Perfectionism, the legalistic church and shame


The sense of guilt is dumb. It does not tell him he’s guilty, he does not feel guilty. He feels ill. – Freud, 1923

I have been taking a close look at guilt lately.

Why?

***trigger warning***

I had an episode of suicide ideation. Now, before you freak….lemme explain. Suicide ideation is NOT the same as someone actively wanting to or attempting to take their own life. I know that I would never take my own life. When those thoughts start popping up in my head, it’s time to run for safety. Suicide ideation is a symptom; actually, it is more like a bright red flashing warning sign. It is a low point (understatement) where your thoughts can find no escape and you arrive at a logical (yet false) conclusion that the world would be better off without you. It is a complication of depression, PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) and some persons with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) will experience this at some point.

*** end of trigger warning***

My suicide ideation developed from paranoid ideation.

There are some scary words for things that persons face regularly, silently but overcome every single day.

I began to wonder if everyone I knew in my community hated me or thought badly of me (paranoia). This led to me focusing on all my negative characteristics that would offend people. This thought then led me to remember actual statements that persons have made which confirmed this belief. I went on an on in a battle of my mind (as lopsided as it was) until I arrived at the conclusion that I have been really monstrous and then to a point of hopelessness.

I had had the experience of suicide ideation before and was able to immediately recognize it, kick at it with some positive affirmations and wise mind skills. However it left me wondering about the guilt that had created this furious storm in my mind and to question whether or not it had really been resolved.

Spiritual progress is like detoxification. Things have to come to the surface in order to be released. Once we have asked to be healed them our unhealed places are forced to the surface. – Marianne Williamson

Being true to myself (along with a desperate desire to live) I dug in research mode. Oh yeah…. slipped the reading glasses on and got to Googling…  hehe..  I found an article describing the thin line between healthy guilt (true contrition and remorse for doing something) and Shame.

After reading for awhile I still wasn’t getting any relief from my pent up feelings. I went on to read about the importance of forgiving oneself etc etc etc… Now, my research of a topic is never linear. I often find insight and tiny glittering beacons of hope and healing in the strangest places. This time was no different. I also usually end up with a number of colorful strings which upon closer observation inevitably entangle with each other.

First thing I did was to reach out. To receive validation and also to avoid being alone, I spoke to my mother and sister about it. They were not only able to give me fresh perspective (which was probably smothered in biased love for me; helpful nevertheless) but also to ensure me that the comments that triggered me would have affected them in the same way – validation, I badly needed.

Voicing my feelings to people I feel safe with always helps a great deal. Once, I shared my feelings of hopelessness with someone and the person sent me a note later in the day to say they were glad I shared. It so happened that she was experiencing the very same thing. I proceeded to send her tips on managing the raging thoughts.

The second thing I did was to write down my feelings and emotions along with beliefs concerning the guilt and self- bashing. Beliefs can either be true or untrue, they also tend to present themselves in little groups tied together making it hard to separate the real form unreal.

Source: Building Emotional Resilience – http://www.tomcloyd.com 

Example: Getting up to present a speech in a roomful of people. I would naturally be scared and nervous about making a fool of myself.

 Belief 1: I might mess up and make a fool of myself

Belief 2: I would never be able to show my face here again if that happened

While belief one is true, belief 2 is certainly a lie. I can show my face again (granted it would be a little uncomfortable)

We all have several ‘belief ties’ similar to the one above which we have absorbed as whole truths. I should write a post on my religious half true –not true beliefs. hehe

The third thing I did was to find blogs of persons who had had similar experiences and find out how they dealt with it. I found a blog by a fellow BPD survivor who had almost the exact situation, contacted her on twitter and we chatted for a bit. I am a huge believer in reaching out. Nothing sends a ripple of hope like the feeling of ‘not being alone’ in something.

More revelations were in store for me

On Wednesday morning I couldn’t find my office calculator. Someone had borrowed it and apparently, had forgotten to return it. I spent at least 15 minutes searching all over the store before I just gave up and got a new one. I knew who had removed it – it was a young lady who is a member of the church I used to attend. I wasn’t angry- probably mildly annoyed at first, but all in all I dealt with it skillfully. It was her day off, so when I saw her this morning (Friday) I decided to gently remind her to replace anything removed from the office.

