Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stinkin' Thinkin'

There are so many thoughts running through my head right now. Some of them make sense, some of them don't, and all of them keep overlapping. I'm trying to be up front about how I feel, and describing my symptoms as they are happening. A lot of the time I will project my anger, or isolate my feelings. I think being about to cut through emotion mind and rationally explain what my head is going through shows a lot of progress and self-awareness.

My thinking tends to be really distorted sometimes; which makes sense since cognitive distortions are a big part of BPD. Black and white thinking is a major trait I deal with and it's so ingrained in me that sometimes I don't realize it's happening or I will deny it. Either everything is all good or all bad, either people like me or they hate me. There's no in between. If there is a situation where everything is great except for one thing my black and white thinking will tend to be in the black because of my low self-worth and filtering (which I'll talk about in a bit). This type of thinking tends to lead to other cognitive distortions. The following is a great link that describes perfectly a lot of my thinking patterns

15 Common Cognitive Distortions

The times that cognitive distortion affect me the most is when it comes to people, especially if that person is my FP (favorite person). People with BPD tend to do what is called "splitting." We see people as either "good" or "bad," and there is no in between. Understanding splitting is a huge factor in understanding BPD. It's really difficult for me to understand that a person can be angry at me and still care about me. My low self-esteem and self-worth often has me jumping to conclusions about how people feel about me. Someone isn't responding to a message? They must be angry. Because of my intense fear of rejection and abandonment (real or imagined) I react with frantic efforts to avoid or make things better. Unfortunately this leads to a chain of events that can often end up suffocating me. The closer I am to someone, the more I have them on that "Borderline pedestal" the worse it is. It sorta goes like this.

"Someone isn't responding? They must be angry. Better message them insensitively. Crap, they still aren't replying. Now they are probably mad I was so annoying. Goddess, I'm so stupid. Why did I do that? I had one chance to show them I'm not a crazy person. Okay, I can fix this. Let me just message them again and apologize. Oh fuck, they still aren't responding. Now I feel super guilty."

And so on until I'm so deep into emotion mind that it it literally feels like nothing is going to be able to pull me out. It becomes really difficult for me to think rationally and the only thing that will help is seeing that person or them giving me a definitive, "I'm not made." Even that doesn't help. Sometimes I need more, like for them to compliment me, spend time with me, hug me, say something nice to me. Then I feel relief, but it's always only for a little bit. 

Another form of cognitive thinking I commonly do is filtering, "We take the negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive aspects of a situation. For instance, a person may pick out a single, unpleasant detail and dwell on it exclusively so that their vision of reality becomes darkened or distorted."

Memory loss and distortion is something a lot of people with BPD struggle with. Emotion mind and especially disassociation can cause slight amnesia and/or memory loss. Sometimes I can't even remember what is real and what is made up in my head. This can be extremely frustrating for me in my daily life. I have trouble recalling past medical history at the doctors, trying to find something I lost often results in me having a melt down, and I almost always end up feeling incredibly stupid.

The other day I went into town to have some time to myself. I ended up losing my train/bus pass, and basically panicked because I couldn't get on the train. Often when stuff  like that happens the blinders will go up, I'll freeze with panic, and start catastrophizing (another cognitive distortion). In my mind if I didn't get a new pass before I went home then my whole life was going to be ruined. I wasn't being "dramatic", this was literally what my brain thought was rational thinking. I managed to fight through the fact I was feeling completely mortified, and the emotion mind enough to reach out ask people for help. Since I don't have a whole lot of friends in the area (most of my friends live across or out of state), there's usually a core group of people I ask. One of these people has been GL. I feel incredibly guilty asking him for help because it always happens after he's told me he's busy or can't hang out so I fear he will think I am doing it on purpose. 

He ends up being the one to help me, but not before standing in front of me in public and reprimanding me. He told me he didn't understand why this kept happening, that it was the third time in 8 months he's had to help me with transportation issues and most people he knows it happens maybe three times in their life time. Imagine someone like me, who already has such low self worth; who already feels incredibly guilty and how I felt when that happened. Then combine the fact that I react very badly to what I perceive as public scolding with how I was already feeling with the fact GL is one of my FP's. Never mind that despite what he said, he still helped me. Never mind that his natural way of talking can often come off as harsh. I immediately started filtering, generalizing, black and white thinking.

