I’m officially scared of chairs

For a little while know, I’ve known that conventional seating isn’t my thing. In a bit of a weird way. I just don’t like chairs. I much prefer sitting on the floor. I don’t know if it’s because they symbolise waiting rooms and classrooms and doctor’s rooms and rooms of other people I’ve somehow irritated with my existence. Whatever it is, chairs make me uncomfortable, especially when I have to choose between two seats and consider all the possible scenarios of what might happen sitting in each different spot and how it might affect my life going forward.

But today in group this was taken to a whole other level.

We were asked to move seats. As in, Hi, Welcome guys, we’d like you to sit somewhere new today.

Nope,

Nu-uh,

No thank you.

When did a chair of all things become an anxiety / panic trigger? And also why? 

It’s just a chair.

But I couldn’t do it. I could not sit in another chair. I could not choose a different seat. I was (as I was reminded none too gently by the group therapists) that I was not thinking particularly dialectically.

No shit. You think I know why I’ve suddenly developed an irrational fear of chairs? All of a sudden, something in me changed. That panic system that I’ve so carefully constructed for times of ‘threat’ and ‘danger’ erupted. It bubbled out in breathlessness and uncomfortable sensations and racing thoughts and a racing heart and hidden hurts.

What if they write on the board this seat has the best view of the whiteboard and what if I sit somewhere else then I might make the others uncomfortable because they sit far away from me for a reason and what if I need to escape the room because I’m wildly dissociating and this seat places me uncomfortably far away from the door and what if I forget where my seat is after an activity and we return to sit down and I sit in my usual seat now-someone-else’s seat and I break down all over again and what if what if what if what if.

This, just in case you missed it, was because of a chair. 

Something is happening to my brain, and I don’t like it. Never before have I described myself as an anxious person. I normally leap straight for depressed or suicidal. But not anxious, not until recently.

Something to ponder.

That thing I never talk about

When I was in high school, I went through several severe stressors all at roughly the same time.

First, I was already suffering from anorexia nervosa, which isn’t exactly a great way to kick things off. Then I was bullied incessantly. And by incessantly, well fuck. I was physically and verbally abused every single day, from 8 until 3, and sometimes for even longer because of these magical little objects called mobile phones, and I withdrew further and further into myself the more she hit me and called me names. I felt helpless, and by helpless, I mean that no one helped me. I was hopeless, and by that I mean death seemed the only solution. And don’t let me forget to mention the fact that I was blamed for bullying her, after hitting her once on the thigh of all damn places, after she had been taunting me for months already. Don’t sit here, she would scream. Bitches can’t sit here. Don’t look at me you fucking bitch, bitch bitch bitch bitch. And that’s how I lost all my friends. ‘Cause you know, I had so many to begin with. Oh, and after that, my brother got cancer, and I started cutting, and the words “guardian invalidation” became my biggest trigger, and I got diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and a whole plethora of problems I knew I had but didn’t want to face including comorbid major depression, generalised anxiety, anorexia and bulimia. But because of the bullying, and this basis of self-abuse I had already sparked in myself via starvation, I developed this fun little thing called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What a scary set of syllables.

I knew what I was experiencing. I absolutely, 100% knew that experiencing nightmares and flashbacks by hearing a word or visiting a space was called “recollection”. I knew that isolating myself, and deadening myself to all emotion, was something called “avoidance”. I knew that I was hypervigilant, and terrified. But to hear my doctor say those eight syllables aloud – to me, a fourteen year old – was a shock. Like I had been electrified. Like, fuck, not only am I dealing with all this other bullshit in my life, but now my trauma can be equated to experiencing war and torture?

And the stupid, most fucked-up thing of all is that once this special diagnosis was dumped on me, after which my life continued to spiral out of control, not a single thing changed. I didn’t start therapy. I wasn’t medicated. The fucking school I went to didn’t change a single fucking thing.

I’m coming to realise how fucked up this all is. Today, of all days, when I’m studying stress and PTSD and the management of anxiety disorders for a neuroscience exam at university. Because where else would I learn more about a condition that intruded into my life and then was just wiped away, like a coffee stain on a countertop, never to be mentioned again, because apparently I wasn’t traumatised enough or some bullshit. It appeared in my medical record, and then it didn’t. That’s some fucked up shit. Surprise yes, just because I’ve gained weight now, my eating disorder hasn’t disappeared, and surprise, yes, just because the source of my trauma is no longer around doesn’t mean that the post traumatic stress part goes along with her. 

