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what’s your book cover

I’ve been having book covers and titles coming to me. What, if anything, I ever end up doing with them, it seems like part of my therapy to express them. What is your book cover?

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eternal pajama party + dating sucks

i want to gather the club members from far and wide in a giant living room, for an eternal pajama party. an eternal retreat. just our presence and the fact that we can understand each other and how to be gentle with each other will heal us, and give us strength to venture out into the non-member world occasionally for an adventure now and then, or when necessary; but our home is there for us to come home to, where there is safety and healing in the physical presence of our numbers together. we can assure and remind each other daily that we are not ‘difficult’ people; whatever happened to us actually did happen, that we are loved, and that we are not alone.

i’m sick like a dog today — head like a bowling ball, throat like razors.

i feel injured inside, feeling the divide between “normal” people and Survivors (with a capital S). Survivors of … abuse, trauma, a combination of the two, or bpd’s, or any other mental illness or experience that has driven you to the ends of the earth and you have lived to tell about it.

a friend of mine i knew in school last year was also recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder as well as avoidant personality disorder. i feel the ending of our closeness, where she is finding wellness in carrying on as always, and just making an extra effort to be nice to people, kind of living in spite of the diagnosis. she really does seem to be genuinely happy and things really do seem to be going wonderfully for her. knowing her, i could genuinely see some kind of cognitive or emotional dysfunction — her diagnosis wasn’t a surprise to me, — but her response is saddening to me, and of course one of the triggers i am dealing with on the inside today.

rationally, i think if she truly has a personality disorder, she will eventually have to deal with it head on, if things deteriorate, like boyfriend, job, new home, etc. but really, and as her friend, I hope she doesn’t. i hope she got enough identity from these diagnosis to understand herself in a way that she could work with and move on from in a positive and healthy way. there is a scale for all these pd’s, and aspects of all of them in us at various times in our lives. maybe some of us may just have to dip our toes in the pd waters to gain the validation we need. i also pray that if she has to fall, and give up the fight, that she survive the fall and finds the support she needs in the global family of Survivors.

i guess what i feel now is that she is not a family member, not a member of the club. she hasn’t surrendered, and maybe she never will. i have to move her to a more external ‘intimacy ring’ in my life, and i do this reluctantly, not from a judgemental place.

i feel this path in life, the path of being a member of the club (referencing Molly Wolf’s short story), isolates me in many ways — ways that only members of the club can ever possibly understand. i see that it may not be possible to have many friends, or fit in with society in the ways that non-members take for granted. this is daunting, and a planet full of sadness comes over me.

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness (Photo credit: Gemma.E.Taylor)

last night, i was talking with someone i’ve been flirting with, once a week at a musical jam night, for the past couple of months. we haven’t had very many times to talk one on one with each other, and so far, our energies together have been whacky and playful in a fun way, which i have been drawn to. like many in my life, i have been able to be honest enough to admit that i live with a mental illness (or sometimes, i say that i deal with chronic fatigue, or anxiety, or chronic stress …). what i cannot bring myself to tell people is what the mental illness is called. i just feel that most people would misunderstand it so horribly if they ever looked it up on the internet that it would backfire on me, so i tell them everything i can without saying the name of “it.” the thing is, my story has been inconsistent. people feel that i am keeping something from them; that i don’t trust them, or that they can’t trust me to be truthful, or that if i’m keeping it from them, it must be really horrible and they should exercise extreme caution with me. fuck. i’m damned if i tell, and damned if i don’t.

i don’t want to keep people on the outside, and certainly if another person is considering getting closer to me, i do not want to keep them in the dark; but nor do i want to scare them away. so, already having established the mental illness thing, as well as the fact that i am living with my Mother; when he asked if i was working at the moment, i ventured as far as to tell him that i am applying for disability. innocently, he responded saying, “What’s your disability? You’ve always seemed perfectly fine to me.”

i crashed and burned from there. i tried to just go straight to the heart of the answer, once again avoiding the name of the diagnosis, telling him about the “exceptional range of confidence” (written about in my post ‘disability application process‘), which made about as much sense as any crazy person, eh. … yeah. yep. fuck.

dating sucks for the members of the club.

The image illustrates some theory of famous ps...