Another thing that happened was a react very very badly to a comment a friend made about my favorite football team. It may sound silly, but I have a lot of weird triggers surrounding football and a certain team's fan base. I made a post explaining, but will talk about it here as well.

My main issue with fans of team A started back in Middle School. I was already someone who was bullied (and don't say, "everyone is bullied in Middle School." No, they aren't, and even if they were it doesn't make it okay.), but during the weeks leading up to the 1997 Super Bowl it was even worse. For those two weeks I had kids make fun of me, shout at me in the halls; I even had food thrown at me in the cafeteria. I would go home every single day crying and scared to go to school the following. All because I wasn't rooting for team A. I was severely bullied for not going along with he crowd (my favorite team was the opposing team). Being someone that had a lot of shit to deal with through out middle and previously in elementary (death of my grandmother, parents going bankrupt, moving, parents divorce), I was a very fragile kid. This was around the time my disorder more than likely started developing. Therefor this experience is permanently etched in my head as a traumatic one. I know #notallfans, but my disorder doesn't know that; and I think that's what people aren't getting. When I am in emotion mind or disassociated I do not see fans of team A as individual people. I see them as a collective being, and treat them as such. No, it's not just something I can turn off. This isn't me making an excuse in order to say the things I say, it's really how my brain works. My Mom and Sister are team A fans. Do you really think I'd say the things I say on here if I was sitting in the living room with them and my nephew?
More recently I've associated team A to SG. Their QB is pretty much his hero, and he's about as big of I'm not going to go into the whole story about what's recently happened with SG (you can probably figure it out), but I will say that it's hard for me to see team A win and not think of SG being happy. My disorder doesn't like that because SG hurt her multiple times, and so it wants him to hurt just as much as I am.
Sometimes if something is bothering me, and it gets to be too much I will use projection combined with overgeneralization. I will go back to the time in middle school, Project my anger and fear onto current fans and assume that they feel how I do. In my mind I am "getting to them first" before they can hurt me. The problem with using these defense mechanisms is at the end I turn that anger inward. People with BPD already feel deep shame almost all the time, so this will cause me to feel it even more so.Trust me when I say there's is no amount of anger, shame, guilt, and disappointment that you can have in me that equals the amount I have in myself sometimes. When my pain and anger gets really extreme I go into what's called, "disassociation." Disassociation has different "levels", but it's basically an out of body experience. One article describes it as,
I simply go to a void in my mind, a place of ultimate nothingness. Only I exist there–a silent blackness surrounds me. Once there, I basically operate on auto-pilot. I feel like I’m watching a movie. I’m aware of what I’m doing, but it seems distant. I later can not recall what happened.
This is probably the closest someone has come to describing what disassociation is like for me. When I'm in that "auto-pilot" I forget about individual people (as mentioned before), sometimes I can pull myself back just enough to block certain people from seeing my status, but then I'm pulled right back in. There's part of me, as mentioned in the quote, that is aware but it's like I'm watching someone else do it. As far as the last part, I do not have complete amnesia, but I do have memory loss. It's actually quite common for someone with BPD to experience memory issues. It's also very frustrating, since it often happens in emotion mind.
So when my friend made that comment it basically triggered everything above, and I went into a blind rage. The only thing that would stop it was trying to hurt him the same way he hurt me. Of course all that ended up happening was I felt embarrassed and shitty about myself.
Despite all of this, I am proud of myself. I am proud that I am so self-aware, and I am proud that I have no acted on my thoughts. My feelings are valid and I have a right to them, it's what I do with them that matters. Often people expect big changes in progress that they don't notice the little things. I may have suicidal ideation, but I don't act on it. That's an improvement. I may post something super passive aggressive, but I delete it. That's an improvement. I may lash out at someone, but I apologize. That's an improvement. Unfortunately all people see are the ideation, the lashing out, the passive aggressiveness. That's why I always say the only person who can judge my progress is me. Imagine the following scenario.