I’m ranting.

I’m sorry.

I’m honestly enjoying myself. It feels good. It feels good to relive hurt, when you’re being constantly reminded you’re not supposed to be hurting yourself anymore. There’s more than one way to self harm. There’s more than one way.

This is that thing I never talk about, and it feels good to get it out.

 

Feeling okay makes me not okay

This phrase we’ve accumulated: it’s okay not to be okay, has taken a unique turn in the general shittiness of my life. I’ve discovered that feeling okay, that feeling content, less depressed, more energetic, anything that goes beyond the usual neurotic distress, very quickly makes me not okay. I find it uncomfortable to the point that it becomes just as distressing as all the other urges I suffer through every day.

I can’t handle being okay. I can’t handle ‘happiness’. I don’t even know what that really looks like. Because, for the first time since I was a very, very little girl, I am having good days.

Today was a good day. I slept (properly). I ate breakfast (restricted). I studied. Cycled to the health food store. Studied. Practised yoga. Studied. Did some watercolour. Cooked dinner (deliberately portioned). Had a bath. Watched TV shows that make me smirk. Today was a day that has left me feeling content. But, there it is. That inexplicable sensation. The withdrawal. The beginnings of emptiness spreading outwards from my being, just like ink beginning to curl away on a page.

Why does feeling okay make me feel not okay? I feel so deeply that I am worthless and will always be worthless that I cannot account for these times where I feel okay about myself. Where I might possibly find life. Where I find balance in the things I must do (study) and the things I love (yoga, and art, but also study too tbh).

I don’t understand it. How do people tolerate this feeling of contentment? Is it the same as tolerating anger, when you’re not a borderline well accustomed to the tear of a blade across your own flesh to release it? Is it the same as tolerating anxiety, when you don’t knock hard surfaces so rapidly that the skin of your knuckles tears? It is the same as tolerating euphoria, when you don’t have manic episodes coercing energy through your veins?

Maybe, just as with all the other feelings, I need to stop thinking of them as obstacles that need to be removed. Just as I need to learn to coexist with anger and sadness and distress and anxiety, so too do I need to learn that feeling content is okay. It doesn’t diminish my struggle. It doesn’t weaken my fight. It’s just not something I’m equipped to handle yet, and I guess that for now, that will have to be okay.

A New Therapy Path

I’ve seen a few people in the mental health blogosphere describe the process of leaving a therapist a bit like Nanny McPhee: When you don’t want them, but need them, they must stay, and when you want them, but no longer need them, then they must go.

This is not necessarily true. I am not leaving therapy, and I by no means no longer need therapy, but I am transitioning from one hour of therapy with my current psychologist a week to two hours a week of DBT group and one hour with a new (program-associated) DBT therapist.

I’m scared to end. I’m scared to begin.

And I keep circling back to that thought which underpins everything, which has always been at the core of my problems: I’m not enough. I’m not sick enough. I’m not deserving enough. I’m not bad enough. It’s put me in an interesting place, one where I self-sabotage and deliberately send myself down a spiral to confirm to myself that I am, indeed, worthy of therapy, that I am sick enough.

So I have to stop. Take a breath. Remind myself that that very thought alone – I’m not sick enough – is an ironic symbol of my inherent sickness anyway. It’s a thought distortion that has plagued me, and will probably continue to plague me for a while longer. It’s a thought distortion that I’m aiming to move away from by starting DBT. My therapeutic glimpses at DBT in the past have only been little glances of the help it can offer, but I was in such dark places at the time, it was difficult to apply them at all.

By the same token, it’s made me realise (in the same way that eating disorder treatment did) just how messed up I am. How messed up my emotions and thoughts are. How estranged I am from my experiences. How often I dissociate. How frequently I’ll avoid conversation to avoid reliving a memory. Isn’t it odd that the very act of starting DBT has made me realise just how much I need it?

I hope it gets easier.

Because right now, it makes me feel like a child. Maybe that’s what needs nurturing on the inside. I feel insulted when trying to analyse my behaviours. I feel pissed off at trying to change them, even though I know that they do need to change. I feel like crying when I have to confess that I self harmed, and no, I wasn’t able to use any skills, and no, they didn’t even cross my mind.

