News for December 2012

A Look Back – January 2012 to December 2012

The past twelve months have seen an overall improvement in the quality of my life. Things have not been ‘perfect’, but I did not expect or even want them to be perfect.

I have seen a decrease in the severity, frequency and duration of my episodes this year. I also have seen a drastic reduction in acts of self-harm and suicidal ideation.

My wife, my therapist and my wife’s therapist have all noticed the improvement. Even more importantly, I have noticed the difference, and I noticed it before anyone else noticed.

I am back to where I was before the accident in 2009. I may even be in a better place then I was in 2009. For example, I have only seen my therapist twice since before Halloween.

Despite the lengthy periods between sessions, going roughly 3 – 4 weeks between them, I have navigated the time with little difficulty. The part I really appreciate is that the period included the holidays and some stressful  times at work. I figure if I can manage those periods without seeing my therapist or placing any crisis calls to her, I have to be on the right track.

A few highlights from the year were attending the NEA-BPD conference in May, celebrating my first anniversary with my wife, my fortieth birthday, seeing Les Misérables with my wife at the National Theater, celebrating Christmas with my family and another good year at work.

There were plenty more good times, but I cannot name them all.

There are a number of people who have been a big help to me this past year, even if they didn’t know it. I want to take a moment to thank a few of the people, that have helped me and/or inspired me these last few months. In no particular and in no way a complete list:

Note: I will update this list with more about each person over the next few days. I wanted to get this post published sooner rather than later and right now it is getting late and I need sleep. 🙂

My wife, lord knows she has to live with me and put up with me day to day. That is not always an easy thing to do.

My father, @retiredfirstsgt, he has been there for me no matter how out of control I have been for the last 40 years.

Amanda @hopeforbpd; http://www.hopeforbpd.com ; My Dialectical Life. Your MDL emails & positive, encouraging personality have made all the difference in the world and have really helped turn more than a few days around.

Debbie @healingfrombpd; http://www.healingfrombpd.org

My friends in the facebook support groups I am lucky to be a member of.

Merri Lisa Johnson; @borderlinephd; http://borderlinephd.blogspot.com; I loved your talk at the conference in May. It was amazing and inspiring.

The Knotwel Family

Cooper Hawke @cooperhawke

Sophie @oxymoronic82

Debbie and Merri Lisa Johnson have both published books about their life’s with BPD. They are must reads.

You can find the books here:

Edited: December 26th, 2012

Thoughts and Feelings

One thing on my mind lately is how do you know when you can trust your thoughts and feelings?  Now, keep in mind I am far from ‘perfect’ with this, but I think I am getting better with it. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

For me, in addition to the wild emotional ride, I also have a strong analytical part to me. So over the last twenty or so years, I have taken to analyzing myself. The last few years, I have come to start analyzing ‘why’ I do things, ‘how’ I think, ‘why’ I feel certain ways at certain times, etc.

So, I have developed a bit of a ‘baseline’ understanding of myself and an acceptance of at least some of my strengths, weaknesses, ‘flaws’, etc. (In some cases it took decades of people ‘hammering it into me’ before I finally did accept certain truths.)

I have started getting to a point where I can mentally ‘Gibbs’ myself when I start going toward a thought or feeling that I know is not true.

For example, recently I had a series of rough meetings at the office. My lead was not there and my customer was NOT happy at all, so I took the brunt of her displeasure. I knew that part of the reason they were NOT happy was because of mistakes, real not imagined in this case, that I had made over the last few weeks.

I started to feel like I was a total failure, screw up, etc. but I was able to ‘Gibbs’ myself. I was able to tell myself “NO” that is not true, it is just a feeling and one that does not reflect the truth. I was able to use the things that friends, family and co-workers have drilled into me over the years and that I had accepted as truth. I was able to look back at where I was and some of the things I had accomplished and compared them with the way I was started to feel. Once I did that, I saw that I could not trust my feelings at that point.

Another thing I have come to believe is that when I have a really intense emotion or feeling, that more often than not it is not completely accurate, because most things in life fall in the middle. So when I have a really intense feeling, I do not trust it. I am firmly agree with the old advice of not making any important decisions when you are experiencing extreme emotions, because more often than not, you will choose wrong.

