A Letter to My Borderline Self

I came across this letter I wrote to myself while in DBT counseling for Borderline Personality Disorder several years ago. I hope it might help someone who is struggling today.

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By the time you were in high school you began to experience age-appropriate stuff, but through your parents’ eyes: friends betrayed you, boys used you, guilt was an effective form of manipulation, and you believed you were not worth protecting.

It was not normal for the adults in your life to behave like they did, and the adult world you observed as a child was now becoming your reality. You were no longer a bystander, but a participant. You no longer assessed how it felt by witnessing your parents’ chaos; you were now experiencing it first hand. You believed this was the world’s reality and thus, never entertained the idea that it would ever be any different for you. And your 40-something year old parents were way worse off than you.

The horror of each present moment and the shock of truly believing that life would only get more confusing, dangerous, and insane was so overwhelming and terrifying that you could hardly bear to open your eyes. So, you drank – a lot – which, of course, put you with unhealthy people in unhealthy places that merely reinforced your view of life.

You were not protected. You were raised in an unsafe and scary home, family, and community. Not one adult sheltered you. Not one aunt, grandma, cousin, family friend, teacher, or mentor. Not one. And I am so very sorry that you had to go through that. It wasn’t your fault. You deserved a safe, supportive childhood. You were worth it. You didn’t have to earn it or even ask for it. However, it wasn’t your choice to give. It was your parents’ choice, and like you in high school, they never even entertained the idea of doing things differently.

And the rest of what I just wrote can be written exactly again for them, starting with “the horror of each present moment…they could hardly bear to open their eyes. So, they drank – A LOT – which put them with unhealthy people in unhealthy places,” thereby exposing their children to a terrifying side of life, not thinking to show them the other side of life – the safe, supportive, sane, unconditional loving side. They didn’t think to tell me about it because they didn’t know about it; their parents didn’t tell them about it either. As much as it sucked for me, it did for them, too. Maybe even more.

Now, I believe that I am absolutely worthy of being loved and protected because God has proven this to me by leading me to a stable, safe, and supportive life, where the world need not be terrifying; where I can trust other women to not betray me. To make mistakes? Of course, but not to abandon me. And I can trust men to not use me (my husband proved that to me a long time ago.) I also know now that guilt is not a healthy tool to use on people and it is especially unnecessary around mature adults.

Finally, I am worthy of protection, and I will honor this worth and protect myself by: limiting my contact with unhealthy people; seeking out healthier friendships; focusing on positive self-talk rather than tearing myself down; sharing more openly and lovingly with those whom I trust; and avoiding conflicts unless it is necessary to protect myself or my children. From now on, it is not my job or my business to protect any other able individual, institution, group, organization, idea or belief or to convince anyone of anything if the price is my peace of mind.

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Afraid To Fail

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We are afraid to fail so instead we don’t try. How many things do you not try because you are afraid of failing?

Right now I am trying to stop smoking, and while a part of me feels like it is a lost cause because I have tried to quit several times in the past unsuccessfully, another part of me thinks, “But what if this is the time it works?”

Write about something you have tried and failed at, and then write about something you have tried and succeeded at, realizing that in life there are both failures and successes. The important thing is that we always try.

Make sure to link back to this post or comment below to share your response with others.

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Fathers

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In honor of Father’s Day, the writing prompt this weekend is none other than – fathers! Write about your father or grandfather or someone who was or is like a father to you. How did he shape you into the person you are today? In what ways, both positive and/or negative, does he affect your mental health? What is a good memory you have of him? What else would you like to write about him?

Link your response back to this post so others can find it or feel free to comment below. And Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there!

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Travel

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Travel. Write about a memorable trip you took. How old were you, where did you go, who were you with, etc? How did this trip affect your mental health? What would be some of the ups and downs of this type of trip for someone with your type of mental illness symptoms?

I’ll be doing some traveling of my own this weekend and will tell you all about how it affected my mental health when I return.

In the meantime, link your response back to this post or reply in the comments below.

Happy Weekend, everyone!

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Friendships

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Friendships. Write about what they mean to you. How do they play out in your life? How does your mental illness effect them, etc?

What qualities do you want in a friend? What qualities do you offer as a friend? How satisfied are you with your friendships? What changes could you make to better them?

What were your childhood friendships like?

Link your response back to this post or comment below. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend, my friends! :)

Social Anxiety Strikes

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I’m not sure how many of you out there have more than one mental illness to deal with. I have several including bipolar depression, anxiety disorder, and borderline personality traits. It seems as the symptoms from one disorder subside the ones from another become more noticeable at times. Currently, my bipolar symptoms are stable and my emotions are fairly regulated, however, my social anxiety levels are glaring!

