Keeping the Peace

Self-Care.

We all say that we to work on that. But, what does self-care even mean?

I can’t tell you the number of surface-level Facebook posts I see that preach about self-care. They say it is is all about taking baths with one of those weird bath bomb things, getting your hair done, using a face mask. Girly stuff like that.

Sure, that is all great. It might even relax you for a certain period of time. My question is this: how does that help you on the inside? How are you processing the things in life that made you go sit in the tub in the first place?

I would love to be one of those “sitting by the candle light listening to Enya in the tub” types of girls.

But I’m not.

I did used to do the bath thing. I even do the face mask thing. The problem is that once the clothes come off I am sitting in  a pool of water with my fat rolls being well…fat rolls. When I take of the face mask, my face is still my face (a face I have loathed my entire life) .

You know why those things aren’t relaxing to me? or to others?

Self esteem, hurt, pain, trauma, stress, and all of that other negative crap.

Self care is more than all of that. Self care is letting yourself scream into an oblivion when the anger is too much. Self care is letting yourself cry so hard you make yourself sick. It is taking your medication, taking out the garbage, and remembering to eat food. Even if you don’t think you need to remember to do  these things, you do. I know perfectly functional people who don’t get enough sleep, or eat junk food because they don’t take the time to plan a meal.

That is how mental warfare happens. You don’t deescalate the situation, but you let all of those sleepless nights, all of that junk, and all of that stress pile up. It is unresolved conflict. And, we all know, that between two countries, if there is conflict, there will be war.

Learn to settle the score between the two countries of the human psyche; the body and the mind. Do it fast. Do it now

Learn to keep the peace.

 

 

For When “Calm Down” Isn’t Enough

I think that one of the biggest struggles of trying to communicate distress to another person is that there aren’t always enough words to say what it is you’re feeling. This isn’t exclusive to the mentally disordered population. I feel as though every person has had an experience where he or she has tried to communicate some seemingly astronomical thought to another, and the words don’t come out right. The other person doesn’t hear you, or you don’t even know what to say.

So, sometimes, when you are stressed, the other person says the most dreaded two words in the human language: Calm down.

That isn’t enough, is it? If you wanted to be calm, you would be. You may even engage in self talk that consists of those very words. Maybe you get so pissed at yourself that it doesn’t work.

So what do you do?

This page isn’t an advice column. I cannot provide the template for coping mechanisms for how to make the impossible feelings feel tangible, real, and tolerable.

But, here is what I do.

I remember that I am only human. If there is an emotion I am feeling, someone else has felt it too. We learn in psychology that there are universal emotions: anger, sadness, joy, you name it. When we speak to clients, we ask them to name those feelings. It isn’t just for kicks. By naming those feelings, you claim them. You make all of those impossible, pent up feelings a reality. You narrow down to the truth.

What happens from there?

That is the hard part. For me, personally, that is the hard part of living with personality disorder. I am beyond terrified of feeling anything, because every time I do it goes to such extremes that I feel as though I will never go back to my “normal”.

But, I am only human.

My trick is to treat my BPD self as an entirely different person. I named him Boris. Every time Boris comes out to play, makes my life a living hell, I tell myself “Shut up Boris, you have no idea what you are talking about”.

This allows me the chance to acknowledge that presence, to understand it is there. However, it allows me to understand that the stress can be managed. The feeling is temporary. All emotions are temporary.

You cannot change the way your brain is wired, necessarily. We try to with medications, cognitive restructuring, you name it.

We can change the way we choose to deal with it. With practice. With time. With patience.

Learn to be patient with yourself. Patience is a virtue.

The BorderLion

Dear Reader,

For the sake of privacy, let’s call me Clare. So, my name is Clare, I am a graduate student studying psychology, and I live with mental illness.

Now, for those of you who are also in the field of psychology, you are well aware that you don’t seek such a profession without a personal connection to mental illness.

So, why do I think I am so special?

