What if they think..? – This Week’s DBT Lesson

•August 28, 2008 • 5 Comments

People with BPD often fear abandonment, amongst other things.  They also have difficulty forming genuine,  healthy, and long-lasting relationships.  Both of these qualities feed each other in a vicious cycle.  A friendship falls apart, fear of abandonment is reinforced, panic or anger sets in, effects other relationships, they are damaged or end, rinse… repeat…

So the Interpersonal Effectiveness module of DBT is a VERY important one for someone with BPD to work through. (I also feel strongly that it would also benefit anyone in a relationship with someone with BPD.)  This week, we started working with the actual skills (the first week is always an introduction of sorts) and the lesson was how to identify your relationship goals ~and~ identify the things that are getting in the way of being effective in a relationship.  The worksheet on “Factors Reducing Interpersonal Effectiveness” can be found on DBT Self Help.

The most common things that interfere with someone being effective when interacting with others is lack of skill, worry thoughts, emotion, indecision, and the environment, and all of these factors impact my own role in a relationship in various ways.

Lack of Skill

Most people primarily learn behavior as a child by watching their parents interact.  Well, in my childhood home, my parents either ignored each other, or my mom was yelling about what she wanted or didn’t get from my father.  So guess what I learned to do?  I either ignore the problem until it builds up or I explode at anyone I see as contributing to the problem… even if they had no idea there even was a problem.  A lot of the adult (and even some peer) relationships I was exposed to were like that; and I learned the lesson too well, having the same pattern reinforced for 10 years during my first marriage.  I never really learned how to interact with someone I was in an intimate relationship with.

Worry Thoughts

This is a big one for me, and I believe for my boyfriend as well, so it impacts us quite a bit.  I worry that he’ll leave me, or he’ll think I’m a bad person, or be disappointed, so I often don’t express what I’m really feeling, thinking, or needing.  He has told me he often worries that I’ll leave him, or I’ll become upset if he expresses his feelings, thoughts, or needs.  So here we both are, in this dance of not really expressing ourselves.  The result is a comedy of errors of sorts, riddled with mis-communication, unmet needs, and confusion.


No surprise here.  When I’m emotional, any relationship skills that I have are quickly tossed aside and are replaced with frustration, anger, sadness, disappointment, fear… any of those strong emotions that swell up inside.  As a result, I’m either too emotional to think clearly or express myself in a productive way.  And sometimes, I am so emotional I don’t CARE if I’m being effective.  It’s like wise mind just takes a vacation and lets my inner bitch have free run of my mouth.


Often when I’m emotional, I just can’t think clearly.  This also happens when I’m tired or hungry (especially when my blood-sugar drops).  And when that happens, i become indecisive.  I can no longer tell what I want, or how to ask for what I need. For example, when I’m hungry, I get to the point where I can not decide what I want to eat, and the only thing that ends up coming out of my mouth is, “I’m not hungry.”  So more time passes without food, and at that point, even if I had an idea about what I would be willing to eat, it doesn’t matter.  Often at this point, my boyfriend also becomes indecisive about what he should do, and this usually results in a pretty common argument in my house.  Me screaming, “I don’t want to eat anything” and him getting more and more frustrated with my lack of cooperation when he says, “Just tell me what you want to eat”.


Most of my life, I’ve been in relationships where it was not safe to communicate my needs.  My parents could care less what I wanted.  My first boyfriend would beat the shit out of me if I expressed my needs.  My ex-husband would ignore my needs, no matter how vehemently I expressed them.  And quite a few of my “friendships”, including some pretty recent ones, were so toxic I was afraid to be myself.  I’m happy to say that I am no longer in any of those relationships.  I have awesome friends and a great guy who love and accept me AS I AM.  But my sense of self and confidence took a pretty hefty blow while I was in those environments, and I still struggle with the after-effects.

So, how do these 5 factors effect your relationship skills?  If we each take a moment to honestly look at where we could use a little tweaking, imagine how much smoother our interpersonal interactions would be.  So take a moment to to think about it…. or even talk about it with your significant other.   It may just make sharing your life on the borderline a little more enjoyable.

Birthday Wishes…

•August 26, 2008 • 1 Comment

One of the distinguishing characteristics of BPD is how fast we cycle through emotions.  One moment, or one day, we can feel frustrated and unloved, and the next moment, we can feel exuberant and full of love.  It’s scary sometimes even to me how quickly I can go from mood to mood, from fear to confidence, from anger to adoration, from sadness to joy.   And if you read this blog regularly, you will see the changes in tone as my moods ebb and flow.  I’ve come to realize trying to remain calm and collected all the time just isn’t who I am… all I can hope to do is recognize the shift from mood to mood and use the skills I’ve learned to lessen their intensity.  And hopefully be able to not hurt the people I love with my reactivity to these emotional ups and downs.