I was a bit surprised at her response.  At first as she rattled off a couple of defensive sentences. Hmm. I just smiled in an attempt to reassure her that it wasn’t a problem really, but she continued. I’m figuring…

  1. It was no big deal, just a small jovial reminder
  2. A simple “I’m sorry” would suffice
  3. Um….you actually did remove it so, why so defensive

I kicked into wise mind and decided not to feed the situation. I did assure her that: It’s ok. Sandy eventually found it. It’s fine, really. I didn’t want to give a lousy calculator any more power than it deserved. Later on as I sat in my office I realized that the person who had made comments to trigger my suicide ideation was also a member of the same church. *gasp*

Why were these persons so defensive? Being able to laugh at one’s self, not take things so seriously or not feel accused at the slightest reprimand or suggestion is a sign of good mental health. Heck, I’m taking a whole course in DBT just to learn these skills. 😉

Another example is that of a supervisor whom I also manage. He is not very popular due his harsh attitude towards staff and readiness to criticize and rebuke. One day, he made a mistake and could not let it go. He beat himself up for days!! I told him: Take it easy on yourself. Cut yourself some slack. When you are too hard on yourself you are hard on others. You are human, Cobin.  Surprise, surprise! He is also a member of the above mentioned church..!!!

Perfectionism, legalistic churches and why I found it hard to forgive myself.

These three persons whom I still communicate with, show signs of perfectionism. I had to ask myself; was I still carrying around with me some embedded beliefs that I had subconsciously absorbed. Is this why I found it hard to forgive myself, the false belief that “I must not mess up or fail”? I failed! Badly! I had regrets and remorse, felt contrition and asked and received forgiveness.  I even went further and tried to work on cause, which I had found. I have made great progress in my personal development, yet, I still could not forgive myself. I hadn’t given myself permission to be happy again, to be free of shame (which I have lots of).

One site actually asked of me to: Reflect on why you are trying to hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else around you. Now, this screamed in my ear! A huge part of being in that legalistic organization revolved around being better than other people (heathens). We were never told to accept our imperfections. Once received, you were supposed to conform to a rigid set of standards made up by another human being.

How DBT helps.

What I like best about DBT is the non-judging aspect. There is a phrase in the manual that declares: Don’t judge your thoughts and when you find yourself judging, don’t judge the judging. It helps me personally to get to the core causes of my feelings, behaviors and emotions without judgment. Judgment clouds the mind and blocks healing. Normally if I feel jealous, I would immediately also feel guilty for feeling jealous and then try to ignore or suppress the negative feeling. DBT says, Hmm, now why would this make me feel jealous? Is there some gap in my life, some need that my feelings are trying to tell me about?

I suppressed a lot of anger in church, heck I repented for it repeatedly; self- flogged mentally and wondered why I couldn’t be a better person. This led of course to shame, feeling ‘less than’ and hence striving even more to appear to be ‘better than’. I look back at that person with compassion and sadness. It takes a lot of energy to wear a mask. Legalistic churches are described in some texts as having impossible standards; persons who are always striving to reach by pretending harder and harder to be perfect, kept in line by leaders with their own soup of self – image issues who use these impossible standards to further keep persons ‘obedient’. That was a strange sentence. In short, Perfectionism was the order of the day. Persons have been put on probation for failing to achieve this image of perfection, some have been dis-fellowshipped, ignored, or just preached right out.

My last step was to assess the false beliefs and to eliminate them. The concept of failure was tied to the following beliefs on the left. To the right are the affirmations which correct the false beliefs.

I should have known better            -I am not flawless

I am a lesser person                      -I am valuable because I exist (Story of the $100 bill)

I shouldn’t have made THAT mistake      – I am a vulnerable human being

I must be punished/unhappy             -Mistakes carry consequences NOT punishment

I have no right to speak out                  -My story will help/uplift others

People were disappointed                -I do not live by people’s expectations but my own

People have said hurtful things         –I have no control over what people say: they      are also suffering from their own shortcomings

Disclaimer: I don’t see myself as being ‘off the hook’ or without blame. The natural consequences of my actions have affected my life severely  in negative ways. However I also don’t believe that feeling suicidal because of the burden of guilt is a healthy way to live either. I am still working on identifying and dealing with the negative aspects that led me to that mistake, that hurt other people. Even though I have discovered since then that the features of BPD were responsible for the frame of mind that led to those actions, it is in no way an excuse for said actions but a ‘cause’ – one that I am working diligently to recover from. Also I am making efforts to “live my amends”, according to an inspirational woman. See her blog (www.blessingmanifesting.blogspot.com). I do this by blogging, sharing with hopes of helping others in some small way.

I also realize that not only is DBT helping me understand and reprogram the lies I absorbed from childhood trauma but it is also helping me to de-program from the legalistic organization.

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I hope to feel fully forgiven some day

Thank you for reading.

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Finding my DBT legs

ImageI went roller skating a few Sundays ago. Um… yeah, that’s me clutching for dear life to the skating rink rail. A crowbar could not have pried my fingers from its cold, metallic safety. With the other hand I’m holding on to Othneil, my four year old who did a much better job, I’ll grudgingly admit.

That day, the skating rink represented the world; my social environment. In it, there are adults zipping around and some kids stumbling along (like Othneil), trying again and again after each fall and without fear. That afternoon, I was the only adult amateur/beginner skater.