With more moderate feelings, I rely on past experiences, checks against my values and beliefs and at times just my gut. I try not second guess every feeling or thought. When it comes to more moderate feelings and thoughts, I know I will get some right and I will get some wrong. I also figure, then when things are moderate feelings or thoughts, if I am wrong, it will not be a disaster most times.

Edited: December 24th, 2012

Thoughts and Reflections (April 2009)

While looking up some of my old blog entries I wrote about my interpretations of the “Wizard’s Rules” from Terry Goodkind’s novels, I came across this entry from April 2009. It was simply titled Thoughts“.

Thoughts

The last few days I sit here and think about your ‘joke’ from the other night. I do agree with you, it was not exactly the funniest joke I have heard, but I know what you were trying to say. I have often made similar ‘jokes’ that have greatly worried people or earned me a good lecture from them. I sooooo love being lectured *snort*. I have also had visions of myself in similar types of situations, not sure, if that is any comfort or not *Chuckle*….

You are right in that we cannot forget where we have been and that we need to be mindful of it, but one thing I do need to say is that just because we have been there before does not mean we will ever be there again. We all face our own challenges in life, and we will have our ups and downs that is to be expected. Personally, I have dealt with these types of things since my teenage years. The biggest problems for me over the years was that I was never diagnosed, partly because ‘back then,’ it was often chalked up to me just being a rebellious teen.

My dad made the comment a few nights ago that if we knew then what we know now our lives would have been much easier, but that is life, as it goes on we learn more. The other problem is that I never had anyone who understood me and what I was going through. That is until I met you, that is one of many reasons why you and your friendship are so special and important to me. Having someone that understands is a huge help, someone who does not think I am ‘crazy’ when I am struggling, when I say that I feel like ‘a ghost.’ I know you have others around you to help you and support you, but know that if you ever do need or want to talk you can always bend my ear.

However, that is not what this is about actually; I seem to have veered from my original thoughts. While we need to learn from the past, we should not assume that we will be there again. If we start assuming we will be there, again we are making, what I think, a few big mistakes.

The first is we are seeing the glass as ‘half-empty,’ we are predisposing ourselves to a negative way of looking at life. The second thing is that we are ‘borrowing trouble,’ let’s face it, there are enough real problems and challenges we have to deal with in our day to day life on every front, we do not need to be looking for more of them lol. The third and last big mistake we are making is we risk ‘violating’ the wizard’s seventh rule – “Life is the future, not the past.”

It is explained in the novel as follows: “The past can teach us, through experience, how to accomplish things in the future, comfort us with cherished memories, and provide the foundation of what has already been accomplished. But only the future holds life. To live in the past is to embrace what is dead. To live life to its fullest, each day must be created anew. As rational, thinking beings we must use our intellect, not a blind devotion to what has come before, to make rational choices.”

If we start thinking too much, about where we have been, especially things like you mentioned, we risk triggering ourselves and causing a self-fulfilling prophecy. The good news is that even though we can wind up in those dark places once again, it is at least partly in our control to prevent it. There is no guarantee that we will prevent it, but we do have some control at least.

One way we can control it is by controlling our environment. If our job is brining a great deal of negativity into our lives, we can look for a new one, if there are people who are ‘toxic’ to us, we can remove them from our lives and so on. Our environment is not the only thing that affects us and determines if we are sucked back into that darkness, but it is one factor that we can control. Another big way to help ourselves is to stay determined not to go backwards.

We cannot just will ourselves not to go backwards, but if we maintain our conviction and keep fighting for ourselves no matter what, at the very least it will help mitigate the hard times. It can lessen the time we struggle. Just as the ‘Seldon Plan’ from Asimov’s Foundation series was unable to prevent the collapse of the Galactic Empire it was hoped that it would “reduce 30,000 years of Dark Ages and barbarism to a single millennium.” The same thing is true with determination.

These days while I am aware I could wind up where I was, I choose to believe I will not ever go back there. I will do everything I can to make sure I never do end up there again. I believe I will not be, because I will only look at life positively. I was pessimistic for too many years. To me it is one thing to be aware the it can happen, but another to believe it will not.

Well, that is how I look at things these days. Not everyone would agree with me, some people might tell me I am very wrong, but it is what works for me.

