Tales of the office neurotic

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Head, meet wall

I’ve had bouts of anxiety lately. I have no good reason – but anxiety never really needs a reason – sometimes it just presents itself.

I don’t know whether it shows a lot – I have no idea what I look like to others and I avoid mirrors because I hate the way I look and always have.

My last therapy session saw me in full flower, ranting and raving about life and politics. Afterwards, I wondered in horror what I must have looked like to my shrink. She doesn’t seem to mind as it’s all a part of therapy.

What might be going on:

  1. Holiday jitters – the usual worries about gift buying, traveling to see people and hoping the mood of the season doesn’t break me down remembering Christmas past,
  2. Work – as always but lately a lot on my plate this last week before vacation
  3. Weather – one inch of snow on the roads and I see in my mind how I will die in a bloody wreck.
  4. Vacation – I’m the only person I know who gets pre-vacation anxiety. What if I have to drive in the snow? What if there’s a terrorist attack while we’re in the subway? You laugh, but this is what my mind suggests will happen to me over and over.
  5. My mother died five years ago today. My sister believes I owe her more of the estate since it’s been five years now; although the will calls for last distribution after six years. Should I tell the police where I work to be on the lookout for a particularly nasty woman armed with a crossbow?

I think that covers it.

I have an assignment today to cover the Santa Shop – a nice thing the American Legion does for our Veterans. The underboss asked me if I could also drop by our town hall this morning at 10. She asked if it would make me too nervous.

I hate that.

I will gladly do whatever you want (well, not always gladly, but I will do it) and do my best to hide whatever anxiety I may have. But please do not assume that I am some kind of delicate fucking flower who needs to be asked if sitting in on a meeting will be too much for me to bear. It’s insulting, demeaning and degrading.

IF I’m having a rough day, I will tell you. Believe me. But as a matter of pride I do not refuse assignments no matter how shaky I might feel inside. I do not show up in the morning with a plan for avoiding work.

I know, she was probably just trying to be considerate. I should consider that. And I didn’t say anything. But it grates on me. After all that has gone on here, I guess I better get used to being the office neurotic. It’s not a position I’m used to, nor one I ever asked for.

If I’m having a bad day, I will tell you. Believe me.

Posted in advice, anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, counseling, holidays, mental health, shame, stigma, work | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Voices from our Past: latest column from The Mighty

Why I Still Carry the Words of My Abusive Father as Someone With Borderline Personality Disorder


Stupid.

Whiny.

Spoiled.

Lazy.

For those of us who grew up to develop borderline personality disorder(BPD), these may have been some of the words we heard constantly growing up. These words may have been drilled into our developing psyches by parents, teachers, siblings, classmates and others.

In this case, the words that hurt, the words of abuse, are constant reminders of what others thought of us. Absent of any positive reinforcement, these words may have become hardwired within us.

I hear these words every time I fall a little short or make a mistake. And for me, it’s never a little mistake. Whatever I’ve done — it’s a catastrophic failure on my part proving I’m unworthy of self-respect.

Eventually, most of us find a therapist or a book that sets us straight — we are not failures, we are not ugly and we are worthy of being loved and respected.

And, on some level, we know the therapists and the books are right. But on a deeper level, someone is telling us we must hate ourselves for our past sins. The hate comes easy and naturally to us which makes it all the more corrosive to our sense of self-worth.

This problem is not solely experienced by those with BPD, but crosses into other mental illnesses including depression and anxiety disorders.

Who is that voice in our head that haunts us and calls us names that we repeat, many times out loud? Most of us know. Sometimes it’s more than one person.

In my case, it’s my father. Let me tell you a little about him.

My father wanted a son like himself — someone who would love hunting, fishing and camping as much as he did. He wanted an outdoors buddy he could show off to his friends — a “mini-me.”

Sadly, for him, I fell in love with books and libraries. I thought, Why tromp around in knee deep snow to shoot a something I wouldn’t eat anyway?

In home movies, I see dad, tugging on my fishing pole, helping me raise a tent, standing next to me with the shotgun he bought me as a Christmas present. He’s smiling so broadly. I have never nor would I ever, see him so happy again.

