Borderline and self-awareness, self-confidence and self-esteem

I grew up believing that there is nothing I can do well. The only thing I believed I was useful for was to give other people sexual pleasure. That’s sick, obviously, because I was a child.

Awareness of who we are grows through the kind of feedback we receive about ourselves. As a social species we use others as a mirror to see ourselves. By how they react to us, verbally and through behavior, we draw conclusions about ourselves.

My mother was unable to be a good mother. My needs usually went unmet. She was unpredictable, angry and often aggressive towards me. I concluded I was unimportant, unlovable, unable to do something right and that I deserve punishment just for being there.

My step-father’s interest in me centered solely around the sexual abuse. If I didn’t do what he wanted me to, he became violent. My mother often said that she only kept me around because I had made him “addicted” to me. I concluded that I had to earn my right to exist by making myself available for abuse.

At school I got held back because I did not learn. Teachers used to say that they are not sure that there’s anyone actually at home inside of my head. “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.” I concluded that I must be really dumb.

In the institutionalized years that followed people became annoyed with me very often after what had always looked like promising starts. I concluded that I may look worth saving on the outside, but that there was nothing inside of me that would keep anyone going.

As you may imagine, my self image was real bad. I didn’t like myself. Like, at all. The feedback I had received painted a very unlikable picture of me and I was convinced that it was true. Because as a social species we tend to take social feedback seriously.

Unfortunately we’re also not born with a way to tell whether the person who reflects an image of us back through feedback is a good mirror, or one right out of a fun house. Imagine you had looked into a distorting mirror all your life. How would you like the way you looked? And if you had grown used to always looking a certain, distorted way in the mirror because you never saw yourself in any other mirror, would you believe the reflection if it suddenly were different?

I went through a lot of unhappiness and trouble with the positive feedback I received after I met my family and came to live with them. Lots of fear that once they discover how terrible I really am, they will want to have nothing to do with me anymore. In lots of ways I have tried to force them to hate me and be repulsed by me. Sometimes I could not stand their presence. At the same time I am and always was mortally afraid of losing them. But I wanted to have it happen, because I was convinced that it was what I deserved and what was going to happen anyway. When things don’t match up, when everything is a mess, when you don’t know who or what you really are or are not, that’s what happens.

Lots of tears, tantrums, hugs, yelling, cuddling, passionate hating, ardent loving and most of all lots of patience later, I am pretty sure that my “self” I have been aware of, was really not very realistic but just the reflection of other people’s mental issues. I don’t feel horribly unlovable, useless and dumb anymore most of the time. I am starting to allow the thought that there are things I might be good at, that I can be a kind person who others like and some even love. That this is not just some con act, but actually part of who I am.

At the same time I do not have a lot of practice thinking those things and old habits die hard and I have moments where I get very confused and find it hard to assess who I am. What I am. What I can. That I am important to someone.

It helps that my family are aware. Sometimes my mom sings the Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” chorus to me. You know, the “I belong to you, you belong to me, you’re my sweet-heart” part. She does it just because. Just because she wants to. I really like that because it feels like she means what she sings and wants me to know.

What also helps is actually DOING something useful. I have started volunteering at my mom’s former psychiatric ward. She used to be the head psychiatrist there or something and it’s a kids ward. That they know my mom and trust her judgment is probably the only reason why they agreed to let me volunteer. Anyway, I am going there once a week to just be with a little girl they assigned me to and play. To just do normal stuff with her, so she gets to just play and relax and laugh. We’re friends. She loves my long blond hair and says that when she grows up she wants to be just like me. I always laugh and tell her to pick someone else to be like, not a girl who’s way too old to not have an education and stuff. But deep down I am starting to think that maybe it’s not the worst thing. Being me, I mean. Maybe not by everyone’s standards, but my own standards are modest. Or maybe not modest, but different. But my life is different from that of many other people, so what do I need their standards for, right? 😉

I think finding the right mirrors for myself and the right standards to assess my behavior and my “self” with is one of the keys for a better and more realistic awareness of myself and for becoming more confident and stuff. Also, it helps to actually DO things that I can then assess. After all, staying on the borderline isn’t much fun. Lines are narrow. Borders are boundaries. And while boundaries are not necessarily bad, I don’t want to live ON them, but within them. And maybe sometimes beyond. In a good way. And a feeling good about myself way.

