Reflections on Life Thus Far

My life. My story: Exploring mental health, spirituality, meditation & random thoughts I have


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Writing Exercise (Day 2)

My counsellor gave me some exercises to encourage writing with emotional awareness. Often I get stuck in my head and miss opportunities to connect with my inner experience. So I have finished day 2 of 4 of my writing exercise and feel content with how it went. I wasn’t expecting it to take the turn it did but I’m pleased I thought of it and allowed myself to include it in the entry. Day 1 I settled on discussing being constantly infantilised by my mother throughout my childhood and teen years; today I continued discussing that a bit more but got into my issues with fear around men. Mom taught me when I was a child that pretty well all men were potential sexual predators so I never had boyfriends. She also talked about sex like it was something scary and repulsive so I avoided all intimate contact. Fortunately I am introverted and enjoy my own company but I felt like it would have been nice to enjoy a relationship instead of living like a nun. I didn’t expect for this issue to come up today in my second day of writing so I wonder how day 3 will go now! FYI-I am not afraid of most men now and have changed my views around sex in a positive/healthier manner thanks to therapy.

©Natalya, 2014.

 

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Speaking Out Heals Shame

Rev. Jordyn Morrison Clason, Ph.D. ~ http://www.RealClairvoyantPsychic.com

Experiencing trauma can lead to shame depending on the nature of the trauma endured. When we’re filled with shame we retreat inside ourselves and fear having others know what we’ve been through; as though we were somehow to blame even though we intellectually know that’s not the case. It’s ironic really because if you experienced trauma from a person or group of people, they, not you should be feeling the shame. Yet they lack the moral conscience for this so the survivor of the trauma ends up with it instead. This seems terribly unfair in my opinion. But we see it all the time with abuse survivors; they think they were at fault somehow no matter what their head tells them. It’s difficult to reason with your emotions because they aren’t reasonable! So you have to muddle through the emotional baggage ’til your head and heart are on the same page. Not an easy task no matter who you are.

In my experience, speaking about my traumatic experiences sort of relieves the pressure inside me; it’s like the steam from a kettle being released. For all the years I carried around the shame of my past I believed keeping it to myself would be easier but it wasn’t. Instead I had unrelenting depression and anxiety never feeling at peace for very long. When I started psychotherapy I didn’t talk much about the abuse I’d suffered because I couldn’t allow it to surface. I thought if I did then I might fall apart (which I did later). So I wasted years talking about my symptoms never discussing the causes of my chronic depression and anxiety/panic disorder. All this because I carried so much shame inside me that I figured no one could accept me due to abuse. How sad that I had so little self worth and love for myself that I couldn’t imagine telling anyone what I’d been through. I’d also minimised what I’d experienced a great deal too so felt unjustified in feeling the way I did; like we need to have reasons for our emotions! Sometimes they are irrational but we aren’t robots so that’s just how it has to be.

When we don’t confront our past it tends to show itself in maladaptive patterns until we recognise where they’re coming from. For some this means abusing one’s self or others so it can be serious. Once the trauma can be remembered and processed it allows us to stop looking for distractions. Our minds don’t have to spend so much energy on repressing what happened to us. If you’re like me sharing what happened to us can be scary or even threatening; yet that’s what’s needed for one to end the behaviours destroying us or other people if we perpetuate the hurt inside us onto others. You can’t be free ’til the secrets are outside of you because that’s what loosens our abuser(s) hold on us. They wanted us to keep quiet and hope we took responsibility for what was never our fault to begin with. If we had had the coping tools to know better we would have done better but most abused children aren’t lucky enough to have the resources or simply are too young to process what happened in a meaningful way.

Ideally, our abuser(s) would recognise what they did to us as wrong and make restitution but too often this never happens. Usually it doesn’t happen because the abuser was also abused and can’t face their own painful past, it takes courage to confront painful memories and process our hurt emotions. So sometimes our abuser(s) just aren’t courageous enough to deal with their own pain and continue to make others suffer. Or maybe the abuser(s) aren’t alive so restitution isn’t an option. But you can still face your pain and know you are making a difference because you won’t be perpetuating abuse/pain onto more people. In fact you can also come to appreciate you are stronger than your abuser(s) because you’re choosing to confront your pain. This might also be an opportunity for you to see that your abuser(s) felt so awful they couldn’t bear to face what happened to them so took the ‘easy route’ by hurting other people. It really isn’t easier to hurt other people than face your own pain but I think it takes less effort because it doesn’t require that you challenge yourself. For that reason I consider it the ‘easier route’.

