The Medication Situation

There’s a certain thing that J has been encouraging for months now, since even before I started my job in the fall. That very controversial thing that she has been advocating for is revisiting the idea of seeing a psychiatrist for medication.

It’s something she knows I’m wary of, since every time it gets brought up I usually respond with a simple “okay” and then nothing else follows. Until the next time, usually weeks later, when she suggests it again.

This isn’t our first dance with the idea of medicating. I tried it, briefly, about two years ago now. The psychiatrist I saw was curt and cold, and I disliked her immediately. Plus, when she shared information from my patient portal with me she stated that I denied suicidal ideation, which wasn’t at all true. So it didn’t instill much confidence in me, and not only did I not take the meds, but I never went back.

At the time, I told J that I wanted to focus really hard on getting better with just therapy and hard work. She accepted that for awhile, until she didn’t.

The first time it came up was at the end of the summer. Then again the night of the letter fiasco, as I was sitting crying on her couch. Maybe even another time before or after that, I’m not sure.

But most recently, it came up after I texted J in lieu of our regularly scheduled Monday afternoon check-in. I couldn’t make the call during my allotted time, but I was struggling deeply with a number of feelings, including shame and dread, that were blooming with the thought of going back to work. I wanted her support desperately.

I’d already sent J a text on Friday after having a particularly difficult day. I’ve been trying like hell not to cross the boundary, to need J beyond the two specified times I’m afforded. But I did text her, twice in four days, because I was having such a hard time.

Her response was very kind, somewhat helpful. Except right there in the middle of the text back was again the mention of the psychiatrist, this time with a name and number. A direct referral.

In the moment, I completely withdrew. My mind began to spiral. I shouldn’t have texted her. I’m getting too attached and asking for too much by doing this. This is how our relationship fell into jeopardy the last time. She thinks I’m crazy and she’s trying to push me away so someone else can deal with me. I’ve annoyed her. I’m too much for her. 

I was so thrown off by the way in which she’d suggested the psychiatrist (again) that I planned to just pretend the conversation had never happened. To apologize when I saw her and move on. I really didn’t want to talk about it.

L encouraged me to be honest though. So when I saw J on Thursday, I used all my effective communication skills. I told her that while the rational side of me understood that she really wanted to help me, it felt so strongly like she kept bringing up the psychiatrist during my most difficult moments because I was too much for her.

When I said that, I could see it surprised her. She hadn’t thought of it that way at all. She assured me that she really was just trying to offer what she thought might be a helpful strategy, not because I’m too much for her, but because my emotions can be too much for me.

I told her that while I heard her, I knew she wanted me to see someone else, I wasn’t ready. I needed her to understand that and maybe leave the topic alone for a bit. I promised her when I was ready, I’d include her in the process. She accepted it. It was a good conversation for us.

I thought that was it. I thought we were done with the topic of medication.

Then the following day, my water bottle spilled in my bag, dousing my files in water and killing the laptop I’d been given to use by the school. I absolutely panicked when I realized what happened. It ignited a storm of emotions inside me, fueled by my helplessness in fixing the situation. The laptop had sat coated in water for hours before I even discovered it. I felt so supremely stupid and careless.

I cut myself numerous times that night and the feelings followed me though the weekend, which culminated in an intense self-harm session on Sunday. During that point, I was profoundly suicidal, alternating between laying in bed preoccupied about how worthless my life was and searching my phone for painless ways to die.

In the aftermath of that, I found myself thinking about what J said. That my emotions were too much for me. She was right. My best intentions to get through a day that had been otherwise okay were obliterated. This all started with a simple mistake, but it had blown up because of the intensity in which my emotions flared.

I wondered: What would it be like to have something like that happen and not have it end with me wishing that I was dead? What would it be like to make a mistake and not feel like I deserved every ounce of blame?

So on Tuesday, I made the appointment. It’s not until the beginning of May, but I did it. I’m going to go. I don’t have to accept or take whatever pharmacological intervention is offered to me, but I’m willing to at least try to hear this woman out, even if it’s a scary thought.

I hope it’s a good sign that the woman didn’t have a free appointment for so long. Maybe that means she’s good.

Right now, I have a prescription from my doctor for a common anxiety medication that I can take as needed. I usually end up taking 1-2 pills over that same number of weeks, refilling every couple months. When I do, I have noticed that things usually feel more tolerable for me afterwards, whether it’s psychosomatic or actually because of the medication.

Still, taking a pill every so often and having the power to choose when I take them is much different than taking something on a consistent schedule.

I’m scared about the unknown. Scared about the side effects. Scared that it won’t be helpful. What does it mean if I take something and find it has no benefit?

Even if it does, even if it takes the edge off, as J thinks it might, it doesn’t take away the harsh words of my internal minions. Will anything do that? Will that narrative in my head ever stop projecting negativity at me?

It feels terrifying to be hopeful. I worry instead that taking medication will just simply sedate me, as L once stated. While it would be wonderful not to feel so deeply, living with everything stunted doesn’t much feel like living.

And then, there’s the part of me that feels like a failure. That feels like if I just worked harder, done the things that J has suggested or that I’ve read in my DBT book, I wouldn’t need this. I feel like I didn’t put in enough effort or that something is so seriously wrong with me. Of course, I don’t think anyone else taking meds is a failure. Just me. Always just me.

I hope to do some research on medicating those with BPD before I go to see this psychiatrist. That will require me to concentrate on reading for more than three minutes at a time though, which is tricky for me. All joking aside, I think it’s important to arm myself with questions to ask.

For any of you out there with BPD or a similar disorder who have in the past or are currently taking medication, what has your experience with it been? Do you feel it has been helpful? I’d love to hear from people who have actually been through this.

 

 

 

 

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Guess What? Things Are Still Hard

I wish that I could say my lack of posting was because I’m out in the world enjoying a good time and living free of my demons, but that’s just not the case.

In fact, lately life seems even harder than usual. I feel like I’m constantly clawing my way through each day, just trying to survive it. I’ve been in the pits of a depressive cycle for about the last week, but even before that things felt challenging and lonely.

I’ve set a timer today, because I wanted to write but kept erasing my first sentence. The goal is to type for a half hour and just see what words fall out onto the page. Maybe this is something I could do more often if it’s been helpful.

To all my WP friends out there that I’ve continuously been neglecting, I first want to say I hope you are all well. I’m sorry, again, for not being able to maintain enough focus to read and comment on your blogs.

Lately, the thing that feels the best for me is the end of the night when I’m in my bed. I love curling up under my blankets and shutting the rest of the world away. Of course, that isn’t really living. It’s an escape. Which is really the problem, I’m constantly wishing to escape. Being around other people is very much a challenge.