At first, I didn’t go on the rink at all. I stayed on comfortable terra firma in my sneakers, which I was accustomed to and watched on. Eventually, I decided to try. May I have some size nine skates please! The attendant handed me a pink and black pair and though they looked a size too large I didn’t stop to investigate. I put them on but as I suspected they were too big. I liken these lovely pink skates to the medication I was given for bipolar, condition that I didn’t have. Not a true fit; for someone else but not me.

She then looked at my feet and chose a new pair for me: blue/black in size 4/5.

I liken these blue skates to my new DBT skills, which are a good fit, but not an immediate fix. They require time, practice and patience before I would be able to use them effectively.

Heading to the rink to buckle up, I imagined a million fears. What if I fall and hurt myself? What if I just can’t do it?

The blue skates are my tools which I need to survive the skating environment, my world, the rink. I glance at other people zipping by me, laughing, smiling, moving to the music; having a great time. I can barely stand. I have my tools but now I need to learn how to use them properly.

My nephew screeched expertly to a halt beside me: “Aunty Stephie, when I came here I was just like you, I could barely move, I just stayed the whole day and came back often. Now, look at me!” He whizzed away with a smug grin

I needed to find my skating legs; get comfortable on these things. I set out determined to do so. I pushed the obstacles to the back of my mind; my anxiety disorder, irrational fears, lack of experience and set my mind to skate!

Off I went, slowly, cautiously, inch by inch around the rink alone – holding on to the rail. I did this twice, before building up enough confidence to let go. I didn’t trust these new skills. I was accustomed to demanding validation by whatever means necessary, like a child. This was unfamiliar territory. Learning to be emotionally resilient, to exercise patience, to not see every thing in black and white and to not be overwhelmed by inevitable failures (falling on my butt).  🙂

There is a term I learned in Health Promotion when we explored Behaviour change in patients who had to make massive lifestyle changes in order to be well. It’s called efficacy – the belief of an individual in his/her ability to reach an objective. It could be changing diet, exercising, skating or in my case adopting new effective DBT skills on my journey to recovery from BPD. I have beautiful soft and hard PDF copies of DBT manual written in very basic prose, easy to understand. I read it often and on   occasion, take a few pages with me to ‘study’. The skills seem easy enough, but how well did I believe I could integrate these skills into my life. To make the actual changes necessary to recover?

My efficacy has to increase for me to learn anything new. Even skating. I went around the third time, barely touching the rail and my confidence/efficacy soared! This was facilitated appropriately by the Dj who played some catchy songs which distracted me from fear and just got me moving. Soon I had learned how to balance comfortably and I set off, gingerly for the centre.

The part that hit me the most was: To help Othneil adjust to this social environment in his Thomas the Train skates, I must learn how to handle mine. I must master regulating my emotions in order to guide him through his tantrums, disappointments and later on his achievements and heartbreaks.

I have noticed slow but sure improvements. I am now very mindful (aware) of my emotions and able to stop a negative train of thought before it consumes me like it did in the past. I am now able to separate my feelings from those of another person and not assume that I know what people are thinking. I self soothe and distract myself quite effectively and distressful situations no longer mean an inevitable anxiety attack.

The key to adopting the skills is constant practice in various situations. This will lead to confidence in managing emotions in wide-ranging scenarios. I have social anxiety issues because I am usually quite sensitive to the fact that I am not sure of how to respond in a socially correct way. I’m bold on the net, if you met me in person, I probably wouldn’t say much.

With each new skill practiced, my efficacy increases. I’m feeling more comfortable in dealing with the ups and downs the world has to offer….as well as improving my skating skills at the rink.

I shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if I am to survive.

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Confessions of BPD: General Anxiety and Panic Attacks

So, I’ve got myself a new hairstyle!

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The straggly ends of which keep giving me mini pseudo heart attacks.

Having an acute Startle reflex/response is an embarrassing and sometimes hilarious aspect of living with Anxiety disorder. I remember as a child, finding it so funny to scare mommy. She would jump a foot for the simplest of reasons. It continued to be funny to me as an adult until I started experiencing symptoms of my own.

I know what it feels like to be in a situation where the logical response is fear or even dread….Say, our brush with crime back in 1995, when gunmen pried off the lock and invaded our lives in a terrifying way. A response of extreme fear would have been called for and was indeed expressed.

However, irrational fear is the nagging emotion behind general anxiety and irrational panic behind panic disorder. It is made worse by the fact that bystanders cannot relate to the exaggerated response. “Quit over reacting!” and “Ah wha yuh ah gwaan so fa?” [Why are you behaving like that?] are common reactions followed, , naturally, by laughter.

Anxiety is a common feature of PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder). It is usually underestimated or overlooked due to lack of visible physical harm. After all you just got a big fright, what’s the big deal? Unfortunately, the physiological response to irrational fear and dread is just as over the top as the fear itself. In that, the flight/fright response is triggered meaning our Nervous system and cardiac system get involved. Anxiety carries with it complications such as stress, strokes and real heart attacks.  I say ‘real’ because during a panic attack that is exactly what it feels like – a heart attack. It is a sense of impending unavoidable doom. You are convinced you are dying and no concerned onlooker who comes to your rescue can tell you otherwise.

