Music, to me

Music is extremely important to me, as it is to so many people. People love music for so many reasons, and here’s why I love it so much.

Music says the words I want to say, but in a much more beautifully elegant way. Just the fact that there is the instrumentals, harmonies, melodies, and all the little nuances there make it much more beautiful to me than if I were to say the words or write the words myself.

Not to mention, if you add in the fact that I’m an extremely sensitive soul and I can be moved to tears by a huge variety of music, music is a recipe for me becoming a puddle on the floor.

So when I make you a playlist, I am baring my soul. I know people are deterred if they don’t like a genre or an artist, but for me the music and lyrics speak beyond those small details.

I’ve always been very sensitive about my music taste. Well, I’m sensitive in general. Growing up playing music and letting it heal me has fostered a very deep connection for me. Singing songs that speak to my heart has fostered a deep connection with many songs.

I want to share my love, but I am so afraid because of how sensitive I am. Sometimes I think, how pathetic. How weak. But more often I’d rather think, how lucky. Extreme emotional sensitivity is a blessing and a curse, depending on how you look at it. How fortunate that I can be so moved by music in a way that some people simply cannot fathom. I am grateful.

Today is the (second… Or third… Or tenth) beginning of my recovery. After too long without consistent therapy I’ve finally found a DBT therapist I click with. My meds have been adjusted and I’m hoping with all my heart that the antipsychotics will work soon. Because this is hell.

I read through a lot of my blog posts and realized it really has been a tough year. I don’t think I’m good at many things but I can say I’m good at downplaying the status of my mental well-being.

Recovery is constant resistance 

I wish I could see what you think you see in me. Just once I would like to be at peace with myself and look in the mirror through your rose-coloured glasses. But then you would have to take them off and see me for who I really am. I don’t think I want that quite yet.

Above is an unfinished draft I wrote a while back. On the 18th of September, specifically. This was written on a bad day.

I used to deflect compliments and praise because I strongly believed that to love myself, the love had to be intrinsic. It couldn’t rely on other people’s opinions of me. While I still believe this is true, I now realize that I took that sentiment too far… As I tend to do with most things.

My emotions and thoughts shift from one extreme to another. On bad days, I think I’m worthless. I think I’m a failure. Sometimes, I even feel like I hate myself. On good days I am confident, easy-going, and full of positive energy. Obviously the good exists. It is there, and it is intrinsic. However, the habit of refusing compliments is so deeply ingrained in my psyche that even on good days I cannot accept them. On bad days it’s even worse.

What I am starting to realize is that if I open myself up and let some of the positive in from the people around me, it can help coax out the self love that already exists. This is an important realization especially for the bad days. I’ve been living so long believing in this delusion that everyone who loves and cares for me must be wrong or mistaken. I could go on like that forever, if I allowed it. I could stay miserable forever.

It’s hard to let go of those thinking processes. They’re hardwired into my brain like a bad habit; no – like an addiction. I know they’re bad for me, but I’ve lived with them so long; I’ve lived with them all my life. It’s a constant effort to break free. I improve, then relapse. Improve. Relapse. Repeat.

I’m fighting against biology and brain structure. I’m resisting the pathways that have been ingrained within me. Through my studies, though, I know that it is possible to change. The brain is surprisingly plastic and the body is surprisingly adaptive. It’s possible to override these patterns. It’s not easy, but just like anything else that takes work, it will be worth it in the end.

Gratitude 

Thanks for picking me up and carrying my when I was down. I blog about my pain, heartache, and troubles a lot – I often forget to acknowledge the overwhelming support I have. It would be an understatement to simply say I was “lucky”. This was no luck of the draw. I am blessed and eternally grateful for the people who walked into my life and never left. Practicing gratitude humbles our struggles. Make a point to do this more every day.

Thank you SC; CLB; RN; ACN; EG; TK; FC; EM; PW; RC; AEM; WC; SP; AV; DRB.

People say when it comes to friendship, it is better to have 4 quarters rather than 100 pennies. I am grateful to have so many people who support me, who are all worth more than their weight in gold.