The negative thought spiral is working overtime in my head and it has total control. I am not in the driver’s seat right now. I don’t think I have been for awhile. Am I functioning? Yes, in the sense that I’m going to work, seeing friends occasionally, and still trying to help my grandfather each Saturday. But it still very much feels like I’m in a state of maintenance, keeping everything stable instead of really doing anything that feels fulfilling for me.

The politics of work continue to suck. Like, they are super awful. People keep telling me that it would be like this no matter what school I worked at. And I know that’s true, because people seem to have this innate ability to stir up drama sometimes even without the intention to.

But also, I hate when people say that because it feels dismissive.

Still, I feel alone at work and constantly question who I can trust. I have one very close friend that I feel most comfortable with. There are maybe three others I feel like I’ve reached friend status with. And the others? Many of them are super nice, but I know that I wouldn’t put it past them to talk about me behind my back.

The colleague I share an office with is one of those people. She’s a nice person who means well and she’s very good at her job. But she’s also someone that can be very manipulative in the sense that she’s good at telling people what they want to hear. Sometimes she’ll say one thing around just me and then her opinion changes when someone else is around. Which means I can never trust if what she’s saying is really how she feels.

Worst of all, she will throw me under the bus to build herself up. She did just that a few weeks ago in front of my principal. The three of us were discussing something that she and I had already talked about the week before. Except the first time we talked about it, she didn’t share with me some important information that would have been super useful to know. Then she used it as a way to make me look naive in front of our principal.

I confronted her about it afterwards by saying I wish she would have told me those details when I brought the situation to her before. She said that she’d just forgotten to mention it. Even if I give her the benefit of the doubt about that, and she did forget, there would have been a way to feed me those same facts later in a way that didn’t involve our principal.

Rude.

Do I think she necessarily meant to hurt me? No. I just think she wanted to align herself with the principal. She wanted him to feel like they were on the same side, and I was collateral damage. She and I are supposed to be on the same team, and yet she sold me up the river just for a laugh with my principal. If I can’t trust her, who can I trust?

No one. The answer is no one.

Which sucks. Because I have to pretend like this didn’t damage our relationship. Even though it did. I’m doing a bad job of pretending too, because I have zero skill in diplomacy.

I hate my job sometimes. I really do. Even more though, I hate that this is so hard for me.

Therapy is going okay. L and I decided when I met with her last week that we will begin to move towards terminating our relationship. I think once L found out that I told J about her, she recognized that enough rebuilding had taken place with J. She said that for us to keep working together too frequently could interfere with my relationship with J. Which was fine, honestly, because I’m running out of things to talk about with L. I’ll see her once a month for the next two or three months, and that will be it. Unless I need her in the future.

With J, things going to go well and feel pretty okay. A noteworthy moment occurred yesterday, when I realized that she had hung the keychains I’d given her for Christmas in her office. Apparently, they’d been there since I gave them to her but I never noticed.

I’d actually seen them out of the corner of my eye the week before as I was leaving the office, but hadn’t gotten a good enough look to know for sure if they were the ones I’d given her. So after waiting all week to be able to check, I then forgot to look at the drawer when I came in, and ended up remembering closer to the end of our session. But of course, the drawer was not in my line of sight, so for me to see it I would have had to noticeably lean forward. And what if it wasn’t what I’d given her? I didn’t want to be too hopeful.

Eventually, I did get the courage to look and it was my keychains. Since it was obvious what I was doing I commented on it. “That’s the gift I gave you for Christmas,” I said with a smile.

She smiled back. “It is! I put it there so I can see it every day.”

It really made me feel very happy, especially because there are other items in her office that I definitely think were gifts from clients. It also made me feel like she genuinely liked what I’d given her.

But anyway.

I think have been scaring J a bit lately, because my anxiety is through the roof, my self-harm is worse than ever, and I’m visiting the dark depths of suicidal thinking more than anyone would like to. I’ve been really honest about it with her, even when it makes me feel dramatic and attention-seeking.

J’s been great about validating. Last night, she kept asking me to try to remove the judgement from the room, even if just for that hour. To try to just talk to her without all of those harsh critiques caveating my feelings. She promised me that she wasn’t judging me.

I really couldn’t do it, even though I wished I could. I felt so ashamed. I asked her how it was possible that she wasn’t judging me.

“Because I see you differently than you see yourself,” she said. I asked her what she saw. “I see how much pain you are in. I do.”

And let me tell you, even if it was just for a few minutes before the minions took over, I believed her. That was a nice change.

We discussed quite a bit of the safety plan yesterday, and I’m really trying, even though all I want to do is hurt myself. It’s hard not to have plans on a Friday night. It’s hard to feel like I’ll ever be worthy of everything better.

J told me last night that since none of the evidence is working right now to help me, maybe I could try believing that I’m worthy of happiness using blind faith. Believe that I’m a good person just because.

I’m trying it, because it’s as good of a suggestion as anything else at this point. A damn shot in the dark. I know it was a suggestion borne purely out of desperation, because when she was suggesting it, I half-laughed and said. “I’m worthy of happiness. J says so!”

And she shrugged. “Whatever works.” This coming from the same woman who wouldn’t write me that letter months ago because she didn’t want me to be too dependent on her.

Well, jokes on you, J. I’m using your judgement of my value to keep myself going right now.

But here’s the thing I keep questioning. Is there anything that can really truly help me in a long-term, actual life-changing kind of way? Will anything ever make it truly better? Will it make life feel more tolerable? Or are we going to keep slapping different band-aids on this mountain-sized problem called BPD through trial and error method until this disorder finally kills me?

Progress

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This meme is a pretty accurate representation of what January felt like for me. Long and cold (bitterly cold) and just pretty much endless. Again, my endeavors to update my blog more were squashed, sometimes by a ridiculously annoying inability to concentrate and more often by the fact that I was sick more days out of the month than not. I actually just got through a really tough week of congestion and bed rest. Let me tell you friends, working with little kids is really a test on the immune system and I haven’t been passing.

I’m already having trouble keeping my focus on this post, so we’ll see how this goes. I hate that writing is so mentally taxing on me these days.

Anyway.

So what has life been like for me lately? Well, really it’s just a daily course of trying to keep my head above water. I don’t feel particularly stable in my place or my emotions at any time, so I’m always in the process of trying to do whatever I can to just break even, especially when it comes to work. Somehow, I always spend the day falling further behind and then the evening or the weekend playing catch-up. It’s frustrating. It’s tiring. It’s slowly getting to me.

I still don’t have any idea what kind of job I’m doing and how I’d compare to someone else starting fresh in their career. Sometimes, I feel like the biggest idiot. I don’t feel like I’m able to retain the facts I’m supposed to know and apply them when necessary. Others, I feel like I’m at least getting by.

Mainly, I’d like to update about how therapy has been going because I haven’t in awhile and maybe you’re curious. Or maybe you aren’t, but I’d like to talk about it.