A man is driving and his car breaks down. He starts walking for miles and get attacked by a bear. He manages to get away from the bear and continues walking. He meets a man who mugs him and leaves him bloody. Finally after more miles of walking he comes to a gas station. He walks in; clothes ripped, dirty, bloody, mumbling, and out of breath. The has station attendant just sees what looks like a crazy homeless person. He doesn't know what he's been through the past 20+ miles before. He only knows the man from that point. Only the man truly knows his journey and everything he's overcome.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Quick Thoughts (Love)

Having BPD means that I feel things really intensely. Imagine burns covering your whole body, that's what emotions are like for me. The strongest of those emotions are often anger and love.

So that is why I am sitting here tonight, tears streaming down my face, unable to turn my thoughts away from SG. He has caused me more pain than any other person in my life. He lied to me, abandon me; but that's not the worst. He made me trust him again, and then did the same exact to me. He hurt me, multiple times, and I'm so angry with him. I'm angry that he gave me a false sense of security and optimism. I'm angry that he's on dating sites, but doesn't talk to me. I'm angry that he won't give me closure, that he told me he wanted to be friends and then ghosted me again. Obviously there's a lot of detail involved for those who don't know the full story, but now isn't the time.

Despite all the anger, however, I love him. And it's that love that causes the pain to run deep down to my core. Most of the time I do okay; out of sight, out of mind. Then he'll pop up in my memory again, and I'll fixate and I'll remember. Oh boy will I remember.

Then it will pass.

Until the next time.

I put myself back on a dating site again. It was a huge step. I think I just need to meet someone new. When I'm with GL I forget about SG. The times I think about SG are when I'm alone with no way to distract my thoughts.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Holiday Talk

The holidays used to be something I enjoyed. While that's still the case in some aspects (I like holiday music, no shame), my perception has also changed a lot.

When I was younger we always had Thanksgiving and X-Mas even dinner at my Aunt and Uncles (you better believe we have the, usually, seven fishes going. I mean, I grew up in an Italian Catholic house. What else do you expect?). After my parents divorced things slightly changed. Until my Sister and I were old enough to make our own choices on where to go; Christmas eve was spent with Mom, Christmas with Dad, and they rotated Thanksgiving and New Years eve each year. It was structure, and something that remained as such for a long time.

Then, as they often do, things changed. My Mom bought a house and started doing Thanksgiving and Christmas there (when up until a couple of years ago my Dad would come by to see my Sister and I); my Mom's older sister was diagnosed with dementia and eventually stopped joining us for Holiday meals; people got married and had other families to visit. All of this change was difficult for me because I am someone who likes tradition, but even more so I don't like change.

But now it's not the change in schedules and structure that has skewed my view of the holidays, it's because I am no longer a child. Holidays, even when my parents were together, have always been spent with my Mom's side of the family (though my Dad's side was also involved pre-divorce). As with most family the usual, "what have you been up to?" and "how's____going?" Aside from my sister, there's two first cousins on my Mom's side. I dread questions such as the one's above. Why?

My sister is engaged, has a baby, a career (which she's moved up in both location and position wise), and before moving to her current place was living in her apartment with her fiance for at least two years.

My cousin, D, is married, owns a house he's lived in a few years now, and a steady career.

My cousin, J (the youngest of us) has a steady career, dating someone, and just moved into his own place.

Me? Single, lost multiple jobs over the past year, and moved several times.

What am I supposed to say? "Well, I've been struggling a lot with my mental illness. I have a hard time with suicidal thoughts, can't seem to keep a job or a steady job. But hey, I'm in DBT and actually doing well with progress for someone in my position!"

My family is conservative (my Mom and lesbian aunt are the most liberal of them). They aren't exactly a, "talk openly about mental illness" type of family. I've sent them information on what I deal with, and no one really responds. My Mom and Sister do a bit more, but only because they know me better.

Yeah, see why I don't look forward to the holidays as much?

On Mental Illness, Jobs, and a Personal Status Quo

I was thinking about the way jobs and careers. I confess my thoughts are a bit jumbled, so this blog may come out as such.  The reason this particular topic have been on my mind is because of a conversation I recently had with one of my roommates. I was telling him about a job interview that I recently had, and he asked me if I had ever thought about a career.