So that’s where I want to get. Slowly but surely.

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Clearing out my life

I’m on a boost of good energy lately. Ever since mom came around from being sick again, some things have somehow clicked into perspective. It’s hard to explain, really. I’m still a hot mess here and there and my mood still rollercoasters along, but I’m more aware of it now and more able to distance myself from it and still hold on to the awareness that the rest of my feelings still exist, too, even if I can’t feel them in that moment.

I’m also feeling the need to clear out my life at the moment. I feel less and less attached to most of the things that I’ve had for a long time now. Stuff like clothes that I still have from before I got removed from my birth family, or birthday and Christmas cards I’ve gotten from staff during what I call the “institution time” of my life, or little trinkets and knickknacks that I used to be attached to because I associated them with a certain time of my life or a specific event and felt like I’d be losing a part of myself if I didn’t have those things anymore.

Over the last couple of weeks I’m feeling more and more like I don’t need those things anymore, or don’t even want them any longer. So I’ve parted with quite some things and am amazed how little things I actually allowed my mom and dad to get for me. My room is half-empty all of a sudden. But it’s alright. It means there is room for new stuff when something good comes along.

I also feel like I’m more able to look ahead now, rather than back, and more able to focus on the moment as it IS, not as it appears in the light of the past. Which I have found to free quite some energy. I’ve also started to cook. Like, nothing amazing, and mom helps me, but I can now make pizza from scratch, and salads and yummy desserts.

One more thing is that I have started to meditate. Mom said it would do me good to learn how to give my mind a rest and she said she’d join me, so I’m practising meditation. And I’m really crap at it! LOL. My thoughts haven’t really even gotten a basic idea of resting yet! But I am practicing. And even when it’s probably not meditation like someone who’s actually good at it would go it, it’s kind of fun.

Flower of Life

Life is good at the moment. 🙂

Situation #1739 I can not cope with

Hello everyone. I have not dropped off the face of the planet. I just haven’t been in any mind to blog. Situation #1739 I can’t cope with is when mom is sick.

Last Thursday my mom came down with a stomach bug, right away, early in the morning. It was nasty. I panic when mom is not her usual, healthy self. Not just feel annoyed or unhappy, but serious panic. I start to worry that she will die. That she will be unable to be there for me. Like, ever again. I feel like I am going to lose her. I know it’s unreasonable, but my emotions don’t care and react anyway.

So when mom started to be unwell, I went into panic mode. Mom said she needed me to be a big girl. And I think I managed, after a fashion. Biggest three year old ever. Crying and refusing to leave mom’s side, unable to focus on anything other than the fact that mom was sick. Helpless, afraid, alone, abandoned, angry, panicky… Not pretty.

Stupid stomach bug is hanging on like for dear life, the fierce fucker. Fifth day now, and mom is still struggling with it, but at least she is better than during the past days. And my sister came home on Friday to help take care of things at home a bit, which helped. But it was still a horrible weekend. Awful bug. I really can’t cope with mom being sick.

PS: thanks for the comments everyone. I’ll reply once mom is better and I am in right mind again. Or in whatever resembles my right mind the closest.

Self Harm Morning **Triggering**

SelfHarmIf you’re familiar with self-harm, you’ll probably tell what’s missing from the picture sooner than I can even type it. It’s a sharpener I found around the house. Minus the blade. Because a little earlier today, after breakfast, I gave the missing piece to my mom. And my day unraveled.

