deprived heart

I have tried several times to tell the story of a particular aspect of my recent experience to various friends, family and counselors, but no one seems to really be able to understand my experience of humiliation. The response is that I am seeing it in a negative light and assuming what others are thinking and feeling — not even in the typically annoying and ignorant way that these statements are often delivered. People have been sincere in wanting to be helpful to me by helping me to re-frame the experience, and/or boil it down to the truth so it is not so big and scary. But what was needed in order to get to the truth of it was to validate the truth that people felt the need to keep their distance from me.

Illustration by Nĩno Jose G Heredia

Illustration by Nĩno Jose G Heredia

Metaphorically, I may as well have walked through the streets naked and talking to myself. The sense of humiliation was as intense as that. I lost face in my community, and there is a lot of grieving there, grieving the loss of face that was both the result of trauma and the cause of new trauma. The only way for me to trust myself and life again is to understand why this happened, what I did to cause it, so that I do not repeat it.

I’m understanding now that I lost face because i was overcompensating for the core belief that I am unworthy through my career endeavors. There was a sense of grandiose vision and status that attempted to hide or deny my neediness and insecurity. People see through that. It was like a bad smell around anything I did. The type of smell that is nearly impossible for others to put words to, not to mention even be aware of. The type of smell that people just want to avoid.

'Little Heart' by Viktoria Belak

'Little Heart' by Viktoria Belak

The key source of isolation here is being talented, intelligent and capable, but with a deprived heart. A deprived heart is an illness in itself, perhaps an overall, general criteria for any mental illness. A deprived heart is an illusive bleeding wound that is like a parasite, a precarious foundation that can crumble at any time, and inevitably will. This is my interpretation of what Allice Walker speaks about in her book, The Drama of the Gifted Child.  Vance R. Sherwood and Charles P. Cohen also speak of this, calling it ‘precocious ego development‘ in their book Psychotherapy of a Quiet Borderline.

Instead of acknowledging the unstable foundation, I felt more encouraged to hide it, being told that it wasn’t unstable — I was just choosing to see the negative in myself. The truth in that statement is painfully ironic. The reality of life is that anything and everything we try to hide is so clearly visible to others they are not even conscious of reacting to it. It is seen and avoided without even thinking.

The isolation of this predicament is supreme. The only way out for me was to jump, thinking I would die, allowing all to crumble in order to build from scratch. I hear people in my past telling me I am being overly dramatic and I am defending myself, validating my experience. It is the only way out. I am the only one who can do this, along with others who have experienced trauma. Few others can ever understand. I write this for those other kindred spirits who do, and in gratitude of the experiences you have endured to read this and relate.

It is my birthday this week, on Friday. I turn 33. I have no plans for celebration, other than to have another day of giving myself to the will of my higher power. I have tried to plan so many things in the past, and it has not turned out well. I communicate or invite, or put forward an idea, and no one responds, or everyone is too busy. That experience is so painful for me that I simply avoid initiating things these days. I’d love a celebration, I’d love to go dancing in a non-alcoholic environment of world music, and drumming and dancing and spiritual people; but until i can eliminate the smell of my brokenness, i see little point in attempting to initiate. I feel sad about this, but i have endured it before, so I will survive it again. Holidays and birthdays and such have been a good clarifying experience this year so far, illuminating my sense of isolation and unworthiness so I can acknowledge them, see their cause and try to find a new response.

For today, acknowledging the grief of a lost face and heart is the healing. I’m grateful to be on the path of healing, instead of hiding my pain. My heart and spirit are richer by the day for this.



'broken-heart' by Michelle Barlond Smith

'broken-heart' by Michelle Barlond Smith



trusting perception + trauma is trauma

unknown artist

unknown artist

For many years, I have lived with a massive confusion in me over how to view my past, and therefore, who I am in the present. whether I am over-dramatizing or minimizing the dysfunction I grew up with, and the adverse events that have happened in my life. I believe this indecision is at the heart of my confusion around identity, personality, status, and whether or not I can trust my own perceptions.