Anyhow back to my main argument of talking about your trauma or ‘spilling the beans’; personally, I prefer ‘airing the family’s dirty laundry’ as my preferred term because it just sounds ‘spicier’ and a bit titillating! But I digress… Once I finally told my therapist about the sexual, emotional, psychological, physical abuse and neglect I felt free. The shame had begun to dissipate like morning fog when you live by the coast. I still felt some shame when I had to hide my past in front of other family but it was beginning to be more manageable. Once you open the proverbial can of worms there’s no putting the lid back on. The secrets you protected from your conscious mind won’t be forced back into hiding. You can try to deny it happened for awhile but usually the truth wins because you can’t really ‘unknow’ what you know once you’ve confronted it. This is a good thing even though it doesn’t feel in the least bit good to begin with! I felt so awful I reverted to my eating disorder I’d been in remission from for a couple of years because starving temporarily numbed me and took my focus off the new awareness I had concerning my past. I think it’s fair to say any addictions you had in remission may flare up temporarily until you can ‘digest’ what you’ve learned. Mine gave me a respite from having to face things I didn’t feel capable handling. In essence it was easier for me to deal with my eating disorder and try to manage that then it was the horrible reality of my mother sexually abusing me.

Busyness is a way to escape ourselves. My family suffers a lot from this in order to avoid their childhood abuse coming to the foreground of consciousness. Idleness is not a ‘sin’ but an opportunity to go within and understand yourself better.

I’m feeling stronger these days internally but it’s been four years since I ‘discovered’ the type of abuse I’d been through and I haven’t been employed the entire time either. In fact I quit paid employment because I felt I’d been delivered such a huge psychological blow I couldn’t possibly continue my job. For quite awhile I worried about what I would end up doing with myself since I was no longer employed or a university student. My identity came crashing down. The pieces were flimsy to begin with so it’s likely for the best I had to reconstruct my idea of who I was again. What I’ve discovered along the way is you’re a lot stronger than you ever imagined. I didn’t think I could survive the distress I was in yet I did and I am healthier now than I have ever been. Yes, I am still unemployed but people should not base their value on their employment status. You are not your job, car, house, or any other material/external thing. It took me until recently to realise I could be worthy as a person without a paid job. I was always brought up to believe you had to be educated and wealthy to be worthy but that’s not true at all. What’s in your bank account doesn’t make you wealthy because wealth ought to be measured by happiness and love, not dollars and cents (or Euros, Yen, Pounds etc.). One can give back to society and/or their community through volunteer work or helping family. I won’t elaborate on this though because it’s too much for a post meant to discuss trauma and shame. Perhaps I’ll do a post on economics another day!

What do you think about the ‘truth setting you free’? Does sharing what happened to us with someone we trust heal us from our shame? Have you experienced abuse/trauma you kept hidden from others (perhaps yourself as well) then discovered/shared it and experienced relief?

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

 


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Transgenerational Trauma & Transmission

http://www.humiliationstudies.org/documents/ValentTransgenerationalTraumaHolocaust_15.pdf

You can see I posted a link directly above my writing that is about transgenerational or intergenerational trauma. Although it is about Holocaust trauma it is easily generalised to other groups having experienced long periods of trauma. For my situation I am using the term to refer to childhood abuse passed down through the generations. In the linked article it talks about the unconscious and unwitting process of the traumatic transmission to the next generation. This means parents are unaware they are passing their traumatic experiences onto their children because they have not consciously dealt with their grief over having experienced horrible things. I really feel the article opened my eyes to how I ‘picked up’ on my mother’s trauma even though she avoided speaking about it when I was very young.

Growing up I was abused and traumatised by my mother. Much of it happened unconsciously in so far as mom didn’t recognise her behaviour as abusive due to her own experiences. Usually children think their parents are perfect but I was only too aware mine were anything but that. They did their best but you can’t give what you don’t have. I was long aware mom was treating me badly which caused me to have a lot of anxiety as a child. I’m not sure how I ended up without that protective buffer most kids have that allows them to think its their fault not the parent’s. In any case I didn’t have that and felt very depressed and anxious growing up. It wasn’t easy because I reacted with anger to my situation but was basically told this was inappropriate; I beg to differ! From my perspective the anger was more than appropriate considering what I was being subjected to on a regular basis. It was not my fault I happened to be the poor kid that shouts “the Emperor has no clothes!” and my family didn’t appreciate my honesty.

