A Conversation with my Wise Mind

I can hear my wise mind. Not all the time, but some of the time. I stopped listening to it and then stopped hearing it years ago because I felt I couldn’t trust it. It is so sure that everything will be ok. So I was so sure that everything would be ok. And then one day, I felt like it was wrong, like it had has gotten things wrong, and I could no longer trust it. And I no longer knew everything would be ok.

Part of this ‘journey’ is learning to hear my wise mind again. That’s not necessarily hard, but letting it in and accepting what it says as true is… a challenge. In part, I feel like a fool if I listen to it. Because it says I am liked; I am lovable; my life is going great; I will see purpose in hard times when I look back. These are all things that did occur when I used to trust my wise mind. I had a chat with my wise mind tonight. I’m so low. I want to die. Less so after the chat, though. Here it is:


Are you there wise mind? You are there. Making me smile, giving me comfort from the inside. Is this going to change? No. No, my life is going to be pain. Says my wise mind.

Wise mind says there’s no reason to keep doing this. There’s no predetermined morality in being alive or staying alive. Coming or going won’t affect some cosmic chalkboard of points. Life is chaos.
Me: So there is no predetermined path?
WM: No.
Me: So, why is my life so miserable?
WM: Because you’re trying to make it into something, fit a mould rather than letting it evolve, become.
Me: But if I let it become do I get what I want? Do I get love? WM: You’re doing it again, trying to make it fit rather than become. What is love? Can you feel it?
Me: Yes.
WM: Has anything changed in your outward experience?
Me: No. So how do I do this, let life become and feel love all the time?
WM: Practice. You go to dbt. You learn that trauma is not all there is. You find acceptance in yourself.
Me: It hurts and makes me feel sick.
WM: No, it doesn’t. The trauma and trying not to do this hurts and feels sick.
Me: You’re not responding to what I want to know.
WM: You will not attract broken people when that is not what you are drawing. You will attract happy people when you are happy.
Me: But I was happy before and attracted broken people, didn’t I?
WM: [sometimes talks in first person] I got caught up. I flew in and didn’t fly away.
Me: Am I ever going to be in a relationship again? If I go through dbt will I find a loving, lasting relationship?
WM: Yes you will.
Me: I feel sick. Is that me letting it in?
WM: Yes. You are letting it in. Me: Do I push it away [am I doing that now/in the past]?
Help me. Let me have the life I want. If it’s not the best for me let me see that, please. Let me have a wonderful partner who adds to my life. Whom I love more than I’ve loved a partner, who loves me more than they’ve loved another. Let me have that please. If it is the case that that’s not the best for my life please let me have it and see it for myself. Why won’t you let me? Are you stopping me having that? What is stopping me having that?
WM: My own self uncertainty. My own self awareness and diminishment.
Me: But lots of people have that.
WM: Yeah but you don’t want the sort of partner who is ok with that.
Me: Yes, I do. I want a partner like M [recent guy I dated]. I would take M as my partner. Or b. Or c. Or d. Or e. Or f. I would fall in love with all of them and be with them and none of them will have me. Why?
WM: Because you are broken. And they see that, and you want them to fill the holes within you. And because of that you are fearful about making them know they matter and are special to you and you can’t talk to them.
Me: Is there a way I can change this so I can be with someone I will love and they really love me, genuinely me?
WM: You need to love you. This is not the bit you want answered. But you love you. That aspect [having a partner] is not for answering. But love you. My gosh, the upwelling, the joy.
Me: Ok, so how do I do that? Please talk to me?
WM: Enjoy life. Marvel at the wonder. Engage, truly, joyously. Embrace wise mind and the feelings that come with it until that is all you are, all you feel and it is what you are in every scenario. Laugh with you, by you. Breathe the way you want to live. Experience life from the inside.
Me: And if you’re wrong?
WM: Haha, then you’re spending your life laughing while finding out I’m wrong.
Me: So it’s the best idea either way. You’re so wise.
WM: Hike. Get up and hike in the morning. Look at funny memes. Find one thing to laugh at every day. And laugh. Find the comedy.

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Depression

I have depression, it transpires. How tremendously useful to be seeing a psychologist once a week who can tell me things like “you have depression”. Oh, well if this is depresssion then I don’t need to listen to the things my mind is saying to me. I don’t need to engage with this, and there are things I can do about it.

s-AME is a supplement that has worked really well for me in the past. And I’ve only ever taken it when severe depresssion has already set it, because I have not recognised that that was what was happening this early on. Perhaps it will work more effectively or quicker when I take it at an earlier stage.

