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


Thursday, June 25, 2009

All The More A Pair Of Underwater Pearls

I'm continuing my recent trend of using favourite song lyrics for my blog titles, so forgive any obscurity! This last week has been perplexing and a challenge (not the least because I'm now 39 and feeling I am approaching that gray area known as "middle age", but I digress...). I spent the weekend at a fantastic seminar by a man called Ian Gawler, who survived a terminal cancer diagnosis over 30 years ago and now teaches meditation, healing and general wellbeing. The two day workshop was one of my birthday presents, from my parents (who both attended as well), and although it was exhausting to be out of the house and listening/concentrating for two full days, it was definitely worth the effort. The Saturday was completely devoted to meditation techniques and sessions - generally I only get around to meditating once or twice a week, but I'm determined to make it a daily practice. That's the way to get the most benefit, especially for someone in therapy and managing a mental illness. One of the things that struck me the most about the weekend was Ian saying that the idea of meditation can become a source of stress and anxiety (ie: "I really have to meditate, why can't I meditate better, why can't I concentrate", etc, etc). He suggests to find a method that works and do it in a comfortable way for just a short period of time until it becomes second nature, then increasing time spent in meditation and the style of meditation. I've always been particularly successful at guided meditation, and I found out that is probably due to my learning style (Auditory). My mum, on the other hand, finds she needs a visual focus otherwise she is distracted from the guiding voice by pictures appearing in her mind. Interesting stuff. I can't deny that meditation and relaxation techniques have helped with my recovery.

One of the weird things about my birthday is that I received a text message, and presents, from someone I mentioned in an earlier post. I hadn't heard from this friend for about 8 months, since I spent thousands of dollars on visiting her for her 30th birthday, so I had kind of assumed we were no longer sympatico. Of course, I hadn't had the chance or opportunity or desire to share with her the details of my breakdown in Dec-Jan. In my cracked BPD way I had assumed she hated me, and didn't care that I was crumbling, when in fact it seems she was imagining I was just busy and having a great life (and was therefore out of touch with her). It did my head in have this person and these feelings pop back into my life when it sometimes seems like that was a totally different Lil. The presents, the contact...they struck me as slightly "off", like they belonged to someone I used to be. There's no question that I have changed mightily, and necessarily. I am probably less fun, less apt to smile and indulge in banter. But I think I am a more whole person now, if that makes sense. I finally feel like I am working towards "real", after a lifetime of experiencing that horrifying Borderline "who the fuck am I?" emptiness. I hope that writing to my friend H, and updating her on all the ways in which the last 8 months have in fact been the antithesis of happy and busy, will enable us to move our friendship to a new level. It's worth a try, because as strange as it was to have her contact me, it also feels like the right thing. Now I've got used to the idea!

At work, things are going well. My boss took me aside last week (on my birthday actually) and asked if I was interested in more hours. It happens to me every time. I intend to work part-time, and then get sucked into the love-to-show-off, flattery vortex of being needed and agree to more hours, get more money, and then get tired and depressed and strung out. Not this time. I told her I would consider working every second Monday, which is a compromise that suited us both. Also, she tells me I will be getting a payrise next month because they think I am far-exceeding their expectations and in general doing a kick-ass job. Yay for me! I was relieved, because you just never know what people are thinking. I felt good about my standard of work, but it's nice that the boss confirmed it. I still love going there, and am gradually getting to be friends with one of the girls and am opening up a little to the other staff. It's an effort sometimes to be New Lil, though, because the quasi-comfortable craziness of Borderline Lil is still close to the surface.

This is a long and winding post. I have been tired and overwhelmed by life and learning and have been too long away from my dearheart bloggers. My apologies! I am slowly catching up on all the goings-on in blogworld over the last week.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Kathy, I'm lost" I said, though I knew she was sleeping

It's strange the things that can bring on the melancholy. My stepdad bought a dvd today, of Simon & Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park (1981 I think) and has been playing it while I was in the kitchen cooking. For a lot of different reasons, the songs brought up memories, mostly sad. When I was about 10 years old I found an LP record in my parents' collection that had a handwritten name on it I recognised. It turned out to be (as I suspected at the time), one of the few things my mother kept that had belonged to my father - a Simon & Garfunkel record that I would secretly play when my mother and stepdad weren't around. Over the years I became more and more enamoured of them, and folk music in general, and I ended up buying the Concert in Central Park album in about 1987. Hearing the songs again reminded me of how in those days, at 17, I was still under the misapprehension that being depressed was something I would "grow out of". I believed that all the low moods and suicidal thoughts were part of my groovy & creative personality and I channelled them as much as I could into writing songs, stories, poetry.