Most kids learn to cope with their situation through denial or some other defense mechanism like repression or the like. I didn’t seem to have the capacity for this so went emotionally numb instead. It was the only way for me to cope that didn’t involve me lying to myself about my family situation. By 18 I’d already attempted suicide seriously three times and was on antidepressants. I also had an eating disorder that helped me feel like I had a bit of control along with the side effect of leaving me emotionally numb. Following my suicide attempts I entered psychotherapy for the first time and never looked back.

Unfortunately my first few years in therapy were spent on trying to get me stabilised from my depression, anxiety and suicidal impulses. Had I known about transgenerational trauma, boundaries and female to female sexual abuse I might have fared slightly better. If I’d known of these things I wouldn’t have felt so ashamed for being something of an emotional train wreck. To my mind I felt I must have been overreacting since I hadn’t been sexually abused by a man, physically beaten or anything I could pinpoint anyhow. As I stated I knew nothing of transgenerational trauma transmission, nor boundaries. Thus, I continued to feel ashamed for being “weak” thinking I’d “only” been spanked, slapped on the hands and endured messy living conditions. It wasn’t until years later I realised mom had been a compulsive hoarder. I did know she had a Narcissistic Personality Disorder though as I’d come across the disorder in a book when I was 17. The impact of her NPD on me however was unknown until I came across another book in my early 20s on the disorder’s effect on children of NPD parents. That opened my eyes and made me feel much less crazy for feeling the way I did. I won’t bore you further since this is meant to be a post not a book! LOL

Transgenerational trauma transmission was first identified in survivours of the Holocaust but has since been applied to those in other groups as well, notably Aboriginals in North America and genocide survivours. The phenomenon also applies to families where abuse has been passed down to subsequent generations. The German psychoanalyst Alice Miller described the phenomenon in her term ‘repetition compulsion’; this applies to abused children having their own children and repeating the abuse unconsciously on them. In this way the abuse is literally passed down from generation to generation until someone has enough insight to get help to stop transmission. Incidentally, Alice Miller is an excellent author with lots of books available on child abuse. The only complaint I have is she doesn’t address compassion for one’s self or parents. Otherwise she is excellent in her championing of abused children through her books emphasising truth above all else.

Can you identify transgenerational trauma in your family?

©Natalya Lyubov, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

 

 


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Mother’s Day (North America)

It’s Mother’s Day here in the U.S. & Canada; Mexico celebrated yesterday (May 10). Happy Mother’s Day to the mom’s who actually manage to do a “good enough” job. A past therapist of mine told me parents need not be perfect but they need to be ‘good enough’ which is a realistic way to think of it. There are no perfect mothers because people aren’t perfect but as long as you can express love to your child(ren) and they feel it then you’re probably doing a good job. The ironic thing is there are a lot of moms not capable of expressing healthy love but they believe they’re excellent mothers.

My mom was not capable of showing me love in a healthy manner and neglected me emotionally, she also abused me but she thought she was a great mom and it was me, the child, who had the problem! Why do we have these sort of blind spots in us preventing us from seeing what sh*t we are as parents? I’m not saying every mom that thinks she’s a good mom is actually not; what I’m saying is there seems to be a lot of moms thinking they are “the world’s #1 mom” ignoring the fact they need professional help. Mom had psychological problems because she was severely abused as a child and developed into a Narcissist but didn’t get therapy. This is the level of dysfunction I’m talking about when I mention moms being blind to their flaws.

I didn’t mean to make this post into an angry one so I’ll try to redirect my thoughts to more positive things. If you have a mom who loves you unconditionally consider yourself lucky! Be grateful you have a mom that didn’t ‘f*cK you up’ because I can tell you therapy to correct it isn’t fun. If you weren’t so lucky I can relate and send you my sympathies. My mother is dead so I am enjoying not having to be phony anymore to avoid making others uncomfortable with the truth.

Non-human animals are usually much better mothers than us…except the ones who eat their young. But aside from them they really are better than us.