I have always been a shy person, but never considered myself to have “social anxiety.” I always labeled myself as an “introvert.” Maybe that was just me trying to be positive, because lately what I have been experiencing would definitely be considered social anxiety.

For example, last night I was sitting next to a woman in a meeting and she was reading something to the group. So all eyes were on her, but because I was sitting right next to her I was extremely uncomfortable with the fact that everyone was looking my way. My heart was racing, my breathing was rapid and I remember thinking to myself, “This is so painful.”

I also realized lately that when I get together with friends, I only really feel comfortable when there are 3-4 total in the group. Any more is too many and any less is not enough. Visiting one-on-one with someone is so anxiety-producing for me because I have to participate in the conversation too much. When there is three or four of us, I can sit back and be more of an observer. Weird, huh? I just had this realization as I was reflecting on all of this this morning.

Also, when there is only me and one other person I feel trapped like if I wanted to leave I wouldn’t be able to very easily. My daughter’s friends’ moms will drop them off at my house for play dates and stay to chat for what seems like forever (30 minutes or more) and I am always feeling this way (trapped). After my weekly meeting, I’ll stay after to talk to some of the women and one in particular keeps me there talking until everyone else has left. I am a great listener and obviously people love talking to me! :) I just wish I enjoyed it more.

This makes me wonder why I don’t enjoy it more. Do I not care about what these people have to say? Do I not want to listen? I don’t think that is it. I think it is the exact opposite. I think that they wouldn’t care to hear what I have to say. I think that my stories, my life, and my thoughts aren’t anything anyone would be interested in, which is probably why I get so nervous when I do end up talking because I am worried about what the other person is thinking about what I am saying. So, a lot of the time I don’t even think to say anything. I just listen and comment on what they say. I have a hard time sharing stuff about myself.

So, how do I fix this? Is it a self-esteem issue? If I think more highly of myself, then will I have more self-confidence and be more comfortable (i.e., less anxious) when speaking to others? Would I be more open to sharing myself with others?

On the other hand, maybe it isn’t a self-esteem issue. I am fairly confident in my beliefs and values. Maybe it is because I barely have any drama in my life (thankfully!) My life is pretty low-key, actually boring at times. I have a wonderful, healthy marriage, well-adjusted kids, no job, no extended family stress. Other than my mental illnesses, I don’t have anything to complain about, which seems to be a lot of what people do when they talk these days.

Maybe there in lies the reason I am not sharing myself with others – I can’t talk about my mental illness issues with them. They wouldn’t get it, they wouldn’t understand, and it would alienate me from them. Damn stigma!!! Although, I do have my husband and one friend with whom I can be completely open about my mental health issues, so that is better than nothing.

So, I am not sure what to do about this social anxiety thing. It definitely limits my activities. It was making it hard for me to leave the house to run errands, but my DBT skills have helped with that which I wrote about here. I will continue to work those skills to deal with my social interactions with others to see if it helps with those, too.

In the meantime, I have also ordered a couple of books on social anxiety. If anyone has any book suggestions let me know. Also, tell me how you have dealt with social anxiety in your life. Thanks for reading. I’ll keep you updated.

Photo credit: Mari Z. / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Animal Me

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If you could be any animal which would you choose to be? What does this animal represent to you? What advantages and disadvantages does it have over other animals? Is it possible or do you already emulate this animal’s positive qualities in your human life today? Why or why not?

Blog your response and link back to this post, or feel free to comment below. Hope everyone is having a nice weekend!

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Whole, Not Perfect

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This weekend’s writing prompt is the following Oprah Winfrey quote:

“Seek to be whole, not perfect.”

Write about what this means to you, and post your response in the comments below or on your blog and be sure to link back to this post so that others can find you. Thanks, and I hope you are having a super weekend!

Weekend Mental Health Writing Prompt – Mom

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Ah, Mothers! Good, bad or otherwise, we all have or have had one, so let’s write about her this weekend. You could write about what you learned from her, how she impacted your life, how she impacted your mental health, how you are like her, how you are different from her. You could write directly to her thanking her for all that she’s done for you, or maybe releasing some pent up resentments you may have towards her. (I don’t recommend sending the latter to your mom, but it is a therapeutic tool nonetheless.)

If you never knew your mom, write about that, or write about someone who is like a mom to you.

Just think of the word ‘mom,’ pick up your pen, take a deep breath, and write away. Happy weekend, everyone!

Weekend Mental Health Writings Prompt – Worry

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Are you a worrier? Is there a particular worry you can’t shake? How do you cope with worry? Write about it and feel free to share it here or on your blog if you have one, and then link it in the comments below.