The smiling gradually stopped when I hit around 14. I was not going to be his fishing buddy. I was “too sensitive,” “too bookish” and would rather stay indoors. To him, my life was a betrayal. From that point on, every single thing I did wrong or anything I did to annoy him in the slightest was met by some version of the following:

“Kid, wait until you grow up and have to live in the real world. It’ll chew you up and spit you out.”

“I’m tired of feeling sorry for you. You’re just a mope who doesn’t know how spoiled you are.”

“In my day, the kids would have kicked the crap out of you.”

“You can’t figure anything out by yourself, can you? Kid, you are a real piece of work.”

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

I could go on but you get the picture.

How do we exorcise these voices from the past?

I try to catch myself whether I call myself “stupid” for spilling milk on a counter or a “useless jackass” for forgetting my keys — but it’s tough. Through most of my life, the only constant has been his voice in my head; always judging, condemning, belittling.

A great deal of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is silencing that voice – through rationality. I have an extra technique I’ve added – not ignoring, but remembering that these were the words of an angry, bitter man who just happened to be my father. He doesn’t know what I became — he never bothered to know me growing up.

I can understand why he treated me the way he did. I can even forgive, which I’m working on. But I have no time for his voice, or any other, telling me I’m not good enough.

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Posted in Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, bullying, childhood terror, children, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, fear, growing up, men, middle age, my father, parents, shame, stigma, The Mighty | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A dog’s tale

reasons-dogs-end-up-in-shelters-rescue-series-pt1Not sure how this is going to go over — ed. 

Let’s say you have a dog. It’s a rescue dog.

This pooch had been abused as a puppy by its previous owner and then grew up to be passed from one owner to another who gave up the dog because, well, let’s just say the dog was difficult. The dog would occasionally pee on the carpet, chew the drapes, or sometimes break out of its enclosure and run the neighborhood at four in the morning until someone called the dog warden or the cops.

But you’ve been a dog rescuer your entire life. You’re a good person. The dog is now on in years and though he’ still skittish and afraid of most people, he comes readily to you. There’s something special between you and this dog and you feel it too.

The dog thrives under your care. Ol’ Fido becomes friendlier to others, eats well and behaves inside and outside of the house. Things couldn’t be better.

But then you get a job that requires overnight travel. It pays much better than the last job but some weekends you may be gone from Friday until Sunday evening. But the dog is doing so well now so you think, ‘I’ll just find a good kennel for him while I’m away those weekends.’

So you find a reputable kennel. We’ll everyone says it is.

And on the first Friday, you take Fido to the kennel. The old pooch is a little intimidated and whiny but he goes in fairly willingly and starts to meet the other dogs.7410625208_2ba7ab196b_b

At first, everything seems OK. On Sunday, Fido is happy to see you and the rest of days until the next trip seem fine.

But then something starts happening: Fido becomes a problem at the kennel. It seems some of his old habits have returned. One Sunday you pick up Fido and the kennel keeper wants to have a word with you. It seems Fido has been hard to control. He gets out of his kennel and has to be tracked down. He refuses to eat and has started baring his teeth to the other dogs to leave him alone.

Now, you’ve explained to the kennel people that this dog was a rescue and even told them about the dog’s history. Seemingly sympathetic to your plight, the kennel owner offers you a deal: she knows a good dog trainer, who, for a little extra money, will come on the weekends that Fido stays and work with him. If you agree to that, Fido can stay.

This sounds good to you so you agree to pay a little extra for the trainer. Who knows – this might be the best thing that happens to your dog.

Except it isn’t.

Now on Sundays Fido comes out of the kennel literally shaking in fear. On Fridays, the poor dog literally needs to be dragged, yelping and whining into the kennel. You feel terrible but what can you do? The job demands that you travel for these weekends and the kennel has the best reputation in the city, or so they say.

Maybe you should speak to the trainer. So one Sunday when picking up Fido, the trainer comes over to talk to you. You notice Fido starts shaking as the trainer comes near.