The best thing one can do if you didn’t get lucky and have a loving mom is to learn to love yourself like a ‘proper’ mother would. This requires you learn compassion for yourself which is difficult to come by through merely reading self-help books. Psychotherapy with a therapist who has compassion for themselves is your best bet for learning to love yourself unconditionally. If you can find a ‘shrink’ that will sit with your emotions and make you feel accepted then you have a winner. Unfortunately, there aren’t a great number of psychotherapists like this but they are out there and when you find one you’ll know it because you’ll suddenly feel like it’s okay to actually be you for once.

So, is it Mother’s Day in your part of the world today? How are you spending the day? If it’s just a regular Sunday in your country then I hope you simply have an enjoyable day.

©Natalya, 2014.

 


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Reactive Attachment Disorder & Me

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/reactive-attachment-disorder/basics/definition/con-20032126

No, I’ve never been formally diagnosed as having RAD but I definitely fit the criteria and identify with it. Most know of it as something only in children but reactive attachment disorder doesn’t cure itself with ageing. I come from an emotionally neglectful home and can’t find any photos of me smiling as a baby when being held by someone (including my mother). If I smiled it was when I was alone, playing on my own. Thinking about RAD makes me sad because I know how many of the problems I had in life are related to never forming a healthy attachment (secure attachment) with my mother. How do you form an attachment with someone who has serious issues of their own and no insight to get treatment? Small wonder I failed to develop a secure attachment with mom and never wanted to be held by her. I didn’t even like being touched so hardly got used to liking it.

Today I saw my counsellor and brought up my feelings of sadness and grief connected with RAD. Most of the session I simply cried and let out my pain from not feeling like I was secure with my mother. Mom was abused as a child herself and never went through therapy so passed her trauma onto me. Often I felt completely alone and helpless-not to mention uncared for. Naturally I never knew what I was feeling because I had no mirror or person to helpfully teach me what I was experiencing. This lead to a lot of anxiety because I didn’t know what was going on in me. Mom sometimes offered comfort but other times she neglected me and I felt ignored, like my emotions didn’t mean anything. This taught me to not express emotion overtime which lead to much pent up anger.

"Love is unconditional and 'knows' that our psychological pain comes but from our ego. Attachment 'thinks' that our pain comes from other people. Attachment dissolves when its object does not conform to what our ego wants. The pain we feel then is created by our frustrated ego, which calls these people toxic, whereas it's our own ego who acts toxically. This is called projection and precludes our development.~JY Besle"

“Love is unconditional and ‘knows’ that our psychological pain comes but from our ego. Attachment ‘thinks’ that our pain comes from other people. Attachment dissolves when its object does not conform to what our ego wants. The pain we feel then is created by our frustrated ego, which calls these people toxic, whereas it’s our own ego who acts toxically. This is called projection and precludes our development.~JY Besle”

The erratic expression of concern contrasted with indifference or anger from my mother when I was upset gave me no security upon which to build my emotional immune system. For a long time I felt numb or like I might emotionally bleed to death. Mercifully, numbness was more salient than any other feeling but it didn’t help me to mature properly either. As a result I isolated myself or spent time in unsatisfying, dysfunctional friendships that met none of my needs. Romantic relationships were a non starter so I am horribly stunted in this area. All that I know is what I have read from psychology and self help books. Having RAD meant I didn’t want to be touched because my earliest experiences were negative with few positive experiences to even out my perspective.

I wish I could reach out to people and tell them what I need but it’s really scary for me. I’m so used to trying to function as though I need no one but it’s painful because I am left dealing with everything on my own. The exception being when I see my counsellor. Just imagining trying to tell a friend what I am feeling or need has never been something I’ve managed to do. My thought is that they would not respond kindly or would reject me as my mother did. Since many of the friendships I have had have been with emotionally unavailable people my fears were not without warrant. Now I am wishing I could wave a magic wand and have friends in real life who accept me as I am-not as they wish for me to be.

This is a real grieving process. Knowing that I have spent so much time feeling alone with no close relationships hurts. Maybe if I’d realised my issues were attributable to RAD I could have avoided unnecessary treatments or at least not wasted my time exploring stuff that had little to do with my actual problem, attachment.

Perhaps the silver lining in my experiences is that I am wiser than I’d have been if I grew up in comfortable surroundings without any conflict. Although I didn’t enjoy going through what I have gone through I know it has given me insights and perspectives that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Pain can be a teacher and hopefully I will continue to see the messages in whatever it is that happens, not just what has already occurred. As the saying goes “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.