The image illustrates some theory of famous psychologist Melanie Klein, advanced by John Steiner (1979). The theory is about how Borderline Personality Disorder develops and how it interacts with other disorders. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

this disorder is so hidden at first. only now, almost a year after arriving here is the newness starting to wear off, the reality of what i live with starting to be felt — only by me of course. that phenomenon of people not being able to relate or attach to me is starting to happen again. the thing that i tried to think positively about all my life, hoping that i was just seeing the negative, and if i could just not listen to those thoughts, they would go away.

so here i am. it’s finally acknowledged in me and my therapeutic connections as real. now how the hell am i actually going to live with it in society. the earth is not solid beneath my feet today.

breathe. appreciate the moment. it is sunny outside. i am fed. i am warm. there are people in the world who truly know me and love me, even if there is no living room and we are not in our pajamas together, in the flesh.

unknown source

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dialectics, again + confirmation: i am not faking it. i am not a fraud.

enabling vs. support

isolation vs. time alone to feel

relaxation vs. laziness

overcoming fears vs. entering unsafe situations and betraying ourselves.

extraordinarily gifted vs. disabled and less-fortunate

young woman or old hag

young woman or old hag (unknown artist)

the trigger

I spent the weekend with a group of fellow ACA members (Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families) at a ski resort several hours away from where I live.

Having known several of these folks as an off-and-on member of their recovery group for the past year, I didn’t think twice about spending several days with them in a remote location.

They were safe, they were friends and fellow survivors; and as such, their friends were my friends.

I had what could be called by the psychiatric profession an episode (?). I yelled and swore and sobbed hysterically for over an hour, and was left alone in this state, but in clear ear shot of the 9 other members in the house.

I had become exhausted skiing and had not headed my instinct to rest. I had then become over-stimulated and gone into a state of extreme shyness, insecurity, social phobia.

Unable to join the group at dinner upstairs, I stayed in my bunk downstairs after a nap and phoned a friend with trauma and ptsd experience. I didn’t feel able to hide what was going on for me, but I also didn’t know how or if to share it with the group. She helped me identify that I was approaching a potential crisis state, and we decided that I would call up to the woman who had invited me to be there that weekend and ask if she would bring me some food in my bed.

The crisis became full blown when this request triggered the woman who owned the house to come storming down to my bedroom and inform me that there was no room service in her house. When I told her I had a medical condition that prevented me from coming up to the living room area, she demanded to know what it was, saying she had a right to know because it was her house. When I told her, she said that I should have thought twice about coming there in the first place; that her house was a place of joy and community. When I asked to speak with the woman who had invited me to the weekend, the owner of the condo said that she would not allow it, that she would not allow her friends to be burdened with negative feelings while they were staying in her house. That I could come up and join them when I felt ready to be in a positive space.

In the midst of all that, I had began to cry, then sob, then yell and swear at her through my sobbing, while covering my face and curling into a ball before becoming completely inaudible in my efforts to defend myself.

She personified my initial wounding. Then, the rest of the group personified it by the fact that despite my loud and uncontrollable sobbing went on for over an hour, no one came down to be with me. I was left alone, in shame and exile for how I was feeling. I phoned my ptsd friend again, and we decided that I was not in a safe place, and that I needed to find a way to get out of there as soon as possible, all through the sobbing, the whole conversation quite audible to the rest of the group upstairs if they had stopped to listen. I have no idea. From the snippets of sound I was hearing from them, it sounded as if they had simply continued with their evening, laughing and joking and being the happy recovery family. I then called my CoDA sponsor, who was sympathetic and actually in shock to hear what was going on with this group of ACA members, but completely stand-offish when it came to action, such as driving to pick me up or speaking with another member there at the house with me. She told me I would have to call on my higher power like never before to endure and survive and reminded me that I was physically safe.

When the rest of the group left to go tubing down the hill that night, I was alone in the house. I called two more CoDA people, who made me laugh and start to feel like myself again. I tried to find out if there were any shuttles out of there sooner than my ride with the others down the hill the following afternoon, but to no avail. So I packed up my things from the common living space and prepared to spend the next 12 hours in my bed, reading, writing, listening to music and anything else to forget where I was.