What struck me the most today was that I could recognise melancholy approaching, and rather than eagerly laying down and becoming its mistress, I fought it and won. I used Mindfulness to view the feelings objectively, and could see clearly (maybe for the first time) the two paths on offer. I could either go with the sad memories, and add to them in the same way I was adding ingredients to my vegie soup, ending up with a confusing mess of mixed emotions and general blah. Or, I could feel and acknowledge the sadness/loss, briefly revisiting the memory of the past before letting it go.

Half an hour later, instead of being bedridden, binge eating, self-harming or bawling, I was finishing off making my soup and starting on brownie cheesecake (as my birthday treat for tomorrow). All the while still singing along with Simon & Garfunkel (that's one long concert lol).

I used to think that my over-emotional or extreme reactions to songs, films, books, etc were part of my personality. With DBT, I view it differently -- the reaction is the first, "normal" part of the equation, and the BPD encouraged me to take the reaction to the extreme and let it overwhelm my thoughts and (therefore) my emotions. With the new filter of my Wise Mind I'm learning/trying to enjoy the reaction to the song (for instance), but keep it in context and balance. It's still not second nature to me, but I know it gets easier to practice DBT/CBT skills.

One of my all-time favourite songs, and my favourite S&G tune, is "Kathy's Song". I used to cry when I heard it, especially the lines:
"I sit and watch the drops of rain
Weave their weary paths and die
I know that I am like the rain
There but for the grace of you, go I"
Forgive me if I've misquoted, I'm writing them from memory! Anyway, today I heard those words in a completely different context and they didn't make me sad. I even half-jokingly substituted "DBT" for "you" in the final line. This morning could have ended up very differently, much bleaker, without my new therapy. A few people I know who have done DBT call themselves "DBT Geeks", or DBT Obsessives - experiencing it work really does make you a convert/true believer! I hope I don't come across as simplifying Borderline, or other mental illness, and I am definitely not saying Dialectical or Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is the only way to treat these things. They have just worked for me, after many years of NOTHING working. And I wanted to share it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Trouble With Love

I've decided the trouble with love is that its a finite resource. Much like gold or copper, once its gone, all that's left behind is a dry and barren landscape which is good for nothing. Today I was thinking about all the great passion in my life, for boys mostly but also for "obsessions" (some ppl call them hobbies lol), and how that passion is so closely linked to my illness that I doubt I will ever "go there" again. I just couldn't trust myself to feel that extreme and still remain emotionally in control...yet I don't know how else to be when I am involved with someone or something new.

So I'm left with the feeling that while I may have a productive and sane life for the next 40 years, I doubt whether I will ever feel that grand love. I've spent the first half of my life being crazy for things...crazy for boy X,Y or Z, for girl A, or for Dawson's Creek/Barbies/Scrapbooking. Then I was just plan ole crazy. And now, I'm not crazy, I'm mostly stable and sane, but that seems to come at the price of losing the passion. Or at the very least curbing it.

I do think it's a step forward, to grow up and away from all-consuming hyperattachments, crushes and obsessions. But I think I will always miss that mania. This time last year, every breath was pure adrenalin and excitement. I longed to go to work to interact with Lewis, and to feel hilarious and gorgeous and fabulous. There was always that emptiness underneath, though, which is the nasty worm in the Borderline apple. While I may not scale the dizzying heights of lust and passion, these days I can sit safely in my own skin for long moments at a time without wanting to rip myself apart. It has to be a good thing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


After five weeks of solid performance at my new job, I had a truly crappy day. In the scheme of things, it's not that bad. No-one got fired. No-one got shouted at. No-one cried (though I felt like it). I've been working on a couple of graphic design jobs, which is not what I was hired to do and something I at which I am only self-taught, and I think I took on more than I should have. After printing 500 full-colour copies of one of the forms, a major error was noticed (too few boxes in the credit card payment section) and we had to reprint them. I remind you, the place I work is a CHARITY and can barely afford to print the darn things once, let alone TWICE. It was a stupid mistake, and the two bosses had signed off on the form without noticing, so maybe I shouldn't be beating myself up quite as badly as I am...

But there you have it, the self-loathing swings into action to replace the self-aggrandisement. Even though I have resisted my usual urge to show off and big note myself around the office, secretly I was feeling quite superior and patting myself on the back for my amazing coping skills. Ha! Life always knows how to level me out... Afterwards, all I wanted to do was eat. I needed junk food, stat, to block out the surprise/shock of my fellow workers that I, Ms Perfect Superwoman, had made a mistake. To medicate the intense embarrassment and shame that reminded me I was just the same fuckup I have been in every other job/relationship/situation/etc. With concentration, and some Distress Tolerance skills, I managed to chill out and not run to the chicken and fries emporium across the street. I also managed to realise I was over-reacting (dare I say it...BPD-style catastrophising?), and reminded myself I was human, not a piece of useless crap. It was a big lesson, and let's face it, that's where the true learning and recovery starts. But man, it sucked. I offered to pay for the extra printing (which was appreciated but not accepted) and made a vow to check and re-check all the other graphic design work I'm doing.