I am grateful for the people I have only met within the past few months, who were kind enough to listen, value my friendship and remained in my life. I am so grateful for their willingness to have open and honest conversations and withholding judgement, instead replacing it with genuine curiosity. I’m grateful for the people who spoke to me and were open to me, even if it wasn’t always easy.

I am grateful for the family who stand by me no matter what and listen non judgementally, and respond with love and honestly. Words can’t express the gratitude I have. I may have had many difficult experiences with people, my diagnosis, and my self image, but I was given the most supportive people imaginable to be my closest support network. I am especially grateful for my parents for being so calm and open about my situation. I am always afraid to tell them when I relapse, yet they always respond with nothing but warmth, love, and concern. I am grateful for my sister and cousin, two of my best friends. I am grateful for their love, ambition, and honesty. I love the unconditional support they give to me; the support that I am eagerly willing to return.

I’m grateful for the girls I work with or went to school with, who have come to be like family: always supportive, always a shoulder to cry on, always a friendly pair of listening ears. Their unique and distinct personalities all provide me with insight from many perspectives, and though they are all very different, their love is all equally strong and supportive of not only me but each other. I’m grateful to be surrounded by such intelligent, caring, genuine women. They are an inspiration and after many difficult experiences in my past, they showed the profound impact of women sticking together and supporting each other unconditionally. I am not only inspired by the times where we were loving and supportive, but also by times of conflict. They always proved my fears wrong, and our friendship always shone through.

I am grateful for my guy best friends from home, who each lend me their own unique perspectives. Again, they are all very different, but they are all the same in their love, concern, and friendship. They are all the protective brothers that I never had, each offering their insight when it comes to my boy problems. After the experiences I have had with previous boyfriends, I have come to realize that love is not only the one who is in a romantic relationship with you. Love is also undying support, the strength of friendship, and wanting the best for one another. I have many perceptions and suspicions about boys, but I also need to remember that they are not all like the ones who have hurt me.

Having BPD is hard. Having depression is hard. Being chronically suicidal is hard. But I have come to realize that my pain and suffering has brought out the good in so many people. It has given all these people the chance to shine and it has given me the privilege of watching them do so. It has attracted the biggest hearts and the most genuinely wonderful people. I honestly do think that my friends are truly good human beings. After having so much love in my life, it has made it easier and easier to shut out toxic people. Thank you all for being there for me; I sincerely hope I have given as much to you as you have given to me.

Control

I need to be in control. I want to be in control. But don’t we all? We all crave a sense of control – mainly over ourselves and our lives. When that doesn’t work we may try to control other things. Like what we eat, where we hurt. Maybe even other people.

What is scarier than not having control? Imagine driving down an icy or slippery road and you temporarily lose control of the vehicle. Those few seconds are horrifying, and when you finally screech to a stop or straighten the wheel, you’re left in a panic.

What if you could lose control of your emotions this way? Like when you’re driving, you may drive slowly, and pay close attention to your surroundings. But the minute you hit a patch of pure ice, it’ll catch you by surprise.

Some people’s emotions are like driving down a highway in summer.  It’s easy to see the signs and keep track of the road. Sometimes it rains, and that’s when it’s harder to control the emotions.

Other people’s emotions are like driving down a highway in the middle of a blizzard. They can tread carefully, but there’s a higher risk of losing control. They can put on their studded winter tires and chains, they can drive slowly and turn up their high beams, but they are navigating dangerous territory. That moment of fear and loss of control happens so often that they are stuck in a constant state of fear. Or maybe they have felt it so much they shut it out, feeling nothing at all, not caring if their car spins out of control.

These people may feel awful, comparing themselves to the summer drivers. Wondering why they get into so many more accidents and sustain so many more injuries. What they don’t realize is that the two are simply not comparable.

Reconciling identity disturbances

Before yesterday, I hadn’t written in almsot a month. Partially because I have no internet at home, but also because I’m typing out long posts and then deleting them when the perfectionist in my head starts pointing out every single flaw. I’m frustrated because I can’t seem to find the words to convey my thoughts when normally it comes very easily to me. Writing was my thing – I always thought I was a good writer, but recently I’ve been really struggling to communicate my ideas.

