When I found out my clinical psychologist barracked for the Fremantle Dockers, I could not have been more surprised than if she’d pushed up the arm of her shirt to reveal a Southern Cross tattoo. In Australia AFL Aussie Rules football and the Southern Cross is as Australian to us as baseball and the Stars and Stripes is to Americans.
So just how well do we know our therapists? Not very well at all, I think we’d be surprised if we got to know them well, after all isn’t it the not-knowing mystique about them that is so alluring? The only reason I know she loves football and sits on a cold concrete bench in the middle of winter braving the elements and waving a purple, red and green scarf is because I once saw a sticker on the back of her car. She did tell me that she also has active facebook and twitter accounts.
I had imagined her more as an arty-farty literati museum and art gallery type (aren’t all psychologists) and not a footy and facebook fan. It is cognitively dissonant to think of her screaming for her team whilst updating her status rather than reading esoteric poetry with glasses perched on the end of her nose and a crocheted rug over her lap in front of a roaring fire. Or standing up holding an artists palette in front of a canvas and painting an award winning piece of abstract art, or perhaps reading Hemingway or Dickens (and actually enjoying them), or stitching a complicated intricately patterned tapestry, or better still, writing long wordy articles for peer reviewed psychology journals and avidly writing the self-help book she has been planning to ever since I met her (which is now 15 years and counting – and no book in sight).
I wanted my first-born son to get a PhD and instead he decided to get a tattoo. I was horrified. I told this man-child, who not only towers above me but is also turning 18 next month, that the answer was an emphatic no. Under no circumstances would he ever be allowed to defile his body. It was a slap in the face of motherhood for me.
I have two boys and a girl and they are so different from each other that one of our close friends remarked in jest that they must have had different fathers. No, they didn’t but as any mother will tell you, no two children are alike. My youngest son is academically inclined and my daughter is a qualified chef and her boyfriend is studying for his Masters degree.
I value education above all else and my family are more than aware of this. What mother doesn’t want the best for her children and I saw higher education, good manners and strong standards as part of being the best. A tattoo is a symbol of rebellion and defiance and I would be ashamed of having a son with a tattoo. Tattoos have no place in my perfect family.
For someone was has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, it can take a long time to recover from the anaphylactic shock of raging, damaging emotions that are coursing through our blood when we experience an attack on ourselves. During this time many physical symptoms of post-rage illness are experienced and this I like to call “mental influenza.”
Even though one can have much insight into the “who, what, where, when, why and how” of the scope, breadth and dimension of these rageful feelings and/or attacks you can still be left with the shocking after effects of the toxic flooding of your system; the blackness and physical feelings that leave you with a sense of vertigo, numbness, breathlessness and weakness, the sensation of lightheadedness and giddiness where you think you are going to pass out. These feelings simply don’t diminish as quickly as they should and days later they can still be hanging around at the same intensity level as when they first happened.
One of the nine symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling one’s temper. It has been written many times that these symptoms seem to lessen or even disappear when middle age comes around, but my thoughts are sometimes they just get driven underground as we get older. Sufferers of BPD can still feel these intense, angry feelings, they are just better controlled, especially the ones who have had therapy or worked on their issues. It takes much mindfulness to get through emotionally intense experiences without having a meltdown.
I have learned over the many years of my therapy that although I am no longer the angry, rageful person I used to be, I can still surprise myself by having a one-off major brain-snap when conditions are ripe or the planets are misaligned. Most of the time I control my outward actions; in fact I cannot remember the last time I lost my temper completely. Mindfulness training, CBT, Buddhism, meditation, yoga and bush and lake walking has given me much peace of mind – but does a leopard truly change its spots or have they just faded away or changed shape?