My concern

My greatest concern with living with anxiety is having Othneil observe me being easily startled and get the impression that the world is a scary place. I would not like for him to become a fearful, withdrawn child because of my disorder.  He has accidentally startled me several times just by approaching me without me knowing. On a few occasions I actually let out a tiny scream.  I then quickly reassured him the best I could.

How I deal with Anxiety

In an effort to avoid medications, I’ve found other ways of coping. Even before I understood that DBT means Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, I had been using Distress Tolerance Methods to cope. ‘Wise Mind’ concepts help me to distinguish between thoughts and feelings that arise in my emotional mind from those of my rational mind. I calmly ask myself things like:

What are the odds of this actually happening, Stephanie? What can I actually do to improve the moment? #DBT skill

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One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of Anxiety Disorder is: The ability to jump to the worst conclusion possible within few seconds flat!

I try to remind myself that chances are I am assuming the worst and train my brain through practice to consider pros, cons and odds.

Distractions work very well; watching a movie, going for a walk, talking to a friend or reading a book all help. Social networking in particular has become a wonderful tool for me in many ways. I follow many positive accounts which offer quotes and other personal stories of surviving BPD and/or anxiety. I have learned to get to know my triggers so I can successfully avoid them. Being able sense when I am becoming overwhelmed and to take a break by listening to my body signals help a great deal. Getting rest when I need to and eating on time have become ‘musts’ in self care.

I have had episodes of anxiety ranging from mild jitters, sweating and biting nails to almost comatose body reactions (going rigid), spacing out and feeling as if I’ll pass out. Panic attacks are even more dramatic. I deal with those mainly by distraction and affirmations. “It’s OK you CAN breathe”, “This WILL pass”. Then I focus on breathing normally which usually calms my heart rate as well.

My triggers:

Chemicals/foods

Coffee

Anything caffeinated

Energy Drinks

Alcohol – (I can have a little vodka, but no rum)

Chocolate fudge – (E.g. I can eat chocolate cake but not Hershey’s chocolate or kisses)

OTC drugs – All of them including liquid Panadol®

Most Pharmaceutical drugs!

Vitamin B12

Ferrol® tonic

Psychological Triggers

Stress

Hearing accounts of or reading about child abuse

Being invalidated by parents (both) or other persons in authority

Spotting someone associated with a past traumatic event

Being aggressively or violently confronted with hostile intent

Physiological Triggers

Lack of sleep

Not eating on time

Any hormonal changes – Birth control, PMS

*which reminds me I need to take a break from writing this and have a bite*

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One Fruit Plate Later

I have had major improvements since my first anxiety attack of September 2010. It was my first MPH class. I clutched helplessly to the table while my Health Promotion lecturer mouthed words I could not hear. My heart fought a dangerously deafening tattoo against my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I did find it odd that no one else noticed. I thought to myself, “Oh no! I’m going to die by heart attack!!” I fought to breathe and felt as if my lungs were being crushed by an unseen foe….. This lasted for a few excruciating seconds, and then subsided.

Since then I have been to the hospital, cardiologists, alternative medicine specialists and psychiatrists. I have been “treated” for depression, screened for heart disease and checked for thyroid functioning. Due to my terrible experience with pharmaceutical drugs, I have opted to be treated by alternative means or what we call in Health Promotion, lifestyle treatment…. Exercise, diet, watch my triggers, talk therapy, affirmations and since recently, Breath work.

 All of which are not only treating my anxiety and BPD but healing my mind, body and soul from within.

Disclaimer: While my efforts to handle my symptoms without the use of pharmaceutical drugs have worked for me, there are times in the treatment of any mental and physical illness where medication becomes necessary to manage symptoms. I would not recommend anyone to stop taking prescribed medication without the guidance  and approval of a physician/psychiatrist.

 Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom – Aristotle

 

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Nope, Not my Period

This cannot be the end of the sentence. Here I am, precariously perched, hanging on for dear life, waiting for a semi colon, a ‘however’, a ‘but’, an ‘in spite of’? Any preposition signalling a turning point in the road where pain  recedes and healing presides.

I am willing to put in the work.

Say the daily affirmations

Record thoughts in the journal

Practice breath work

Learn new  DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) skills

I desire peace…

We have the tools within us to fix that which is broken; to  heal.

I will put in the work. I have even made a personal decision to be celibate. To allow my mind and spirit to heal and to reprogram my unhealthy perceptions of relationships and sex. I am ready to experience wholeness, complete freedom, to embrace my authentic identity and to rid my being of the negative energy (remnants of abusers).

I am ready to forgive myself completely and to feel worthy of the forgiveness of those I have hurt.

