The difference between my young Borderline self and my older, somewhat wiser Borderline self is that I may still have the same intense feelings of rage, paranoia and injustice, but I now sit in those feelings and try to discover what they mean to me and channel them into a different, more positive direction. Instead of hating civilisation and its discontents I embrace the suffering, look inward and transform it into a learning opportunity for personal and spiritual growth. Part of that was learning to love what I already had instead of seeking out what didn’t belong to me and never would. The Buddha said, “Suffering is inevitable.” And it is – sometimes. It is what we do with that suffering that counts. I had to learn to lie down beside the Borderline bull, embracing her lacerating horns at a level we were both comfortable with.
After fifty years of eating disorders, lap bands, a small bowel obstruction, kidney cancer, malnutrition, metabolic syndrome and diabetes type 2, I was further diagnosed with a lump on my ovaries in August 2012. So I went to see my disease-free, de-toxed, slim, fit, healthy, yoga-inspired, meditative, free-range, organic, body-centred clinical psychologist who advised to me to do what she had been advising me to do for the past 17 years. Look after myself, be kind to myself, be gentle with myself and start to eat and exercise accordingly. What would you know about life? I thought, as I threw my last sugar binge in her outdoor bin before taking off on holiday with my husband.
Bali for me is usually one long, eating/drinking self-indulgent binge punctuated with cheap shopping sprees in and around Kuta – buying clothes I never wear and items I would sneer at back in Australia. This time we stayed at Lovina Beach and Ubud and I made the epiphanous decision to eat organic vegetarian, drink detox blends and spend as much time as possible being mindful at the Yoga Barn. I also relished the idea of torturing myself by hiking 500m almost vertically down (and back …
When therapy is over and you are healed to the best of your ability, is it time to mourn or celebrate the end of the therapeutic relationship?
At what point in therapy should an experienced therapist tell a long-term client with a Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, in an unsolicited manner, that they love them?
This is what my therapist said at the last session I had with her. I do love you.
It was a major catalyst, amongst other things, for my decision to leave therapy back in April. Our email relationship limped along for few months until I finally pulled the pin. That occurred this morning.
The overwhelming sense of freedom, relief and empowerment is tinged with much sadness, grief, loss and longing. I loved her dearly and she said she loved me, but only in the context of a therapy client within her four walls. It was not a marriage proposal and we are not going to walk off into the sunset and live happily ever after in a house with a white picket fence.
I can live with that. Finally.
I was recently at a social function and eagerly went up to this woman I work with, touched her shoulder and said, “Hi, how are you?” She stared at me, looked very uncomfortable and frantically searched around for either someone more interesting to talk to or someone to rescue her from me.
This is a woman I have found curt, abrupt, dismissive, snappy and abrasive in the past. I have never had an interaction with her where I have left feeling as though a warm breeze has blown through me, but rather a cold, icy wind that has left my whole being feeling fractured and discombobulated.
I knew this and yet I still went up to talk to her because, as a chronic masochistic people-pleaser, I unfailingly seek approval and acceptance from totally wrong and inappropriate graceless women. I cannot bear the pain of rejection and abandonment from anyone even though I did not like her and essentially had split her into the “bad” part of the good and bad. I always had an intense negative emotional reaction to her, felt deflated, empty and questioned who I thought was, and after an interaction with her I wanted to throw myself off a cliff.
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.
I have two older women in my life who have both had a major influence over me. One is my mother, the woman who gave biological life to me; and the other is my therapist, the woman who assisted in my spiritual birth, growth and maturation.
My mother loves me. She cooks me dinner, buys me Christmas presents, takes me shopping, goes on bike rides and walks around lakes with me, swaps family photos, lends me books and CDs and takes me across town to the doctors where she has to wait for two hours before taking me out to lunch and paying for me. My therapist is very fond of me and I pay her $150 for a 55 minute structured conversation during which she very kindly makes me a cup of tea.
I can ring my mother any time of the day or night and speak to her for as long as I want. I can visit her any time; I do not have to make an appointment, where I am the three o’clock slotted in between the 2pm and the 4pm. I can ring my therapist any time as well, as long as it is not too often, within business hours, and for a very brief period of time.
Six years ago I was officially diagnosed by a psychiatrist in a psychiatric hospital as having…drum roll please…BORDERLINE PERSONALITY DISORDER. He said it to me in the same way he would announce he had a plague of rats infest his kitchen, discovered I had a sexually transmitted disease or that he had just found out I supported Tea Party candidate Sarah Palin. It was delivered with revulsion, disgust and contempt.
Today I proudly come out of the BPD closet and out myself as having one of the most reviled and hated personality disorders ever constructed by the most esteemed and eminent fundamentalist gentlemen writers of the Psychiatric Bible the DSM – Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
1. It’s OK to unplug yourself from your computer/laptop/Iphone/Ipad for the day/week/month or year. You will survive.
2. Fashion designers please note that we size 18-28s want the same trendy funky clothes as size 8-18s not shapeless fluorescent paisley tent/tablecloths more suited to the parachute or distress signal industry.
3. There is no such thing as a low fat sultana and ricotta slice.
4. How many of your 1,249 facebook friends would let you borrow their car, lend you $500 or give you a helping hand in a crisis?
5. Your Facebook status updates are relevant and important only to you and your mother.
6. Overpopulation, consumerism and credit card debt will destroy the planet – not global warming, the Mayan Calendar nor Harold Camping’s visions of the Apocalypse.
After fifteen years in therapy I have many magic moments to remember as well some truly excruciatingly embarrassing ones. There were times I thought I might have to move to a foreign country in order to escape the sheer mortification of it all.
Here are my top five awkward moments in therapy.
1. Treading on your Therapist’s Toes – Literally.
Back on July 12th 2006, we had a particularly poignant therapy session and we got up to give each other a hug. As I stepped forward and wrapped my arms around her, I stepped on her foot then almost dislocated my ankle lifting it off so that we could continue the hug. I left her office hoping against hope that she had not noticed her toes being crushed and mangled into the carpet. There was no obvious limp as she walked me to the door though. Although we are both around the same height I weigh considerably more than she does – and I was wearing heavy black boots at the time. I still blush when I think about it.
Letting go of the fantasy of a post-therapy relationship with your beloved therapist means you are ready to move on from the transference. When your mind starts to shift from an enmeshed relationship with another to a singular meaningful relationship with yourself where the focus is now “me” and not “we” it signals a profound shift in cognitive thinking.
There is much self-examination and reflection and untold pain that comes with this. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living and I have explored every possible nook and cranny of my inner life. Letting go of someone you love is the hardest part and this creates a vacuum which needs to be filled with something that is just as meaningful. Never take a crippled person’s crutch away from them unless you have a replacement that is equally as effective. But before you do that, you need to reach into all corners of transference options and the therapist who is willing to explore every aspect of your attachment to him/her and their own considerable counter-transference issues and/or attachment to you is doing themselves and their client a huge favour.