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.

This should be me! – a.k.a Gone Baby Gone

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

There was a terrible situation yesterday night. I went to the kitchen with mom and in passing I looked through the door to the living room and caught a glimpse of a scene from a DVD dad was watching, Gone Baby Gone. I have no idea what was going on, but the scene was in this shabby house with a woman who was, like, a drug addict or a boozer or something. You could see from the way she looked and talked and behaved that she was really fucked up, unstable and unpredictable, able to turn violent and stuff.

It was the way my mother used to look. Except my mother had brown hair and that woman’s hair was blond. Like mine.

The resemblance to how my mother had been was horrifying. My heart beat like crazy, I felt frozen to the spot, instantly detached from reality, and I couldn’t look away from the screen even though what I saw made it worse.

Mom noticed I hadn’t followed her into the kitchen, so she came back and got me. She’s really quick to pick up on stuff like that, so I never needed to explain what had happened, she could already tell I had been triggered and was in a bad place. So instead of taking me to the kitchen, where we might have overheard stuff from the DVD, because the living room is right next to the kitchen, she took me back upstairs, and helped me come back to reality and calm down.

Which worked for a little while, and we snuggled, but then I got this thought that this woman I had seen should be me. I mean, really, it should. That was exactly the kind of home where I had grown up. Our house had looked cleaner, because of my mother’s OCD, but the whole atmosphere was exactly the same. I got this overwhelming feeling that this was the life that had been planned for me. That this is what I ought to have become: A fucked up drug addict and alcoholic who has a shabby home and a pathetic, miserable life.

But instead of that, I live in this really nice house, with people who I’m not even related to yet call mom and dad, exploiting them, messing with their lives, taking all those things they give to me that I don’t deserve, because the life that I was chosen for was never this life, but the kind of life I had seen on the TV screen.

The noise in my head was unbearable: This should be me. My life should be like that. How dare I exploit good people. I deserve a life like that, not the life I live now. I took something that I had no right to have. I should get punished. I must leave them. I do not deserve people who love me and care for me. I should be doing drugs and alcohol and have a shit life, just like my mother had . . .

To cut a long story short, the night turned into drama. I wanted to hurt myself and screamed and cried and it took a long time until I calmed down again. Most of it is hazy to me, but I think dad stopped watching the movie when I started screaming and helped mom with keeping me safe, because I have half a memory trying to kick him because I was so angry that they wouldn’t let me leave. Which in turn meant that I woke up several times during the night in a panic over losing everyone. Mom didn’t leave me during the night, so it was okay-ish, because I wasn’t alone, but this morning I feel exhausted, because of the bad night and waking up early, and awful about giving everyone such a terrible night, after it turned out to be me, who ended up “gone baby gone”.

Feeling exhausted and guilty is a dangerous mix for me, so that even when it has the potential to make me feel even more guilty, I’m also grateful that mom keeps me close by today. Crisis watch.

Mom insists I skip today’s part of the Sexual Healing Journey and I can’t argue that. I’d be a mess today. So instead I’ll do something a little more uplifting and try to make a list of things that I like, to get my thoughts (and hopefully my feelings, too) into a good direction again.

I hope you all had a nicer start into your Sunday.

What Having Boundaries is All About

What boundaries are NOT.

What boundaries are NOT.

Okay, so finally I have found a topic on which my thoughts don’t continuously scramble away like a bunch of scared chickens the moment I try to reach for them! Three cheers for that!!

The topic my thoughts seem to stay together for is that of boundaries. In my post Dealing with someone who has BPD – dos and don’ts as I see them, suggestion #8 was: have reliable boundaries.

I just realized that what I mean by “having reliable boundaries” is probably not self-explanatory. Especially as there seem to be many weird ideas around regarding what boundaries are or are not.

Quite often I have encountered people who understood setting up boundaries to be synonymous with “I make rules you have to stick to”. For the longest time that was what I understood boundaries to be, too. And for just as long I had trouble respecting them. For example the so-called boundaries other people put on me included:

  • Don’t self harm!
  • Eat properly at mealtimes!
  • Don’t verbally abuse people!
  • Don’t run away!

See a pattern there? They’re all rules that tell me what to do or not to do. That’s often what people consider having boundaries to be: Making up rules and enforcing them. But guess what?!

  • I self harmed a LOT.
  • I didn’t eat properly.
  • I was extremely verbally abusive.
  • I ran away.

All those so-called boundaries just begged for that. They beg for someone to say “well, make me, if you can!” and finding ways to sneak around them. Because they all have an implicit “or else” attached to them. Which makes the Borderline part of me feel incredibly insecure. Or else what? Or else you won’t like me anymore? Will kick me out? I just NEED to find that out and know for certain. So I crossed all those lines people drew in the dirt and called “boundaries”.

It was only after I moved in with my family and lots and lots of reflecting and talking that I finally understood that that was not at all what having boundaries was about. Those rules were just that: rules. Artificial rules set up to control my behavior. But that’s not a boundary. That’s a dare.

So what ARE boundaries then? In my family I learned that boundaries are something people *have*, not make up. I’ll give you an example of my mom’s true boundaries on the same subjects that the above rules covered. They are:

  • I will put you under supervision and investigate if you self harm without letting me know beforehand. If your destructiveness gets out of control, I will do what is necessary to keep you and everyone else safe. If that means that I need to physically restrain you until you can control yourself again, I will. If that means that I need to call in help, I will.
  • I don’t tolerate not eating. I will investigate if you don’t eat.
  • If you can’t help verbal abuse of yourself or others, I will want to find out what’s up.
  • I take the liberty of temporarily locking the doors if I can tell that you are emotionally upset and at risk of running and I will want to learn what’s up.