I have to find the balance between making myself do things I do not want to, such as exercising and eating well, and doing things that are self-soothing, such as eating chocolate cake and curling up and watching tv shows. Because the former will help to get me out of this depressed state, while the latter will offer me comfort and relief whilst I am still in this state.

I feel so lucky to have my psychologist. She is a lovely woman, intelligent, kind, gentle, generous, and clear in her thoughts and what she would like me to undertake.

Once again, I feel hope. When there is depression without awareness, or with no knowledge of avenues to decrease it, depresssion is a hopeless state. It occurs to me that I am potentially further down the path than I thought, when I consider that I have had suicidal ideation over the last few days. I wonder what signs I can learn to recognise, to see I am falling into this state earlier.

I have lost interest in watching the football to some extent. Is that a sign? Or the result of having watched a lot of it in the last few weeks. I shall compare how I feel when I am not depressed and we shall see.

I have felt unsure if I like my friends all that much, if we have much in common, if they really know or like me, and if I am being my self around them. I suspect those are signs. That began very early on, when I was still feeling mostly happy. Could that, therefore, be an early warning sign?

I have not wanted to go hiking. Not as a major aversion, but just haven’t felt like it, so I haven’t gone. I’ve put that down to being a bit stressed, tired, and the change in weather where the mornings are around 1-5 degrees. But, I love hiking. It’s not as much fun at the moment because I am very unfit from my injuries and I still can’t climb, which makes me less want to do anything else physical. But, I went a couple of weeks ago, in the rain. Oh my, hiking in the rain is wonderful! It’s like a magical world. If only it was raining every morning. When it is not raining, I still love being outside. The uneven terrain, finding animal tracks and interesting paths up a mountain, the exhaustion of pushing your body up a hill, the sounds of the birds, the kangaroos, dead trees that you can scramble along. Yeah, I love hiking. So, we’ll add not wanting to go to the list of indicators.

I started feeling extremely self-conscious around the guy I was seeing. I thought that was indicative of my poor emotional regulation, and perhaps part of the process of dating someone, or perhaps indicative that we weren’t such a good match. But, now I am wondering if that was a sign, as well. After all, self-consciousness and excessive awareness of self are symptoms of depression. If this is a symptom, if that is what that feeling and experience denote, my gosh, this could change my whole dating experience.

I am trying to think of other things. Oh, I haven’t been eating very well. And I’ve been tired. Not as bone-crunchingly tired as I used to get before I found out about the BPD, but still, I get enough sleep and yet my body feels like it needs a nap. Oh and coffee, I want coffee for energy. And I can’t remember things, and I have brain fog. They are all aspects of ‘tired’, I think.

So, these are some things that may be indicators I am heading into depression. Now it is time to experiment and see if they are, indeed indicators, and to try to notice if there are more. I shall write out a table of these things and if I notice I am doing any of them I shall note it down, as well as how I am feeling in general. Then I will engage in activities designed to reduce depression: I shall take s-AME, exercise and eat well. And then I will record if these elements decrease and if my mood gets better. Perhaps, over time, I shall be able to identify the earliest signs and bypass depression altogether. For now, though, it is about experienting and seeing if I can find relationships.

I think I shall go home and cuddle my cat now.

I am ok

I’m having a spiral. The first proper one in – I think – a couple of weeks. I can feel pain trying to push itself out as vindictiveness within what may be a fledgling relationship. It may not be, the pain and bitterness in my gut tells me it isn’t: he’s using me. Fuck. Whatever brain. I don’t want to do this, engage with this. Perhaps I’ve ruined it now, already. Perhaps I haven’t. Oh, that thought makes me feel sick, which means I’m relaxing, I think. And that’s good. Keep feeling that thought, keep relaxing, keep making this my habit.

I don’t know if he likes me. He doesn’t say. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to go down this rabbit hole. I must use some skills I have learnt. So.

He doesn’t seem interested either. Last night he wanted to see me. Today, disinterest and perfunctory talk.

Observe my feelings.

Yes.

Good.

Now focus on the gaps in between my thoughts.

Ok, good.

It’s worked. I am calmer, there is space in my head.

Now breathe in and out and focus on my solar plexus and third eye.

Perfect.

Now I am thinking about the movie Aliens and wondering why the Queen laid so many eggs when there were only a handful of humans they could use to incubate them. And also, why kill the humans when they were needed for incubation. Curiouser and curiouser.