‘Well ma’am your dog is a bit on the antisocial side,’ the trainer says. ‘But we’re working with him. Give us a little more time and I’m sure he’ll come around.’

But you’re not so sure because you can see the fear in your dog’s eyes.

At home Fido is back to his old ways, peeing on the carpet, chewing the drapes – but now Fido is also chewing at his own fur, leaving tufts and bald spots.

So you check the other kennels in the area but no one has availability for your dog right away. You ask a few friends but they either have other animals or ‘plans.’ So, reluctantly, you get on the other kennels’ waiting lists and drag Fido back to the same kennel.

But this trip is cut short due a cancelled appointment. Instead of getting home Sunday evening, you’re home Sunday morning. You decided maybe you should go to the kennel and see for yourself what the staff is doing for your dog and why Fido has gradually turned into such a problem. You don’t want your dog to know you’re there so you can observe.

So you park on the other side of the kennel and watch what’s going on from your car.

This is what you see:

The trainer has set up a behavior course for Fido. If Fido completes certain tasks, such as coming when called, heeling, fetching a stick, he gets the doggie treat that is at the end of each lane. OK, positive reinforcement, you think. But something is wrong. The trainer is yelling at your dog to do the task. Fido, scared, comes over for the first test, his head bowed, looking pathetic.

The trainer yells, ‘fetch the stick!’ But then the trainer throws the stick AND a ball. Fido trots over to the stick, looks back at the trainer who says, impatiently, ‘well?’ Your dog gingerly picks up the stick and starts bringing it back to the trainer. But the trainer grabs the stick from Fido and angrily says ‘no, I said get me the ball, not the stick you stupid mutt!’

Fido cowers into a ball and starts to shake.

‘Get the damn ball,’ yells the trainer, sneering like a sadist, which the trainer is.

Fido trots nervously back toward the ball but then the trainer throws the stick. ‘Stick!’ he shouts. ‘Get the stick you miserable mutt!’

You’re horrified. You’ve seen enough and you’ve been taking video with your phone the whole time. You get out of the car about to bring hellfire down on the trainer and the kennel, from lawsuits to the ASPCA.

But you freeze. You have nowhere else for the dog. If you take Fido back on weekends, you’ll have to quit your well-paying job. The other option is to take Fido back to the pound and give him back. But he’s been given back so many times before – it may kill him. But this is killing him.

No dog should have to live like this.

But every day in countless schools and workplaces around the country, this is how people with mental illnesses are treated. Yes, it’s an allegory, maybe a bad one, but fairly accurate. Wounded people in need of the right kind of mental health treatment are forced to deal with situations they do not understand or cannot cope with. In our society, they are expected to fit in and they try. But they can’t mold themselves to society’s expected behaviors.

From home to home, school to school, job to job they are bounced. Sometimes, when they act out in public they are arrested and put in jail. Even when they get ‘lucky’ enough to get into a mental treatment facility, often the facility is underfunded and understaffed by people who don’t get paid enough to care. Abuse happens everywhere but is more likely to happen to those with mental illness because of stigma and fear.

Paige+NelsonWe have choices as a society on what kind of human services we will fund. No one objects to funding programs for children with birth defects, so they can someday lead a productive life. But for mentally ill people who could be productive citizens, we pause and wonder if we’re just throwing good money on bad dogs who will always be a little ‘off,’ a little ‘scary’ and a little ‘difficult.’

So, if you could see how hard people with mental illness, who never asked for their condition – a condition that unlike a broken arm or birth defect, cannot be seen; if we could see how hard they try to fit in with the ‘normals;’ if we could see and maybe even feel the pain of fighting your brain constantly; if we could see the fear they feel from social anxiety, the anger they experience from personality disorders or the deep, searing pain from depression, perhaps we could say that these people deserve relief and help.

Because so many do not – because of insurance, minimum wage jobs and a lack of affordable and decent options, especially in rural areas.

But in closing, if you could imagine having to bear the burden of a mental condition, just think of this:

Would you let your dog, in that kennel, suffer like that if it could be avoided?