I’ve had trouble putting my feelings into words lately. I’ve left many sessions wanting to share the place that I’m in with J, because it’s overwhelmingly good. Better than I could have imagined two months ago when I was ready to quit.

I am still seeing L, but much less frequently. I’ve found that it’s incredibly difficult for me to open up and be vulnerable around her. I feel shame the second I even think about sharing some of the dark thoughts, so I resist.  It’s no fault of L’s, she certainly gives me the space to say what I need. There’s just a lack of trust that comes with only knowing each other a few months.

By contrast, I am able to share more with J. There’s a lot at this point that I don’t have to explain to her because we’ve known each other almost three years. I still feel shame over admitting my dark feelings, but not as much. I think my recognition of this has helped me see that I really do trust J implicitly, even when the connection feels shaky.

There’s enough trust, in fact, that I finally admitted two things to J. First, I’ve been consciously hiding any feelings I have that are related to our relationship. Second, I’ve been seeing another therapist.

I didn’t plan to tell her these things, but the conversation swayed that way and I’d been stewing in my fear of telling her long enough.

She took it well. She understood the instinct I had to protect myself. She even told me that she thought it was a really huge thing that I’d felt such intense feelings of hurt and yet channeled them into something that became both productive and connecting for us during subsequent sessions.

In response to the news of L, she told me it did not hurt her feelings. I was not betraying her. She felt happy that I’d found some additional support when things were challenging for us. Even better, she was happy to let the two relationships remain separate. I’d feared she’d want to talk to L to coordinate care, and I wasn’t okay with that, so this was a relief.

The openness between us has been improving, and I’ve been brave enough lately to tell her things I might not have before. This week, we were discussing a fear I had that someone might be angry with me. J didn’t believe the woman was angry with me, and tried to point out evidence to the contrary. Later, I told her that while I understood her reasoning and that the woman might not be mad, she also might be mad. And if she was, I’d need to deal with it. So if I was going to entertain her side of it, she needed to entertain mine.

She cocked her head to the side and looked at me. I could see it dawning on her that I had a point. “You just made me realize something,” she said, and proceeded to agree that her perspective wasn’t reality. She thought: Of course she wouldn’t be angry, it’s not logical for the situation. But people aren’t always logical. So we did talk about how I’d handle the situation if the woman was angry.

It was a nice moment for me. I’d talked to J about how I’d like her to approach a situation differently, and she heard me. No frustration, no judgement. She’d heard me.

I still think I might like to discuss the letter one day, because I’ve never directly told her how painful it was the way she handled it. We’ve talked about how it was a difficult session for both of us,. Maybe she would be able to hear that too. Then I wonder, is this issue too far in the past and should I just let it go? I’d like to, but I don’t know if I can just let those truths remain unsaid.

At Christmas, I gave J a gift. I wavered on doing so, because things had been so difficult, but something pushed me to do it anyway. I wanted to give her something meaningful, and I settled on two keychains, one dragonfly and one hummingbird. Dragonflies represent change, while hummingbirds represent stability or continuity. To me, that was the ultimate dialectic of our relationship: We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs, yet she was still there for me and I still chose to go to therapy.

She appeared genuinely touched by the thought in the moment and then texted me later that night to express her gratitude again. When I read the text, I was filled with affection for my therapist. A fondness that only comes from a relationship that has survived a lot.

And so now we’re in this weird kind of place. A place where I have rediscovered the connection to J and look forward to therapy being my safe space as the week, but am now dealing with the familiar sting of separation at the end of the hour and a dull longing to talk to my therapist throughout the week. A place where there is a recognition of my trust in her, a belief that she truly cares, but also still residual feelings from past conflict that morph into insecurities that I’m too much for her and being silently judged. A place where I value J’s skills tremendously while simultaneously questioning if she can really help me.

All of that is okay right now, mostly. While I wish that I had the relationship with J where I could tell her every single thought and leave each session feeling wholly understood, part of me recognizes that she’s human and not capable of meeting each one of my needs all the time. She is doing her best, she is helping me, and the other stuff is slowly working itself out. I don’t want another therapist. I know that now.

It’s a weird form of acceptance.

And I wonder, is this some kind of progress on my part?

The Gift Exchange

At Christmastime, we had a party for everyone in my department. There were maybe 15 of us shoved into a small conference room eating catered food and homemade desserts and chatting. I sat among my still fairly new-to-me coworkers and managed to join into the conversation. It felt satisfying to feel like I even remotely belonged somewhere.

Part of our little party included a gift exchange, which I had been nervous about prior to the whole affair. It felt like there was a lot riding on picking a gift that could be considered desirable to people a range of ages and personalities. What if they didn’t like it? What if they thought I was weird for my selection?

But I bought a gift and decided to participate anyway, mostly because I thought it would be more stressful not to. We each picked a number and got to choose from the gifts in succession. On your turn, you could steal someone else’s gift or choose opened a wrapped gift. There was a cap of a gift being stolen twice.

I was nervous about this too. I wanted to show the right amount of gratitude for whatever I got, because gifts can be tricky with me and I have a tendency to feel disappointed when I don’t get something I’d like. It felt scary to have all eyes on me as I stood, picked my gift, and unwrapped it. I’m not kidding, I really hate being the center of attention even when it’s the whole point. More eyes equates with more potential for judgment I guess.

Anyway, I picked a fairly low number, which meant there were lots of people after me with lots of chances for it to be stolen. On my turn, I picked a bag and hoped for the best. Inside was an essential oil diffuser. I was excited. In fact, I had just said to my mother the night before that I wanted a new and bigger one than I currently had.

My colleague was itching for the diffuser and told me jokingly not to get too attached. Her turn came just a minute later and although she eyed it up, she didn’t take it. I was thrilled. She actually chose the gift I had brought, a set of wine glasses with funny sayings, which she liked when it was open (sigh of relief for me!). But a couple turns later, another colleague swiped the glasses from her, and she responded by stealing the diffuser from me.

I was bummed, but tried to plaster a smile on my face and picked another present. The gift was a unique choice, perfect for the gift exchange, but it was something I already had so I wasn’t particularly elated. Another coworker eyed it up on her turn, but didn’t take it, even though I told her it was fine if she wanted it – which I then felt guilty for, because I didn’t want the person who brought the gift to think I didn’t like it or was ungrateful.

Then a minute later, someone else swiped my gift. I could either chose to open a third gift or take something else. Another of my colleagues nudged me and told me to steal back my diffuser. That would be two steals, so no one would be allowed to take it from me.

So I did!

Everyone laughed as the gifts were traded around; it was the point of the game of course! Yet as I hugged the bag with my gift close to my chest, I suddenly felt extremely bad. Why did I think that I deserved the gift more than she did? Just because I really wanted it? I felt selfish that I’d robbed her of something she’d wanted just to make myself happy.