My mind is throwing up thoughts such as these. I am ok.

Describing

Homework this week is the what and how of mindfulness. Boy oh boy. Some of it I have done before, some of it I felt – and still do – flummoxed by.

Participation. What a crazy concept for me. Not the act of participating itself. No, the idea that this is an experience that one can manufacture. I used to participate all the time. I’d come out of that state of immersion and realise I had been there. What a wonderful thing it is. So much joy and fun and happiness. But, that was years ago. I no longer participate. I am too full of doubt, misgivings and hyper-vigilance to allow myself to operate completely in the moment.

I’ve tried. I’ve sung my heart out, had sex.. and can’t remember what else. I’ve found it very similar to one-mindfulness, although that has an element of observing and describing that I think is missing in participation. I’ve struggled to discern when I am participating and when I am observing or being one-mindful. I’ve started wondering if they are different sides of the same coin. And, having spoken with my psychologist, I am coming to grips with it being something for me to practice, not be perfect at.

So, I practice, and I enjoy it! Singing whatever song I think of, without being perfect, without judging every note and sound that comes out of my mouth. In this I am not successful, but in trying I find a peace and relief in the break from near constant judgement of myself.

It is so similar to one-mindfulness… I think. My psychologist counselled me to speak aloud my uncertainties about the differences and similarities of these practices at the next group meeting. She said if I am uncertain it is likely others are as well. So I shall speak aloud my uncertainties and see if clarity is forthcoming.

I have used mindfulness doing the dishes, showering, reading, and other things I have forgotten.

Doing the dishes, wow. What a sense of joy and holiness that shines through. I am not religious in any way, when I say holiness I refer to a sense of deep peace or connectedness, maybe. I do not know how to describe well what I mean.

Showering has become a joy for me. Not completely. I still shower every second day by preference, but I can enjoy the experience now instead of dreading it and trying to find ways to get through it. In the same way, I am looking forward to vacuuming (not enough to do it any sooner than I have to), to see what joy I can find in that menial activity.

The thing I thought I would struggle with in this practice was participation. And I do, and I see why I expected that. But the surprise for me has been describing. I thought I was doing this already and often. But given it as a task to try I found I resisted engaging in this one the most.

One day, I forced myself, and I described my cat as he curled up on my lap. I detailed the shape of his ears, the colour of his fur, and the love that welled up in my tummy as I considered him. I did it. I described. And what I discovered was that when you are focused on delineating something your mind has little time or space to obsess about other things: The act of looking for features to name and words to match disallows focus elsewhere. Well, to some extent it does.

When I try to describe things I feel irritable, frustrated, and incredibly uncomfortable in my body so that continuing to be there and do the activity is like nails on a chalkboard. I discussed this with my psychologist. She said it seems to be more about my perfectionism than about the activity itself. ‘Am I doing this right?’ ‘Is what I am doing describing, or am I introducing perceptions and judgements?’.

One of the ways the group facilitator delineated describing was how you would tell an alien about an object when they have not our knowledge, preconceptions or assumptions. I get this, I get why this is useful in explaining the concept. But, for me, it meant thinking ‘can I call that a rectangle? That wouldn’t mean anything to an alien. Can I call it a straight line, what would they think that meant? If I say this is white, how do I then express the concept of not-white or the concept of colour or the concept of not?’ Argh! The agony of overthinking and judging how well I am doing the homework and where the line between description and meaning intersects.

So, my psychologist suggested, again, that the value is in practicing, not in being perfect, and that, in fact, I am good at this particular task. I decided that, for me, the context of talking to an alien is not useful and discarded the notion. And then I described.

I had a bpd kind of morning. I tried one-mindfulness in the shower: no success. I tried asking ‘is this my wise mind? Is this effective?’ And catching myself ruminating and fantasising: no cigar. I tried describing as I was driving to the shops, as I went shopping, and as I drove home: ‘My left foot is pushing down the clutch, my right foot is on the break, my left hand is moving the gear stick into second, I am turning my head to the left, to the right, back to the left, I’m turning the car to the right,’ and so on and so forth. And finally, relief from my rumination; respite from my pain and anger that grew an urge to act out. Trying to describe so many different actions, feelings, thoughts, sights, and sounds drew my attention so effectively that my brain and body were released for a few minutes from the extremes of my pain. And when I was finished driving and describing, I was more able to think rationally and engage my wise mind.