Posted in BPD, counseling, depression, kindness, mental health, parenting, Police, PTSD, schizophrenia, self-harm, shame, social anxiety, stigma, suicide | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I Don’t Know How I Do It

CB

I guess 6:30 in 1975 was thought of as early. Try 5 a.m. 

Do you ever just do something because you’ve been doing it all your life and know that you have to so even though you’ve grown to hate it, you do it anyway?

Yeah, work.

Having been a member of this Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) support group on Facebook and other mental health support groups online, I’m gobsmacked by the number of people who simply can’t work or work sporadically at best.

Now I’ve had a LOT of jobs in my life and lost a lot of them because of my BPD. I’ve spent seven years in the current job which is far and away a record for me.

Yet, I wonder, how I’ve been able to work since I was 16 with only about seven months unemployment all that time?

I’ve often referred to myself as an ‘escape artist,’ meaning that I always somehow managed to land on my feet and find another job. Working my way back to government service after a 12 year gap I regarded as my greatest escape (cue the music from the movie).

I think the thing that has hit me so hard in this job is the realization (maybe true, maybe not) that there are no more chances for escape. At my age and with my experience, the odds of another job should I lose this one, may be long and far.

Or not. I tend to underestimate my employability and have been pleasantly surprised on numerous occasions. But still, the whole concept of keeping a job with BPD seems very daunting when I think of the trouble I’ve gotten into.

In this respect, getting a late diagnosis of BPD probably was a blessing. In my mind, if I knew that I was dealing with this disorder, it may have influenced my behavior far more negatively than just believing I could be a real asshole at times. The younger you are, the scarier this illness is, at least from what I see in the support group. For me, I had been dealing with some form of misdiagnosed mental illness for so long than when the right diagnosis came along, as disheartening as it was, to me it was just another burden to pick up and slog along with. I’d been slogging for so long; I think I’m just going on momentum now.

My heart really goes out to people with BPD in their late teens, 20s and early 30s. On one hand, they’re looking at this as a possible lifetime issue. On the other, hand, they have a lot more energy to fight it. The problem is health insurance – for younger people, this is the main impediment to getting proper treatment. So problems get worse.

MillennialsBut then there’s work. It’s hard enough being stigmatized as an entitled Millennial, now add the stigma of mental illness and, with BPD, the volatility of emotions that are not welcomed at the workplace.

I think of any advice I might give would be outdated — the world of work as well as relationships and culture is so different than what I knew at that age. The best advice is that if you can’t get therapist-led Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT, the Holy Grail for treating BPD); the workbooks are readily available to teach yourself.

It’s easy to say to not read the worst into any interaction with coworkers, but extremely hard in practice – your brain disagrees and when that happens, brains usually win. And, frankly, all it takes are a few instances where you coworker did throw you under the bus and the paranoia takes on a life of its own; extending to almost every interaction in the office.

Until I knocked it off the garage ceiling, I had an MMA bag I would take out the frustrations of the day on. In reality, people with BPD DO something need some THING to hit before some BODY, perhaps, gets hit. Bags are really useful in this regard. So is knowing when to go to your car in the parking lot and do primal scream therapy for five minutes.

Hey, I may be older, but I still have BPD. These examples come from experience.

The other tip I don’t like to talk about is giving up caring and focusing solely on the paycheck. This is harder for idealistic young people and the kinds of entry level jobs most of them have to work at are real spirit killers in this regard. It only takes one or two bad work experiences to set a pattern where one expects the job to suck. Yes, I know: self-fulfilling prophecy. But sometimes the jobs really do suck.

Forty years in the workforce with a host of mental health issues — I guess I should be proud. But I’m too tired to be proud – I just trudge on. It’s the only option I have. It’s the only option I’ve ever had.

Posted in advice, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, mental health, middle age, regret, work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

My Head is a Mood Ring

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No, that’s not the moon rising, that’s my personal mood ring. How am I feeling?

Those of us with various mental illnesses have what are called ‘invisible conditions.’

That’s not always true. Some people have scars from cutting, for instance. Others have various conditions like Skin Picking Disorder or Excoriation for instance.