A couple of people said to me afterwards that they were relieved that I showed I wasn't superwoman. The newest employee (apart from me) said she'd felt intimidated because I was picking everything up so quickly! Sometimes I am stunned that the world sees the Happy & Capable Lil facade and believes it... 'cause it feels like the Big Crazy is so close to the surface that everyone on earth can see it.

PS: If you're that way inclined, please send prayers and/or love to Coyote & Juno. Poor kitteh is not well - feel better soon Juno xxx

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I really don't play well with others.

I love y'all here in the virtual world, you don't require anything from me apart from occasional touching base and a modicum of honesty when I do so. As part of the online mental health community, I know that my friends understand how hard it is to form sentences and make sensible comments when in the grip of madness. In the real world, it's SO damn hard to fit in and feel comfortable. The way I have coped with this past year, with psychosis and diagnosis, is to stop being part of the "real world" in anything but a token way. Leading up to my breakdown I was permanently "on"- hyperattaching, falling in love, falling out, imagining enemies, experiencing vendettas. It exhausts me to even think about it now. No wonder I am spent... strung out and tired of the nuances and negotiations. These days, I prefer my own company and can barely make the effort to hang on to the couple of friendships that have survived the post-BPD-mania fallout.

At work, everyone gathers at noon to have lunch together. I can't tell you how irritating this is. I'm using all my coping skills to just stay focused and be productive, and then I have to sit and make chitchat with the nice ladies? Oy. They are the friendliest group of people I've ever worked with, and I know that compassion is something they have in spades, but for obvious reasons I don't feel inclined to share the whole "crying/slashing/screaming/blackness" that was the first half of 2009. I've been really strong, and followed Dr A's advice in not over-sharing or being trusting with people until I make real connections with them. In the past, my MO has been to throw myself headfirst into social situations, showing off and sharing all my gory details in an attempt to impress people and "make friends". I'm not interested in being that person any more, truthfully, I cringe at the memory of it.

I'm embarrassed at the so-called bonds I imagined I had with people.

I'm hopeful I'll never leave myself open to manipulation and ridicule like that ever again.

Even if it means living a solitary life, I need to stay away from that kind of behaviour and its consequences. Since I've retreated into my own world, things have been undeniably smoother and calmer. Away from the drama and potential fuck-over that is "Other People", I'm making some headway and feeling like I may actually live to see 40. It's not reality, and some day Dr A is probably gonna expect more from me than "getting to know myself". I really think, though, that I might be someone who needs to live a life somewhat removed from others. The big areas of catastrophe in my life have been those involving connections to other people (both men and women, platonic as well as sexual).

Meanwhile, I am finding myself "finishing up" at my desk for ten or fifteen mins after lunch has started. Then, I take a while to make my lunch. So that hopefully I only have to face the conversational firing squad for twenty minutes maximum. I try not to, but I feel guilty for being so "antisocial". These are kind, sweet ladies, who just want to get to know me. How can I start to explain the grocery list of reasons why they really DON'T want to know me??

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lost & Found

It's my birthday soon. In ten days, in fact, and it will be my last "30 something" birthday, as next year I face up to the big 40. This time of year always makes me contemplative...what have I done with the last 12 months, what do I want from the future, yada yada. It makes me realise what I have lost, all those dreams that I've shelved (perhaps permanently), but more importantly I've started to focus on all that I've gained. So here's a list of some Lost & Founds I've been thinking about lately.

  • 50kg (over 100 pounds)
  • an unhappy marriage
  • mental stability (which was only achieved through over-medicating and denial anyway)
  • ability to hold down a full-time job
  • potential of, or desire for, future relationship with man or woman
  • some kick-ass online friends (and a real-life one - you rock Michelle!)
  • a whole grocery list of adjectives to describe my peaceful, independent, brave
  • CBT and DBT, and generally awesome other types of T from my shrink Dr A
  • a life with minimum medication and (fairly! mostly!) stable moods
  • a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, which helps me make sense of my mixed-up life and wacky behaviour
  • what I like to call "the best job in the world", which is badly paid and a long way from home but makes me happy to be there
  • the ability to tie my shoelaces, sit comfortably in a chair, walk a few miles without fainting and the joy of buying clothes "off the rack"
  • new passions like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, tenpin bowling and Taylor Swift
There is a lot to be thankful for this year, and even though I have lost contact with three of my four former "best friends", and sometimes I miss Mr Ex like crazy, overall I think I am doing okay. Some days I feel like the madness is nipping at my heels again, but I try and kick its nasty little rat-face and tell it to get away. Therapy is hard, even when it's working, maybe more so when it's working. There is a lot to be done, and I know that I've only scratched the surface of the angry Lil.

I think that the picture at the top of this post, which is entitled "Optimism" (by meppol from captures my state of mind. Trying, always, to think of the glass as half full.