Later in the day, I apologized to my coworker for taking it from her. I even offered her my old diffuser for her office. She laughed it off, told me it really wasn’t a big deal. Clearly, she didn’t have a second thought about it.

But I did. In fact, every time I looked at the diffuser I felt a rush of guilt again, like I’d stolen something. When I got home that night, I didn’t even take it out right away. I felt that bad about it. For the rest of the night, my mood was off.

That party was weeks ago now. I see this colleague multiple times a week. I’m literally using my diffuser right now as I type this (with the beautiful scent of lavender wafting in my direction). Yet sometimes when I think about it I still feel a little bit sad for reasons I can’t even articulate.

I wanted to post about this because I think it is a perfect example of what it means to be afflicted with BPD or any disorder that involves some level of anxiety or social interaction difficulties. I knew as I was in the moment of the intense emotions that my feelings didn’t fit the facts. I could look around and rationalize that things were fine and she absolutely wasn’t mad at me.

Yet the feelings and the negative thoughts persisted. Hard. For awhile. Anyone else would have already forgotten that interaction. Probably, my colleague has forgotten it! Still, when I see her, that’s the forefront of my mind and it requires strength not to stick that topic into our conversations. Anyone else wouldn’t think of themselves as selfish or awful just for following the rules of a game. In fact, my colleague had stolen it from me first! Of course, that doesn’t factor into my emotions for some reason.

I look around at people in my life and wonder what it might be like to be able to let things go with little to no thought about it. How do those things fall right out of their memory while they are branded into mine?

No wonder I’m so scatter-brained, the minions are too busy holding onto all this useless crap!

It’s a constant reminder in moments like this. To stay present with the thoughts and find evidence to refute them. To see if the intensity of my emotion is justified by what is actually happening. To breathe and remember that the feelings will pass. To stay engaged with the people around me when I want to withdraw.

Moments like this are the daily fight..

From Bad to Worse

I won’t sugarcoat it. Things are bad between J and I right now. They’ve been precarious for weeks, the dominating theme in my posts, but our relationship took a major hit Monday night. One I’m honestly not sure I even want to repair.

Monday night, I entered therapy in a rocky place. Although the school day had been okay, I had been marinating in shame all weekend, as evidenced by my last post. I knew we were to write the infamous letter that night. It’s been a longstanding issue for four months. I was nervous as hell about how it would go.

A brief summary if you are not familiar, as I don’t feel like linking to previous posts: In July, I asked J if she would be willing to write me a brief 1-2 paragraph letter, to be used as a transitional object when I am struggling to maintain our connection outside of session and battling thoughts like “She is judging me. Things are not okay. I should no go to session.” It was not an easy thing to ask for. J said she would consider it. She did not bring up the topic again until I asked her almost a month later, at which time she told me she would write it for me once she figured out what to say.

Another month and a half passed, and I waited patiently.  Towards the end of September, she told me near the end of session she had decided it would be better for us to write it in session together. I was caught off guard and reluctantly agreed. After our most recent rupture, I called her out on agreeing to it and then changing the parameters of what I was told I’d be getting. She stuck to her guns and said she felt it was best we do it together. At the time, her reasoning was that I would believe that her words were more true if we wrote them together. I took some time to think on it, but decided to give it a chance.

If you’d like to finish this long post right here, it was a disaster. Hooray! Now you are caught up.

The long version is this. She asked if I still wanted to write the letter, and I said yes. She asked me if I’d like to write it on a pad or on my phone.

If you didn’t catch on, she asked if I’d like to write it. As in, she assumed I was doing the writing? I’m not sure why she assumed this, as it was something I’d asked for from her. I immediately felt my heart drop and I knew this was not going to go in a positive direction. I told her I thought she would be writing it. She seemed surprised, but agreed, and asked me to hand her the pad.

I was feeling so uncomfortable, like a young child with too many needs, especially because we had not really mapped out how the letter-writing process would go. I made some sort of statement that I wasn’t sure what to do/say and needed her to start.

J very dramatically rolled her eyes. She smiled, but she still rolled her eyes.

This very much affected me. It’s been an issue in the past and I’ve told J, as recently as three weeks ago, that it is never helpful for her to roll her eyes. It’s a boundary I’ve clearly set and yet here we go again. I called her out on it. She said yes she rolled her eyes, but it wasn’t malicious.

Oh great. Well, it didn’t feel fun. It felt like I asked for some clarity and guidance and her response was to make me feel small and ashamed for that need by rolling her eyes at the ridiculousness of my request.

J asked me what the goal of the letter was. I feel like she should have known the answer to that by now, as I’ve told her multiple times. But fine, I repeated it. To maintain the connection, especially when things feel very dark.

She told me she would write a couple thoughts and then see what I thought. That was fine. She wrote for 10-15 seconds, stopped, and then said “How about I write a line and then you write a line?”

Uh…?

Mind you, I asked her for a letter. It was supposed to be her words. When I was concerned about us writing it together, because I thought it wouldn’t feel genuine if I had to tell her what to say, she assured me I wouldn’t be dictating. And while I suppose this wasn’t dictating, it was something else entirely!

I was confused and quickly growing frustrated. I told her it wasn’t what I wanted from her. She said something about how she wanted this to be in my voice too so I could be a part of my healing process and the letter could be more helpful. Which, now that I’m looking back, is very different from the reasoning she gave me a couple weeks ago (that she wanted me to believe her words were genuine)

I argued that I’ve written myself plenty of letters on this blog in my own words. I have that already. What I wanted was something from her. Something to help me cope when I’m really struggling to connect. She said that if she does that, then I’m relying on her.

Well then why the hell did she agree to doing it in the first place, months ago?!

And also, aren’t I allowed to rely on my therapist a little? Isn’t that why I freaking have one?

When I told my friend this, she balked. Isn’t she familiar with the concept of a transitional object? I don’t know why she’s so resistant to this.

Here’s the thing. If that had been J’s initial response from the very beginning, I could have accepted that. I might have been upset, but I would have understood this as a boundary. We have always been working towards me being able to independently regulate and support myself. I’m good with that.

Where I’m having trouble is that she’s been so inconsistent. First, she agreed to it. Then she changed her mind about how she was willing to participate. Now she’s even changing her reasoning about why it’s important to do it this way.

Additionally, she cannot seem for the life of her to remember why I want this letter. This letter was not meant to be used to regulate all emotions and pull me from every dark place. I was asking her to provide some physical evidence that I could refer to in times of need. I was asking her help me feel connected enough to come to therapy and share the emotions.

Case in point, when I asked her why she ever agreed to this, she told me that she was not really clear initially on why it was I wanted the letter.