Sometimes, these conditions can cross. For instance, I’m a nervous picker and have been all my life. So at any given time, I’m picking at scabs (mostly), calluses, nails, pimples or any other part of my skin that strikes me as abnormal.

Last spring, I shaved my head in support of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for children with cancer. I liked it so much (some actually said it made me look badass!) that I decided to keep it. However, my scalp was not used to being bald and, with a previous problem with my oily scalp, the inevitable happened.

Pimples. Then picking. Then picking some more.

Most of the time, I don’t even know I’m doing it until I feel the trickle of blood running down my scalp. But the more nervous I am (and with my Generalized Anxiety Disorder tied in with the BPD and PTSD, that’s fairly often), the more I will pick.

So here’s the deal: if you want to know how things have been going for me lately, you needn’t even ask.

Just look at my head – the more scars, the harder things have been for me lately.

So my head is now a reflection of my ever-changing moods. Like a big bald mood ring.

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Hey 70s cool cats – you remember mood rings, right?

Why do I do it? I honestly don’t know. It’s a compulsion I’ve had all my life. It may be connected with a bad stretch of OCD behavior in my childhood, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a fascination with what lies underneath the skin. I do like watching Dr. Pimple Popper for instance. So maybe there’s some deep psychological thing I have for pimples and scabs.

Mom would be so proud, I know.

 

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The Korean cure – it works, but I’d have to use it every day. 

But even using the Korean Cure (and it’s really good stuff), my naturally young scalp skin keeps making me feel like a pimply adolescent.

It’s bad enough having such a large head. A drill sergeant in basic training once asked me, in front of the entire platoon, “did your mother survive childhood with such a large pus head?” But now I deal with the stares of people who must think I’m driving nails with my noggin.

Nope. My cranium is merely a roadmap to my current psyche. And now my secret is out.

Posted in anxiety, Borderline Personality Disorder, depression, Distractions, funny, mental health, self-harm | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Requiem for my Borderline Brothers and Sisters

Since my diagnosis, I’ve tried to figure out two things based on reading and personal experience.

The first is the origin of my Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). For most people, the origins are in traumatic incidents, most often in childhood. This is supported by research.

So I have started to unpack this mess with my therapist. I was not prepared for what was going to happen to me when I did. I don’t know whether it would have helped to attack this piecemeal. I have talked about my childhood to other therapists before but it took a long time to talk about all of it — And all of it was what was unpacked during that session.

And the effects didn’t happen right away. I, of course, ruminated on what we discussed and the longer I did that, obviously, the worse I felt. ‘Worse’ is probably too soft a word. I was devastated. I had several breakdowns with one large one where I made a halfhearted attempt at suicide. I am still suffering the after effects of that session. I don’t know if I want to return to my childhood too soon.

So I know the origins of my personal illness. Now I wanted to see what makes people with BPD so emotionally unstable. I also wanted to see if my personal reasons are the same of many, if not most of people with BPD.

So here is my hypothesis.

blog-timeouts2Most child psychologists believe that little children have a strong sense of justice and fair play. One very critical point in a child’s development is how they adapt when they realize the world is not fair. This is a key point – if the child can understand how to navigate an unfair world, they have the tools to be content and successful despite that knowledge. They develop psychological work-arounds to find the best in life while understand that existence is not all roses and ice cream.

However, at that critical stage of development, if a child is treated unfairly by their parents or by any authority figures or those the child looks up to, the results are devastating. If a child is beat by the parents, ridiculed by their teachers, sexually abused by a sibling or bullied by their peers, for instance, they will not only see the world as profoundly unfair but that they have been singled out to be its perpetual victim.

How does one react to these events that basically rewire the brain’s coping mechanism in addition to preventing the child from developing normal emotional reactions to external events? I think we get a sense of this reaction to trauma when looking at how BPD emerges in adolescence or young adulthood.

At least for myself, I became withdrawn, sullen and angry. Having a father to whom no reproach was tolerated without threats of violence, I had to eat all the rage that came from dealing with him. This meant my emotional storehouse became filled with his violence, his belittlement, his arbitrary and capricious nature and his severe disappointment that I was not the son he wanted.

downloadSo too, in elementary school (K-8) with all my teachers nuns from a particularly sadistic order, I was on the receiving end of many traumas, the worst being a sort of ritualistic humiliation in front of my classmates, because, for instance, I was hopeless at diagramming sentences.