What an utter revelation! The method is simple: describe, describe, describe. The focus is incidental. The relief is life-changing.

I am at the beginning of my dbt journey, and, already, I am finding things that make my experience better and easier. I am shocked at the extent that simple practices can change my day from being traumatic to bearable or even pleasant. And description, to what extent can I sing its praises and express my incredulity that I can experience some relief and peace in the midst of overwhelming pain. Much. I can, and will, sing its praises much.

I am a high-functioning borderline. And, relevantly, in going to therapy I have a project and, therefore, a sense of purpose and belonging. Thus, my experience and ‘growth’ now may not be representative of where I will end up in 6 months, and may not be represetenative of others’ journeys. But, right now, I feel hope. Perhaps I can get better, and, perhaps, so can the multitudes of others who suffer thusly.

I hope, and I describe.

Feeling pretty good

I like going to my psychologist. She is nice to me. She says kind things to me – that I’m intelligent and doing a good job – and she looks like she means it when she says it, not like she’s saying what she should. Still, we don’t get through everything I want to get through.

Partly that’s because our first 3 sessions have been fortnightly due to unusual circumstances. They should generally be weekly from now. In fact we have the next three weekly sessions booked in.

But I want to tell her my uncertainties: what if I don’t have bpd; what if I am narcissistic? I don’t think either of these things are founded in reality, and worrying that I DON’T have a mental illness seems funny, but I want to say them out loud so they can be addressed.

Yesterday she said I’m a high functioning borderline because I don’t cut or have repeated suicide attempts. She also said I’m bubbly, engaged and want to understand and these are good things. She also said my perfectionism is something we’ll be working on, that that is a way of thinking I have.

At the moment our homework is the what and how of mindfulness. One of the things I am struggling with is description. But, interestingly, I can see she’s right and it’s my perfectionism making it difficult rather than the task itself.

I have an art history master’s, so I know how to describe, break down, and look at technical aspects of a thing before looking at meanings and interpretations behind it. I had to learn that skill to get through my studies. So, I can describe a thing. But, while I am describing a thing my mind is questioning if I am attributing meaning, am I doing the activity correctly, and then I get irritated in my body and want to do something else. I guess I need to keep practicing, including describing my judgments of myself while I am doing so.

I already feel so much better from this therapy. I am hoping this is not false, but genuine beginnings of a new way to be in the world. I think of it as immersion: 6 months to steep myself in new behaviours so they become habit by the end of that time. I feel scared it won’t be enough, but I feel confident that I am, and will, put in the work to get the most I can out of it.

I started seeing a guy, again. Because I’ve been feeling pretty good, but I have also been feeling lonely and jealous of everyone who has relationships and people who are about them. Also, because relationships are where I struggle most and so learning these skills when I’m feeling pretty good and not seeing anyone seems like missing a big chunk of where I need to practice them in life.

I’m not anywhere near ‘there’ yet though. He’s being lovely, thank god, but I am struggling to know who I am around him, to know how to behave, to know if texting is ok or if I’m being needy. It was so easy when we were friends. So hard now it’s something else.

He is being so caring. His words show he considers my feelings: he was tired and needed to get a good sleep the other night when I was going to hang out with him for a bit. He told me he didn’t want a sleep over; he hoped that didn’t bother me and asked if it was ok. He was thinking about my feelings and taking them into account. He didn’t do that when we dated before. So now when I think about him I feel warm in my tummy (I’ll learn exactly what that emotion is in the next few weeks) because he’s considering me and my feelings.

So, this begs the question: have I changed and his behaviour is reflecting that? Has he changed because, in his words, he ‘genuinely missed me’?

I am different. Not all the way, yet, but there is more space in my world; a negative doesn’t take up everything I have and feel like all there is of me and all there will ever be. I feel hopeful and guardedly excited for my future. Calling this article ‘feeling pretty good’ feels like tempting fate. My insides are screaming at me. But, I can let them scream and be ok. I guess that’s what it means to be feeling pretty good, these feelings don’t have to consume me.

Stream of consciousness

I want to write when I feel bad. Because this is a coping mechanism. When I feel ok I find myself thinking about what to write about, and that isn’t enjoyable. When I feel bad the writing is like a stream of consciousness, and that feels good.

I feel bad right now, and I don’t know why. I just had group. My second session. It was good, or bad, or..I don’t know. It’s a strange thing. Everyone there seems to have lives and things in their lives that I want. Well, tonight I feel jealous. The emotion is coursing through me.