Today I feel more centered, and I feel loved.  You see, the story I told myself about my boyfriend not caring enough to remember my birthday.  All the stuff I wrote in the last post…   It was all in my head.  He planned a surprise weekend away… to a lovely secluded cabin in the country.  I felt like a dope for getting all worked up over the doubt I planted in my own head.  We had a very nice time and I was able to finally decompress a bit.

There are so many negative experiences and myths running amok around my head sometimes.  Ok… most of the time.  I expect things to go wrong.  I expect people not to care about me, or remember me, or do something nice for me.  There are so many myths I hold onto as gospel.  And unlearning them is a sucky, long, and laborious process.  But it’s lesson I need to keep working on.  And I will.

I am not unloved.  But to fully embrace that, I need to be able to love myself.  I need to believe that things don’t always go wrong and that people won’t always hurt me.  Sometimes stories do have happy endings and birthday wishes do come true…

Frustrated and Unloved

•August 21, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I feel like a caged animal, pacing back and forth, clawing at the bars trying to get out.  I’m frustrated at work.  I’m frustrated with my blood sugar.  I’m frustrated with my relationship.  I’m frustrated with my apartment.  I’m even frustrated at Facebook!  It’s like everywhere I turn, I slam headlong into something or someone I want to scream at and/or smash.  I don’t thank goodness.  I am relatively good at controlling the anger and irritation as they swell up inside me.  But it has a price.  The price is constantly being in a state of hyper-vigilance and anxiety.  The price is a racing heart and a flood of adrenaline fueling these intense feelings until I feel like a caged beast left with only the desire to fight or flee.

I need a vacation.  I haven’t taken personal time off in over a year, or at least time to myself.  I have taken days off to go to doctors visits, take care of personal problems, and when I’ve been sick.  But it’s not the same as an actual vacation.  One where you can get away from it all.  My boyfriend wants to get away this weekend in an attempt to alleviate some of these feelings.  But did I mention I’m frustrated with him.  I’m even frustrated with the way this whole getaway is being planned… or not planned to be more accurate.  You see, he’s not a planner and I am.  So his idea of getting away is a last minute scramble to somewhere.  I’m a planner.  I would have booked a room and planned a long getaway weekend a while ago.  So I’m frustrated that what is supposed to be a relaxing time for me is adding to my anxiety because it’s not being planned.  And it’s supposed to be a birthday present… which makes it even more frustrating’.  I need to invent a BPD to Non_BPD translator.  It would go something like this.

Non-BPD:  Waits till last minute, then scrambles to take his BPD away on a “special” weekend for her birthday.

BPD Translation:  “I’m not even important enough for him to plan something special for my birthday.  If I meant something to him, he would have thought about my birthday earlier and planned this a few weeks ago”.

So now I don’t even want to go.  I feel like no one even cares that I was ever born, let alone that it’s my birthday in a few days.  The protective, reactive part of me has switched on, and I now have this, “I don’t care, fuck everything… I don’t want to do anything for my birthday” attitude.  That’s the flight reaction.  A desperate attempt to block out the pain of not being loved.  Because that’s the last part of that translation up there.  “He didn’t even take the time to think this through, therefore he must really not love me”.

And then the tears come.  I’ve figured out that half the time I cry, it’s out of frustration, not sadness.  It’s because I keep it inside instead of letting myself unleash on someone, or something else, until the only thing I can do is break down in tears.

Birthdays shouldn’t make you cry.  Birthdays shouldn’t make you feel unloved.  But they do.  At least for me. It’s all just part of my life on the borderline.

DBT Revisited…

•August 19, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Tonight I will be heading back to my DBT group after a 2 month hiatus.  I completed the program in June and decided that I wanted to return for the Interpersonal Skills module.  I wasn’t quite ready or able to get a solid grip on the things we covered in that section because of all the upheavals in my life at the time.  But now, I am in a much more balanced and stable place, and am finally ready to tackle other people… well, not literally.  But I hope to at least learn to navigate my relationships with other people a little more effectively.

funny picturesRelationship skills are something I really need to work on, though I imagine most people could use a little refresher on how to be part of a relationship, whether it be one based in romance or friendship.  But for someone struggling with BPD, and the people who are in a relationship with someone with BPD, maintaining a healthy relationship becomes that much more challenging.  Let’s face it…  Being in a relationship with someone with BPD is a lot like that picture over there.  Warm and fuzzy one moment, but watch out if the BPD wakes up!  Because when it does, things can get hairy fast.

