Advice for my younger self ~ on BPD, PTSD and life

I have been through a series of ups and down lately (which felt like more downs than ups to me, really) and did a lot of talking with Mom because of it. Now that’s no real news, because we always do a lot of talking . . . but then it kinda felt significant when Mom reminded me of how in the beginning we did nearly no talking of this kind because I’d just scream that she hated me and that I hated her and threaten to do silly things whenever things worth talking about came up. Reminded me that I have come a long way already.

So given my past disinclination to talk about stuff – or listen to people talk about stuff – maybe this post doesn’t make any sense at all, because I probably would have just ignored my older self or told her to fuck off. But even so, here are some things I would tell my younger self if I got the chance:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Hang in there. Life seems horrible right now and it will continue to feel that way longer than you deserve, but you are in for real good stuff later. You will meet real good people. Not the kind of ‘good’ you know, but a REAL kind of good. So hang in there and don’t give up hope. The good stuff is worth waiting for, even when it’s an excruciatingly long wait.

Do not take unhealthy pride in your diagnosis of BPD and do not feel like you are less than anyone else because of it either. It’s just a word. I know you feel like there’s nothing good about you, but even when you don’t know it yet, you are more than a single word or any label can ever convey and lots of who you are has nothing to do with messed up relationship patterns. Try to find the parts of you that are healthy and lovable and work on them.

Do not fuck that guy. Seriously. Just don’t do it. No matter who he is. No matter what reason you think you should do it for. Just don’t do it. It’s not going to accomplish a thing. But don’t hate yourself for doing it either. You have poor impulse control, so it’s not you being a failure if you do it anyway. Just try your best not to. That’s all. And when you fail, try again. You’ll manage, eventually.

Don’t go around hating everybody. I know there are lots of people in your life who don’t get what’s up with you, but they aren’t doing it because they’re malicious or indifferent or because they hate you. They don’t even know you. Not properly. And really, I don’t expect you to love or even just to like them. Just don’t go around hating them is all. The person your hatred is going to hurt the most is yourself. And really, you hurt enough as it is. Don’t add to it in this way. Just ignore them and focus on whatever good stuff here is instead, even when there is not much.

It was not about you. All the shit that went wrong while you grew up, it was NOT about you. It was never about you. You were born right into the middle of a fucked up mess, but that mess has nothing to do with you. Your parents were struggling with and failing at their own life and took it out on you because you were there and you couldn’t fight back. But that’s not your fault. Nothing you did made it happen. You could have been any other way and it would still have happened. It was never about you.

Try your best to see the middle. Whatever there is, things have a middle. I know you slide all the way to one side and all the way to the other side all the time like life were a playground seesaw, but that’s because you haven’t learned to hold your balance yet, not because there is no middle. Nearly nothing is as extreme as it looks and feels to you. You’re like a kid on roller skates on a seesaw, whose roller skates go whichever way the seesaw tips all at once and it will be a while until you learn how to put yourself sideways to avoid the instantaneous skidding, but take my word for it that the middle IS there. Always. Try your best to see it, even when you aren’t able to stay there yet.

People are not their actions. Others aren’t and you aren’t either. Yes, you have done awfully disgusting things, but you are not what you have done. It’s not you who IS disgusting. The disgust you feel belongs with the actions, not with you as a person. I wish there was a way to help you feel that.

Sing. You’re good at it.

When that family comes along who want you to live with them, don’t be so hard on them. That woman who you’ll start out calling Samantha, she is going to be your mom one day and she’ll be the best mom you could ever ask for. Cut the yelling a little when you can. And don’t throw those things at her. Just tell her you’re afraid. She’ll understand. She’ll help you make it better. Just don’t throw all those things. Or at least don’t throw the chair. It’s not going to drive her out of your room. All it will do is hit her and you’ll feel awful for years to come that you did that.

The good stuff is yet to come. Like I said in the beginning. Take my word for it. I promise. It will come with lots of hard work and it does also come with truly hard and painful moments, but it’s going to be worth it.

Persevere. Persevere. Persevere. Learn from your mistakes. Persevere. And don’t forget to laugh at the absurd stuff when it happens. You’ll be in for plenty. Laughing at the absurdities is often the best thing you can do. You’ll do better one of the next times around. Persevere.

With love,
the older Lola 

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Ear Acupuncture Experience

So I summoned all my courage and went for an ear acupuncture appointment yesterday. I had already met the lady at a previous appointment, where she did all the explaining and stuff. I have some pain issues that need dealing with, but I am really 100% NOT fond of doctors and physical examinations. Besides, I already know that there is no strictly physical reason for the pain anyway. So what appealed to me was the possibility to try and treat the pain with no physical examination other than examining the ear and getting the acupuncture done. Anything that I can do fully clothed and that that doesn’t require people to touch me all over is a good thing in my book.

The downside was that the lady already told me that the ear examination and the acupuncturing does hurt a bit. She said it’s an okay to tolerate kind of pain, but still. So I was quite a bit nervous and felt very brave that I decided I want to give it a try nonetheless.