I will do the work

I am ready

This is not the end of my sentence. Not my period.

sentence

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Forgiveness does NOT come first. Finding yourself does!

My therapist had said a strange thing:

“Don’t worry about forgiving your abuser; let’s work on you forgiving yourself first, on healing ‘Stephanie’”

In my experience, forgiveness comes with processing the wrong that has been done to you. Not merely processing but also understanding (arriving at a meaning or purpose) how or why it happened. You can’t forgive that which you have not yet come to grips with and that is where therapy/counseling helps. People need to work through the feelings and the maze of emotions that come with being hurt and betrayed. I do not believe it is healthy to try and force yourself to forgive someone immediately. Immediately saying ‘I forgive you’ to appear to be the ‘bigger’ person is not only superficial but unfair to yourself as well.

Used as a church tactic..

That being said, I remember having a conversation with a religious leader wherein I was upset with him for something he had done and previously denied. His first words to me were: “Do you forgive me?” I was silent. I wanted to hold on to my anger. It was justified in light of what he had done and it felt good for a change to be the one doing the chastising. “I need to know that you forgive me!” he insisted in desperation. He had not attempted to explain or excuse the action. I did not get the chance to even process what I had come to learn, yet his first request was my forgiveness. When it became apparent that his main concern was discretion, I told him I forgave him and rang off.

It was during my trying year of slowly disentangling myself from the organization and so I just let it go, but not before noticing that image was more important than my opportunity to process my feelings. He nipped the whole thing in the bud before I had a chance to deal with it. He invalidated my feelings (anger), which is a form of emotional abuse. I forgave him and that was that. We never spoke of it again. It reminds me of a word I learned in New Convert class: Justification – just as if it had not happened.

I can’t forgive my abuser

I have spoken to abused women who share the sentiment: I can’t forgive my abuser! This is a sign that healing is either incomplete or has not taken place. Even adults who have not yet remembered their childhood abuse find themselves displaying inappropriate anger as a sign of lack of closure. I think it is even worse in the case where you have no one to direct the anger at because of repressed memories. Who do you forgive then?

My therapist gave me a set of goals to work on after our first session; two of which were ‘self-esteem’ and ‘memory’. I now understand why. Low self esteem can be associated with an abused person who believes that they deserved the abuse. You can’t forgive someone for doing you wrong if you have not identified that act as such. In some circumstances,  the inappropriate behavior was not perceived as harmful at the time as mentioned in my post about Borderline Personality disorder and sexual abuse. See post here.

The first priority is not to forgive your abuser, but to heal yourself.

Most abusers have been abused themselves and although this is NOT an excuse it helps to understand the frame of mind of the person who hurt you. Personally, I try to imagine my abuser as an innocent small child, scared and helpless.

It would be especially challenging to forgive an abuser who is still doing it! In my case, my emotional and spiritual abusers are still at large so to speak. My emotional abuser still tries to control me with psychological tactics. I combat my childhood feelings of helplessness by promoting awareness.  I feel as if my small act of documenting my experiences is my way of processing it and ‘doing something’ about it. Although I am sometimes triggered by my own posts (lol), it feels like a journey of healing.

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Explanation is NOT justification, but it can offer some fresh revelations that can lead to complete closure and healing. When you do forgive it will be the authentic, liberating act of a ‘whole’ person and it will not be for your abuser but for you.

What do you think? Is forgiveness a part of the healing process or a prerequisite for healing?

Thanks for reading 🙂

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Borderline Personality Disorder and Sexual Abuse

Finding out I was sexually abused as a child (or at least finally having someone substantiate my strong suspicions), has been the single most relieving moment of my life.
 
The thing is: I always knew something wasn’t quite right with me. As a child, due to innocence you assume your environment and everything that happens in it is the normal way for things to be. You believe that all your fears and quirks, thoughts and feelings are perfectly natural and you question nothing… I’m triggering myself here – thinking of church(Question nothing!). You never see your symptoms as being on a list of the DSM lol ..
 
I read a theory recently that put forth an explanation of why most childhood survivors forget the abuse until a later age. It was always believed that the trauma was so great that the brain hides it in repressed memories to deal with the pain that couldn’t be handled by a child. However, if the child in his/her innocence doesn’t see the abuse as wrong why would the brain interpret it as a traumatic event? Hmm…
 
The new theory states that we forget because of that, exactly!  It was a normal event in our history from our young perspective. We forgot in the way that we eventually forget a childhood toy unless reminded by some random happening (trigger).  I like this theory. I have fresh, clear memories of being inappropriately touched by an adult male as a child. However, it didn’t feel inappropriate at the time.
 
To the point of this post though… (I detour A LOT :)) 
 
I have BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) – It is by no means as terrible as it sounds and is at least partly due to childhood sexual abuse/trauma. As I research this condition (empowerment is priceless), I realize that almost every strange thing about me has a cause and most of my fears can be traced back to this occurrence.
 