Being personally insightful, self aware and philosophical has without question helped me along the way. I know I am

Adult attachment styles & romantic relationships

Adult attachment styles & romantic relationships

lucky to be 32 and unpacking trauma now instead of a decade or two later. I feel grateful for the opportunities I have been given and want to be mindful of all that I have, not the things I’ve lost. Yesterday, when I went to counselling, I was feeling sad with grief but being open about my feelings with my counsellor gave me healing. Today the sadness that had been hanging over my head is gone and I feel uplifted.

So often all that I require is the space to be open with my thoughts and feelings without fear of being shamed. Not all of my therapists have helped me but those that did I am immensely grateful to. It’s been a long road I’ve been on (this healing road) not always knowing if I was making progress or not in therapy. At 17 I embarked on a journey, a head shrinking journey, that has been successful in the last half or so more than the first when I fought merely to stay alive. Those early therapy years I struggled against suicidal thoughts and anger that I had “failed” in my attempts to kill myself. I wasn’t able to get very far then because I felt depressed and anxious constantly. Psychiatrists unwilling to take the time to get to know me threw me out with the proverbial bathwater labeling me as Borderline Personality Disordered. Now, I have concluded they were not the a**holes I used to think of them as, but rather lazy and too comfortable in their practice to take on any hint of a challenge. In other words, they had their patients already and were established enough that they didn’t want “bothersome/trouble” patients with BPD. They had lost any compassion they might have started with in favour of seeing only those with “easy” diagnoses-aka drug treatable conditions.

My attachment disorder is not cured but I see half the battle as having identified the root issue behind my troubles. Overcoming the rest of my attachment related issues won’t be easy but I feel confident I have what it takes to get through it.

Do you have attachment difficulties and if so, how have you dealt with them? Please share.

©Natalya, 2014. Reflections On Life Thus Far®

 


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Benjamin Fry and depression

Benjamin Fry and depression.

Great post on dealing with trauma even though the title doesn’t say so.


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Validating Personal Experience

Mindfulness

Mindfulness (Photo credit: kenleyneufeld)

I have found it is all too easy to moan (to myself) about my own experiences not being validated then recognize I am judging somebody else’s experience; in essence invalidating their unique suffering because it isn’t something I immediately understand. The positive thing is I recognized I was doing it and my hypocrisy even if I never stated any of my thoughts out loud or anywhere else besides inside my head. Thankfully, I usually don’t say the stuff I’m thinking for the most part but I still don’t like thinking it in the first place.

Being mindful in our daily life requires us to look at/reflect upon/ and or examine our thoughts and actions and how they are affecting us, as well as others. I have become much more aware of my thoughts over the years and what patterns to watch out for if I want to stay healthy. Keeping a mindful watch on our thoughts is a good way to prevent depression and anxiety. It also helps us to avoid saying things we might regret upon further reflection. So although it isn’t always comfortable I am pleased that I can witness my thoughts and actions in a mindful manner. I’m not always mindful though and in those instances where I’ve ‘slipped up’ I simply note that and try to return to the present moment (without beating myself up for it).

It’s been my experience, since becoming more mindful in my life, that I can pause long enough to try understanding another person‘s behaviours and their reactions. This has helped me be less defensive in return. I find myself stopping and asking myself how the other person may be thinking. When I do this I discharge any anger or negativity much quicker than if I merely assumed the other person to be wrong for not doing/saying what I would like. It doesn’t take away the initial frustration all the time, but minor incidences can be handled far more easily now. I may still get annoyed someone did something I didn’t like but it isn’t all consuming either. The annoyance passes and I’m able to return to a baseline state of contentment or equanimity.

Taking into consideration other people’s personalities and experiences before I make a judgement has helped me greatly. I used to get quite agitated by certain people’s behaviours but I have come to find it more useful to pause and reflect on why the person may have behaved as they did. This tends to engender a sense of compassion too as I am not solely focused on myself. By bringing our awareness to the lives of others it allows for a certain spaciousness to develop between our mind and the outside events taking place. If I can make room for a certain mental curiosity it helps me stop reacting in a knee-jerk fashion all the time. This has taken me a number of years to cultivate but I am proud of myself for the place I have reached.