Notice something about those boundaries? They aren’t telling me what to do or not to do. I can not possibly break them. My mom’s boundaries just tell me what she will tolerate or not tolerate and how she will react to certain behaviors on my part. If I don’t like her boundaries, we can talk about it, and she can explain why she has them and why she enforces them. But I can not possibly break one.

I can openly say that I don’t like all of her boundaries all of the time. The eating boundary, for example. On some days I dread mealtimes because I know that if I won’t eat, she’ll want to talk. And beforehand it often doesn’t feel like talking would help, even when it usually does in the end. But even when I really hate her boundaries at that time, I can not do anything to break it, because they are not MY boundaries, but hers, and she is sticking to them.

So what are boundaries? They are statements about what you will or will not tolerate and how you are going to react to situations. Others have no choice but to accept them or live with what you will do if they don’t. They don’t tell others what to do, but tell others what YOU will do.

People who have healthy boundaries make me feel safe, because there’s no element of threat there. Just certainty and orientation that lets me know where I stand and what I will meet if I do x, y or z. Rules feel like others want to control me. Healthy boundaries feel like they care.

Happy Saturday everyone! 🙂

Worthless

I’m having one of those terrible feeling awful days. I feel like I’m just not worth anything. And certainly not anything good. I know it’s probably not true and that the feeling will likely go away again, but it feels like it won’t and shouldn’t because it’s true.

There are just too many things that make me worthless. I’m worthless to society at large because I’m not a productive member in any way, shape or form. I don’t work. I can’t reliably do a household chore, much less hold down a job. I don’t even have an education or a qualification in anything. Society doesn’t have any advantage for having me in it.

I’m worthless as a family member. Everyone needs to take my mental health issues into consideration, but in return I’m often inconsiderate of them. I limit their lives. The simplest things turn into big challenges because of me. They invest all this time and energy and thoughtfulness in me and I give them trouble back. Trouble and drama and fuss. I’m not good at being a daughter or a sibling. I am demanding and needy and terrible to be around.

I’m worthless as a person. I’m not sure what exactly determines a person’s worth, but I’m certain being difficult, over-emotional, over-sensitive and not in possession of much self-control does nothing to enhance it. There’s nothing I’m really good at. I have the attention span of a goldfish. Or maybe two goldfish. I’m maybe the most high functioning when I blog, but even here I feel like at least 95% of what I write is meaningless. And that for the remaining 5% others would be able to write it better, so maybe I should just leave it to someone else?

Mom says I compare too much and that comparing is not a useful thing to do because people are different. Because everyone is unique and that makes it more important to focus on improving by our own standards than to compare ourselves to others. And I guess she’s right – but the world is just too full of invitations to compare. Just take blogging, for a small example. It’s just too tempting to compare the number of likes, the number and quality of comments, the number of followers . . . And now that’s only blogging. The whole huge rest of the world is just as full of things that just beg for comparison and I don’t manage to ignore them.

It’s not like I choose to feel so bad about myself. I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m not worth anything. I just really don’t know how to feel any different most of the time. What I call improvements are just things that others take for granted and wouldn’t even bother mentioning. My improvement is that I have learned to tolerate feeling worthless without needing to self-harm immediately and without getting too dramatic over it. But really, what kind of an improvement is that? It’s still way worse than what most people my age are capable of. And yes, I know, I’m comparing again. Tough shit. I don’t know how not to.

So what do I make of that? I guess I just try to ignore the worthless feeling and hope it goes away. Or maybe I’ll try to do something nice for mom and hope it makes me feel a little less worthless. Like I’m at least capable of something good, even if it’s small and probably outweighed by everything that’s a mess. Whatever. Thanks for reading.

 

Want to read more on the subject?
– on Feeling inadequate
– on Feeling used or feeling useful?

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.

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.

The Many Faces of Self-Harm

When people think of self-harm, they usually think of severe behavior like self-inflicted cuts or burns. But at least for me, that’s only part of the picture.

In general self-harm is a way to cope. When I perceive no other solution to something that’s eating at me. Or have no words. Or feel to much. Or too little. Or the wrong things. I did and still do cut – the insides of my forearms, wrist to the crook of the elbow; I’m compulsive about only cutting there – but I cut much less often now, maybe once every two or three months. I also don’t shoplift and hide razor blades anymore. If I feel an overwhelming urge to cut and it doesn’t go away and substitutes just don’t do, I can cut under supervision. With a disinfected blade and proper care for the wounds.

But cutting is only a small part of self-harming for me. I employ many other means, too, and some of those are way harder to abandon than the cutting, because they are such spur-of-the-moment things and don’t cause visible harm like open wounds.

  • I gag myself with everyday items like a fork
  • I dress in inappropriate clothes or “forget” my sweater or coat to be cold
  • I eat stuff that makes me feel sick
  • I deliberately annoy others who are reactive to it, to meet the rejection I feel I deserve
  • I go without eating or drinking until it hurts and makes me dizzy
  • I persuade inappropriate partners to have sex to feel the worthlessness and shame
  • I fall down on purpose or jump down the stairs in a way that hurts at the joints
  • I touch the stinging nettles in the garden
  • I neglect my hygiene to have others tell me I smell or look bad
  • I hit body parts against a door frame
  • I pull at my hair or let it get caught in a zipper on purpose
  • I stand in the way of others hoping they will push me to the side
  • I dress in things that look cheap and slutty to make others perceive me so
  • I destroy things that mean something to me to punish myself

That’s all I can think of right now, but I’m sure there’s more. I usually am not even aware they are self-harming behaviors while I do them, so they are nasty to get rid of. Especially because I sometimes also employ them to force attention (like the gagging, which I usually do within sight of someone, as it’s behavior nobody will ignore), so that gives them double purpose (harm and attention) and makes it even harder to let them be.

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