I don’t know what even happened, but I wanted to cut myself real bad. Or didn’t exactly want to, but felt like I absolutely needed to. Like I was going to implode or something if I didn’t. Pressure-control.

Mom hugged me and said she was proud of me for giving her the blade. She put it away. Said the sharpener blade is rusty and ragged already. Said if I absolutely needed to cut, she’d give me a clean razor blade, but can I think of alternatives? Can I talk about what’s up?

I couldn’t tell her because I didn’t even know what was up. I just knew that I wanted to cut. So I just cried and told her all I could suddenly think about was cutting myself. Just like that. For no good reason at all. Cause I’m just fucked up like that.

Mom asked me to take her through my thoughts with me, to tell her what I visualized when I thought of cutting, so she could understand better. So I told her that all I wanted to do was slice my skin open. Big, bad, deep wounds. Wreak havoc on myself. Real bad.

And then?, Mom asked. I hadn’t really thought about the ‘and then’ part, because my focus was more on the inflicting wounds part. But she insisted. What should happen then?

I thought about it and realized that what I really wanted to happen thereafter was for her to find me, all bloody and sliced open, and then to be concerned and take care of the wounds and of me. But I was too embarrassed to tell her and felt miserable because I thought about what a nasty, manipulative person that made me and how she should just leave me to bleed to death instead to teach me a lesson or something. Which made me want to cut even more. More crying. An attempt to shove her away by hurling insults her way. And did I mention more crying? A little screaming, too. Ugly and embarrassing.

Long story short, mom wormed my little fantasy out of me eventually. And said it’s alright. That’s exactly what she’d do if I cut myself. But also if I didn’t cut myself and how about we pretended I did, because it’s probably hurting bad enough without cutting anyway.

True, that.

So that’s what we did. Mom got dressing and bandages. Then she let me explain to her what I’d done to myself with the blade and cleaned, taped up and dressed the wounds according to what I described. No mockery. No derision. No making fun of it. She’s still behaving like I actually cut myself for real, keeping me close, making sure I’m alright, making sure I keep the dressing and stuff on.

I feel better. The pressure went down. I don’t feel like I need to cut anymore. In fact I feel like I did, except that I never have. Weird how the mind works. Strangest self-harm experience ever.

10 Futile Tips to Increase Self-Esteem & ONE That Actually Works (for me)

Anyone struggling with mental health issues is quite likely to be struggling with a low self-esteem, too. Unless, maybe, you’re a narcissist, but trust me, then your true self-esteem is probably not so grand either. 😉 If you are struggling with self-esteem issues, you probably are not short on good advice on how to increase it that people have given you over the years. I sure am not short on this kind of advice.

The problem is, those tips never really worked for me. Not a single one of them. I wrote them down below along with the objections that I have. Then I’ll tell you the ONE thing that actually works to improve my self-esteem. But before that, here’s all the “good” advice:

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1. Don’t compare yourself to other people. I don’t really see this working, because isn’t it an inbuilt thing that humans compare themselves to other humans in order to relate and to survive? Isn’t it a way to develop positively, too? Imagine we didn’t have the ability to look at other people and see what they are doing and then compare it to what we are doing. . . we’d be unable to learn from others, if we weren’t able to compare people and behavior. So why should I stop comparing? For example I see that my mom manages emotions so much better than I do. I want to be able to do that, too. Shouldn’t I be looking and comparing what she does to what I do, in order to figure out what she does differently and why she manages and I don’t? I don’t see how my self-esteem would grow from stopping comparing. I mean I do want to know where I stand in relation to others, because I am a social being. Maybe the conclusions I draw are not the best, but really, that’s not the same as the thing itself being bad.