Mom went with me (of course, because without her I don’t go anywhere anyway, LOL) and it was good to have her along, as it soon turned out. Anyway, we went in and first the lady asked stuff like was I feeling alright today and did I still want to give it a go and did I want to have some tea. I said yes before the courage left me, but no to the tea, because I couldn’t focus on anything other than the acupuncturing anyway.

The first challenge was to lie down on the treatment table. I really don’t like it very much at all to be lying on my back in such an exposed spot in the presence of other people. So very quickly I felt like I didn’t want to do it after all and mom asked the practitioner lady to give us a moment alone in the room. The lady was quite good about it, told us to call her when we were ready, and went to the other room.

That made the lying down part okay. With only Mom around I’m good. So I lay down and got halfway comfortable. I also held on to Mom, just, like, you know, in case. After a while to get used to the awkward situation, I was good enough that mom could call the lady back in.

When she entered the room again she was carrying a blanket and gave it to mom. Somehow the lady had the good sense to stay away from the table while mom covered me, so that was good and I felt okay. Mind you, far from calm and relaxed, but okay enough that it was tolerable. So it was time for the ear examination part.

During the examination the practitioner lady poked the acupuncture points with a slim rod, one after the other, asked me to tell her when a point was tender and painful to poke, and made notes which points those were. That part was surprisingly okay. Mom was still by my other side, held my hand and smiled at me and while some points were quite painful, it was in the “ouch!” way like pinching, not real bad. And it was also okay because it didn’t require a lot of touching, besides the ear.

Then she was through with all the points and got the needles. What I liked was that she went real slow and asked me to tell her when I was ready. For a moment I panicked, because I didn’t want her to pierce me with a needle, even if it was a really thin one. It was good that mom was there and helped calm me down, reassuring me that I was in control and that if I didn’t want it to happen, nothing was going to happen, and all that. Which helped. And I figured that if I can cut myself with a razor blade, I can probably take the pain from the thin needles, too.

So the lady went ahead and first placed a needle at a neutral point, which didn’t hurt at all. I felt it, but it was not painful. She said that’s how neutral and healthy points feel and said the others will be more painful, because those are more active. And yeah, they WERE more painful. A very weird kind of pain, sharp and piercing, but surprisingly it didn’t feel like I needed to flinch or pull away. The lady asked me to focus on breathing out while she placed a needle, and that helped. She also waited until all the pain had subsided before placing another needle. So one by one, she poked ten needles into my ear in total, including the neutral one.

Then I needed to lie and wait for 20 minutes, during which the lady left me and mom alone again, but stayed within calling distance and checked in twice to see if everything was alright.

The waiting part was weird. Not painful at all anymore, which was good, but it was weird to be lying on the treatment table, waiting for time to pass, knowing ten needles were sticking out from my ear! LOL! But it was okay. Mom told me a silly little story and held my hand and stroked my hair and the wait ended up not even feeling all that long.

Taking the needles out was a bit painful again. More so on some points than on others. Some points wouldn’t even let go of the needle the first time around, so the practitioner lady left those a little longer and tried again until they would yield. Quite weird. I have no idea what inside the ear would be able to hold on to a needle, but some points definitely did!

Anyway, that was the whole procedure. Once the needles were out I could get up again and we were on our way home. At night I could still see the points where the needles had gone as red little dots, today they have mostly disappeared, but my ear still feels a bit tender and sore to the touch. Other than that, I feel fine. And a bit proud of myself that I went without much fuss and without drama!

If the ear is fully back to normal by then, I’ll go for the second appointment on next Tuesday. I really hope it’s going to work and will help against the pain! I remained pain-free yesterday, so that was a good start!

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.

On Being Adopted – Identity Issues

The other day I skyped with my sister. While we were talking, the topic of my being adopted came up and my sister asked if I ever felt weird about being adopted.

I have read a lot about issues adoptees usually struggle with, and in a way I can identify with those, but in another way their experience is different from mine. Not because of anything mental health related, just because of the fact that I was already (legally, not emotionally) an adult by the time I was adopted. So unlike people who were adopted when they were little, I had a choice about it. I wanted it, too.

What I can relate to, however, is the whole part that deals with loss, rejection, shame and identity. I only ever became an adoptee because I lost my family. Because my mother didn’t want me. Rejected me. As a person. As her daughter. Because she just didn’t care about me. That comes with an unspeakably overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and sense of being awfully undesirable.

Painful stuff, so I don’t want to go into much detail here and it’s not directly related to adoption for me either. Those feelings were there for a long time before I even met my family. But what has made an appearance after the adoption were identity issues.

Some are tricky.

I don’t share the same family history as everyone else. Everyone in my family knows each other for a long time already. They share memories and traditions and knowledge about a family history that goes at least three generations back and that they feel connected with, somehow. And it’s THEIR history, not mine, yet at the same time it is a little bit of mine, too, now. Feeling left out of something that ought to be mine, too, and having family memories that are different from theirs is difficult sometimes. It sometimes makes me feel like I’m not part of my own family. My first family didn’t want me and being with my real one, the one I have now, makes me feel left out.

