New Book on BPD

I have not read this book yet but it was recommended by Debbie Corso, one of the amazing women that taught me DBT. Beyond Borderline is a collection of stories about recovering from BPD. You can read an excerpt here.

It is so easy to get caught up in the emotional turmoil that we experience as emotionally sensitive people. I feel that having a book to refer to that is filled with stories by different people about how they have healed will be extremely helpful. There is bound to be bits of each story that we can relate to and solutions we can apply to our own lives.

 

When did things stop feeling like shit?

Things still can and do feel like shit. That’s just life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There comes a point though in our lives when things stop feeling like shit all the time. We have those moments of where we realize that we’re going to be ok.

I’m reading Hyperbole and a Half and in the second section on depression that author, Allie Brosh, explains the moment she realized things can stop feeling like shit. Brosh was having a cry on the floor when she noticed a shriveled up, lone piece of corn under her refrigerator. For reasons she cannot explain, seeing this piece of corn made Brosh laugh uncontrollably. Something about this piece of corn and that moment told her that things can be less shitty. This got me thinking about the moment in my life when I realized things can be less shitty.

I was 18 years old and was dating a complete idiot. For online purposes, we’ll call him “S”. S and I dated for 2 months or so and I even took him to prom (which was a shit-show). He was a few years older than me, in his very early 20s,

Image: a happy-faced ball surround by sad-faced balls.

Image: a happy-faced ball surround by sad-faced balls.

and was first generation Canadian to Italian Catholic immigrants (which is relevant from a cultural difference stand-point). I met S through my ex’s friend when I went to see a movie with them. S tried to engage me in a conversation about the movie after it was over and I blew him off. A few days later I was told by my ex’s friend that S liked me. Silly, vulnerable me, thought that, that was amazing and because of that fact I must like him back. Oddly enough I was actually dating B, my current partner, at the time and justified leaving him for S because S lived closer to me. Very quickly I saw that I had made a mistake dating S. He was extremely controlling and demeaning. He expected me to be like his mother, a “wife” that would serve his needs and not question him. It was some hardcore Italian Catholic ideologies (I am well aware that not all Catholics and Italians are like this, this is just what he and his family were like and those were the reasons he identified). After 2 months of being told what to do and made me feel horrible and, confused S broke up with me over the phone after I called him to let him know that I was going to spend a second night with a friend. Apparently, I had no right to spend multiple days in a row with my friends. I got off the phone with him, cried for 10 minutes, and then carried on with me life. This was the moment things stopped being so shitty.

While the situation was horrible, it was extremely different from other situations I had found myself in even a year before when I was 17 years old. I had never questioned my poor treatment by others as strongly as I did with S. Everything he said and did to me I found myself saying, and sometimes even to his face, “No, that’s not right.” Then, not only did I say it or think it, I stood by it. This was also the time I decided to stop taking psych drug. The exact moment I realized though that I was going to be ok in my life, that I would not die young or be miserable forever, was when S broke up with me and I didn’t fall to pieces. The 10 minute cry was for myself, not for him. I cried out of love and compassion for myself. I cried because I was sorry that I had put myself through such a horrible time with such a horrible person. I cried because I was happy the relationship was over.

From that moment on things have only gone forward. My path towards being the person I want to be isn’t a straight one and trust me, yours will not be straight either. There were many moments of where I fell and felt like I was losing it but since that moment with S, I have been able to bounce back faster and come out stronger. I can only describe it as a being like a switch. That time when I was 18, for some reason, flicked the switch in my mind that let me know things will be ok and that switch has stayed on.

Getting a new diagnosis: Thoughts on mental health identity

Image: a list of illnesses with empty check boxes beside each name. Depression has a red check mark next to it.

In a past Motherhood & Madness post I mentioned that the psychiatrist I’m seeing felt that my borderline diagnosis was wrong and that I instead experience major depression, generalized anxiety and “severe, reactive interpersonal sensitives”. As I said in the previous post, “I feel like [the psychiatrist] just broke down my experience into small chunks, making them seem separate when they are really deeply connected.” Overall I have ignored the apparent change in diagnosis and I also have to admit that it did get to me when I found myself in a group of BPD peers. I may see myself as not sick, identify as Mad and as someone who doesn’t put weight into DSM labels but it would be careless of me to ignore that I am still vulnerable to these labels and what they mean.