A person I had been dating for a couple of weeks told me last night that they had suffered through “way worse” experiences than me. In the context of our conversation around living together, which felt absolutely ridiculous for me to consider at this point, I took this to mean that he was telling me I should be able to get over my past to be able to live with him. I felt my blood beginning to boil, and in that moment of sudden, acute and brilliant clarity, exited the vehicle immediately, and walked away.

I am, growing more than I have in many years, feeling more joy, spontaneity, laughter and playfulness. I realized last night that this person had been telling me very subtly and indirectly, whenever I expressed needing to move slowly in relationship, that I am putting my own walls up, somehow limiting myself, not being as much as I can be. It is amazing how loving and caring a totally dysfunctional person can appear, seeming spiritual and evolved and enlightened and self-sufficient, meanwhile failing to follow through with any plans or intentions or promises; getting lost, injuring himself, and depending on others for many things. What I realized was that my involvement with this person was like going around in circles. In one moment, he would proclaim that he never got angry, in the next, he would say how angry he was; one moment, he would say he wasn’t dependent on anyone, in the next, he would proclaim that he needed to get his license so he could be more independent. ! And on, and on, and on. It was another opportunity for me to practice reading between the lines and listening to what my inner gut was telling me, even if it was the exact opposite of all the words I had been longing to hear, or of all the things I felt were really going on, deep in my gut. Words can lie, actions cannot.

And that is the link to the source of the confusion epicenter in me and my original trauma of invalidation. That people and situations are not what they seem, or appear to be. The experience of perceiving something that no one else is perceiving, such as abuse, emotions, or relationship dynamics. Because I was a child at the time of the original trauma, instead of judging everyone else as being blind, I developed a chronic confusion, a chronic state of doubt towards my ability to perceive reality. My caregivers and eventually the entire community surrounding me simply denied my truth by inaction – a lack of response to an unhealthy situation–and I became the crazy one. It was this experience that caused the loss of stability in my sense of inner self. And here I was, experiencing it again. Another chance to trust and act on my own perceptions, despite the appearance or the insistence of others that they are wrong.

There is nothing in my past that fits the American Psychological Association’s description of trauma (“… an emotional response to a terrible event like an accident, rape or natural disaster”). I wasn’t raped or bombed, starved, bullied or beaten, and my parents weren’t alcoholics or drug addicts. So why do I exhibit symptoms of a survivor? What can I possibly have to complain about, when so many others have had it seemingly so much worse than me? What is wrong with me? Why can’t I just get my shit together?

My therapist at VIHA recently presented me with a definition of trauma echoing the one I found on the free online dictionary: “An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis. An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.”

“…leading to neurosis.” According to Dr. George Boeree, effects of neurosis can involve:

“…anxiety, sadness or depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, low sense of self-worth, etc., behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, vigilance, impulsive and compulsive acts, lethargy, etc., cognitive problems such as unpleasant or disturbing thoughts, repetition of thoughts and obsession, habitual fantasizing, negativity and cynicism, etc. Interpersonally, neurosis involves dependency, aggressiveness, perfectionism, schizoid isolation, and socio-culturally inappropriate behaviors, etc.”

Wikipedia defines trauma as:

“… a single experience, or an enduring or repeating event or events, that completely overwhelm the individual’s ability to cope or integrate the ideas and emotions involved with that experience. …

“There is frequently a violation of the person’s familiar ideas about the world and of their human rights, putting the person in a state of extreme confusion and insecurity. This is also seen when people or institutions, depended on for survival, violate or betray or disillusion the person in some unforeseen way.” defines trauma as “[a] severely disturbing experience that leads to lasting psychological or emotional impairment,’ and lists the following events as “[c]ommonly overlooked causes of psychological trauma”:

  • Falls or sports injuries
  • Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
  • The sudden death of someone close
  • A car accident
  • The breakup of a significant relationship
  • A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
  • The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition

The HelpGuide website states that “[t]rauma can also stem from ongoing, relentless stress …” and goes on to say:

“Not all potentially traumatic events lead to lasting emotional and psychological damage. Some people rebound quickly from even the most tragic and shocking experiences. Others are devastated by experiences that, on the surface, appear to be less upsetting. People are more likely to be traumatized by a stressful experience if they’re already under a heavy stress load or have recently suffered a series of losses.”