When I first moved, I made sure to take care of my health. Being physically active was very important to me, so I was at the gym almost every day. My friend here remarked how fit and active I was (jokes on her!). Last week I was bouldering and found myself so fatigued I couldn’t even make it halfway up the wall. And it suddenly wasn’t fun anymore.  I also had a cough that lasted for about two weeks, so I would also be coughing so much I couldn’t properly breathe at times.

I am studying nutrition, so I recognize the importance of good eating, but I also feel the need to fill the role of a “nutritionist” sometimes. I cooked homemade meals every day, I packed healthy snacks, and I made sure I ate at least three meals nicely spaced out throughout the day. Recently I’ve been so busy, I’ve barely had enough time to buy groceries or cook. I’m so tired I’m scrambling to feed myself, and as a result I am grumpy and sluggish.

These areas that I identifed with are currently damaged. How can I be “fit” or “healthy” or “a writer” if I am unable to do any of these now? An unstable sense of self or identity disturbance is considered a core characteristic of BPD. In general, I don’t feel like this is a characteristic that applies to me, but I do struggle sometimes with identity. One way that my therapist suggested I reconcile these difficulties is by identifying with traits, rather than roles.

Many of us, BPD or not, often define ourselves by our roles. This is why relationships can be so dangerous. My identity becomes “so-and-so’s girlfriend”. This is why I know I can’t be in a relationship right now, because I get sucked into that illusion of an identity. What happens when we break up? Who am I then?

I am proud to call myself a student and also a teacher. I am also compelled to define myself as a student and a teacher. Those are roles, though – they are not who I am. What happens when I graduate? What happens if I am no longer offered a teaching position? Who am I then? Instead, it is better to think of the traits that led me to be so successful in these roles.

I carry the role of being a friend, a sister, a person to lean on. But that is not who I am. I am empathetic (too much, sometimes), I am loving, I am protective and I am loyal.

I carry the role of being a teacher and a student, but that is not who I am. I am curious, I am creative, I am a problem solver.

I carry the role of being a writer, musician and someone who tries to be physically active and healthy (not always the case). But sometimes I sink and don’t have the energy to bring myself back up. Sometimes I can’t be a good writer. Sometimes I can’t get out of bed, never mind going to the gym for a good workout. Sometimes I don’t have the will to leave my house to get groceries to cook something healthy.

The thing is, I don’t write, cook, and workout because those roles have to define me. There’s a reason why I write, play music, stay active, and eat well – I want to recover.

I am determined.  I am strong. I am resilient.

Good things happen (in pairs and in threes)

Two nights in a row, I went out with friends, despite that looming negative voice telling me that nobody liked me, that I should hide, that I am worthless.
Two nights in a row I threw a huge middle finger up to that voice and dressed up, did my makeup, and attempted to have a good time.
Two nights in a row, I felt a wave of hopelessness and emptiness that I couldn’t quite shake, that made me want to hide, that convinced me people would be better off without me.

Two nights in a row I was given a helping hand from a friend, who listened and stayed with me until the feelings passed.
Two nights in a row I overcame the hopeless thoughts and fractured self-image and ended up having a good time anyway.
After two nights in a row, I saw a pattern emerge.

I had always known that I had sudden, intense mood changes – but I also knew that these passed relatively quickly. In the past I would just leave, letting the changed mood ruin my night.

Now I see that I can overcome these difficult moments, especially with the help of friends and family.
Now I see that I can weather the storm.

Where I went wrong/ A girl on fire

Where I went wrong:

  1. I wasn’t open and honest because I was happy and didn’t want to risk losing anything. I knew there was a really good chance it would blow up in my face, but I opted to deal with the consequences later. I forgot that I don’t quietly implode. I’m a ticking time bomb and everyone around me is hit by the shrapnel. That’s really the main thing.

If Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)  was a person, I would say they are extremely clever and cunning. Really, everything just works out perfectly in their favor. (Note: I am not blaming my actions on BPD. They are still my actions. But my emotions and thought processes are due to some fucked up circuitry in my brain, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to handle them.)