I remember when I was first diagnosed with dysthymia (chronic depression) when I was 16 years old I felt relieved and validated. For many years my sadness had been seen as a personal flaw and for the first time I could tell people that being this sad all the time wasn’t something I was doing on purpose (of course, discrimination made none of that matter but I still had something to fall back on rather than nothing). When I was around 23 years old and told that I no longer had dysthymia, and instead had borderline personality traits I again felt validated. I felt like someone understood my experiences and that I would finally be able to get the help I really needed (let’s just ignore the fact that BPD treatment is limited, expensive and not taken seriously). Now, at 27, with 2 (or 3…does the sensitivities count as a diagnosis?) different diagnoses added to my file I find myself scratching my head and thinking, “That’s not me.”

Image: a creature coming out of a circle. The creature’s body says “I am?” The circle has words on it such as personality, heritage, behaviour, abilities, feelings and narrative.

Each of our identities can bring with it a sense of community. My identity as a White woman with BPD opens up opportunities for me to connect with others through shared experiences, discuss the issues related to our identities (especially around White privilege) and offer sources of pride. So when one of those identities is challenged it shakes you to your core and can have damaging effects (here I especially think about trans people who are morally and legally denied to be the sex they know they were born to be). I think that many mental health professionals still do not understand that for some people, they are not handing out the name of an illness, they are handing out identities. These diagnoses can offer us an understanding in our experiences and guide us into how we can fit into the world. I have no problem connecting with others who have a different label than I as I know majority of us have similar shared experiences. There is something special though about being with others who share your label. It is very empowering, healing and fun.

I experience the extreme sadness we call depression but I do not identify with it. I do not think I could sit in a major depression support group and feel 100% comfortable. The same goes for the generalized anxiety label. I do not think I would fit well there. This has nothing to do with individuals who are have these labels and experiences. I would feel just as out of place in a group of people with another identity that I did not connect with. My sadness and anxiety is extremely situational and I believe BPD acknowledged that.

At the end of the day, I know I get to choose who I am. Just because someone gives me a label does not mean I have to accept it. I write the story of my life and I will continue to see myself as a sensitive person who is doing fairly well in life. I get to decide.

 

South Park and Safe Spaces

Today I finished the most recent full season of South Park. The overall theme of the season is political correctness and how far some people will take it. In one episode, Cartman is fat shamed online and Butters is told that he must screen all of Cartman’s social media comments so he only sees the compliments. Butters then provides this service for other people and celebrities like Steven Seagal and Vin Diesel. Butters helps create a safe space for people who are shamed online.

Since South Park is satirical and there is truth in everything they show, no matter how over the top. I wanted to share the video of the musical number in that episode that I thought was important (and funny). If you are not a fan of South Park, cursing and all that then I would advise you do not watch the video and just skip down to what I have to say about it.

In the mental health community (as well as many other marginalized communities), there is a lot of talk about safe spaces. The Safe Space Network defines a safe space as:

A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.

Safe spaces are crucial to healing, problem solving and community. When a safe space becomes unsafe the consequences can sometimes be disastrous. Let me provide an example. A handful of years ago I volunteered to sit on a mental health task force at a local University. The particular committee I was on was headed by a Mad social work professor (a friend of mine) and a critical disability studies professor who was a Mad ally. I knew these two individuals, as well as some others who were there, were safe people so I felt safe in the room. One volunteer was a professor from the Journalism School and she made the space very unsafe. While we were all having a discussion on language, mostly surrounding how to keep the space safe we should avoid using words like “crazy”, “insane”, “psycho” etc. This journalism professor flat out refused to change her language, despite myself and another professor explaining that the language is historically linked to violence and cause feelings of violence and trauma within the bodies of people with mental health issues. This person did not care. It was more important to her that she be able to say what she wants (a journalism thing I was told). I later wrote an email to my professor friend telling her that I did not feel safe coming back to the group. My friend agreed that the space was now unsafe and that other volunteers had expressed similar concerns. In the end, the journalism professor went to a different committee that would possibly be a better fit for her.