Whew!
Relief!
 
I now feel as though I can move forward, head held high knowing that most negative things about me are a product of what happened to me at an age where I was too young to understand. In other words I am not inherently a ‘monster’. Persons with BPD get a bad rap on the Internet, mostly described as overly emotional, moody, manipulative etc. Like any thing else, if we take the time to understand that which we ourselves do not experience it makes a significant difference in what we are able to tolerate… and maybe even empathize?
 
[Note: I had adopted the false belief that I was inherently a monster after my experience in a spiritually abusive organization.]
 
BPD, Anxiety Disorder and Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD)
Labels that do not define me. Instead, they serve as a road map with a code; showing where I’ve been and the horrors I have survived. Most importantly, they grant direction on how to continue the journey of life in a healthier way :). Am I proud of them? Hmm… Well, I am definitely NOT ashamed. I had no control over the events that led to these diagnoses, but I will certainly do my part to spread awareness, reduce stigma and support other survivors both personally and professionally.
I stand by my belief that there is always an explanation or cause for people being the way they are. It may not justify their actions but at least they can be explained.

 



The human being isn’t inherently good or bad. S/he is inherently human – Sylphe

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My Life Truisms (subject and open to change and growth)

buddha pic

 

So, Mr. Red Button has flexed his self help muscles a bit (see post here) … I found it a soothing, helpful read which felt like it flowed naturally from his very interesting brain…

Which got me thinking…. Is there a self-help guru living inside each Bipolar and if so, why…? I believe it was Ghandi (don’t quote me on this) who said some fluffy thing about ‘the wounded healer’..

Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light…

The shift that occurs in spirit, (vibrational energy or chakra if you will) when a person moves from depression into hypo-mania can be likened to emerging from a cavernous dark depth into glaring sunshine of hope and renewal.

Stumbling out of her dark night, she had finally found the sun

Having to experiece this ever so often does something to one’s ability to empathize and may contribute to some deeply perceptive thinking.

That being considered, here are my …

Life Truisms… (very open to discussion, change and growth – I despise absolutes)

1. “Everything happens for a reason” is not a baseless, bland repitition learned from Sunday School teachers..

Everything DOES happen for a reason. Your spin on it determines whether or not that reason produces life-enhancing or life-diminishing results

2. The universe is always sending us messages… whether or not be embrace the messenger or appreciate the envelope.

3. Your brain has the ability to lie to you. For example during a panic attack my brain tells me that I cannot breathe. Most times it is difficult not to believe the lies our brains ooze.

When I am depressed, I cannot trust my thoughts; my brain lies to me. So, I go and sit next to people who love me and know  my worth…. I listen to them instead.

4. “You are not alone in this” – is one of the most comforting realizations any human being can have. it immediately sends out ripples of hope. That small connection has healing qualities.

5. Who you think you are and what you think you believe can be wiped out in a second by ONE life changing experience.

The awareness that a new experience can demolish the most deeply seated conviction terrifies me. I hesitate to hold on too dearly to any cause for fear that my truism may have to change without a day’s notice.

6. The prnciples of Buddhism appeals to me more than the rigid laws of Christianity. Interestingly, I find the messages of Buddha and Christ quite similar.

7. Perspective is EVERYTHING.

Since I grasped this, I have been able to appreciate both sides of any argument without becoming emotionally attached to either.

8. People find balance and fulfillment in different ways. It doesnt necessarily mean its the wrong way. If someone is not on your road that doesn’t mean they are lost.

9. Fear can be synonymous with hate. We tend to hate that which we fear. Fear, hatred and ignorance combine to create a happy team: Prejudice. Find yourself hating something? Ask yourself why you fear it or try to explore and learn something about it.

10. One negative quality doesn’t make a person bad all over. We each have a unique blend.

We all walk in the dark and each of us must learn to turn on his or her own light (sometimes with the help of a therapist *wide grin*)

Depression: temporarily seeing only the negative aspects of yourself
Narcissism: permanently seeing only the yummy stuff about yourself 

11. The amazing human being has the potential to adjust to almost (I fear absolutes) any situation.

If you hang around the strangest thing long enough, it becomes common place…Just ask the person who processes dead bodies or scrapes up fecal matter for a living…

Interestingly, I used to process fecal matter for a living  hehe.. I’m well adjusted.

12. When your right to freedom infringes on the freedom of others…Mmmm something just doesnt feel ‘free’ anymore.

Sure! You can do whatever you please! – When you live on Planet Me. Until then, earth is occupied by other human beings who also have equal rights. Let’s not blur freedom with selfish, inconsiderate behaviour that is harmful to others.

Posted in Religion and Spirituality | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Me, rich? Never!

It took me some time (probably due to years of brainwashing)…but I’ve eventually arrived at the realization that;

Rich is NOT synonymous with ‘evil’

In fact there is nothing wrong with being rich.  Getting rich by fraudulent means, perhaps; being rich and evading taxes- questionable; being rich and thinking you are better than others- definitely!!