I was taken aback by that question. Why assume the line of work I am doing is not what I want as a career? My back ground is in psychology, and for a while all I knew was that I wanted to work with youth, but I wasn't sure in what capacity. I tried different things before deciding that an educational setting, working with special ed or troubled youth, is where I wanted to be. People often make assumptions, and in my case people assume because I hold a graduate degree I can become a therapist overnight.  In order to be license eligible one has to take Clinical Psychology, and I did not. In order for me to do so I would have to get a whole entire new degree (no, I cannot just take the "missing classes"). The Government allots students a certain amount of money for each type of degree. I've used up all but a few thousand of mine, and in order to get student loans I would have to go to school for the next level degree. For me that is a PhD, and something I simply don't want to do. Therefor my other options are private loan (no eligible to loan forgiveness), scholarships (often don't pay for full schooling), or pay out of pocket (lol).

Right now I work as a paraprofessional (re: teacher's assistant). My experience is working with kids on IEP's. This is what I want to do, and this is what I want as my career. For some people, however, they cannot grasp this. Why not go for my PhD (well for one, it's a job in an of itself)? Why not work to be a teacher? Simply put, I don't want to. It's not because I don't believe in myself or I'm giving up. I simply am happy where I am at, and do not want to take on the added burden and stress of trying to figure out how to pay for school. I am and have always been a beta personality. Someone who is much happier following and assisting, and leading only when I have to (e.g. if a teacher is absent) than being an actual leader. And you know what? That's okay. It doesn't mean I am selling myself short, or saying I am not good enough. People can't accept that though, they can't accept that someone is happy where they are and they choose not to advance.

People with BPD often experience shifts in goals, including career goals. It is not uncommon for a "Borderline" to change career paths, quit jobs, or even sabotage and get fired. I am certainly guilty of the latter two, but here's where I take pride. When I was 16 years old I decided I wanted to major in Psychology and work with youth. Along the way there were many bumps in the road, and I worked many jobs not with youth or even in Human Services. That dream never left me though. Even if I was working an office job or a retail job, I knew deep down I was meant to work with kids. I never changed my mind about that.

I am reminded of the debate over minimum wage, and how many people are angry that "burger flippers" want $15 an hour. For many people living with mental illness getting and keeping a job is difficult. Least of all because of the stigma over mental illness that still holds strong in Psychology. Therefor, for many people struggling, a job at McDonald's is an achievement. Basically judging someone on their job is unfair because you do not know that person's story. You don't know what i took to get them there, what (or who) they are working for, and to turn around and say they don't deserve a living wage is basically saying you are better than them.  Not everyone can be doctors, lawyers, CEO's; and you know what? Not everyone wants to be. Maybe people are happy working fast food; serving others their meals, cooking food. But because we assume people have to be at the top and always advancing to be happy, we look at these people as if they gave up on their lives.

When I've been unemployed (which has been a lot), many people would say to me, "just get a job anywhere!" or "Go work at a fast food joint!" Friends from older generations would give me, "when I was your age I couldn't afford to be picky. I worked 3 jobs and waited tables!" Yet, today we look down at the people with these jobs. We tell unemployed people to go wait tables or work at Dunkin' Donuts, but then we get angry when they want a living wage.

I am happy. I am happy being a follower, I am happy with my degree, I am happy not putting myself in more financial debt, and I am happy that I never gave up on my dream. Perhaps when it's fiscally responsible I will take some extra courses, but for now I am happy where I am. The fact I finished school, got my degree, and am aiming to work somewhere in the human services field is a big achievement for someone with Borderline Personality Disorder. So when people feel I am giving up on myself, not trying to "move up", it's quite the opposite.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The System is Broken

Perhaps one of the most difficult things about living with Borderline Personality Disorder is the lack of public understanding. There's a responsibility for the sufferer to try and educate people, but it should not fall completely on them. There's also the further issue of people refusing to understand, and then not having sympathy or compassion. Perpetuating stigma does not help, and causes people with mental illness to shut down more. I guess the best thing I can do is lay this out as smoothly as possible.

If I am feeling really angry about something, maybe even confused, I will project it onto something else.

How You Can Help:
Privately message me. Do not try to engage or call me out publicly. I can't promise I will respond,  but it's better than shaming me publicly.

If I feel I have been wronged I will become very verbally aggressive and vengeful. This is the emotional side of me getting out anger. I will often do this privately with someone.