When the group came home, there was not privacy. I was sleeping in a bunk with one other, tucked in a passage way from the boot room of the house to the basement stairway. By now, I had calmed down and was able to accept the reality of being there, having to honour myself and my experience and relate to the others in the way that the situation needed me to in order to survive it. Two women ended up in my room with me, and after I joined into their banter about what had happened on the tubing hill for a few minutes, they asked me how I was doing. I told them that I was ready to go, simply passing the time until the next day when I could go home; that I did not feel welcome in this home. I told them what had happened for me, and that I had never lost it like that in front of others (in retrospect, I don’t think I’d actually lost it like that, period). They fostered the viewpoint of objectivity, understanding and non judgement, and encouraged me that everyone else was also of that mindset and that they would be happy if I was able to come up and join them for the evening.

And so I did. Without betraying my own reality, and with a bubble of protection from those I had spoken to on the phone, I was able to be present with myself and with the others. I endured until the next day and made it home.

In the car, it became clear that no one was going to bring it up. That if I remained silent and removed for the rest of the trip, that was going to be how it would end. So, I came out and asked for a clearing about what had happened and they engaged willingly.

They identified that the condo owner had been triggered, which had disrupted the interaction of me asking for help, and expressed sadness that I had had a traumatic experience this weekend. They told me that the condo owner had witnessed the woman I’d asked to speak with in a suicidal state, codependently wrapped up in other people’s dramas, and that this was a life-time pattern of hers. They said that if I had included in my request for some food, the reason why I was requesting it, that the exchange would also have gone quite differently. That when there was no explanation for why, it seemed strange, and they didn’t understand. The unspoken general response from the group became that I was being manipulative for attention, and that appeasing my request would be an act of what the 12-step community calls ‘enabling.’ In the 12-step sense, enabling describes the situation of bringing a six pack of beer to an alcoholic, in essence, enabling the dysfunction to continue. So to their minds, their response (or lack of) had been coming from a loving and compassionate place.

In that clearing in the car, another member related to the state of intense social phobia — the intense feelings of shame and shyness, and feeling unable to be around people. Her response however then went into how she had learned that if she was able to find the strength to ‘fake it until she made it’ she was almost always fine, and the fear diminished.

In the moment, I said nothing. My face glazed over and I stared far out into the distance through the car windows.

reflections

Since I’ve been home, I have been sleeping very little and processing a lot, alternating between empowerment & revelation and overwhelm & shame.
I feel like an outsider of the world.
Faking It

Faking It (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part of my digestion was also around this notion of ‘faking it ’till you make it’ and realizing that once again, this approach is the opposite of healthy for me. I faked it till I made it in every moment of living for the first half of my life, and did it so well as to land myself in situations of impossible and unsustainable expectations. ‘Faking it ’till I made it’ betrayed myself, so long that it became a trauma in itself. I was untrustworthy. I was untruthful. I became exhausted, increasingly depressed, increasingly disconnected from myself and others. The greater the disconnect, the greater the over-compensation. My sense of self disintegrated and all that was left was a hollow shell and a scam. I was living a lie.

‘Faking it …’ is a death potion to me. The ultimate rejection of Self, a kind of suicide. That my strength must be real and authentic, or not at all, is a matter of life or death.

This process of radical honesty in order to heal means being at times awkward — strange — inappropriate. My understanding of 12-step fellowship was that we can accept this about each other and not react with suspicion or avoidance as others who are not in recovery often do.

In our pain, fear, confusion and over-compensation, we can hurt others just as we have been hurt ourselves so long ago. And so the initial wound lives on, passed on, from one wounded soul to another.

'Cracked' by Stephen Kline

‘Cracked’ by Stephen Kline

There’s a basic human instinct that tells us to help someone who is in distress. Of all the places I’d expect that to be missing, ACA is the last. Ironically, I don’t think anyone in CoDA would have left me to sob loudly and hysterically for an hour while carrying on jovially. Nor would they have pretended like nothing happened for the rest of the weekend until I asked for a clearing about it in the car. Even then, I don’t feel they got it. They felt proud of how their little recovery family had handled the situation because no one had acted codependently. no one had rescued anyone else. No one had been enabled.
If a man is dying on the side of the road, do we expect him to ask for help as we pass by? Are we enabling his dysfunction by helping him without his direct request?
So in the attempt to end codependency (and enabling), we can become the source of the initial abandonment and shame for others. And so the legacy continues, the wide pendulums from one extreme to another that bounce and ricochet down the tree of generations.
My trauma friend says that her and many of her peers have experienced this with 12-step groups — the hyper -vigilance and -discipline that can re-traumatize someone in trauma recovery. People in her trauma treatment program avoid 12-step work for the very experience I have had — the tragic and ironic absence of basic human compassion and caring that is the reason we are all here in recovery.
In the effort to rid ourselves of addiction, the heart gets thrown out with the bath water.