But being rich itself is not a bad thing.

There are several people who have used their riches to help empower others. “Empower” being the key word since handouts equals slavery insurance..

So, somewhere in Half Way Tree, Kingston while slushing it through street city mud to fight my way into an illegal taxi; the obnoxious driver of which ordered me to “come outta mi car nuh woman!!!”- I decided I wanted to be rich.

Just imagine this is the only means of transportation for most people. At this particular point, it was an option for me.

The demure, prudent chant most of my life was: “I don’t want to be rich, I want to be comfortable”.  It was repeated in school and reinforced in church. Sigh. Why, why do I always end up talking abt church. Sigh. My poor therapist. ..

Same people (church) who, by the way, were ‘comfortable’ enough to have SUV’s but not well-off enough to help someone with groceries for Sunday dinner – not a hypothetical scenario. This actually happens.

Somehow, somewhere that religious environment encouraged this twisted belief. No shocker. Oh right! That bible verse. The one about it being “hard for a rich man to enter heaven”. Ah!!

That and some choice  adjectives just seemed inextricably linked. Eg. Rich fool, evil rich man, selfish rich person etc. So. The loaded language promoted that line of thinking.

Well newsflash false humility bearers!! To be comfortable in a third world country, you kinda gotta be rich.

There were no rich people in church. Oh sure, they drove cars and lived in nice homes had kids in prep school and enjoyed annual vacations, but they were all up to their eyeballs in debt!

Their highly paid salaries competed with mortgages, car payments, credit card payments as they struggled along in financial mediocrity.

I called my sister one morning after hustling by public transportation to Kingston, late for class and too tired and traumatized from the trip to catch what was left of it…

“Paula, you were right, not only is poverty a lack of bare necessities but a state of indignity.”

Transportation is one form of this imposed indignity. If I start on healthcare I will weep.

After my son underwent successful ENT surgery at one of the country’s private hospitals, I solidified my resolve to acquire wealth (ooh felt dirty writing that). The surgery cost Ja$267,000 . No matter what country you’re from or what currency you are accustomed to, it is a huge sum. ..way above our means.

Another deeply psychological factor in my aversion to money had to do with his financial success with coincided with my parents’ divorce. And, as unrelated variables usually are, his acquiring wealth was engraved as causation for my parents’ spilt in our family forever.

I cannot begin to express (again..) how important it is for human beings to think for themselves and to restrain from ‘black or white’ thinking . I think with remorse of all the financial advice I ignored from my dad merely because he said it…

Wealth is not what you drive or how luxurious your house is, he would say… It is a balance between how much you owe and how many years of slavery would pay off your bills.

With a wag of his calloused, hard working finger he warned me against loans of ANY kind…. Not even hire purchase at the country’s most popular furniture/appliance store – Courts.

My dad despised loans.

I have come 360 degrees in finally accepting the advice of my dad. At 28, I was married, had a toddler, lived in a roadside apt, had a grad school loan, 2 credit card loans and a hire purchase loan from Courts plus no job!!!

Have I learned my lesson?

Well, I’ve paid off one credit card while making significant dents in another, I now have a stable savings plan and a college fund for my three year old.

Most importantly, I have a wealth plan. Its an intricate individualized financial scheme (sounds sinister, doesn’t it?) tailored to my goals and income.

I qualify for an NHT loan, but will resist. I’ve never relished bondage and $19,000 every month for the next 40 years for a mediocre dwelling sounds like just that. Ugh!

I have plans: Eeek!

To start my own businesses (yes, several). Owning a successful business appears to be a fast way out of the cyclic rat race and into financial independence and freedom.

Wanting to be rich is not necessarily a dirty, selfish ambition as I previously, haughtily assumed. It’s a logical methodological decision to be in a position to actually do things and help people, not just to yap about it.

Hopefully I’ll help to empower other females with this blog.

Instead of living within my means, I’ve decided how I would like to live and I am working towards the means to afford that lifestyle. – SB

Sent from my BlackBerry® device from Digicel

Posted in Financial Empowerment, Self Empowerment | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Who needs a relationship when you have a cause?

On relationships and other distractions….
I’m addicted to planning, clearly…. It’s the Virgo in me.  I’m also slightly Leon which is a relief, I’ve never felt like a true Virgo anyway…And you are wondering what the hell I’m talking about .

Ok…
The never-ending search continues digging and probing into self with various psychological and now astrological instruments…. Red Button says Sylphe sounds like self-search – somehow… I’m drifting. You will notice that this post is  poorly constructed, worded, thought out and riddled with stray points, loops and distractions – which leads me back to my original point….
Intimate relationships are distracting…
I’m sitting on this overlapping leg of life where at 30 (ok….29), I’m desperately trying to unlearn all of the  ideas and beliefs I mindlessly swallowed and find what suits me best based on my unique identity. It happens to us all; to varying degrees at various intervals of life. In grade 3 we were taught in Subtraction that three minus five – you can’t!! Then by grade six the answer to the same question changed quite concretely to negative two!! It went on and on like this with Math especially. Problems thought to be unsolvable, would be attacked with a new more complicated formula etc..