However, there’s no way that’s true. I know that when I first asked for this damn letter, I explained to her that I use previous texts she’s sent me to bridge the connection when I’m faltering. If I am holding onto fears of judgement or getting stuck in this idea that I shouldn’t go to therapy because it’s not okay to share my pain, I read them as a reminder that we are okay and I can trust her.

I wasn’t asking her to solve all of my problems with this letter, to pull me out of every emotion.

If it’s really true that she didn’t understand this, then she’s extremely dense. Or she hasn’t been listening.

It really feels as though she isn’t listening at all to me, because she isn’t retaining what I feel to be fairly important things. At this point, I was so frustrated and beginning to shut down. I could literally feel my body tensing, as if it was turning to stone. J echoed that I was disappointed I wasn’t getting what I wanted, and I agreed. She asked me to list evidence that I knew she cared about me.

I did it, and she said something about using those instances as a reminder. I reminded her again (another conversation we just had) that when the connection is broken, it isn’t me forgetting she cares. I’ve told her this, I said. It’s me dealing with that stormcloud of thoughts like I can’t talk about how I feel, she’s judging what I’m saying, she’s annoyed by me. 

J looked at me as if she was hearing all of this for the first time. I said to her, it’s like you really don’t understand the difference. “Well maybe I don’t,” she said. I’m wondering if it was her realizing that for the first time that she’s not grasping the true nature of some of these issues, because I was certainly already aware.

Beyond this, I devolved. Completely and utterly. All the shame came flooding out of my body. I couldn’t bring myself to look at her. I cried. I told her I hated myself, that everything feels like my fault, nothing is ever going to get better, and I’m so fucking tired of doing it. That was all I could keep saying, because it was what I believed.

When she tried to help me see a more positive side, I just felt defiant. She’s lying, I would tell myself. I know these things are true. If they weren’t true, I wouldn’t feel so empty. 

We talked about the shame I felt around our relationship, how I felt sad, angry, confused. That things are different between us and I don’t know how to get back the feelings of safety and comfort. J validated these feelings. She reassured.  She told me it was okay to be angry. It was okay to be sad. When talked about the difficult stuff, she validated “That is awful. That is overwhelming.”

I appreciated her attempt to do this. I’ve asked for validation, a lot. And I thought it would help. Yet, it felt lacking when repeated incessantly without almost any real emotion or follow-up.

Which just makes me sad. When did J stop feeling comforting at all?

At one point, as I was stuck in my self-hate spiral, she said. “Let’s go off track for a second” and then proceeded to remind me that she’d like me to see a psychiatrist. She thinks that me being on medication would reduce the intensity of my emotions.

When she said this, I felt rejected, like I was being passed off. Like I’m too much for her, so she’s trying to lighten her load. I know that isn’t rational, but it was what I thought and felt in the moment.

I have been back and forth about the psychiatrist, mostly because from what I’ve read BPD does not respond to meds. L said those exact words when I mentioned J’s psychiatrist suggestion, and scoffed. She said that while meds will sedate me, it won’t do anything to disrupt my mental processing.

So like I said, the session was an absolute disaster. By the end, I was completely dysregulated and had reverted back into my needy attachment state of apologizing (I don’t even know why? Because I was acting crazy?) and begging her not to abandon me.

Yet, as soon as I was a few hours removed from that room, I was considering not ever going back.

I am so, so, so extremely frustrated and disappointed and disillusioned right now. I am 100% open to admitting that there may be threads of self-sabotage that played into the downfall of our relationship. I can admit that the negative lens I have towards J right now is not helping things.

However.

The fact that L’s facial expressions mirrored mine when I explained this specific situation and the fact that she was troubled by J’s reactions (the eye roll!) tell me that my feelings have their validity. She told me that this is not simply me going full on BPD. I have a right to be upset.

To wit, when I said I have a right to an apology for 1. rolling her eyes again despite my boundary and 2. handling this whole letter situation poorly (changing it up and not communicating about it), L fully agreed.

I have been fighting the end of my relationship with J. Despite all of the strife, I really have come to have such an affection for her. I simultaneously dread going to my sessions and don’t want to let her go. I keep thinking if I can just say the right things, she will understand. If I can just act a certain way, broach a certain kind of acceptance, her response will remind me things are okay. I will feel safe. If I can find the right strategy to interact with her, we will get back on track.

But really, is that my job? Shouldn’t she be trying to reach me, instead of the other way around?

L said some things today that make me consider this more. A month ago, she was advocating for me to stick with J, figure things out and repair. Today, she told me that sometimes we outgrow relationships and it doesn’t have to viewed as a failure to let it come to a natural ending. She told me that if our interactions are consistently sending me down a bad path, it’s no longer helpful.

She’s not wrong about that last part. This relationship is tearing me apart emotionally.

Yet, I still know she cares. She is so very clearly trying. She wants desperately for me to recognize the positive, and is starting to voice her understanding that sometimes I really just can’t. I’m blocked from it, and no amount of encouraging me to list my strengths or apologize to myself is going to fix that.

I think that is the hardest part. To know that she really does care and want to help, but isn’t reaching me. That there’s a level of misattunement acting as a barrier between us, which neither of us seems to know how to overcome.

She does not mean to hurt me, and yet she keeps hurting me. Again and again.

As I type that, part of me fights back. I’m hurting me. This is all my fault. I’ve broken her. Turned her against me. I was too much. My BPD ruined another relationship. 

I told L that I’m beginning to wonder if J actually cares so much that it’s inhibiting her ability to see our relationship clearly. She’s not referring me out, she’s still promising to stay, and saying we will work on x, y, and z. L said it’s probably frustrating for J to watch me not improving but not know what to do.

And I do. I wonder, what does J really think? She’s admitted to feeling helpless, she’s admitting to desperately needing me to know that she means well and wants to help me.

Still, I feel helpless and don’t know what to do. J says it is a safe place, but she is not really showing me it is a safe place. The atmosphere is tense and uncomfortable, perhaps for both of us. But I am not the one with the burden of easing that discomfort. She is.

I feel that we are heading to our end. But still I fight it. I hope for change. I don’t know how I would gather the strength to walk away. It feels scary and heartbreaking.

L and I decided I could give it a little more time for now. See where things go. That’s if I don’t cancel my next session with J.

Then there’s the other small thing to consider.

When I first met with L about a month ago, I didn’t expect to like her as much as I did. I made the appointment with the firm intention that we would meet for 3-5 sessions and then go our separate ways. She was there to talk about J with me. That was her role.

Silly, silly me.

Before I met L, I thought about what seeing a second therapist might look like. I considered how I might structure our conversations and tried to tolerate the idea that talking to her would feel different than it would talking to J. I assumed different would mean bad.

In all of my imaginings of how things would go, I just imagined myself feeling neutral during the whole thing. Going in, talking, leaving. I seem to have conveniently forgotten that I am extremely emotion-prone individual, and that me interacting people with even a bit of vulnerability and getting validation leads to intense attachment.