Edited: December 21st, 2012

Next Entry

The last few weeks have been rather chaotic around here so I have not ha a chance to really write anything new. It looks like I can expect more of the same this coming week. I intend to write my next entry on Saturday, December 22, 2012. With the Mayan long calendar coming to an end on Friday, December 21, 2012, I figure I may as well wait and see what happens before I write my next entry. 🙂

That next entry will either be on how to trusting your thoughts and feelings with wisemind or my year in review entry; however, I believe I will write my ‘year in review’ entry the following week.

In the mean time, here are twelve of my personal favorite entries from the last twelve months.

  1. Decision 2012
  2. Understanding
  3. Mental Health Awareness Tattoo
  4. “Waking from a Bad Dream”
  5. We are Not Meant to Hate (Secular Version)
  6. Forgiveness
  7. Thoughts on Imperfections
  8. Radical Acceptance – A Positive “Side-effect” of a Chaotic Work Place
  9. Appreciate the Small Things
  10. Annoying People, Teachers of Coping Skills
  11. Different Thinking
  12. Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

And I would be remiss if I did not highlight this following entry:

How Do I get to Carnegie Hall?

 

Edited: December 16th, 2012

Engage!

“Engage!” is one of Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s more well-known lines from Star Trek: The Next Generation, said over 300 times during the series run. It is also one way of dealing with difficult periods. It is also a method I use frequently.

When you use this concept you find ways to keep your mind engaged in other positive and productive tasks. It allows you to distract yourself for a period of time. Your mind becomes actively engaged in unrelated tasks so you do not dwell on what has you upset.

This gives your mind the opportunity to return to a calm state where you can then address the root problem calmly and with a wise mind instead of an emotional mind.

However, there is a second part to this, you eventually have to address the problem. You cannot just bury it. Burying problems allows them to fester and get worse.

It is OK to distract, it is not OK to bury and pretend the original problem never existed.

An example from my life happened today. There are a few things that have bothered me the last few days that I need to deal with and handle. However, I also have to work and I cannot let my problems get in my way. Since they, unfortunately, do not pay me to do psychological analysis or therapy, I have to find a way to cope with my problems without them interfering with work.

The best way for me to handle this scenario is to stay fully engaged with my work. Today, such as, I was in meetings or conversations all day. This let me focus on the tasks at work and distance myself from what has me upset.

Now, I am on my way home on the metro writing this blog entry. Here I am still engaged in other tasks, but at the same time given the nature of the task it let’s me devote some time to resolving the root issue.

Edited: December 5th, 2012

The Invisible Man Sensation

Trigger Warning: This entry discusses the sensation of not being part of the world around you. It also touches on self-harm in times of distress. This may trigger some people.

One of the more difficult things to cope with is the ‘Invisible Man’ sensation, that feeling that you are not really part of this world. It is that sensation that you are on the outside of life looking in on everyone else.  It is a hard feeling to cope with, you feel like no one sees you and that if you vanished off the face of the earth that no one would even notice, or if they did somehow notice they would not care.

You feel like you are adrift in the world, but at the same time like you are not in the world. You are left feeling alone and unwanted. You see life going on around you, but cannot seem to reach out and touch it. It is like there a glass wall separates you from everyone and everything else. You are left banging your fists against this wall trying to break through to join the world, yet nothing you do works.

It is a very difficult and painful feeling. It is one that I have struggled with over the years. I remember saying to people that:

“If I walked out my front door, got in my car and drove until I ran out of gas and money and then started walking that no one would ever notice I was gone. I could walk all the way to the Alaskan wilderness and no one would notice.”

When you start feeling like this, the most important thing is to find a safe and non-harmful way to validate your existence and worth. I say a safe and non-harmful way, because at times like this, we may feel that engaging in self-harming actions can validate ourselves; however, at the end of the day, nothing good comes out of hurting ourselves. So it is important to find positive and safe ways to validate ourselves.

When, I start feeling like this, I try to sit back and think of all people that I have an impact on in this world. I look at things both personally and professionally. I try to remind myself that I have an affect on each of their lives and that most of the people in my life are their by choice. There is nothing that is forcing them to be in my life, so the mere fact that they are still around must mean I exist in the world.

Edited: December 2nd, 2012

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