I have real, valid, understandable worries and fears that are amplified beyond comprehension to others. Does anyone watch Community? There’s this one scene where Troy is brought into a secret initiation into Air Conditioning Repair school. The room includes ridiculous figures such as an astronaut cooking paninis in one corner and “black Hitler” in the other corner. This is to ensure the potential recruits don’t tell anyone about the school, and even if they did, it would be too ridiculous to believe anyway.

That’s what I feel happens to my emotions. At the seemingly smallest events, I react enormously, to the point where others think I am being childish or purposely difficult. And then the emotion dies and I’m 100% reasonable and calm. Absolutely ridiculous.

I have talked about stigma that we carry, including being ‘crazy’, ‘manipulative’, and abusive. I don’t intend to do so, but I do come across as being all those things. I hope you all don’t think that I think I’m a perfect shining example of recovery and strength. I certainly have moments of great improvement, but I’m far from perfect.

You say I’m self-centered, manipulative, controlling but I’m really not. Well, no, I suppose I technically am self-centered because I am so extremely preoccupied with my issues that I forget that people around me have problems too. Though, when we think of a self-centered person, we think of someone who doesn’t care about others and who thinks they are entitled to all your time and attention.

I hope you know in your heart that that is not me. I am not dramatically weeping and wondering why you aren’t paying attention to me like some diva. Rather, I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off because my kitchen spontaneously erupted in flames, but as I’m trying to put out the fire, my room erupts in flames, but then I realize I’ve actually been on fire the whole time.

This is why I believe it’s better to talk over the phone rather than texting: it is easy to detach yourself from the person on the other side of the screen, so their demeanor and intentions are all up for interpretation. I get the sense that you might think I’m sitting around pouting and rolling my eyes, when the reality is I’m in sheer panic mode. I am very worried about what you might say next.

It is not malicious and calculated. It is panicked and out-of-control. That doesn’t make it any more okay, I know that, but I think it’s good to understand the nature of the beast.

We can talk about mental illness and how tough it is for the people struggling, but that’s really not the whole picture. That really doesn’t fully capture the devastation that mental illness leaves in its path. I wrote a piece called Termites, in which I expressed my fear of spreading my “disease” around to my loved ones. Honestly, it is not a completely unfounded fear.

I am a girl on fire. I know that I burn everyone I come in contact with; some more severely than others. I cannot expect my loved ones to hurt just because I’m hurting. When the fire temporarily dies down, I’m left aching and raw, and as the smoke clears from my vision, I can see the damage I’ve caused. I’m sorry I burnt you, I really am. But please don’t forget that I was hurting too.

You might think I’m a manipulative, cruel, monster, but the reality is that I’m a good person who is struggling and in immense pain. The reality is I’m still hurting you, another genuinely good person, and pulling you down with me just because you cared enough to lend a helping hand. I get a sense of burning guilt and helplessness as I watch the situation unfold. I can’t ask you to stay with me or change in any way. In the end it is my struggle to deal with.

I am hurting and hurting others, but people still stick with me. This is a bittersweet realization. Thank you for burning a little bit with me. Thank you for telling me you need space. Thank you, and I’m also very sorry. This is advice I know you’d give me, so I’m going to give it back to you. Please don’t stress over me; first and foremost, take care of yourself.

We set the wrong course
and headed due North
That’s where we went wrong

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The lotus flower 

The lotus flower is sacred to many cultures and religions including Buddhism, which is what dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is heavily influenced by. We see the use of the lotus flower becoming more popular – tattoos, yoga studios, jewelry etc. Why is it such a revered plant? It has to do a lot with the context that it grows in.

Lotus seeds plant in the bottom of shallow, warm, murky waters. The plant grows upwards towards the surface, seeing nothing but the muddy waters around it. Despite being surrounded by nothing but this dark, ‘impure’ environment, the lotus plant flowers above the surface of the water, in vibrantly beautiful colors. The petals rise above the water, and are hydrophobic – meaning water slides right off of them. They bloom in the morning towards the sun. They are resistant to cold, so they don’t bloom in winter. However, they always return when the weather is warmer. 

We too can be like the lotus flower. We can grow to be beautiful and bright despite our pasts. We can interact with but still be separate from our emotions, letting them slide off our petals. We may wither in the cold, but we can be resilient enough to return in better weather.