How You Can Help:
Do NOT take this seriously. I am looking for someone to get angry with me, and validate my feelings. Even if I am in the wrong completely, I still need someone to tell me my *feelings* are valid.

When things are getting hard I will seem to give up.

How You Can Help:
When it comes to losing things that affect my livelihood (job, place to live, etc) I'm very resilient. I almost immediately jump into an action plan. Again, pay attention to what I do not what I say. Recognize that I need an outlet to getting out my feelings of frustration.

Sometimes I was validation and sympathy; sometimes I want a solution. It's a case by case basis.

How You Can Help:
Best option, just ask me. Because if I want one thing and you do the other, I'm going to get annoyed.

And now the big one, suicide threats. This is the best way I can sum it up;

"Suicidal ideation, also known as suicidal thoughts, concerns thoughts about or an unusual preoccupation with suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies greatly from fleeting thoughts, to extensive thoughts, to detailed planning, role playing (e.g., standing on a chair with a noose), and incomplete attempts, which may be deliberately constructed to not complete or to be discovered, or may be fully intended to result in death, but the individual survives (e.g., in the case of a hanging in which the cord breaks)."
Here's where I fit in this:
-Fleeting to extensive thoughts
-Detailed planning
Furthermore when I'm going through a rough period I do not need to be reminded of it. What I need is to be reminded of how well I am doing, and how much progress I have made. It's really important to remind me that a rough time does not negate progress I've made (remember I think in black and white). 
Moving on to yesterday. I had a therapy appointment, and thinking that I could be open and honest in my therapy session I told her about my suicidal ideation; as well as how I took a picture of myself holding pills and sent it to a friend. Now, if she was trained properly she would have known how to handle someone with suicidal ideation (mind you she's an intern). In the past my therapists have worked to implement DBT skills, figure out what was going on, and help me through it. This woman called in the on call person.
They asked me if I have suicidal thoughts. Well, yes I do, it's part of my disorder. However, they didn't elaborate. I told them I had plans for the night, and when they asked what I said that I was going to an event with friends. Somehow this was not good enough. It is my right not to give play by play details of my life. Despite me telling them I had plans to go out, be with friends, and get work done I was forced to go to the emergency room to get evaluated.
I was in the ER for 6 hours, and treated like a criminal. When the psychiatrist spoke to me it was obvious she did not know my history at all. I have been through much worse stuff than I am right now, yet she completely invalidated my experience. On top of this she was very accusatory of me regarding recent situations that have unfolded, almost blaming me for everything. Then when I didn't want to give her details (because they are extremely complicated and full of drama), she even further projected a sense of blame. I was very irritated by her holier than thou attitude. Her information came from a therapist that had known me for 3 weeks, and had no idea the type of stuff I've been through. So she decided to tell them that stuff that happened the past few weeks was "out of character".
I was fired because I was ganged up on. I didn't not assault anyone, I was feeling extremely anxious and the woman on the train triggered me and I simply tried to get away.  Then the incident in group, which keeps getting brought up and made into a bigger thing than it is (I slammed a door after I was treated unfairly). Now people are treating me like I'm a hazard and I'm dangerous and falling apart. 
Finally at 12:30am when they said I could go, I asked for my stuff so I could get dressed while they printed my discharge papers. Someone said they'd get it, and I waited. Ten minutes go by and I go out to check. A nurse snaps at me and is extremely rude to me. Sorry, hard to have respect for nurses when they act like that. I went back and asked the front desk person for her name so I could report her, and she (the nurse) once again snapped and started yelling at me. I felt belittled, humiliated, and like I was treated like a dangerous sociopath. I know the types of people they get in ERs, I am not one of them. I am not an addict, harming myself or others, delusional. I am educated, and far above other people when it comes to understanding mental illness. On top of this my lap top was returned to be broken (one of the hinges and a piece of plastic broke off).
So instead of going out and enjoying my night, being around friends, feeling accomplished by doing work; instead I was forced to sit in an ER even though I told them multiple times (and my therapist) I had no intention of killing myself). When I was in the therapist office I asked my therapist to please say something and she said nothing. The woman she called in was cruel, and neither did anything to actually implement DBT.
They made things worse for me. They severely triggered my anxiety, irritability, messed with my coping skills, set my work back, and ruined something I was looking forward to.
Welcome to the mental health system.