Trying to navigate this new therapy path is not so dissimilar to trying to navigate my own mind, so I guess eventually, I’ll just have to accept the winding turns and back-tracks and times where I get lost as bumps along the journey that I shouldn’t blame on myself.

 

Earlier.

More noticeably than ever have I been noticing the pull of polarisation that BPD brings. It comes with an anxious tremor, and a silliness fringing on hypomania, and impulsivity and outrageousness. But it also comes with dark thoughts and dark urges and the lure of punishments desecrated across my skin.

Tonight I have experienced every single of the above emotions. I have been silly and happy, enjoying time with friends. I have been anxious, shopping, the type of anxiety that makes me outrageous and loud and impulsive. I have been low, and thinking of pain, and finishing a bottle of wine alone.

A few days ago, I wrote this in my journal:

It just hit me – literally, just then – how big of a deal it actually is that I can enjoy study again. It hasn’t been days or weeks or months of anhedonia for me. It’s been years. It’s been almost a decade. It’s been practically my entire adolescence. But I’m finally not punishing myself by isolating and studying to meet my unrealistic high standards that I can never, ever attain; I’m studying and I’m genuinely passionate about it. It feels good that my head is brighter, and that without a little of the darkness, this is what my mind can do. This is the gift that God gave me to use that’s been hidden beneath a murky layer of depression for so long. It feels good to have a reveal, even it it’s only brief, I’m going to savour it like an individual portion of peanut butter salvaged from a cafe (seems an appropriate comparison). 

And by brief, I meant less than 24 hours. Because the following night, I had one of the most distressing phone calls with my mother ever, in which I screamed at her and essentially told her she didn’t care about me and she didn’t do enough (which I believe, somewhat). And the night after that, I invited her to my baptism. And the night after that, I giggled in the pouring rain at the bus stop. And then tonight, even as I feel the alcohol hit my system, I just want to keep on drinking. And I think, wow, I’m pretty sure I’m not meant to drink on my current medications. But fuck it. 

The ultimate highs and lows of BPD, ladies and gentleman.

The ultimate highs and lows.

She’s creeping in

There.

Just there.

A little more to the left. Shift slightly upwards.

There.

Did you see that?

I can count every rib.

Wait. No, there’s some missing. There’s too many missing.

There. Just. there. A little to the right, a little to the left. The light is in the wrong place now, and I’ve lost them. They no longer exist. If I can’t find them, even if it’s because the light is wrong, then it’s because they don’t exist.

Lately, my ribs have reappeared. I’m surprised, and relieved, and also excited. It fills me with warmth to see some bones again. Looking down at my wrists, I can see that they’re approaching thinness again, but then I look upwards at my arms and they don’t have quite the concave shape I’m after, and neither does my stomach. There’s no space between my thighs, but at least we’ve dropped a size. Step onto the scales, and then off again – because they’re lying – and then back on and back off before I realise it’s not me that’s broken, it’s the scales, so it’s off to buy a better set, a more advanced set, the kind that determines your fat percentage for you. That obsessive tic has returned, the sideways glance in every reflective surface (I’ve gained weight today), the wrap around the wrist to double check it’s the same width, and if not, then that’s the kind of motivation I need to do better. I take out the clothes I’ve kept specifically for this purpose, to measure my progress back towards my goal, and they still don’t fit the way I like. Deep breath, it’s okay, that just means only coffee today. I slump to the floor in a sudden spell of dizziness and glance at the dark circles in the mirror. I shake when I sleep because my body wants me to eat.

I ignore it.

I only indulge in food twice a day if I can resist the temptation, and if it comes to a third, then it will be once the following day. Nothing processed here, only wholefoods, and if it comes from a packet, then only ingredients I know and can pronounce.

And slowly, she gets louder. Good. Look at us go! Look at our progress! You’re doing so well!

And lately, when I make an inevitable mistake – too much cheese, too much yoghurt, one too many bites, there she is again. Stupid fat fucking bitch worthless useless bitch just go kill yourself you deserve it you don’t deserve life you deserve to be punished fat stupid worthless bitch do it just do it just do it useless ugly disgusting piece of shit. 

And I listen. Because I’m a good girl, and I listen to authority, and in these moments, Ana is my authority.

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