Silvano Arieti’s Interpretation of Schizophrenia, originally published in 1955, also sheds some interesting light on the definition of trauma:

layered vogue covers

layered vogue covers

“… conditions of obvious external danger, as in the case of wars, disasters, or other adversities … do not produce the type of anxiety that hurts the inner self and do not themselves favor schizophrenia. Even extreme poverty, physical illness, or personal tragedies do not necessarily lead to schizophrenia unless they have psychological ramifications that hurt the sense of self. Even homes broken by death, divorce or desertion may be less destructive than homes where both parents are alive, live together, and always undermine the child’s conception of himself.”

The fact is, that saying others have suffered more than me and that I am not justified to need healing has simply not served me well in my life. In fact, it has eaten me from the inside out like a termite. How many years and how much energy did I waste trying to pretend to be “normal” and “okay” because there was no obvious reason for me to not be okay? There was no reason to not be okay, so I must be okay, and if I’m not okay, then I am horribly defective and I should rot in hell.

That was the prison I lived in. That is the prison I am letting myself out of by adopting a more inclusive understanding of what trauma is.

'light in her eyes' by Lucy Lumis

'light in her eyes' by Lucy Lumis

A very many of the symptoms of trauma are the same as those of Borderline Personality Disorder, which is said to stem from a combination of external events and personal character traits–specifically, intensity of emotions and emotional sensitivity. In other words, an event may not be experienced as traumatic by one individual, but extremely traumatic by another person who possesses the emotional intensity and sensitivity.

I am starting to understand that I have traits of a survivor because trauma is a subjective experience.  The events in my life are subtle in comparison to others, but my emotional responses are not. I am an emotionally intense and sensitive person who has experienced several of the definitions of trauma cited here in this article. Whether my official diagnosis is trauma or Borderline Personality Disorder, my sense of inner self has been damaged from very early on by the false faces of denial – the disparity between what is spoken and what I feel. Subsequent traumas have deepened the wound and created new ones with prolonged periods of extreme stress, depression and pressure. My life in the last 2 years covers pretty much every category under the DSM-IV’s Axis IV, which is used for, “…reporting psychosocial and environmental stressors that may affect the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of mental disorders”:

  • Problems with primary support group
  • Problems related to the social environment
  • Educational problems
  • Occupational problems
  • Housing problems
  • Economic problems
  • Problems with access to health care services
  • Problems related to interaction with the legal system/crime
  • Other psychosocial and environmental problems

When I exited the vehicle last night, I validated myself in my perceptions and in my recovery. I chose not to remain in the confusion and chaos of that relating. I honored my needs as a survivor, for compassion, clarity, honesty and understanding as a matter of life or death. I deemed the absence of these things as being unsafe. I cannot expect myself to toughen up and bear it. The costs outweigh the benefits.

Whether there is diagnosis or not, I believe that everyone has traumas – places in which we struggle to trust and act on our perceptions because of a lack of clarity or resolution about past events. It is how much they affect our ability to live well that pushes us onto the path of healing. Everyone’s tipping point is different, but suffering is suffering; dysfunction is dysfunction, and trauma is trauma.

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adventures in … (living with integrity to my authentic self?)

Today, I communicated my authentic self. It was totally terrifying, and it created conflict, but you know what? It actually feels tremendously empowering and really good! It’s a hell of a lot better than repressing it and pretending to be normal. Pretending to be strong and stable when maybe I am not (and that needs to be okay). If that’s not okay, the situation is not healthy for me anyway, and I am better to let it go. Huwah!