We all need to have a safe space with “bullet proof windows”, “troll safe doors”, “no shame”, and “people that support [you]”. A safe space can be an actual physical space (such as a peer support group meeting) or even inside your own mind (imagining you are somewhere you enjoy when you experience stress). What I have found important when it comes to safe space, especially the ones we create in our own minds, to not use them to escape reality completely. Such as in the South Park episode, Cartman’s refusal to face the internet trolls and out right have someone erase the mean comments and only allow him to read the good ones, while it seems good, can actually cause some damage. We all need to learn how to cope with adversity and ignoring the current reality will not help you develop coping skills. Avoiding reality also means that we are not actively fighting against the injustice that we are trying to hide from which will result in that injustice continuing. Safe spaces can support us in positively coping and fighting against the injustice we experience.

Of course, there are times where we do need to completely remove ourselves from an unsafe space and recover from what has happened. Feminist author, Jessica Valenti, recently quit social media when she woke up one morning to find her social media filled with horrible threats towards her young daughter. She needs to remove herself, heal, and come back fighting in a different way if she so chooses. In this case, her daughter’s safety is in question and is her highest priority.

Any time I am with my like-minded friends I am in a safe space. I enjoy talking with these friends about all of my experiences and their experiences and there is only support. Pride in Madness has also turned out to be a fairly safe space for me although I am completely aware that the internet is never actually safe. I have had rude comments left pending in my inbox but the positive comments far outweigh them. The safe space I go to in my mind is usually a forest. In hypnobirthing, my safe space is a completely purple room and it is a room I can go to calm my mind and my body during labour.

Where are your safe spaces?

Ableism: Every life matters

Triggering Music

Talk of ableism and mention of violence.

I recently read an article in the Toronto Star about a man in Japan that entered a care facility, of which he was a former employee, and killed 19 “mentally disabled” people and injured others. The attack is being called Japan’s deadliest mass killing in decades. This man reportedly wrote a letter to Parliament months before the attack explaining exactly what he was going to do and nothing was done to protect the facility or keep him away. As promised in his letter, the man turned himself in 2 hours after the attack. This man believed he was doing the world a favour through his actions.

I bring up this attack because there are still many people around the world that believe people who experience disability do not deserve to live and/or lead miserable lives and therefore their lives are not as valuable. This is simply not true. The lives of people who experience disability are not less than the lives of others. The lives of individuals who intersect in other places such as race and disability, sexual orientation and disability etc. are also not worth less. Ableism tells us that to be anything but “normal” in physical and mental functioning is not a good thing. Yet, many people who experience different physical and mental functioning often find the good in their life because their lives are good. I have found this to be especially true for those who have grown up with whatever it is they experience. I take back calling it “different” because it really is not. i feel that different implies there should be a right way, a “normal” way, and I don’t believe that in all cases.

Image: “Disability is not inability.”

I can only speak for myself and say that there is nothing wrong with how I function even though it is deemed “different” and “disordered”. My life is valuable regardless of how I fit myself into the world. People need to make more room for me and others who identify with disability or other identities.

Now, this article also plays the mental health card. The typical, “early mental health prevention/treatment would have detected a possible mental illness,” blah blah blah. Maybe he does have one. Maybe he does not. We need to stop looking at mental illness as the reason people commit acts of violence. Statistics repeatedly illustrate otherwise and it will never cease to shock me that people continue to ignore this truth. Even if he is labelled as being mentally ill that is just his experience. We cannot generalize. That is ableism.


A little sidenote: I found it amusing that this man requested that because he believed he was doing a good thing murdering these people, that he be found innocent on the grounds of insanity. So, he feels murdering people who have been potentially labelled as insane (I haven’t found an article that explains what mentally disabled or disabled means) is a positive thing and yet he wants to be labelled insane to escape punishment. He would like to be seen as the people he believes are not worthy? Logic is escaping me. 

Motherhood & Madness: My Top 5 Fears

Motherhood&Madness

B and I recently completed our hypnobirthing course. For our last class, we were asked to think of our top 5 fears and rate them on a scale of 1 (lowest) and 5 (highest). I would like to share my 5 fears with you as I believe there is much about pregnancy, birth, and parenthood that we don’t talk about. Many parents are shamed for their fears despite the majority of parents having the same fears.