2. Don’t put yourself down. Okay. Good in theory. No putting myself down. But what shall I do instead? Pretend my lacking abilities aren’t there? Yay, I have awesome emotional coping skills. I rock. I’m awesome. – Unrealistic much? Hey, but at least I’m not putting myself down. So okay, maybe I’m gonna feel better about myself initially, but sooner or later I still don’t have any better emotional coping skills and run into a big mess because of them. I’ll still feel bad about myself in the long run. Also, there is a reason for which I put myself down. I can’t just resolve that by making a decision not to do it any longer. The reason needs figuring out and addressing, else I’m only gonna feel worse about myself because I don’t really manage to not put myself down.

3. Strengthen yourself with positive affirmations. Hmm… I have nothing against positive affirmations. I can write them on pieces of paper and stick them to the bathroom mirror and when I run out of toilet paper, I’ll even be grateful they’re there. But repeating something positive over and over again isn’t going to make it feel more true to me when I have an aversive reaction to what the affirmation says in the first place.

4. Accept compliments. I would. And I can pretend that I do. But in order to accept something, it needs to fit in with my belief system. Imagine someone told you the world is a flat disk that people fall off of once they come too close to the edge and expected you accept it. Everything you know tells you they are wrong, and you feel like there is plenty of proof that they are. But chuck that, accept it anyway. Would you?

5. Change your beliefs about yourself. Oh, I would. In a second. If this was a rational kind of belief system, I’d be changing it so much and so awesomely you’d stand in awe. Problem is, those beliefs aren’t rational. Rationally I do already know that I have no reason for my self-esteem to be so bad. But guess what, this isn’t a rational belief. It is tied deeply into my emotions and my experiences and my history and they just shrug logical reasoning off like a pesky insect and will rather go and get the fly swatter than accept it keeps on bothering them.

6. Find out what you’re good at. Good idea. If in order to believe I’m ‘good at’ something my bad self-esteem wouldn’t always interfere. My bad self-esteem tells me that even when I’m good at something, I’m not good enough by far, and the thing that I’m good at isn’t a very valuable thing anyway. So if I were just able to find out what I’m good at, I wouldn’t be struggling with such a lousy self-esteem in the first place.

7. Don’t allow people to treat you with a lack of respect. Define ‘lack of respect’ please. It is a highly subjective thing, what one considers as a ‘lack of respect’. If someone pushes me around I don’t recognize that as a lack of respect, because I feel they are right in doing that, and not lacking anything. I’d need to feel deserving of a certain level of respect first, in order to properly realize when someone is treating me with less than that.

8. Dress nicely, maintain good hygiene, work out, eat well, etc. I have nothing against those things, other than that if they don’t match how I feel, instead of making me feel better, I just feel an inner dissonance and like a fraud because the way I look and eat and stuff is not appropriate to the way I feel inside. Eating is a big one for me. I just CAN not eat when I feel like I’m not deserving of the food. I want to, my rational mind knows there is no reason why I would not, but I just CAN’T. Not until I feel better about myself. So dressing nicely, maintaining good hygiene etc. feels backwards to me. Like saddling a horse that isn’t yet even there.

9. Be helpful and kind to others. So good in theory, so hard when all those emotions get in the way. I try to, really. I try really, really hard, because it’s important to me. But the expectation makes me feel like a failure when I don’t manage, because I know it should be the least thing to be kind to others and to be helpful. And having such a bad self-esteem, I often don’t even feel like anyone would WANT the help I could offer, because it’s not good enough, and like nobody would even CARE for my being kind, because I am annoying them. So I end up feeling afraid of being kind, because I feel like they would misunderstand my attempt at kindness as an attempt to bother them and would turn away from me over it.