Which is why the Interpersonal Skills module is such an important part of recovery for someone with BPD, and in my opinion, also a must for anyone who is in a close relationship with someone with BPD.  (If you want more information on DBT or would like to check out some interpersonal skills lessons, DBT Self Help is a great starting point.)  Without the skills to interact effectively with other people, someone with BPD could find themselves repeating the same tragic cycle of making friends only to lose them, thus feeding the fear of abandonment that plague so many of us.  And for Non-BPD’s, these skills could make the difference between an improved relationship and one that makes you want to pull your hair out… and if you work on them together, these skills may even help you stop walking on eggshells around the BPD in your life.

As I did before, I will post each lesson as I work through it and include my thoughts and perspectives.  And I hope that my close friends are willing to let me practice these skills with them (or at least be tolerant of my attempts to integrate these skills into my life).

Ooooh… She’s a Little Run-Away…

•August 18, 2008 • 1 Comment

I know there are a lot of things a BPD does that make someone not familiar with the disorder bang their head on a wall and scream, “Why!?”  And one of those things is something I do pretty much instinctively.  It’s something that makes no logical sense.  It’s wanting to be close to someone so badly one moment, and the next moment, pushing away. And it’s something a lot of Borderlines do.  Get close only to run away.

I’ve told my boyfriend that our relationship is over more times then I care to remember.  I’ve actually broken up with him twice since we’ve been together and have even walked away from our engagement.  (Sometimes I swear he has to be one of the most patient men in the world to still love me and want to be with me.)  It’s not that I don’t love him.  It’s not that I don’t want to spend my life with him.  But when things get overwhelming in life and love, my first instinct is to run away.  I know this is a pattern of mine, so I try to be cautious of it.  Like when I blurt out that I never want to see him again during an argument.  That’s me being impulsive and reactive, and I try really hard not to do it.  But lately, that urge to push away and to flee has grown and infringed into the day to day moments… and I can’t figure out if it’s stress or a legitimate concern that needs to be taken seriously.

Part of it is I still haven’t learned to hold onto my own identity while I’m in a relationship.  I’m getting better at it, but I am still far from proficient.  As a result, I don’t always make the best decisions for myself when I’m in a relationship, especially if those decisions would oppose the wants and needs of the other person.  If my partner doesn’t eat healthy or exercise, I stop eating healthy and exercising.  If my partner is not financially responsible, I spend a little more carelessly.  If my partner is sloppy, I end up being sloppy.  It’s not like it even happens consciously.  It just gradually happens over time.

Maybe it’s because there is a part of me that wants to be lazy, eat whatever I want, and buy anything I desire.  But when left to my own devices, I don’t.  It’s like the other person gives me some kind of silent permission to make poor choices for myself.  They allow me to let the irresponsible side of me out.  It’s like I don’t quite know how to make the right choice for me if my partner’s choices are different then mine.

Or maybe I’m just using him as a scapegoat for my own lack of will.  Maybe by blaming him for my problems, I suddenly don’t feel so overwhelmed.  Because if it’s all his fault, then all I have to do is leave him and my life will get back on track, right?  Suddenly there is a solution I can control and I’m no longer the failure I feel like when I make poor choices for myself.  But that leads to ending a relationship that may very well be worth staying in…. which is not something I want to do.

I don’t want to run away from this relationship… but I also know that right now, as it is, it’s not good for me.  It doesn’t matter why or whose fault it is (I’m sure blame can be founf on both our parts), I need to be able to take care of myself and make good decisions for myself without outside influences tugging at me.  Until I learn how to do that, I’m not even sure if I belong in a relationship.  But it’s not ~just~ my decision to make.  So i won’t become a run-away.  I’ll fight the urge, face the fear, and give him and the relationship a chance.  And if that chance doesn’t work out, I may have to walk away… but that decision will not be one made by my fear and doubts.  It won’t be made by my BPD.  It won’t be running away, it will be walking in a new direction.  One that is right for me.  Though I really hope we can find a direction that is right for both of us… a direction we can walk together.

Lessons from Life

•August 13, 2008 • 1 Comment

Today one of my dearest friends got laid off, and I feel devastated.  I’m worried about her.  She is one of the most talented, hardworking people I know… she wasn’t let go for any other reason then she is just a victim of downsizing.  And I can’t help but be staggered at the unfairness of it all.  I can’t help but see it as another horrible thing happening to a good person that deserves better.

So I was feeling unnerved and decided to sit down with an older woman I work with.  She is a little hippy-ish, but always very positive.  When I told her how I was feeling, she didn’t judge me, but she said something that did sorta stagger me.  It was…

“Look at it this way.  So she is let go today – then she ends up getting an amazing job some where else that really enriches her life – you would want that for her RIGHT?  Well that’s what its all about right now – waiting to see what happens.  Its a journey my dear, one that we have no control over.  Yeah, its a major inconvenience at first – worry about paying some bills and such, but after that its an adventure.  Where she goes from here – well she has a new exciting path to explore!”