  1. I am afraid that B will not be there for me after the birth (ranked 5): Certain things in our relationship have me fearful that it will mean I do a lot of parenting alone. While I completely recognize that as the mom that is staying at home with our son I am going to do most of the baby care I am afraid that it will even extend into when he should also be caring for our son. B has verbally said that he will be there for the baby and the fear is still in the back of my mind. It will be a transition for both of us and we will have to negotiate.
  2. I am afraid about not knowing what labour and birth will feel like (ranked 3): This is a huge unknown for me as a first time mom. No one can accurately describe pain, and everyone experiences pain differently. I think this fear is mostly linked to me being nervous that I will not recognize when labour is beginning. Hypnobirthing is used to help manage pain but what if I can’t use it because the pain really catches me off guard? I just don’t know what this experience will be like.
  3. I am afraid that I will isolate myself and not socialize/lose friends because I have a baby (ranked 3): I already isolate myself from others and have been for over 2 years. I don’t want to use the baby as an excuse to stay away from people and experiences. I know that if I do this then I will plummet into sadness. I have heard of people losing friends after they have children and I think it’s more about being at a different stage in life. I don’t want to lose anything because I’m having a baby. I want to gain.
  4. I am afraid that I will not bond with my baby (ranked 3): Pregnancy is very abstract. I can see pictures of my baby, hear his heart beat, feel him move, see him move and I can even feel body parts. I still don’t see him as being something that is real. I do feel this has affected bonding and I know that actually holding him will make a difference, I still cannot shake the feeling that I will see him and after the initial high I will still feel detached. What parents wants to feel detached from their child?
  5. I am afraid that my baby isn’t growing (ranked 1): People keep telling me that I look small. When we think of pregnant people we think of a huge belly and I don’t really have one of those. I think this is also a common fear that will never leave me. Parents always want to make sure their children are healthy. I do know that I am growing as evident by the measurements done by my midwife, my belly pictures, and ultrasound pictures. Still, every month I wonder if he is growing.

These are fears. They are not facts. Many of my fears can be dealt with, with facts (ie: measuring my belly to ensure growth) and proactive strategies (ie: attending mommy and baby groups). We all have fears while pregnant and becoming parents. I think if we didn’t have fears then we wouldn’t properly prepare ourselves, open ourselves to different possibilities and improve ourselves.

Vision Board 2016: Update

Back in January, I created my first Vision Board for 2016. Seeing as we are now in middle-ish of July I thought it would be a good time to see where I am at in meeting these goals. I can already say that I am not meeting most of these goals but I do have a good reason🙂

  1. Relationship: Find calm when B goes out. I have improved in this area. I’m not entirely sure why but I have found ways to occupy myself and B has been improving at balancing my needs, his needs and our relationship needs.
  2. Reading: Read 50 books. I changed this goal as I found myself falling behind for awesome (but lame) health reasons. My new goal is 20 books and I have read 16 books so far for 2016. If I hit 20 books I may increase to 25 books.
  3. Physical: Do yoga 3 times a week. Ya…I was doing that and then I felt too sick. I am doing more walking so that is helpful for my physical health!
  4. Friendship: Go out at least once a week. Not really doing this either do to health reasons. I have gone out more at certain times depending on how I physically feel. Friends are also being accommodating by coming over to see me. I could still see my friends way more!
  5. Family: Become pregnant. I DID IT!!!!! Today I am 30 weeks pregnant🙂
  6. Education: Complete at least 1 online course. I haven’t found any courses that interest me. This is still a goal of mine!
  7. DBT: Use DEAR MAN at least twice a week. I haven’t been very conscious about whether or not I have been doing this but I am trying to say things in a calm and clear manner.
  8. Cat Fostering: Foster a minimum of 2 cats. Naevia left in January and Ophelia left in March. I personally only count Ophelia has my 2016 foster because I had Naevia at the end of 2015. B didn’t want to foster anymore so we decided to stop. I am very proud that I was able to find homes for 3 cats (one of them with me).
  9. Work: Go to work unless I am physically or emotionally unwell. I missed a lot of work due to pregnancy issues. When I have been able to go to work though I have gone. Work has been a good distraction from some of the unpleasant physical symptoms of pregnancy and my co-workers have been amazing!
  10. Blogging: Write a blog a minimum of once a week. Didn’t really do this. I felt very sick and also have found that I have been running out of things to say. My focus has shifted greatly on making sure that I am taking care of myself and not stressing myself out. I appreciate those of you who have stuck around🙂

In the end, becoming pregnant is the only goal I really care about and I was successful!

Did you set any goals that you have met or are having difficulty meeting?