I like L a lot so far. She said some really kind things about how I’m a “beautiful human” with so much insight. And I’ve said elsewhere that I love the way she phrases things. She so perfectly describes my different feelings and behaviors in a way that shows me she’s listened to me and genuinely comprehends what I’ve said.

I also like that she is a lot more direct. She’s unafraid to address things and is quite attuned to my body language. For example, today when she asked me about the self-harm, she then immediately wanted to know why I get “fidgety and stop looking at her” when she brings it up. She pushed me, and so we discussed it. It was helpful that she noticed and checked in.

She’s been trained in personality disorders. More than J. That much is very clear. She has a more intricate knowledge of my experience and asks good questions. I think that’s made me more comfortable in sharing some of my borderline side, the stuff I’m not being as open about with J.

So here we are.

I’ve had 4 sessions with her. The first two sessions, we followed the pattern I expected. We talked about J, with a little bit of the BPD stuff mixed in there. Then last week, we diverted off the topic of J fairly quickly and started talking about other things. Socialization, for one. She has already given me some good strategies to combat self-harm and self-punishment urges. L was saying that in the future, she wants to work on modify the words I say to myself in social interactions to break the paralyzing anxiety and increase my confidence.

I laughed. Because this was supposed to be short term. I verbalized that. “Well, I plan on riding this thing until the wheels fall off,” she said.

This felt like a relief, but also a potential concern. Shouldn’t I not see two therapists ethically? That was always my understanding. Obviously when it was short-term, I didn’t worry. But long-term? L hesitated and admitted that generally that can be true. Somehow, despite that we settled on me seeing her every 2 weeks for now and re-evaluating later.

I feel kind of weird about that, especially because J has no clue about L and I’m not feeling any type of desire to tell her right now. But I liked the idea of having at least one fulfilling therapy relationship while I kept working at a resolution with J.

Plus, to reiterate, I’m already becoming attached.

She has reminded me that she is flawed, and I am super aware of this. I know that part of my feelings towards her are coming from a honeymoon period of attachment and because, compared to J, it feels so wonderful to be heard. I know that sooner or later she’s going to piss me off.

Additionally, L has yet to witness any of the crazy. Unlike J, who has watched me fall apart and sob like a lunatic more than I can count, I keep myself composed with L. I don’t know how it would feel to show true emotion. I don’t know if I’m ready for that yet, to be that vulnerable with her.

I am so torn. J knows me intricately and I know her, at least as a therapist. There’s a familiarity there that would take so much time to replicate with L.

I don’t want to give up J, I don’t want to exchange her for a new therapist, I’m not ready to give my newfound resource L up either. Which has created quite the quandary for me. I know if we continue this I have to tell J eventually, because the two could in theory coordinate care, but that’s only if I really plan to keep seeing J.

Ugh.

I hate this. I really fucking hate this.

For those of you reading who may want to comment, please be mindful of your choice of words. I am devastated at the idea of losing J, torn over this new relationship with L, and just generally feeling quite confused and overwhelmed. I know all of my communications with J are not the most effective, nor are all of my decisions here. But I am trying my best and could not have forseen a few months ago that this was where I would end up. 

I See Myself In Them

Last week at work, I was sitting in my office attempting to be productive when I heard the teacher from across the hall enter my colleagues side of the room. She came over to talk about one of our third grade students, who has been having a hard time behaviorally as of late and the teacher is concerned. Or rather, she’s frustrated.

I mean she’s in our behavior disability room, so one would think this ebb and flow in behavior would be expected, but whatever.

Our office is separated by a foldable wall, so unless I fire up my noise machine I can pretty much hear everything that’s being said. Which, on that morning, was a real shame for me, considering they were talking about borderline personality disorder.

My colleague made mention that this third grade student has borderline traits. She talked a little bit about what that meant, using lovely words like “manipulative”, and painting a grim picture of the student’s future. Her tone wasn’t malicious. She was just stating her beliefs based on experience of working with borderline parents in the past.

If they were even diagnosed. Maybe she just assumed they were borderline, since we were also happy to casually lob a very significant term that carries ample stigma in the direction of a 9 year old who can’t even be diagnosed with the disorder because she is in fact only 9.

I’m sure she didn’t intend her information to come across as stigmatizing as it did. I’m sure no one else even realized how stigmatizing what she said was. You know, since the disorder is just a term for them, and not a reality.

When I heard this, all I could think of was this teacher going home and looking up BPD. She’d read the diagnostic criteria maybe, but likely what she’d end up seeing would be the media-targeted misrepresentation and gruesome statistics associated with my disordered world.

Which of course wouldn’t help her perception of that third grade girl.

Before I could think better of it, I jumped to my feet and walked over to insert myself into the conversation. I explained what BPD can feel like using less pejorative language, talking about the emotions and the experience of the person.

I don’t know why I even bothered, honestly. But I was frustrated. My colleague was making it seem like this was a purely genetic disorder that would swallow our student whole and I wanted the teacher to understand 1. The lens our student is probably seeing these situations through and 2. BPD is also incredibly environmental and not necessarily prescriptive of a terrible future.

Again, if the student even has that. She is 9, after all. Have I mentioned that?

“It all sounds very selfish,” the teacher said and I could have facepalmed right then and there. (When I told this to L, she scoffed. “Yes, it’s very selfish to be living in angst all the time as you try not to upset other people.” Thank you, L.)

I also happen to think it’s selfish to frame your student as a manipulative and devious young girl as a way to fit the narrative you’re already telling yourself instead of actually trying to see her as a sweet and clever kid who is separate from her ineffective behaviors that are rooted pretty logically in a difficult upbringing, but whatever.

I could go on, but I think you see the point.

I ended up going back to my side of the office in defeat. For a little while, I sat there listening to the conversation go on, paralyzed from doing anything else. Knowing what they were saying, as painful as it was, was better than not knowing. Or at least this is what I told myself.

What would they think if they knew I had BPD too? Would they be surprised? Would they think differently of me? Would it shut their mouths about this girl?

Of course, I did not and would never share my diagnosis with them. That’s a recipe for disaster. The point is, the ignorance of people, especially those in the mental health field, astounds me. You may remember I had a similar experience like this last year. I thought I’d escaped from that in this district, but here we are.

It’s always from people that I feel like should know better. People, like my colleague, who are smart and caring and empathetic. This woman knows so much about how to help people, and she’s so good with the damn kids. Still, she’s got misperceptions of what it means to exist in my world. Her skewed belief and very stereotypic description of BPD reminds me why so many of us keep quiet. This is what they think of us.

I just don’t know how it was helpful to use the term at all. I really don’t. It saddens me. We are a school, we are not a mental health facility. Talk about the behaviors. Talk about her symptoms. Treat her by addressing those things. Don’t assign her a label of a disorder that fits her more like an oversized mitten than a glove, obscuring her unique strengths and situation.