10. Don’t dwell on your past experiences. Uhm-kay?! They just contributed big time to who I am, so why would they be important, right? Cause as humans we tend to ignore past experiences, or what? Trust me, if I could just be a clean slate and start over, I’d totally do it! But… not working. Experiences shaped who I am. My experiences shaped my emotions. In order to understand myself, my emotional reactions, my automatic thoughts and beliefs, I actually NEED to take those experiences into account, so I can make sense of the mess I am. And hey, maybe even eventually move beyond it. Sorry if you consider my wanting to be more aware of how my past influenced to be ‘dwelling’ on my past experiences.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so all those didn’t really work for me. Like, at all. But one thing IS working. And this one thing is:

ImproveSelfEsteem

That, and only that, is where the modest amount self-esteem that I have collected in the meantime comes from. That is what helps me with drawing better conclusion from comparisons with other people. That is what helps me with not putting myself down so much. That is what slowly replaces the negative beliefs I have about myself with better ones. That is where I get a healthy idea of how much respect I deserve from. That is what helps me make sense of and come to terms with my past experiences to then let go of them. And that is what makes me more sure that I can actually offer kindness and help that others would appreciate.

Only this one thing. Go figure.  I actually need to get a horse before I saddle it.

‘Acting Out’ = Attachment Behavior in Disguise?

Last evening was one of ‘those’ evenings. I didn’t really know why, but I found myself picking fights with mom and dad, deliberately tried to drive especially mom up the walls, was clingy and hostile at the same time and basically did my best to cause chaos and be a nuisance.

Now you see, my mom has two ways of reacting to that. One is that she acknowledges the behavior and my feelings and keeps doing what she’s doing. The other is that she stops what she’s doing, calls me on the behavior and we end up sorting it out. Trouble is: I really hate both ways when I’m in this mood.

When I am in this mood, I aim for drama and escalation and people finally showing their “true colors” and mirroring my feelings of chaos and dissatisfaction. So what I aim for would look something like this:

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Me: You’re doing that wrong, don’t do that wrong!

Mom: I’m not doing that wrong.

Me: Yes, you are! Do it right!

Mom: Lola, only because it’s not the way you want it, it’s not wrong! Things don’t always go like you want them to!

Me: No, things NEVER go like I want them to! Nobody ever considers me! I hate you! You’re despicable and a shit mother!

Mom: That’s no way to speak to me, you’re hurting my feelings! Go to your room!

Me: Your fucking feelings don’t matter to me! You hate me, that’s what! I’m done being your daughter!

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Only that’s never what happens. Which is really, really good, mind you, but I hate it while I’m in those terrible moods. Anyway, what really happens is either:

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Me: You’re doing that wrong, don’t do that wrong!

Mom: I’m sorry you’re feeling like it’s the wrong way.

Me: No, you’re not sorry! You just don’t care.

Mom: Now that’s hard, feeling like I don’t care.

Me: Go fuck yourself. (And I retreat, because I am annoyed that she’s so damn unwilling to fight with me. 😉 )

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Or it ends like this:

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Mom: Honey, you sound like you’re in a really unpleasant mood.

Me: I’m not in a bad mood, you just suck, that’s what!

Mom: I think we should go and find ourselves a nice calm spot to figure out what’s annoying you so.

Me: I don’t want to go anywhere!

Mom: That’s alright. Here’s as good a place as any. What’s bothering you?

Me: That you are doing it wrong!

Mom: How come that’s so difficult for you today, that I’m not doing it the way you think is right?

Me: ‘Cause it’s WRONG! Don’t you listen to me or are you really this stupid?

Mom: You sound like you are really this upset, Baby, that’s what I hear.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~

Can you see how it’s not exactly edifying to pick a fight with my mom? My attempts to insult her fall flat, all it gets me is mom being nice and concerned about how I feel. And she’s not just saying nice things with a sarcastic tone or something, she actually means it. I have no clue how she does it. But so much for spreading drama. Anyway, that’s how we ended up talking last night. I had been holding myself together pretty well after feeling like I had suddenly lost myself. I had been waiting it out, tried to brave it and stay optimistic. But it had taken a toll on me and suddenly I found myself crying, wanting for everything to just be okay again. And we ended up figuring out that that was probably why I had ended up picking fights and trying to drive everyone crazy: to show how I was feeling, to alert my family to my misery and to get someone to do something about it, because I was getting to the end of what I could cope with.