I sat there speechless.  All I could think was how could anyone just believe that things will work out for the best so passionately?  Here I am, feeling like this horrible thing just happened… that life is unfair and cruel, and she is actually excited for my friend because of the adventure she is about to have.  Then another thought hit me.  Imagine if I had actually been brought up to believe that.  What if this woman had been my mother, and I grew up surrounded with beliefs like that one.  What kind of person would I be?  How would my view of life be different?

You see, I was raised to believe that life is out to get you.  That no matter how good a person you are, or how hard you try, life is going screw you over.  I was taught life wasn’t fair.  I was taught good people get punished while undeserving people get rewarded.  Both my parents lived an breathed those beliefs.  If something bad happened, well of course it did.  Bad things always happen to good people.  And if something good happened, it was temporary, because eventually a cruel and unfair life would take it away.  My parents never took responsibility for anything that happened to them.  They were just helpless victims of the thing called life.

Now, I never really bought into this on a rational, intellectual level.  I believe life is what we make of it.  No it’s not easy, and it downright sucks sometimes, but it can be glorious too.  And I also believe if we try hard enough, we can do amazing things with our lives.  But that’s my “rational mind” talking.  My emotional mind still clings to the idea that life isn’t fair… that the bad things that happen to me are a punishment of some kind, and that something like getting let go is a source of dread and sorrow, not an adventure to be celebrated.  No matter how much I know or what I now believe, those shadows of the past… those lessons i learned as a child still loom over me and effect the way I see life itself.

The good news is I can learn a new way of thinking.  I can retrain my thoughts to be more positive.  I can refocus my beliefs to see life as something to enjoy instead of something to dread.  And it’s going to be amazingly hard… and take years to undo the lessons I learned about life.  After all, those lessons took my entire life to learn… its gonna take a while to unlearn them and make room for other beliefs.

For now, I’m going to hold onto something else that wise friend shared with me today.  That life is a constant journey filled with exciting new things to explore and all we have to be willing to do is is put ourselves in places of beauty, joy, fun… and ENJOY!!!

Ramblings from GYM…

•August 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Work has been stupid busy.  There are a thousand little tasks being thrown on my desk (or invading my desktop via email to be more exact), all with OMG WE NEED THIS DONE NOW!!! in the subject line.  I swear I want to delete the next “Urgent” email that finds its way to me.  Better yet, I just want to add one of my favorite quotes as an auto-reply…

“Piss poor planning on your part does not constitute a crisis on mine.”

I’m joining a friend tonight at the gym she belongs to.  I’m really looking forward to it (hopefully I can burn off some of this work stuff).  But at the same time, I’m anxious as well.  Will I be able to keep up?  Will I look fat and out of shape?  Will I make an ass of myself in front of everyone else there?  Will everyone else there be in better shape then me.  You know, the typical poor self image, crappy body image stuff.

Working out, even at home, is a real emotional trigger for me.  It’s something I’ve never been really good at.  I’m not very graceful, wind easily, sweat ALOT, and I’m a large woman.  The image I have of myself working out is not pretty.  I imagine everyone will look at me in disgust… or just laugh at the fat woman’s attempt to get in shape.  I know a lot of it is amplified in my own mind… I’m not as out of shape or fat as I think I am in my head or I feel I am in my heart.  But my self image was forged in a society that likes to laugh at fat people and gym classes where I was torn to shreds for not resembling a stick.  Sadly, I  was pretty good at sports… but rarely had a chance to prove it because I was the heavy girl no one wanted on their team.

I’m not huge now, just as I wasn’t huge back then.  And I imagine few adults working out at a gym would even give me a second glance, let alone tease me and giggle about my weight.  But that feeling of discomfort is still there… even after all these years.

It’s funny though.  When I divorced and went through that, “What am I looking for in a partner?” and later when I revisited that line of thinking with, “What am I looking for in a friend?”, one of the first things I came up with was, “Someone healthy and active who I could live a healthy active life with”.  So where exactly do I meet people that are healthy and active?  Well, a gym is a good place to start, not put too fine a point on it.  The very place I’ve been avoiding… that fear has kept me away from, is the very place where I am most likely to form friendships with people who value fitness and health.

So even though I’m anxious about going and may even bawl my eyes out when I get home, feeling fat and defective (I’m not saying it’s true, but that’s how I feel when I work out), I am going to give it a try.  I’ve figured out that I can pay for it without dipping into my budget by using the money I set aside for weekly therapy appointments.  My therapist, who is more pleased with my progress than I usually am (no surprise there, I am my own worst critic), has changed my visits to every other week.  There is no contract, so my goal is to stick with it a month (if I like it) and then see how it goes.  Maybe I’ll even try to make eye contact with people, smile, and strike up conversations while I’m there.

Who knows, while I’m there I might even slay the inner demon named “GYM”.