My teenage years and early 20s were marked by a sense of moral superiority and personal piety despite being an Agnostic at the time. I guess one need not be religious to be pious but it does seem to occur more within that context. At any rate, I felt myself qualified to negatively appraise other people’s lives when they didn’t fit my idea of a ‘proper lifestyle’. Now I should mention I was never a bigot or racist or homophobic or anything but I had prudish beliefs around sexuality (despite being a feminist!). I also found it easy to condemn people when they hadn’t measured up to my expectations. In short I wasn’t a whole lot of fun to be with. My ability to take another person’s perspective was poor so I viewed everyone through the same lens. I was short on empathy and certainly didn’t have any compassion. Thankfully all that changed.

Mindfulness changed my life. Mindfulness meditation even more so. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t been introduced to those two things. They helped me achieve an open mindedness that I didn’t think was possible. There were some growing pains as would be expected. I passed judgement on small minded people failing to initially see the irony in that situation. Fortunately, I did not hold onto that judgement for long and grew past that particular limitation.

I am in no way perfect or cured of all my worldly problems but I feel better equipped to deal with them. I feel better about who I am and how far I’ve come since entering therapy, especially mindfulness and meditation. My personal advice to anyone who wants it would be to read up on mindfulness and mindfulness meditation. It’s been implemented into many mainstream hospital programmes for stress and used for depression and anxiety”off label”. You can find many books on mindfulness in your local bookstore focused on it in a general way or targeted toward various disorders.

To have peace in one’s life requires some changes in our behavior for most of us. But it needn’t be terribly difficult. If we all simply *tried* to be more aware of what we say and do I think our world would be a better place. It’s something we can all do regardless of religion or culture. The idea is fairly simple and straight forward, although not always easy. Peace comes from within and starts with you (me). As each of us changes our ways focusing on the thoughts we think and words we speak, it creates a domino effect. Haven’t we all experienced something similar with kindness? Someone is kind to us and we in turn do something nice for someone else without even thinking about it. Similarly, when we’re mindful and aware of how we are around others we tend to be more peaceful, less reactive.

What do you do to encourage peace in your life? Are you trying to be more mindful or less judgmental?  This has been my attempt at participating in Bloggers 4 Peace. See the badge on the right hand side of my blog in the side panel of widgets to join in.

©Natalya, 2013.

 


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Trauma Resources

http://www.janinafisher.com/pdfs/dissociation.pdf “Dissociative Phenomena in the everyday lives of Trauma Survivors”

http://www.janinafisher.com/pdfs/trauma.pdf “Sensorimotor Approaches to Trauma Treatment”

http://www.janinafisher.com/pdfs/attachment.pdf “Attachment as a Sensorimotor Experience: The Use of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy”

http://www.janinafisher.com/resources.php  Janina Fisher, PhD Trauma Therapist-this is her informative website.

 

I thought I’d share these links to well written articles on trauma by Dr. Janina Fisher, a trauma therapist. Hope you find them interesting. I also included her website.

 

 

 

 


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Is a Rose By Any Other Name Still a Rose?

I have been thinking about diagnostic labels and how they shape the way we act and interpret certain things. In my case,

Are you still a rose if any other name? (diagnostic label).

Are you still a rose if any other name? (diagnostic label).

I was first assigned a BPD label at 17 after only one visit to a psychiatrist. It followed me through my various encounters with mental health workers of all varieties. The label was not only a collection of letters but a defining trait. Automatically, it didn’t matter who I really was anymore if the mental health worker knew I’d been labeled BPD I was treated like a disorder, rather than a person, with a unique personal history and set of characteristics. Although I did not really fit the criteria I’d been raised by a mother with Narcissistic Personality Disorder so had poor boundaries and sense of self. So if a nurse, social worker, psychiatrist, etc suggested certain things I couldn’t say with certainty it wasn’t me. How could I? I had no sense of self that stayed constant to know who I was.

Somehow I got lucky and met people who influenced me in a positive manner. My identity was either as the mental patient or the university student. I went back and forth between being in the hospital seeing therapists and counselors to attending classes full time. If I hadn’t been a student who knows where I’d have ended up. The academic life kept me sane and gave me a stable identity-even if only an external one. Is it any wonder I had a crisis when my BA was finished? What was I supposed to do? Presumably get a job.

Where was I and who was I?

Where was I and who was I?