Mom pointed out to me that this is attachment behavior: Seeking comfort and help when I can’t cope, wanting to connect with someone to make it better. Misguided attachment behavior, because it seemingly aims at the opposite, at distancing me from everyone, ruining the relationship and upsetting who I love, but deep down attachment behavior nonetheless.

That got me thinking. At least once I had calmed down again. I think there really is a bit of truth in what she said. When I think of the times when I act out, it’s almost always a misguided way of communicating how my feelings to others, an attempt to cue them into doing something, to make something happen that I hope to be helpful, even when there is some really twisted thinking underneath it all. The message is still: “Look, I’m not well, do something, change it”. That IS attachment behavior, in a way.

So what the next step would probably be: applying that knowledge. I mean if it’s attachment behavior, then it’s probably a good idea to find a less misguided way to say “Look, I’m not well, can you help me?” than to try and pick a fight and cause chaos. At least in theory. In practice, how do I get from attachment behavior in disguise to open attachment behavior when I’m emotionally upset and feel like spreading chaos? I have no idea. But I hope a little awareness for what’s really going on is going to at least help a bit.

Confusing. But I’m a little better today.

Resilience – too stubborn to stay down

Duncan (nobodysreadingme) said yesterday that he admires my resilience. I found that a curious thing to point out, but sweet and touching, too. It has also helped me realize, looking back, that I actually must be kind of resilient. I’ve had my flirts with depression, and I certainly get low and desperate moments with a hopeless mood that makes me feel like my whole life is shit and maybe I should die. When they are there those feelings are really strong, but those moments don’t usually last and never really have. Sooner or later I always feel like ‘fuck all, I’m not gonna do anyone the favor to just go away for good’ and that ends the depressive mood.

It’s a feeling that I have known for a long time already, and I remember having it towards my mother mainly. She made it no secret that she hated me for being alive and often said things like ‘I wish I had aborted you when I still had the chance’ and while that always made me real sad and I felt like I shouldn’t be living on one hand, I also had the ‘fuck you’ reaction. Maybe that was because I knew that while I was getting hurt, I also had something my stepfather wanted. I remember being conscious of that fact. I remember knowing that that was why my mother both hated me, and couldn’t afford to lose me, because without me, my stepfather would probably not have stayed with her.

In some perfectly weird and twisted way that gave me power. It was power I wish I would never have had, because look at the mess my life turned into because of how fucked up everything was, but even so, I think that’s where my resilience comes from. I was aware that despite all the pain it caused me I was important, even when it was in a sick way, to both my parents. I think that was what gave me the leverage to develop my ‘fuck you’ attitude that keeps me from staying down. I’m somehow too stubborn to. Weird how life works.

Anyway, I’ve made a list of the things that I think contributed to my ability to stay alive and not give in during the three major phases of my life so far:

1. The time during which I live at my childhood home (0-15)

I HAVE: what my stepfather wants, everything my mother hates, myself.

I AM: an involuntary sex object, a scapegoat, a loner, different, secretive, distrustful.

I CAN: die inside, tolerate pain, read subtle changes in people, tell which is the safer of two options, hide from harm, wait things out, distract myself.

2. The time I spent in mental health care (15-23)

I HAVE: several diagnoses that tell me who I am, myself.

I AM: a mental health case, a calculating sex object, a loner, secretive, distrustful.

I CAN: dissociate, ignore people, rely on myself and self-destructive acts to keep a certain balance, self-medicate.

3. The time after I met my real family (23-now)

I HAVE: myself, a supportive family, my mom, a good therapist.

I AM: a daughter, learning to trust and how to be trustworthy, recovering, artistic.

I CAN: think about myself and my behavior, accept my mom’s help, keep from self-medicating and increasingly from self-harming, too, let myself in for safe relationships, look towards the future.

Life sure is weird and complicated.

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