Looks. I know it’s silly, but I find myself forever comparing how I look to how my family looks. I find myself being relieved that my oldest sister has blond hair, like I do, because it means that my mom and my dad can have blond children together. That’s important to me. My hair is blond. Everyone has blue eyes like I do, too. That’s another thing that’s reassuring. It means I don’t stand out as being obviously different. But they are all fairly tall and I’m short. I’m relieved that people mistakenly think it’s because I’m still a teenager and have yet to grow, but I figure they won’t keep on thinking that forever. I also have buck teeth (as you see in the picture I posted) and nobody else does. Those small things make me sad sometimes.

My name. I share my family’s last name. My mom gave me her middle name to be my middle name, too, because I didn’t have a middle name. My first name was chosen by my birth mother. I don’t miss the last name I grew up with, because it was the last name of my stepfather, who abused me. I wasn’t biologically related to him and I’m glad I don’t carry his name any longer. But even so I often feel like the same mix of things that my full name reflects. Complicated.

The contradiction that my adopted family feels like my real family and my birth family feels much less “real”, when the whole rest of the world thinks it might be the other way around. I’m always afraid that people will think that I am “only” adopted. That I’m not a REAL part of my family. When to me my family now feels like my real, true, actual family. I always feel like I need to make sure that everyone realized that I am REALLY my mom’s daughter. At the same time I’m afraid I might not be good enough to deserve to really be her daughter.

My social class identity. I’m from a working-class / underclass family. I grew up hearing that anyone who had a good job and money sucked, basically. That they were arrogant, self-righteous people, born with a silver spoon in their mouth, who have no idea of what life “really” is like and who look down on and don’t care about “people like us”. That’s what I believed for the longest time. And now my mom’s a shrink and my dad’s a lawyer, as white collar as it gets. They have a really neat house, can send all their kids to college, money is never an issue although my mom isn’t even working anymore, and I’m technically what my birth mother would have considered a “spoiled, arrogant rich kid”. Which adds so much guilt that I feel awful for even writing about it, much less identifying with it.

I suppose there are more issues, but those are the ones that came to my mind the easiest. So while I really, really like the fact that my family adopted me and that I belong with them properly and forever, it’s not always easy. It’s okay because my family knows and they help me and are understanding when I’m upset about stuff, but it can get complicated.

But even so, I’m very, very happy that I’ve been adopted and it is infinitely better than not belonging with anyone. I love my family more than I can say.  🙂

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:

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

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.

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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.

The ‘If I Were’ Game

I found the game in a self-harm workbook that I have. It’s an exercise to get a better idea of who you are, apparently. The rules are easy, you just try to figure out what you’d be if you were any of the following things. Here are my answers:

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

If I were a politician I would be

the politician who wouldn’t get enough votes because she’d not care about the traditional policitian-y things, but would try to make positive changes for minorities like people with mental health issues.

If I were a pop star I would be

Pink. Because she gets it. And because she rocks.

If I were a film star I would be

Hm, difficult. Angelina Jolie, probably. Because she appears to be a wild child who eventually found a purpose in her life. I’d love to be able to say the same about myself.

If I were in a soap opera I would be

the character who’s adding the drama, or the misunderstood misfit. I can play that role perfectly.

If I were a writer I would be

the writer who never dared to publish a single book, because she’s consumed with self-doubt.

If I were a book I would be

a diary, with lots of pages already written, new stuff on each page, and lots of pages still empty.

If I were a TV show host I would be

Ellen DeGeneres, because she’s funny and self-confident and makes people happy and pranks people, but never in the mean way (or at least never in the really bad mean way where the joke is on someone else whose feelings get hurt).

If I were a criminal I would be

hm… like Robin Hood maybe, stealing from the rich and mean to give it to those who need it.

If I were a religion I would be

a colorful religion that values love and virtues, and people thinking for themselves, and excluded all dogmatic directives that tell people how to behave and punished them for wrongdoing or thinking or living outside the box.

If I were a mythical beast I would be

a Phoenix, who burns up, but then rises from his own ashes.

If I were a Disney character I would be

Tinkerbell’s unruly sister. In black and hot pink.

If I were a drug I would be

a mood-destabilizer. LOL

If I were an animal I would be

a big cat. Cuddly towards those she loves, but with claws that won’t be messed with.

If I were a piece of food I would be

haha, silly question. Okay, let me think. I’d be… a… magical surprise fruit. Each bite might taste different.

If I were an illness I would be

the annoying cough that doesn’t go away.

If I were a mood I would be

unpredictable.

If I were a holiday resort I would be

an adventure resort where around every corner you’d find new challenges waiting for you.

If I were a pattern I would be

chaotic.

If I were a tree I would be

the crooked tree that grows at the edge of an abyss, digging its roots into the rock and trying its best to still grow upright, but never quite managing to make it back up over the edge properly.

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

There you go, my ‘if I were’ answers. Feel free to play, too. Let me know if you do, so I can come and read your answers.  🙂

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