I despise absolutes and I believe knowledge to be cumulative. Things learned in the past are superseded by better information from a more knowledgeable (or more evolved) source.

Old ideas become obsolete when new improved ways are discovered. Dear Darling.. Don’t even think about mentioning God. The myriad of interpretations of the bible alone has not even begun to scratch the iceberg’s surface. I believe in evolution… not just of man but of beliefs, religions, even truths. Darn it! I’ve strayed again haven’t I?
*shuffling back meekly*
Back to relationships….
I’m in one…..

  With a guy…..

     Who shan’t be named….


 Despite my self-professed cynicism, I am a romantic at heart (gross). But the thing is this: I’m beginning to wonder if I have been substituting true empowerment ( which I stumbled upon on my way out of a legalistic organization and away from a religious marriage) for some flowery feelings which will eventually wilt. You see the consistent flow of inner conflict? My realism and romanticism are at it again.
So Astrology is my latest interest (via my convicted sis)…. Wait a minute!! I see a pattern here!! (For another post, I promise…).
If I am a perfect Leo/Virgo cusp (that’s a person whose signs overlap and hence they display characteristics of both)[ Random thought: Virgos sound anal], that would explain a lot!! I am also exploring the possibility of bipolars merely being on the cusp of two very incompatible zodiac signs. I am a perfect blend of the lion and the virgin.
Anyway….no more drifts no matter how entertaining it is…
My neglected blog is evidence of my shift in mental/creative energy towards my new beau. After months of bashing (when will I learn not to bash?) disempowered women, I am severely embarrassed. My slightly addictive and quite obsessive nature (as pointed out by my cardiologist) has led me to be quite smitten with this twirly glittery thing I will call “deep like” – I choked that out, I swear!
I feel the sweaty palmed fear of Liz in ‘Eat Pray Love’ at the notion of losing this new independent/empowering/self-accepting plane that I grasped with slippery hands and somehow heaved myself up on. I’ve feared to the point where I shaped this damning opinion; that relationships are for weaklings who didn’t know themselves and are clearly beneath me.
Julia Roberts [‘Liz’ in Eat Pray Love]
This feeling is encouraged especially if I break out in a rampage while searching for empowering material on the Net. I am the left with a euphoric independent high, one rank up on the mentally evolved chain.
*gasp* could this be: Independent pride?
It isn’t all in my head though. Studies have linked autonomy to happiness. Being single is exhilarating! It’s the new chic, and not just a fad either.
Maybe: The key is to maintain autonomy by recognizing that I want/choose to be in a cuddly sweet twirly thing however I don’t need to be in one. In other words, I’m still Stephie, the kooky bipolar, enjoying this journey in unexplored territory. Still me… just dating a nice guy (he is quite nice ).
Can I maintain my independence and by extension- identity or will the annoyingly feminine part of me start to shape shift to better ‘fit’ him. This is my true fear. Especially after realizing that it is easier to conform than to maintain one’s unique edges.
I like my edges.

 “The notion that there is someone out there waiting to ‘complete’ you lends itself to the ridiculous idea that you are incomplete alone” – SB

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Un- Eclipse me…

Half of me… Right down the middle; is really excited about all my plans for the future…building my home, starting an online business, advocacy and even this shy blog 🙂

The other half is terribly depressed and keeps me sitting in my glider, vacant expression, feet firmly immobilised and unable to hop to the first task.. Guess this is a mixed state or….

A full frontal eclipse…

With exactly half of me facing the sun in a future’s-so-bright-I-gotta-wear-shades sort of way. The other half completly blocked out and peering gloomily into the dark void.

Hello Bipolar!

Sigh..

It’s tricky to describe a mood disorder. I crave normal feelings, even regular crankiness anything but these extremes, made worse when they exist at the same time in the same body and mind. Feeling low is crippling to a bipolar- even your intelligence drops a few quotients #smirk. Then, feeling good equals being unhinged- a little too unhinged.

So.

I quit coffee and I figure if I can do that I can get through anything :). I should be off liquor too though I safely sip occasionally *wink.

 Everyone has something carrying around – to keep them human… when you deny your flaw/weakness, you deny your humanity and can no longer empathize with the weaknesses of others.

So I walk around, coexisting with fellow members of humanity- thieves, murderers, mentally ill, broken, bruised, healed …

… despite their current condition, I simply think: “That’s their load, bipolar is mine….” –  I smile, say hello and wonder if the unconditional acceptance of one human being can really make any difference.

Hmmm..

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