Truth is, I don’t. I think I am the most boring person in some ways. I spend many days drinking beer, watching Netflix, pretending I am doing homework, while my cat sits in a cat-nip fueled stupor on my lap. Not exactly what you would call “exciting”.

However, if you could just hear my thoughts out loud..hoooooooo boy. That would be something else.

You see, while I am spending my days on the couch and texting, watching Netflix, etc. My mind is a complete war zone.

If I am having a conversation with a friend, and he or she doesn’t respond within half an hour, or only responds with “yep”, “ok”, “k”. Here is how it goes:

“Oh my god. That person hates me. I did something to upset them. Why am I like this? Why am I such a fuck up? I fuck everything up. I annoyed that person and now they won’t ever talk to me again. Why does anyone talk to me anyway? You’re fucking worthless. Stop trying and just delete the message and their number so you stop bothering them”. (I think everyone in my contacts has been deleted from my phone probably anywhere between 1-10 times, depending on my relationship with that person).

So, then here comes the tailspin. I start pacing around my apartment, screaming about how terrible that person is for abandoning me. I tell myself that I don’t need that person anyway. How DARE they treat me like that?

Here come the waterworks.

Sometimes this mood will last a few minutes or several hours. My former self would have used this time to cut or do drugs, or become a keyboard warrior and cut that person from my life or try to hurt them the way they “hurt” me.

 

*******

This is Borderline Personality Disorder. Sounds scary, yeah? It isn’t as bad as it sounds, at least not anymore. By definition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by a number of traits such as impulsive behavior, fear of perceived abandonment, history of suicide attempts, history of substance abuse, low self esteem, self mutilation, and a whole clusterfuck of things that belong in the depression and anxiety categories of the DSM.

So,

Why do I write this? What is the point?

I can tell you one thing, it isn’t for attention. I draw enough attention to myself simply by my appearance, my crass sense of humor, and my general presence in the room.

I write this because I feel as though I have a responsibility as a psychologist and as someone living with mental illness to assume all meanings of the term “advocate”. Yes, it is frowned upon in professional settings to disclose your own mental health status. This is something I struggle with at times. But the way I see it is this: we discuss cases, read textbooks, and all of this other shit to learn how to understand people. This is our job. So, why doesn’t it make sense to discuss the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that we all have seen or felt ourselves? There is no one case in the book for how to treat X disorder. There is no template. There is only experience. Why not share that with each other, so we can help the next guy? Not all people are the same, but NOT ALL PEOPLE ARE THE SAME.

So, back to advocacy.

I have learned over the years to be comfortable with my condition after like…. 10 years of being painstakingly embarrassed and ashamed to be this way. I felt like no one understood me, or even if I “came out” with my condition, no one wanted to accept it. So, I accept it for myself.

The most hurtful truth of living with mental illness is that no one wants to talk about it. Those who live with mental illness are silent warriors. It is one thing to get in a fight with another person, but just try to imagine what it is like to constantly fight yourself. Sucks, right?

That is the loneliest feeling sometimes. Knowing that no one can see how you hurt. Or when you tell someone how you hurt, they tell you to get over it.

Alone.

So here is the whole point of this page: no one should be alone.

As dark as BPD is, it gives me an immense capability to love, to feel empathy, to feel compassion, and to protect those who I love.

Sometimes, those who live with BPD call themselves “BorderLions” as a commendation to the strength, willpower, and fight we put into life day by day.

I write this to share my life as it goes by. To break the ceiling on the misconceptions of mental illness. I am a functional Borderline who is capable of love, relationships, academic achievement. I am capable of survival. No matter what you struggle with, no matter how many times you tell yourself you can’t make it, you are fighting the fight with all of us. With me. And I welcome you.

So, my goal with this blog is to reach out to all of you, friend to friend, family member to family member, colleague to colleague, BorderLion to BorderLion.

You are not, and will never be, alone.