Ugh.

They went on for awhile longer, while I stewed on the other side of the room, about ready to jump out of my own skin. In a frenzy, I texted J and asked for advice. I was desperate and alone in my pain, I just needed an ally in the battle.

She texted back awhile later. “That’s so hard. Though hearing those terms are hurtful, it may be helpful to remind yourself, first, that they are not talking about you, and second, that you have been growing your awareness of your own feelings, thoughts, and actions for a long time now. This wouldn’t bother you at all if you didn’t have the awareness you do! Advocate for your students and just take of yourself. Take plenty of breaks today.”

It was a completely well thought out response that made me feel heard, accepted, and cared for. For all my doubts about J, she can really come through when I need her.

I returned to that text repeatedly throughout the day and have discussed it with her since. Because as painful as that experience was in isolation, it also drove home another series of doubts I’ve been dealing with.

I work with kids that have various needs. I am not a trained counselor, but I have ended up in a role that involves service delivery through lunch groups and individual counseling sessions. It’s a role I take very seriously, as I try to build me repertoire of interventions so that I can be effective in helping them.

The issue I keep coming back to is that I see a lot of myself in my students. I have a young boy who struggles so deeply with high emotionality that impacts his ability to make friends. There’s a young girl with similar issues, who can leave a situation so confused as to how it went wrong. I have another student who has a harsh internal narrative that ranks up with mine in terms of cruelty. His work refusal and difficulty socially is rooted in a belief he has that he is not good enough.

Sound familiar?

These kids come to me unable to identify their emotions, unable to select tools to regulate to a calm emotional state. They struggle to see other people’s perspectives. They struggle to resolve conflicts with friends. Some of them struggle even to build those friendships.

When I see them, I remember the sensitive kid I was and the sullen teenager I became, and it’s a future I don’t wish for any of them. I want so badly to make the difference for them that an adult in school could have made for me if given the opportunity. I feel the pressure of being good enough for them.

Then I question, how can I help these kids if I can’t even help myself? Worse, I wonder if my continued struggles despite years of hard work with an actual trained professional signify that the situation is in fact hopeless for them, since I haven’t grown either. These are the thoughts that send me into a tailspin of defeatedness and darkness.

J and I delved into this during my last session. She reminded me that me helping them and me helping me are separated by an important thing: objectivity. The lens through which we view own situations is muddied by our personal biases, whereas with my students I can see their problems from a clearer viewpoint.

Plus, I have an advantage of time. Kids at their age view most things in a concrete, egocentric sense; it’s hard for them to pick apart their struggle with a friend and see the underlying intentions of a peer or how their environment intercedes. I am older, and I see the abstract pieces the way they might not be able to without a little support.

This whole time, I’ve assumed my diagnoses were working against my ability to help these kids. And in some ways, it is. The anxiety that makes me freeze up in the moment, forgetting where I should go next in the conversation. The self-doubt that makes me question whether my response to their problem is the right one. The trouble with boundary-setting, which can impact my group management. The shame that tells me bad counselor, you need to step from them and instead you are a failure.

But.

Yes, there’s another side to it too, and it’s coming into view.

My diagnoses make me empathetic. Whereas I’ve noticed others are so quick to dismiss another student’s problems, to call them manipulative or dramatic or stubborn, I have an easier time reading their pain. I see the anxiety, inability to communicate, the sadness, the frustration, that’s fueling their challenging behavior. I see it clearly, even if I don’t know what to do with it in the moment.

For that reason, I always validate their experience. I think that’s so important as someone who often felt my feelings were dismissed because they didn’t fit how they should be in the situation. I will always say something to the tune of I know that’s frustrating. I understand you don’t want to do this. I see why you’d like it to be another way.

We may then have to talk about the fact that things won’t be the way they want, that they may still be hard, but I always try to give them a moment to know that I’ve truly seen their perspective. Empathy. It’s helpful not to feel alone. I am their ally.

I also want to believe while I do see some of myself in the struggles of these kids, I also also see  myself in their persistence and their silliness. It helps give me hope for how they can grow.

And while obviously the interventions that I’m learning as an adult won’t mirror what I teach them, and our situations are identical, perhaps there’s value in examining some of my own experiences as I try to relate to them in a way that’s meaningful.

For example, for my young boy with the friendship troubles, I can consider what I might have found it most helpful to hear as I’ve strived to build my own relationships. What skills have I needed to learn? Perhaps I can begin there.

Or for that third grade girl. What does she need most? She needs to see that others withstand her storm. She needs to learn how to cultivate her own healthy sense of connection with others while also enhancing her ability to be there for herself. She needs a new way to categorize her experiences in the world beyond just black or white.

For me, this has meant learning to tolerate the things I don’t like. It’s about identifying my emotion emotions. It has included systematically deconstructing my negative beliefs and trying to replace it with an accumulation of positive thoughts and supportive measures. This has meant learning how to look at things from a bigger picture, to play the role of detective finding evidence to refute my beliefs that a situation was all good or all bad.

Maybe these are things that could help our girl? This could be the time to advocate. Despite my bias, my view my have it’s own type of clarity here.

If I am going to chide this teacher and my colleague for talking about my student in a way that just disadvantages her by focusing too much on the same, perhaps I should also chide me for doing the same with myself because of my own diagnosis.

BPD in the work world. It’s a challenge, every damn day, but maybe it instills me with a type of empathy and ability to connect that could end up being the foundation of a good counselor with some time and patience.

Maybe.

Shame and Vulnerability

At the beginning of the school year, a continuing education magazine ended up in my mailbox at work. In it was a coupon to view an hour long talk of Brené Brown’s online for free. I cut it out and let it sit in my desk for almost two months. But it was about to expire, so I decided (finally) that today was the day to watch it.

I’ve heard the name Brené Brown before, mostly from other bloggers who talk about her books. Her work had always intrigued me, but I hadn’t delved into any of it until today. After I watched this first course, I ended up watching her two TED talks.

Might I say, she’s quite the game changer.

I have written repeatedly about this distinct feeling I have that I am fundamentally flawed, destined for nothing beyond being alone and a failure. I call it a core belief, because it is. That feeling dominates me on my darkest days, and it has for some time. I’ve always thought this feelings was a figment of my BPD, which I guess is kind of circular logic.

Turns out, I have a different monster to blame.

According to Brené Brown, that feeling I have? It’s shame. Shame is the experience that we are unworthy of love and belonging. It calls into question our ability to make connections. Shame disconnects us from the world.

Shame, I learned, is different from guilt. Guilt is a focus on behavior. It’s the recognition that “I did something bad.” Shame is a focus on self. It’s what is for me a very common feeling that “I am bad.” In her words, it drives the tirade of “I am not good enough” that has played like a broken record in my head for over a decade.