But I didn’t have enough qualifications for the jobs that interested me. I wanted to be a counselor to mental health patients. Never mind the fact I wasn’t stable enough for myself, let alone mental health patients! For some reason I thought I was very capable yet knew this wasn’t 100% true, as I often felt much younger than I actually was. I oscillated between being the chronological age I was and a younger me. The younger me came out at times when I felt confronted by authority figures. One psych nurse I had told me I had a fragmented personality. This was the closest I ever came to acknowledgement of my dissociation. BPD does cover these experiences but somehow it just didn’t feel right to me. Then I happened upon a book, The Dissociative Identity Disorder Source book, which felt like it fit but I didn’t want it to. So I focused on my depression and anxiety mainly.

Around 2005 I got lucky and was allowed to participate in a 2 month long day program for mindfulness. The psychology PhD student was also into DBT and I remember feeling like something was finally fitting for me. Mindfulness and DBT helped me to stay present longer. After finishing the program and therapy I felt myself more aware of my surroundings and thoughts. Oh, I forgot to mention the PhD student I had for a therapist doing DBT with me didn’t think I had BPD. I felt overjoyed at her proclamation! Finally able to shed the nasty, over-stigmatized BPD label I began feeling better about myself. More mental health workers were willing to treat me and I felt hopeful.

Still, the fact I had a personality that wasn’t whole had not been resolved. I knew enough not to mention it though in

Fragmented

Fragmented

appointments with counselors and the like, having read numerous accounts of negative experiences from mental health patients (either written by them or excerpts included in another book as a case example). So I did my best to be a “good patient” and not be “difficult”. It worked! Therapists seemed to enjoy my great insight and perceptiveness concerning my mental health and that of my family’s. Unfortunately, it also meant I didn’t feel I had the right to show anger or complain because I wanted to keep the therapist from referring me like my very first psychiatrist had. I didn’t want to be rejected.

It felt awful to not be true to my feelings but I’d ignored them my whole life anyway and had no idea how to identify them. I also had no idea what it was like to be myself and NOT be rejected. My mother rejected who I was if it didn’t please her and my dad was always working. If my own parents weren’t willing to be around me and appreciate me what chance did I have of unrelated people liking me for who I actually was?

Who Are YOU?

Who Are YOU?

Fortunately, I encountered several more psychologists (including another PhD student) who were fantastic and I connected well with them. Most importantly, I learned how to identify my own feelings and sit with them. The psychologists were all compassionate and didn’t reject me when I shared something I felt would make me vulnerable. Toward the end of last decade I started to realize I could be me and be accepted. With that realization it became possible for me to trust enough in certain people so that I didn’t hide behind whoever I thought the person(s) wanted. If they didn’t like me for me then that was just fine! With other people I remained more cautious but gradually this changed and I am not compelled to be anyone but me now.

However, it didn’t happen overnight for me. My new found sense of acceptance for my true self didn’t occur in one session. It took a couple more years to feel like I had a constant identity finally. It was a series of events and encounters with the right people at the right time that helped get me to where I’m at today. Of course I also put in a massive amount of hard work on my end and never expected the therapist to ‘fix’ me. I went to therapy to acquire more ‘tools’ to cope and handle my life at the psychological and emotional level. It was always understood in my mind that it was MY job to fix myself, not the therapist’s.

I wish I could write out the formula or recipe for all of you on how I managed to become healthier. But the truth is

Perception is everything.

Perception is everything.

everyone is different. Circumstances, personalities, maturity, access to treatment, and a variety of factors make it nearly impossible to say X will work for everyone. If that were the case treating mental illness and psychological maladies would be simple! Throw in to the mix different defense mechanisms and insight into one’s own mind and things get complicated really fast.

Now back to my title of this post. Do you think it matters what label you’re given if you get treatment and become better? I’m not talking about medication but talk therapy-be it psychoanalysis, CBT, DBT or whatever. Does it matter what you call your illness if you are in some form of talk therapy and connect well with your therapist? Do you think you could achieve mental health with just the right person being there for you and you knowing they genuinely care about you? What are your thoughts?

©Natalya & Reflections on Life Thus Far, 2013.

 


3 Comments

From Intellectualization to Depersonalization: A Spectrum | After Psychotherapy

Another great post from Dr. Burgo on his site, After Psychotherapy. This time he deals with defense mechanisms and how intellectualizing is a way to escape pain we don’t want to deal with at one end of the spectrum; at the other end is depersonalization, where we are outside our body watching ourselves as a more severe defense mechanism. He states it’s more important to recognize your painful feelings than worry about which specific term fits your experience.

From Intellectualization to Depersonalization: A Spectrum | After Psychotherapy.