In recovery, it takes a lot to love ourselves. It is our life’s journey in getting well. And just as it isn’t easy to love ourselves, it is sometimes just as hard to love each other.

And yet, this is our only hope. If we cannot love ourselves and each other, who will?

I am no longer sure of the right healing place for me to be. I’m not sure if ACA is a safe place for me to be. I am floating in the ether.

9_fence_posts

9_fence_posts (unknown artist)

enabling vs. support

isolation vs. time alone to feel

relaxation vs. laziness

overcoming fears vs. entering unsafe situations and betraying ourselves.

extraordinarily gifted vs. disabled and less-fortunate

We live on these fence posts because of the split that our dysfunctional upbringings created in us. The chronic doubting of our own impulses and inclinations, the questioning of what is real, the unrelenting base of confusion, the existential angst that rots our foundations like a termite. We abandon ourselves and each other. Mistrust ourselves and each other.

From the perspective of my diagnosed illness, this situation is a stellar example of it. That I can have that kind of experience — externalized or not ,– that I can lose control of my emotions to such an extent, and then talk about it so sanely and with such clarity is an illustration of the split in me between my mind and my heart.

I believe it is a distinct characteristic of my illness.

It is an illness because it confuses people. It confuses me.

I get mis-diagnosed and mis-understood.

People think I am being manipulative for attention.

And in my own confusion, I feel like a two-faced fraud.

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Mental Health Writers’ Guild

Mental Health Writers Guild 2012 MembershipI’m glad to find this project, and happy to be a new member.

The Mental Health Writers’ Guild is a new site to connect bloggers, share information, raise awareness, promote understanding and transform stigma on the subject of mental illness.

We are all in this together people. Check out the site by clicking on the Membership image to your left.

Love,

Underground


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authentic living

 

'You are Your Path' by Michael Leunig (enhanced by Underground)

'You are Your Path' by Michael Leunig (enhanced by Underground)

It has been a time of relative balance, which is, of course, always precarious. I don’t think I have changed so much as how I have reacted to what I have learned about myself–how I have started to live my life accordingly.

The things I would say that are different now, from before my diagnosis are:

1) I can’t do as much as I used to do. I need more time and space to process thoughts and experiences.

2) I am easily and severely exhausted, requiring extended periods of home time — reading, cooking, cleaning, walking, watching tv, playing games, crocheting, writing and napping.

3) Little tiny stressors or worries can build up in me and cause a crisis — this is still hard to recognize before it hits.

4) I get stressed and overwhelmed easily if there are too many things on my brain to do; I can carry much fewer things on my list than I used to.

5) I need regular, meaningful human contact, via coda, or a growing list of like-minded friends or I will start to feel isolated and forget that it’s ever felt different.

6) I need to write and pray daily to maintain a humble stance — that I can be my best when I accept my eccentricities. Lose the ego that wants to be a star, impress or be anything extraordinary. I am a sensitive person whose well-being is delicate. I need extra care (which I can give to myself).

7) I still struggle with self care and regularity. I don’t do the grocery shopping, which means I have energy to self-care and have some remote resemblance of a social life. I cook infrequently and still rely a lot on my family to make sure I eat semi-regularly.

8) I rely on sleeping pills to sleep, often and especially if there is anything in particular to anticipate the next day. I find it difficult to relax enough to sleep, let go of the external stimuli of books, tv or Internet and retreat into the sleeping state.

9) when things are relatively stable, I feel confused or unsure of reality. My sense of self is blurred, and this causes some anxiety and/or depression.

quote by John Wesley


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dialectic gems (or pebbles)

nina_warminger_onthefence

'On the Fence' by Nina Warminger

random ping pong

identity like a light bulb

that swings

between

the hero and the fool
the gracious queen and the awkwardly misfortuned beggar
infinite connection and indefinite isolation
hip, chic, sophistocated and hippy go lucky
girl, woman and mental patient next door
unique, special, beautiful soul and
strange, ugly, terminally missing the boat.

sources of social anxiety
confusion, shame
for feeling like a fraud
but what else can i be

i can only truly roam
with others who travel
these fence posts
rarely traversing on either side for long
seeking refuge on the borders
outskirts, inbetweens and etherworlds

we are both, all and sundry or none

we are in between

suspended slightly off the ground in motion