Please bear with me as this post deals with a few things. I’m also aware that it isn’t the most cheerful post and that this might in part be due to me feeling a little low the past couple of weeks or so. In fact, I have to be aware that when feeling low I am prone to beating myself up a little – it’s hard sometimes to get the balance of acknowledging situations and pain I have caused with not ruminating and being cruel to myself. However, this post is important because it demonstrates that recovery brings with it pain.
I have a friend that for a while has been creeping me out. I’m sure it isn’t intentional but everything I do in terms of activities and ideas in my recovery journey, they copy. This isn’t having the effect of actually initiating any recovery in this friend though. It has made me stop and think. One of the criteria for a diagnosis of BPD is identity disturbance. In one of the letters during my assessment for DBT it is noted “She is also very unused to thinking about herself and described not knowing who she was”. Before moving to my current flat, I shared a house with a good friend. This relationship broke down a little while after I moved into my flat and I couldn’t figure out why this was. Looking back though, I wonder if I creeped her out in the way my friend is me. Yes, there were things I was interested in but I now see that sometimes I would get involved or interested in something she did. I didn’t realise this at the time and it wasn’t something I set out to do – more me trying to find me but in someone else. (Fortunately, through therapy, I have managed to discover the core me and I am enjoying finding myself more and more).This obviously wasn’t the only thing that led to the breakdown of our friendship. She saw me when I was really unwell. I did try to hide a lot of this from her but the ODs, more severe cutting, and then visits from the police due to my mental health became more frequent. I loved that friend dearly and if she did me, which I believe she did, that would have been very upsetting. I think she had to move out of our shared house for her own sanity.
I didn’t realise, or rather didn’t want to acknowledge, that I have also done this to my sisters and one of them found this particularly difficult. The relationship with one of my sisters broke down over a year ago and to me it seemed really bizarre and over the top. I couldn’t understand how one ‘phone call, in which I was distressed and led to her hanging up, could lead to her reaction. This was the sister I had brought up for several years and we were extremely close. I missed her terribly. I had tried to patch it up before but to no avail but now I understand why this hadn’t been successful either.
On Saturday my sister was at my mum’s because her 2 children were visiting so I could spend time with them. I asked her if we could have a chat. I won’t go into the details of that chat but we are now reconciled. It’s going to be a slow and difficult journey and perhaps we will never be as close but we are now in each other’s lives again and that feels incredibly good 🙂 During our conversation it became clear to me why there was such a seemingly extreme reaction on her part. Apart from misunderstandings on both sides, my sister had reached breaking point. For a few years leading up to that point she had been heavily supporting me and saw me go through a lot. I wasn’t aware (and hopefully I am a lot more self-aware now) that there had been many occasions when I had hurt her. I was in the midst of being unwell but that doesn’t change that I had hurt her time and again. It all suddenly made sense why she was so upset over that one incident – it wasn’t that one incident and in that context was completely understandable. I was able to acknowledge that she had been hurt a lot whilst I was unwell and that hurt was down to me (whether intentional or not). Recovery means I am now in a place to look back and that is painful to me. I have upset people and that is (to an extent) unacceptable. Recovery means facing upto the fact that people I love were hurt by my extreme emotional reactions, behaviours of self harm and suicide. Recovery can bring not just progress but also the need to deal with distress such as this.
Saturday was a difficult day. My youngest sister leads a very chaotic life and has fallen out with everyone in our family. She repeatedly shows no respect for anyone and is cruel to all around her. On Saturday she began picking a fight again with my mum. I was there to witness this and said that enough was enough. This led to a horrific situation in which she let loose so much anger and vitriol against both my mum and me. Suffice to say that some of this involved telling me that I am “a fucking weird freak” and that I should go do everyone a favour and slit my wrists properly. She also tried to cause a physical fight and was threatening to batter me. A lot more occurred but it isn’t something I feel comfortable sharing on such a public forum. For the most part, I didn’t rise to it and managed throughout not to shout and scream as she was to us. However, I did say something that could be seen as hurtful. I was left extremely upset. I was also left with the feeling of shame that I had said something in the heat of the moment, which although fair and true, was not nice.
This situation though ends this blog on a positive note. It might seem bizarre that this would be the case but I dealt well with the distress. I am starting, with baby-steps, to develop emotional resilience. I didn’t get overly involved in the situation with my youngest sister and inflame it. I didn’t get angry to the extreme levels I would have done in the past. Importantly, I didn’t self harm due to the feelings of sadness and shame resulting from both interactions with my sisters. I was able to shelve the thoughts until I got time to think on the train on the way home on Sunday. I didn’t ruminate but gave the space needed to think things through. I arrived home yesterday, had a lovely long nap, was kind to myself and spent some time in other restorative activities. I felt at peace. This would never have occurred in the past.
Being at peace doesn’t mean ignoring difficult emotions or pretending everything is OK. It means that I have managed to deal with a really horrid situation, not make it worse, not extend or amplify the hurt and then be compassionate to myself. That is a massive deal. There is no way I would have been able to do that in the past. Today? I know I will get memories of events between my sisters and me in the past but mindfulness and compassion means I won’t get entangled in them and continue to beat myself up. I can’t tell you how much peace that gives me.
This has been a long post and I’ve tried to balance my own (and that of my family’s) privacy with being honest as to how recovery can be distressing as well as positive. I hope I’ve got that balance right.