Please don’t try to tell me that being made to stand in a classroom full of your peers, red-faced, with tears of shame streaming down your face as a teacher accuses you of purposely making mistakes to get her angry does not have a long-term effect. I can still remember these incidents as if they were yesterday.

should-not-shame-kidsEach child in similar circumstances, I believe, deals with whatever childhood trauma(s) in their own way but along a similar path – either it must be suppressed, or it comes out with being incorrigible as a young adult. Eventually, it grows to whatever form of BPD the person deals with as an adult, typical BPD or ‘quiet BPD.’

Essentially, I believe that whatever the child was becoming as a human being at a critical age, was suppressed and boxed up. I feel personally that, although I live in an adult world, and write here, for instance, in adult language, in many, many ways, I am still the 10-year old child whose development was arrested.

The longer we think about it, we arrested children, if we bring ourselves to think about it at all, the more we feel the sting of what was done to us for simply existing and trying to be the people we were becoming. We were prevented from our natural emotional development by the abuse, in whatever form it took. And for me, all the emotions I suppressed became a hot ball of rage at the injustice of it all.

At the time we were most concerned with justice and fairness, we were treated most unjustly and unfairly. And because of that, not only to we seek relief for the suppressed rage of what was done to us, we seek justice and, in many cases, retribution, for all the times we were made to cower, to be forced into silence and were compelled to participate in unspeakable acts.

This, I believe, is the central core of BPD behavior. It’s only my hypothesis based on a lifetime of observation. I have no training in mental health, rather, I live the condition. I think I have a right to make this case.

Let me tell you of one such repressed rage. My father died when I was 20. In the years leading up to his death, I would often comfort myself by imagining the most awful ways of killing him. In my imagination, I would deal him a blow from behind, say, with our fireplace shovel. This would incapacitate him and leave him at my mercy. They I would methodically and with malice and glee, gradually beat him to death with whatever instruments were at my disposal. Sometimes I would imagine myself with the shotgun he forced me to learn to use and, when it broke, would not fix it. I would methodically shoot him in non-fatal areas (like in some movie) until he would be on the ground begging for mercy as he bled out.

Is that too much? I would bet that those with BPD who are reading this right now are probably nodding their heads, having had similar fantasies.

Justice delivered instead of justice denied.

ROBWOOjustice

 

So let’s go to a real life example then.

In the online BPD support group I belong to, a woman with BPD told a true story that happened to her and her child on a public bus. She had the child in a stroller and a man took offense at that, claiming she was taking up too much of the aisle or some such thing.

The woman said she gave the man a chance to have his say and let it go, but of course, in our age of outrage and boorishness, he didn’t, and continued to berate the women.

Obviously this lout did not know who he was dealing with. He was about to find out.

I hope she will not mind if I quote her post anonymously:

“I could feel my blood boiling and my legs were shaking. It ended when I threatened to follow him off the bus. He asked if I was going to be a baby and call the police to say he was harassing me. I replied with “no, I’m going to follow you off the bus and bash your head into the cement.” When he realized I was being serious, he quickly got off the bus.”

I highlight those words in her writing for a reason I will get to in a bit.

When she came out of the rage, this woman was thankful that she had not acted on her impulse and destroyed her life by beating this man to death. Those of us reading her post also said we were grateful that she had not done so.

However . . . and that being said . . .

We also, by and large, agreed he would have deserved it, at least theoretically. My point was that she was protecting her child and who knows how much more aggressive this man could have become to the point he would have physically assaulted her? I’ve seen enough You Tube videos where just such incidents have escalated into violence.

But there is more to this for those of us with BPD: when as adults, we are threatened like this, all the suppressed hurt and rage from our past comes to the surface with the burning fury of a thousand suns. All the feelings of shame and injustice and victimizations snap back light a light switch and take over our reptilian brains. It is like a superpower being employed.

