Therapist as role-model Articles

Borderline Personality Disorder: Healing in Bali

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

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 …


Borderline Personality Disorder: Good Will Hugging

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

huggingI was surprised to find “Good Will Hunting” on our DVD recorded movies list. Apparently my oldest son, Matt recorded it thinking it was about guns. A great movie, and it was the bit at the end that settled an eternal question for me. Matt Damon hugs Robin Williams and says: “Doesn’t this violate the doctor/patient relationship?” and Robin Williams replies, “Only if you grab my arse.”

So, let’s get to the bottom of this once and for all. If it is OK for therapeutic couples to hug, then here are some types of therapy room hugs that might be considered appropriate:

The Stealth Hug: This happened for me about eight years ago. I saw her in the corridor wearing a green jumper and a black pleated skirt and I made a snap decision, so when I got into the room, I launched myself at her. She was quite startled, but put her arms around me and hugged. That, by the way, is the only correct response when a client stealth hugs a therapist. Had she refused, my mortification factor would have been stratospheric and I would have had to leave immediately – never to come back again. When a therapist refuses a client’s stealth hug it can make the client feel contaminated at best and the embodiment of evil at worst.


Borderline Personality Disorder: Self-esteem vs Self Destruction

Monday, July 30th, 2012

BPD and self esteemThere is a saying in a self-help group I used to be in back in the eighties. When a “normal” person gets a flat tire, they call the Automobile Association. When someone with (what’s now known as BPD) gets a flat tire, they call the suicide hotline. There’s an awful lot of truth in that.

My goal recently has been to respond rather than react to what I perceive are excruciatingly provocative circumstances and situations. I want to think and act with grace and dignity, to deep breathe, turn around, walk away, move on, learn the lesson and get a life. This attitude has, in the past, kept me in relationships, out of the law courts, out of jail, out of psychiatric hospitals, in employment and in therapy (or life coaching as we are now doing).

No longer is my therapist my nurturing supporter, smothering me endlessly with loving/kindness, reassurances of never abandoning me and justifying my bad behaviour and lack of social skills as a result of my environment. We have a more pragmatic egalitarian relationship where I feel mentored, rather than mental.


BPD: Narcissistic Injuries, Madness and Mindfulness

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

When you suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder (or complex trauma) one person’s constructive criticism or negative response is another person’s life-threatening narcissistic injury. I received a narcissistic brain hemorrhage this week when my challenging and authoritative therapist decided it was not relevant to our therapy to watch a video link I had emailed her.

My borderline reaction went to DefCon One in less than a nanosecond and I thought my brain would implode.

To be fair to myself, my thoughts remained relatively mindful (she’s said no before for the same reasons and yet I continue to email her things; it could be said that an idiot does the same thing all the time and expects a different response. If that is the case, then I am that idiot) but my body was transported instantly back to the mid-seventies where school bullying and parental fighting had finely tuned my fight, flight or freeze response.


Borderline Personality Disorder – Accepting Criticism Mindfully

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Learning how to accept criticism graciously is a form of art, but for me it is a work of art in progress. This is because I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and part of that syndrome is being unable to tolerate critical comments, no matter how well-meaning.

So what happens when I get criticized? No matter how mindful my brain wants to be, my body has an anaphylactic reaction. I feel as though someone has thrown acid in my face. I feel my body disintegrating and my internal organs shutting down and psychological and physical death is imminent. Does that sound familiar to you?

This isn’t planned, this isn’t about me being a Drama Queen or a Princess with a slipped tiara; it’s about staying alive. I go into survival mode where I have to sit in a chair, breathe deeply, count my fingers and toes and make sure that I am all here. I have to detoxify my body before I can even start to work out cognitively what was said, why it was said and what the ramifications of the criticism were.


Borderline Personality Disorder: Emotional Punching Bags

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

At what point does a therapist decide to terminate a client because their relationship has broken down? Over the past three years writing my blog I have received many emails from therapy clients telling me that their therapists terminated them, either for no reason or for a small infraction within the relationship.

Are therapists being over-sensitive or are clients diagnosed with borderline personality disorder unaware of their own personal lack of empathy towards someone who is on their side? Being terminated for relationship issues with the therapist does not make sense to me. The entire reason we are in therapy is because we have huge external relationship problems and this plays out in the therapeutic relationship and the therapist should be aware of this.


Borderline Personality Disorder: Ring Someone Who Cares

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

It used to be that if I ever ran into my therapist at a café, at the airport, in a restaurant, or walking down the street, I would have to walk out, catch a different plane, leave my meal or cross the street and get hit by a bus. She once said to me that I would have moved on when I could pass her in public, either wave or not wave, and my care factor would not be there.

So how do I avoid either the impending feeling of doom and chaos or the sheer guilty pleasure and excitement of seeing my therapist outside of therapy for free? I have had a mixed reaction on the handful of occasions I have seen her or her car out in the wide, wide world.


Borderline Personality Disorder: Getting Fired From Many Jobs

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Over the years, I’ve been fired, resigned or walked out (before I was pushed) on more jobs than there are symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.  I never understood why this was happening to me and I always thought it was the company’s fault, the other employees fault or that the Universe hated me.

There was always a honeymoon period where I fitted in for a couple of months, then came unstuck when the first small drama occurred.  This was always followed by a huge behavioural reaction from me.  I had not learned how to accept the vagaries of how companies operated, the diverse range of personalities concerned and my own borderline reaction to real or perceived workplace situations.  I reacted before I reasoned.


Borderline Personality Disorder: What’s Love Got to Do With it?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

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.


Borderline Personality Disorder: Guilt, Shame and Disgust

Monday, October 17th, 2011

It occurred to me the other day that I had not thought about myself in terms of excessive guilt, shame and disgust for many months.  This coincided around about the time I started my new job working with self-actualised people in the mental health field and making long overdue decisions about what sort of people I surrounded myself with in my private life.

I never seemed to have the discriminatory powers to know who was good for me, who was not good for me and who was perfectly evil in my life.  I also put strict boundaries around certain family members.  There are people in my life determined to make me feel shame and guilt because that is what they do best. 


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