When Brené Brown described shame, she used the word gremlin to describe it, which is as close of a description as I could ever imagine to something I’ve been describing in my blog for months.

I see it now very clearly. The minions.

The minions in my head are operated by shame.  Every time I take a risk, reach out for help, try to make a connection, the voices that come to the surface do so in a way that remind me I am undeserving. Undeserving of success. Undeserving of friendship. Undeserving of compassion.

By far my favorite part of Brené’s talk was when she described her own experience with this phenomenon. She’d been devastated when her husband didn’t make a big deal of her birthday, when he knew birthdays were important to her.

The outcome of that story was that when she went to couples therapy a few days later and relayed her pain to her therapist, the therapist asked her if she’d asked him to make a big deal?

No, she hadn’t. But he knew what it meant to her, she reasoned to the therapist. If she asked, it wouldn’t have been as special, it wouldn’t have been worth it.

As she told her story, I nodded along with it, fully on her side.

Her therapist’s response? “Maybe you don’t think you’re worth it if you can’t ask him”

Well, fuck.

I often believe if I have to ask for something from someone, it diminishes the value of what I’ve asked for. If I have to ask for reassurance, it doesn’t count. If I have to ask for someone to show they care, to validate, it’s not worth it. It’s pathetic. I’m pathetic. 

There I sit and wait for validation that’s been offered spontaneously without me manipulating it because I assume the other person being willing to volunteer it is an indicator of my worth. I’m trying to use other’s actions to manufacture something that’s supposed to be generated from within myself.

I don’t believe in my own worth enough, so I can’t ask for validation or care or reassurance without a hell of a lot of discomfort following.

I think on some level I knew this, but to hear it described that way was very enlightening.

For example, I’m literally sitting in therapy half the time thinking that I’m not even worth her time or mine. I shouldn’t bother her with my stuff. That’s shame talking. Shame is inhibiting my ability to participate in therapy, to improve my life, because I don’t even feel like I can ask for help from a person whose entire job centers on helping people. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of support or capable of growth.

Maybe this is part of the reason I’m feeling so stuck?

As a follow up thought, I’m now wondering if the circle of shame is also what causes my sense of connection to slip away so quickly in someone’s absence. We might connect in the moment, but I know deep down that I’m unlovable and that I’m not worthy of their sustained connection, so I don’t trust it. I can’t imagine a universe in which I would be continuously deserving of someone’s love or care.

I also think this is really important because we’ve discussed in therapy lately that socialization needs to be a big priority. We’ve discussed that I generally feel empty right now and want to make some more meaningful connections.

The title of the first talk I watched was called Shame Shields. Brené stated that we deal with shame by using one of three shields: We move away, hiding our shame with secrets and withdrawing. We move towards by trying to please others as a way to squash shame. Or we move against shame by using anger to spark more shame in others.

I’m partial to one of the first two. Either burying myself in my shame through self-punishing methods or trying to build the other person up in a manner of getting them to overlook my shameful self. To overlook that I’m a bad friend or bad colleague or bad client.

If I want to make connections, real connections, hiding behind those shields is not going to be particularly useful for the cause.

So what will?

Brené went on to state that the way to combat shame is with vulnerability. In her research, she found that people who felt worthiness were not only willing to embrace vulnerability, they felt it necessary. They told the stories of themselves to the world, warts and all.

Shit. I wanted to stop listening right there. I like guarantees. I like being prepared and knowing exactly how things are going to work out. I thrive on it. Vulnerability is the exactly opposite of that. It’s flinging yourself into relationships and situations not knowing how it’s going to end. That sounds terrible. It sounds excruciating.

So yeah, I wanted to just turn it off and pretend that what she had to say was a falsehood. Tell me how to make connections without having to feel so damn exposed all the time.

But then she said that we humans have a tendency to numb vulnerability. We numb those painful feelings by eating and spending and whatever other vices we have.

Wow. I feel called out.

Considering I feel everything at the maximum level of intensity, of course I’ve been suppressing the negative feelings. They fucking suck.

Plus, you wouldn’t think that the answer to how to get in control of your life would be to accept that feeling out of control is necessary sometimes.

Brown argues that we can’t numb the pain without numbing the joy. I can’t suppress the imperfect parts of me without suppressing the good parts too. Part of me learning to interact with and build strong relationships with people will be discovering this “authentic” self of mine and communicating it freely to others instead of hiding behind those shields, hoping that they don’t see my shame.

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of worthiness, love, belonging. It’s the birthplace of creativity and change.”

I want to feel worthy. I want to have a sense of belonging and love in my life. I still have these fleeting hopes of a life with a husband and kids, a set of close friends and me being a functional part of my community.

Which means that…maybe I’m going to have to learn to start taking more risks and investing in relationships with people while simultaneously tolerating and even respecting my imperfections?

There was another quote of hers that really stuck with me.“It’s seductive to stand outside the arena and think, I’m going to go in there and kick some ass when I’m bulletproof and perfect.”

We’ve always been working for this, but it’s almost like I’ve still been using therapy as a method of completely eliminating my imperfections. It hasn’t worked, no surprise. She’s been telling me since day 1 that you can’t be perfect, but I’m only ever half entertaining that notion. Part of me is always still pushing, because if I’m perfect, I don’t have to be vulnerable.

But no, I have to start making these changes now and practicing vulnerability in relationships, learning to tolerate the unknown. I can’t keep putting it off, waiting until I reach a certain threshold of “good” or “healed” before I feel ready. Because I’ll never feel ready.

Vulnerability means maybe we need to talk more about my shame and it’s origins? Naming the feeling as it occurs, dissecting the thoughts, identifying their triggers. Talking about that in the context of social interactions and normalizing the feelings.

I’ve already asked for repeated encouragement and assurance from her in helping me be more vulnerable, which may not be the point, but it seems like lately the second I try to say anything vulnerable, I end up diverting to safer topics before I can stop myself. Brené Brown did say those who don’t about shame have the most of it, and that’s certainly true here.

I wonder if maybe using this language will help support that journey. I wonder if I can truly let go and let myself embrace vulnerability

I’m afraid of this because being honest about the same means letting out more of the crazy and she’s seen more than enough of that.

I’m afraid of this, because I’m afraid of shame consuming me. Brené spoke about these shame conversations being like an exploration into some great swamplands. The purpose isn’t to go there and set up camp, it’s to explore, become more familiar with the territory, and then return home. Talking about shame is like quicksand and I’ve found once I enter that territory it’s hard to escape. You’ll find on our exploration that I’ve got a whole freaking village set up with the time I’ve spent there.

Shame has had a place in my life for so long now, what would it mean to give in to vulnerability? To let it exist? Would I see that increased connection that Brené Brown promised? Or would it just be too painful to tolerate?

I’m not sure which one is more terrifying.