I can only imagine the terror that man experienced as he looked into this woman’s eyes and saw her rage. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he wet himself fleeing the bus.

We don’t want to admit it, but I think most of us would be clapping and whistling with admiration for this woman. Because, in our own heads, touching on our own experiences of shame and rage, we know what it feels like and we would have loved to have done the same thing. For one brief shining moment, justice was served deliciously red hot – and no one was hurt.

Was there a specific trigger for this woman in anything the man said? I have no idea but I can guess what it might have been. I know what it would have been for me:

“He asked if I was going to be a baby and call the police to say he was harassing me.”

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the words of my father written above. “Are you going to be a baby?”

At that point, I would have seen black. Like the woman, I have felt my blood boiling and my legs shaking and I would have looked for anything that could have been used as a weapon. I probably would have instantly gained the strength of three men and the killer instinct 0of a tiger hunting his prey.

‘Yes, dear father, I am going to be Baby Chucky and slice your fucking head off.’

Justice. For what was done to us and what continues to be done to us.

In interpersonal relationships, we push those away we need the most because in the back of our minds, that person will betray us eventually like our parents or other adults did when we were children.

In my mind, every authority figure at some point becomes my father and my reaction is mistrust, paranoia and, eventually, hate. I know behind the smiling face and calm words, eventually will come the knife.

The hundreds of little personal slights we experience all day in our hurting hypervigilance – these are our own microagressions – build up and either we explode at some insignificant word, look or gesture that happened to be the last straw, or drag ourselves home to collapse and slowly decompress.

In some ways, I think Dialectical Behavioral Theory is, if we really break it down, a methodology designed to redirect this primal rage for justice into something socially acceptable.

images1Here’s the thing – we always wanted to be good people. We were kind and full of the wonder all children had once. That was taken away from us. We spend our entire lives, in one form or another, trying to get it back.

I use to get up in the morning to watch the sun rise. I would watch in wide wonder at the gradual revealing of the landscape, the change of night sounds into day sounds and the smell of dewy earth. For me, this was truly a religious experience.

I made the mistake of trying to explain this to my father. He opined that I was turning into some kind of queer (his words). I never spoke to him (or anyone) about these feelings again for decades.

We were innocent, kind and trusting people when we were young. We still are – deep inside of us is a great untapped reservoir of goodness and kindness that is guarded by walls of hurt and suspicion.

The shame of it all is that, for many of us, we’ve spent many years burning through relationships and jobs before finally finding out just why we are the way we are (notice I didn’t write what was wrong with us). So much wasted potential, so many lives gone to rage, incarceration, drug addiction or suicide.

howledit2I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,(1)

We did not ask to be this way. We do not want to be this way. What we want, at the very least, is some sense that perhaps not for us but for those that come  after us, that we will give a damn about children – to find a way to protect and nurture them, at least until they get their bearings in this unjust world. Aside from child abuse prevention, parenting classes and anti-bullying efforts, I don’t know how this can be accomplished.

But if nothing else, take this away from my essay – when you see a person with BPD, know that we don’t stand in front of society as broken and dangerous people. We stand as a reproach to a society that allowed this to happen, in open and in secret. Whether is be from genetic or environmental causes, we are the product of society’s worst urges, hatred, jealousies, resentments and prejudices.

We are akin to the two children in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, shrouded by the Ghost of Christmas Present:

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit ignorance-and-want! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

 “They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And bide the end!”

 “Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

 “Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”(2)

 I can do no more than wish us peace and understanding.

 

  • Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” from Collected Poems, 1947-1980. Copyright © 1984 by Allen Ginsberg.
  • ‘A Christmas Carol,’ by Charles Dickens, Chapman & Hall, 1843
Posted in abuse, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, bullying, Catholic school, childhood terror, children, counseling, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, mental health, my father, parenting, shame, stigma, suicide, violence, When we were very young | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On Turning 55

speedlimit1

At the signpost up ahead, you’re next stop. . . 

I turned 55 today.

 
I stood in a very cold garage smoking a high end cigar and drinking a maple bourbon and coke and listening to Sinatra’s ‘September of my Years’ and wondering what all my dead relatives would think of me know.
 