What am I jealous of? People with relationships, people in love, people with careers, people who are capable and know what they are doing with their lives, people who are under 30 and still have bodies that are strong and recover from injuries easily, people who are slim, people who can eat what they want and have a healthy body, people who don’t want KFC several times a week, people who can be bothered making their hair look nice every day, people who don’t feel so deeply, people who are funny, people who can be in the moment..the list goes on.

I am some of those things, but also I am jealous. I don’t know what has brought on this jealousy, but it is an emotion like any other and all I can do is let it be, give it space to be, and wait for it to pass.

The thing is, I love the things the other people in the group say. I find their thoughts valuable and intelligent. I love that they say things I can relate to, and that they validate things I say.

Today I felt like an outsider, then an insider. I had a chat in the break with a group member about board games. It was so fun! Then the conversation naturally came to an end and I sort of awkwardly said ‘ok I’m going to sit down now’ – socialising time is over, it seemed.

One thing I do find there is there’s a feeling that I don’t have to socialise. I don’t have to be ‘on’ in this environment. That’s such a strange feeling, not one I’ve had often. At the same time I worry that people don’t like me, that I’m annoying them, that they’re feeling left out or unheard, that they won’t think I’m smart or funny. Oh god! They’d better think I’m smart and funny! But why? Why is that important? And when it seems like someone does, why does my attention switch to the ones whom I am unsure of their stance on me. Is popularity so important?

No, I don’t think it is. And I don’t think that is my motivation. Part of our homework this week is participating. Being in the moment. I used to do that much of the time, naturally. Nowadays, I am so full of self-doubt and fear I almost never am in the moment because I am being vigilant. Being in the moment wouldn’t be worrying if people like me or what they think of me. But that got me really hurt in the past. I’ve learned to be aware every second. Now I want to somehow unlearn it. But, if the first four times you saw movement in the grass it was a tiger, how do you teach yourself not to fear the movement of the grass.

Bpd-Shmeepd

I just read something I really liked: ‘We’re not recovering from bpd, we’re recovering from trauma.’
(Here is the original https://www.psychforums.com/borderline-personality/topic83947.html )

That is how it feels to me. When I am triggered, as I am now, it feels like I am going through a trauma, one that I have been through before. My emotions are so strong, the perception that things will not be ok is clear. When I try to have other thoughts, consider that there could be other outcomes, I feel physically ill.

This level of pain and reaction is extreme. I know this even as I am wishing my life was over. I know that having suicidal ideation because my housemate was a dick earlier is not a reaction on par with the cause. Annoyance, yes; anger, probably; but wanting life to be over, that is excessive.

But when I think it’s a reaction to trauma, to something/s that happened in the past, it makes a lot more sense. Because I have had traumatic experiences and they passed, but I didn’t heal. I didn’t learn how to understand and process my emotions. I didn’t find out how to experience similar scenarios in ways that aren’t traumatic. And these situations are triggering; my mind and body begin to relive earlier experiences.

I am well aware that my traumas are minor compared to many that others with bpd have experienced. And I know how lucky I am to have wonderful parents who love me. I have had diagnosed PTSD, though, so I can compare that with what I am experiencing now.

PTSD was weird. I would find myself crying uncontrollably because I saw a dog (I was bitten on my face). I would be lying in bed half asleep with the sun shining through my window and I would be frozen, petrified, like when you were a child and something like the bogey-man scared you. I had these dreams/day dreams that a big dog walked into my room, next to my bed. When I finally awoke properly, frozen to the spot, I’d force myself to get up and walk into the lounge room. I had to push past my fear and tell myself ‘I am an adult, I can do this.’

So, that trauma was clear. And because I wanted to be able to pat dogs again (they need all the smooshes!!) I got help immediately.

But, what about other traumas that are less clear. What about traumas that aren’t so extreme in the first instance but are never resolved. And what if similar traumas happen again and again until you no longer trust the world or your own intuition. What if there are only so many traumas you can take before you shrink back into yourself and present a vapid version to everyone, including you.

How do you learn to trust the world again. And how do you deal with daily instances that reactive those traumas that made you hide in the first place.

A dog-bite to the face is hard to miss. That trauma is out there to see. But other traumas are insidious and make their way inside of us to be triggered by a word, a look, a situation.

Bpd is tough, but I agree with the statement at the beginning of this blog. Bpd is not my problem, the traumas I have not recovered from are. Bpd is the vehicle through which I show my distress.