Heart Junky:  I put a fair bit of energy into helping you, and you drop me like a twig? It’s not like it’s a big part of my psyche any more, just a little niggler of feeling used. At least I know where I really stand.

Colleague: Wow, I haven’t dropped (the project) nor you – I’m still on it.  I thought we were both fighting for the survival of (Organization started by HJ), and helping each other to do so. I have also contributed a lot of time towards trying to save this organization.  Which I believe in.  What on earth gave you the idea that your were (1.)  Helping Me, personally, and not the (community members) of (Old residence of HJ)  (2.)  that I wasn’t working on it any longer. I still have to face an abusive, narcissistic, potentially violent guy – in person in order to do this.  I have (A), (B), (C) and (D) on board. Not sure why you sent me this sort of email.

Heart Junky: It just felt like you suddenly dropped off the planet and stopped responding to any communications. The last thing you communicated to me about where the project was at was in the third week of October:   “I’m not sure what I need to do here – all of the steps to take – what you do, what I do, what the board does?” After a series of almost instantaneous and very-driven communications, which you had begun this with, I didn’t find it normal or respectful to suddenly not hear anything for a month and a half, especially as I had tried to communicate with you to find out how it was going. I have had no idea what is going on or if anything is moving ahead. If the letter I drafted seemed good, bad or ugly; if the plan of action is good but will just take some time, or bad and we need a new one, if you are abandoning ship because it is just too complicated … I realize there is a violent man in the situation; I realize there is an extremely busy and passionate woman also in the situation. A little more communication–that’s all … what is going on? Thanks!

Colleague: If you would like more communication, just ask – if you want to know what happened to my communication, just ask.   I am not sure what warranted the first email today. I have been travelling and putting out fires with other work stuff, (Organization that HJ started) took the back burner for many reasons. M’s Court Date, Full Participation from board, Clear Idea of a Game Plan, Other Work Commitments. Please think twice before you send me an email like that one this morning.

Heart Junky: I did try to ask for more communication and that didn’t seem to work. I feel quite powerless when I communicate that I need more communication, but don’t hear anything back, like I am somehow being ridiculous or obsessive or the person is trying to distance themselves from me because I am wierd and I am making it difficult for them by clinging. I’m sorry. I have triggers and emotional handicaps. That is me; this is me. I cannot keep it inside any more. So, now that we are communicating, I am communicating to you that I need more communication. LOL! :)))) Thanks. I feel like I understand what is going on. I hope everything goes as well as it can.


dialectical vs. cognitive behavior therapy

These excerpts speak about the experience I had with cbt, and seem to illustrate well what is different about dbt from cbt. click on the headings to view the sources. Continue reading


the concept of the high-functioning borderline

the mental health community in general is still in debate over the existence of bpd subtypes. Whatever the truth is doesn’t change my reality, but that doesn’t mean i won’t still follow the discussion, or participate in it however I can. What are your thoughts?

Article by Bon Dobbs on “mentalization” and “attachment” in BPD (The comments on this article are also very illuminating)

I will be making a longer post very soon about my experience in CBT and why i left the program. blessings, HJ

meandering (unknown)

meandering (unknown)

no one has managed to convey this aspect of identity confusion as well for me as the post that is linked below.

the image to the right also illustrates the phenomenon well; although it’s title implies that we are aimless, which actually couldn’t be more opposite to the truth, for me.

anyway, once again, I am relieved to recognize myself in another’s writing.

sometimes the best mirrors are in each other.

Constant career changes – the BPD unstable sense of self and identity.


the fear

unknown image

unknown image

the fear that no one will ever know me as i really am.

i am too subtle, too complicated for anyone to ever figure out.

i fall off the planet at this thought, feeling condemned to isolation and hopelessness.