It’s play acting, I know. I try to catch a feeling and a place in time because they don’t come naturally to me. Memories do but I need props to feel and in this case, it was music, a cigar and a Bourbon.
 
There were family parties with all of those things. At the time you never really think that this is something you should remember or that you will care to remember. After all, your whole life lies ahead of you and there will always be other days.
 
And then these flesh and blood people become memories and your memories become foggy and your own reality becomes indistinct.
 
I reach back and try to grab on to a memory, wrapped in an emotion, shrouded by time. Sometimes I can, sometimes they elude me as everyday names now tend to escape me.
 
Borderline Personality Disorder does not mellow with age. I am particularly afraid that if I live long enough I will at some point, become dimly aware that I am strapped to a restraining chair screaming something incoherent about Jello Pops and All in the Family.
 
Every person has a different point in their lives when they come to the realization that there is no sense trying to recapture either lost youth or a lost age. We must admit a stage of advanced age (when people were so OLD to us when we were kids) and that once familiar things and people have irrevocably passed into history.
 
I reach that point in my life today. I think it was finally the number, 55, the way it looked, the way it felt and the inevitability that these numbers never decrease and the world will never look the same as it did when I was younger. And I have to accept this because not to do so would be futile and ridiculous.
 
A cigar – an older man’s indulgence. Bourbon, the drink of my father’s side of the family, until each of them died. And in this garage I look with a weird amusement at a Kia Soul which has replaced my mid-life crisis Mustang; the practical, yes, but still reaching back for a little funky to go with the Sinatra and sagging neck.
 
To the Twilight Zone between late middle age and old age: we all go there in our own ways, with our own challenges. I remind myself that despite my own battles, there were people I once considered friends who did not make it here with me. Why I am alive and these good people are dead I have no idea. Perhaps I will live to 100 as some kind of sick cosmic joke.
 
My mother always marked my birthday with a card, either given or mailed in which she would recall the day I was born – in the middle of a thundersnow event where the power had gone out and the hospital (now Lake County West) was operating on generator. And that my famously large head had to be pried out with forceps and other oft-putting details.
 
But in every card, she always said that I was more than worth it – worth all the fear, all the pain and all the crap I put her through growing up. And that she was proud of the man I had become. I wish I had saved some of those cards.
 
I burn through friendships and family with a flamethrower because I cannot seem to control my angry emotions to perceived slights or misunderstood words or acts. There is not enough regret in the world to cover my sins so I remind myself this is part of the reason that I stand in a cold garage enjoying my cigar and Bourbon by myself. My wife in the adjacent basement is left as the last person standing who can stomach my mercurial moods.
 
But my deceased mother and my very much alive wife will always share, apparently (I will go out on a limb here with my wife) their love for this fundamentally flawed and guilt-ridden man who managed to make it to 55 alive, employed and non-incarcerated.
 
At least I have that; and the cigar, and the bourbon, and Sinatra and the memories.
 
If birthdays wishes were granted I would have but one – not to live to any certain age or be showered with wealth – none of that. I would just like, for whatever time I have left, to know who I am. With this burden of not knowing lifted, I could walk through the world without this terrible fear, suspicion and anger inside of me. I would like to be neurotypical just for a little while to see what I missed. Maybe I could even make real life friends I could keep rather than the good people on Facebook who are a safe distance from the real me.
 
This is probably asking too much. I am grateful enough to have finally found my primary diagnosis and battled it to a draw at this point.
 
I’m not sure what the future will bring. I only hope that I can face it with more bravery and joy than I’ve been able to muster thus far in middle age. They say growing old is not for wimps and they are right. All I can do is stop apologizing for my illness while at the same time stop from hurting the people closest to me.
 
So I feel like I’m opening the last great door in my life. I hope that it is more like a garden than a minefield. But if I’m left to finding solace in cigars, Bourbon and Sinatra, well, I was old before my time anyway. I could do a lot worse.
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Posted in bipolar, birthday, Borderline Personality Disorder, BPD, death, fear, getting old, mental health, middle age, mom | Tagged , , | Leave a comment