Joy lies in the fight, in the attempt, in the suffering involved, not in the victory itself


Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Angry Heart

I'm reading Joseph Santoro's book The Angry Heart at the moment, and as always I find it immensely comforting to realise I'm not alone, and other people have dealt with similar issues and feelings with their experiences as Borderlines. Although this book suffers from being 12 years old and a little bit outdated in my opinion, there's a lot to be gained from the self-help exercises and activities which are mostly based in writing and art therapy.

The authors suggest that BPD has three phases, each of which is activated or expressed because of feelings of "self-hatred". The phases are as follows - the Direct Self-Harm Phase, which includes times of self-injury, suicidal actions and depression; the Indirect Self-Harm Phase, where the BPD abuses substances, has extreme impulsivity and recklessness; and then there's the Inter-Phase. It's the Inter-Phase that interests me the most, it being the place I've most regularly inhabited as a Borderline. Although I've been self-harming and suicidal, and attempted both, and have terrible examples of binge eating and overspending, most of the "damage" I've done to myself and to others has been during the Inter-Phase.

The way Joseph Santoro describes the Inter-Phase is "during periods of supportive living or working situations, people with BPD can become increasingly free of self-harmful behaviours...During the inter-phase the acceptance-seeking behaviour of people with BPD becomes more visible. At these times their need to be wanted, liked and accepted by others is so strong that they will often go to extreme lengths to please others". For me, being high-functioning (as Dr A calls it) posits me in the Inter-Phase, whereby I can mostly control my impulses and live a daily life without trying to kill myself or others, or engaging in illicit substances or activities. I think that medication helps keep me, and probably others, in that middle zone. But conversely, dangerously, being in that middle zone means that I have the spare time, energy and motivation to over-indulge my hyperattachments, crushes, BFFs, nemesises (nemeses??), enemies, vendettas, schemes, projects and plots. This where my true danger lies, where the roots of my insanity lurk, couched in "normal" behaviours and "everyday" relationships.

I found this concept to be illuminating. I'd never seen BPD separated out into those three phases, and whether or not it's true for everyone, I can't say. Most of us probably switch between the three phases in different ways, at different times, with our own unique triggers and patterns. But I definitely feel like my battle lies in the Inter-Phase.

I am both dreading and welcoming my return to work after Easter. It really is the only way to recover, and to teach myself new coping mechanisms and ways of relating. But it's scary as hell. I guess that's mostly because my last breakdown happened at work, and was triggered by my work-life situation. What if there's a cute salesman who makes me laugh? What if the girl next to me likes Belle & Sebastian?? What if one of my new bosses reminds me of my mother??? These are such innocuous things, that have in the past triggered such intense bonds. Dr A has already started me on some lists and plans to be more passive in my new environment and to defer any decisions (social or work related) until we can process them in therapy. The thought of having to be passive and more of an observer makes me nauseous haha!!! I have to tell myself that the lack of control in passivity is only perceived, and isn't real. Truthfully, remaining somewhat aloof and removed is where I will regain control of my life.


Just Be Real said...

Wow, seems that you are really learning a lot from this book and having those three phases broken down is certainly putting you into a perspective Lil. I am sure it is not easy for you at all, especially when you do return to work and have to implement some of these techniques. Thank you so much for sharing about what you are learning dear one. Blessings as you continue this side of your journey!

Anonymous Drifter said...

It sounds like a great book and one that could help you. I hope all goes well with work.

Anonymous said...

I love your new avatar. Gotta love a kid with a big smile and dimples.

I hope your return to work will go smoothly and better days are ahead for you.

I came and read this when you first posted it, and as I so often do, got overwhelmed and left. Facing 'my' truth after so many years of denial is tough. I thank you for it though, from the bottom of my heart. Perhaps I will find a better path because of you.

Jackal said...

The phases are very interesting.

Wandering Coyote said...

Interesting about the inter-phase. I don't do a lot of bond-seeking; I'm a shy loner type who doesn't trust others easily, so I tend to form very few attachments to people.

Best of luck with the new job! Remember to stay in your Wise Mind!

Jena said...

The very last sentence- how you feel "aloof". I can't even believe you used that word! It turns out that you are very, very similar in personality and character (well by my perception of course) to a friend of mine. She could have written that whole bit, including that last sentence with "aloof." Aloof is her word! It's been "her word" for 3 years! lol. I'm not making light of it. I just find it striking that people can really go through similar things in life and relate to one another. I know I've met some people like me and I would have never guessed I could find another "Jena." They do exist, in my mind, to an extent. Which can be a good thing.

Jena said...

I love your "about me" description. Love it.