracelet.”

Mom didn’t let me send it, because we had agreed that I use the blog to think out loud when my mind is calm, not to rant and rave and vent and escape real situations by turning to the screen when I’m emotionally upset. After all I have real people around (or, well, her, because dad had to go back to work) to help me cope.

That was some hours ago. After I wrote that I had a meltdown and felt like I wanted to die because I couldn’t deal with the ugly feelings. Still wouldn’t let my mom touch me. Finally dissociated and didn’t care anymore. Didn’t feel anything anymore. Fuzzy fog.

When I started to come out of the fog mom was holding me. Talking to me. I felt close to her and miserable and cried, because it’s not fair and I’m so sick of struggling. She said it’s okay, that it really isn’t fair, and a hard struggle, but that she’s there. Then we talked and she kept on holding me and I ended up feeling better. Not good, but okay.

And now I’m wondering why it is that even small stuff – or for me, especially small stuff that I don’t expect – can throw me so. Good things that happen can be worse than crap. I half expect crap anytime. But good things… they cause so many emotions that can be so hard to deal with. And what I find makes it even more complicated is that I always feel like everyone expects me to be happy instead of a mess when something good happens, so I don’t feel like it’s even justified to feel the way I do.

But one step at a time. I messed up today, but maybe manage better the next time. After talking with mom I feel like maybe I’m a little closer to managing better. She reminded me that good stuff can cause strong and ambivalent emotions and that those can be hard to deal with. That she’s proud of me for not self-harming, even when it was because she was watching. But that never used to keep me from trying, so I guess I’m getting somewhere, even when the overall picture is still a mess.

Ah well, whatever. I feel drained now and while I’m hungry, I don’t have any appetite. Bad day for eating. My eating disorder agrees. I guess I’ll cut it some slack today. Anyway, I originally had something else in mind to post today, something happier, but it will have to wait. Mom suggested we get some cuddles in me to make up for the disappointing day and I feel like I want to curl up and call it a day, so maybe that’s not the worst plan. Be well, everyone.

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