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

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

Borderline Personality Disorder: Living with Fear and Uncertainty

When I listen to the eerie, haunting music of Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band, it takes me to a place of yearning, grief and loss and longing that I cannot identify and don’t understand. This is what my children would call Mum’s sad, weird, drunk music.  I used to listen to it in 2004 when I was not a well person.

How can you yearn for something that you don’t know exists?

How can you identify something when you are unaware of its existence?

How do you grasp onto something when it appears to have no substance?

If I discover and hold onto what it is will I be happy?

Do I really want to find out what it is that I am looking for?


Borderline Personality Disorder, David Cassidy and Letting Go

Ten years ago, I went to a David Cassidy concert in Perth and pressed myself up against the stage for him to come down and hold my hand, which he did.  But apparently I held on for so long he had to scream in my face, “LET GO!”

That was the best advice I have ever received.  I have finally taken David up on his offer and would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his insight and wisdom.  I have let go.  I have let go of all that emotional baggage I have been carrying around with me for nearly fifty years.

Imagine carrying fifty kilos of rubbish on your back, an amount that has accumulated with every year you have lived on this earth, then picture yourself dumping it forever down a deep, deep shaft.

After embracing mindfulness and acceptance I have done that and the feeling of freedom that entails is quite an intoxicating experience.  That is not to say my problems have vanished in a puff of blue smoke; quite the contrary, they are still there only now I have a different attitude towards them.  I am not carrying them on my back.  They appear to have taken on an amorphous, abstract quality whereby they exist somewhere in space and time but are no longer part of me.  They are a separate entity that has no power, no legitimacy and no control over my thoughts, feelings, actions and behaviours.


Borderline Personality Disorder: Guilt, Shame and Disgust

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. 


Mental Health Day: Borderline Personality Disorder: Email and Text Addiction with your Therapist

Emailing and texting your therapist can be (for some) more addictive than cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.  The reward neurotransmitter dopamine floods your brain and motivates you to do more of the same. This is the same neurotransmitter secreted when you snort cocaine.  Even a simple email exchange can do this for some.  It’s not what drug you take, it’s the effect that drug has on your brain.

Until recently I had full email privileges with my therapist which led to gross feelings of narcissistic entitlement.  I haven’t seen her in therapy since April and I still expected her to be available electronically 24/7.  I would get upset when she didn’t reply within 12 hours.  If she did not reply immediately, I would get rude and hostile and she would apologize.

This relationship was not healthy for either of us.  We were merged and sometimes not in a healthy, nurturing, supportive, way.  Partly because of her availability, I would lurch from one crisis to another expecting her to resolve my life with a few words on an electronic form of communication.  Eventually she emailed that this had to stop and that I could email her, not every day, but every once in a while, and not to expect an immediate reply because quite frankly she was feeling overwhelmed.  She also said I was welcome to come back to therapy any time I wanted to.


Borderline Personality Disorder: Mindfulness and Acceptance with Rude People

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. 


How Well Do You Know Your Therapist?

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). 


Tattoos -vs- a PhD

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.


Mental Influenza: Borderline Personality Disorder with Acceptance and Mindfulness

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. 


Mindfulness and Mind Snaps

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?