Originally posted on Ingrid Oliphant's UnCommon Touch:
That ‘connection’ outside the ball? That’s what happens when I work with people.
Pretty cool, eh?
Originally posted on Ingrid Oliphant's UnCommon Touch:
That ‘connection’ outside the ball? That’s what happens when I work with people.
Pretty cool, eh?
Somewhere around the end of last year, right around the holidays, the bottom fell out of my world. Emotionally, spiritually, physically. Actually, it had been falling out for over a year but the accumulated stress hadn’t taken its final blow.
It wasn’t the first time or the second but what felt like the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time. All my coping skills had been used over the last year surviving several huge hurdles and I now found myself with what felt like an empty bag of tricks.
The number of times I’ve bottomed out or the trauma of my childhood isn’t the point of this blog post, its about what I did in that situation. What I did was succumb. Psychically unplugged from life. Flat. out. gave. up. It had won. I just couldn’t pull myself up one more freakin’ time to stare down the demons again and again and again. Wouldn’t do it for my daughter, my husband and or for my dogs, which if you knew me is saying a lot.
After limping through the holidays on about 25% of myself, the final layer peeled off in early January and took my physical health with it. For months I was gone. Lost in that circular, downward spiraling, free falling haze. The demons recognized its frazzled, stressed out host with parasitic vigor. They seized that opportunity to invade my body with long buried memories of abuse and violence. They haunted my dreams, robbing me of much needed rest to heal and recover. They invaded and eroded my skin, giving me huge welts across the backs of my legs reminiscent of beatings with the belt. My skin itched and burned at the slightest touch, wearing clothes or any contact with a piece of furniture was a challenge. I lost the ability to be comfortable in my own skin. I had no where to go.
But mostly, they intruded upon my feminine parts with a vengeance. The little girl parts that took the abuse, tried to adapt and scar over, the parts that became swollen almost beyond recognition, the parts that tried and tried to stretch but couldn’t….eventually giving way to rips and shreds. Those parts were the target again. What the little child couldn’t tolerate at that time, she buried deep and then systematically began to hand back to the adult woman in bits and pieces over the years. Somewhere in our collective unconscious, we must have bargained. I must have made a deal with her that if she survived the early trauma through whatever means she needed to, then I, the adult, would deal with the suppressed memories and physical sensations later.
And that is what happened. For weeks turned into months, I rode the edge of the razor’s split. Burning, stabbing, swelling, searing pain. Urinary, vaginal, rectal. My every orifice that was violated contained sensations that rose to the surface. Over and over and over and over. The cascade of symptoms was never ending. Urinary swelling turned into infection which spread to my bladder and kidneys. More crying and screaming than my husband could handle.
Eventually by late Feb, the symptoms began to subside a bit thanks to Marilyn and Betsy, two women energy healers who encouraged and tolerated appointments with me; half dressed in nightshirts due to my sensitive skin and sporting ice packs for my swollen parts. Week after week, they lovingly helped me on the table and began to spin their healing magic. We began to make progress that continues at this writing.
That’s the backstory, here’s the point.
What it takes to get writing…. again….is LOVE. Four women emerged as a cosmic lifeline who carrying me out of the physical and emotional pain. Four women who I’d come to know online but never met, shared many conversations with over the years, created a small online support group for me. Just for me. Each day and often several times a day, I’d come to the group page to see beautiful images, unfailing words of support and love as well as space just to let me be. It was beautiful. I nicknamed them the “Fabulous Four” because I’m not sure I would have emerged from those dark depths without having these angels to carry me. And I’m coming up short with words to describe how it feels to be loved and cared for with this level of compassion, especially when one isn’t familiar with that level of support. Again, it was just beautiful.
As I plunged to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my writing and words died. It was impossible to write, think straight of have any type of creativity when coping with issues of basic survival such as pain. The bottom and largest portion of Maslow’s pyramid describes needs such as breathing, food, water, sleep. He suggests that one must be secure in the basic needs before being able to move up the hierarchy. Creativity is characteristic of the very tip-top of the pyramid and during this health crisis, far beyond my reach.
So, this is my debut….again. I have scaled the pyramid with the LOVE and support of four extraordinary women as well as my energy practitioners. My words are coming back as the crisis fades. I see hope again and crave being present on this blog and with my sojourners in healing. I’m confident that many more layers of the health crisis will be revealed when the time is right. As the accompanying image depicts, not only have I been lifted from the level of most basic needs, I’ve been infused with the energy of a Goddess-Priestess-Warrior vibe. The power of our hearts beating in unison, multiplied. I stand at the top of the pyramid with my arms wide open. I feel my power again.
Photo credit, used with permission from Sarah Durham Wilson, DOITGIRL .
I can’t wait to get my hands on this book.
The full title is Go Only as Fast as Your Slowest Part Feels Safe To Go: Tales to Kindle Gentleness and Compassion For Our Exhausted Selves written by Robyn L. Posin Ph.D. If I hadn’t had the enormous good fortune to have crossed paths with Robyn before I knew of her book, the title alone would have been enough to have grabbed my attention. My soul seeks out and especially loves words like this. Safe. Compassion. Gentleness.
You see, I’m a slow person in the ways that most of our world deems important to be fast. I drive slowly, like an elderly couple on a Sunday afternoon, I’m the one who is leading the parade down Main Street, holding up traffic and keeping folks from their ever-present tendency to rush. Yes, I get honked at a lot and am okay with that. I like the feeling of peace that travels with me now instead of the gut tightening experience of rushing from one destination to another.
My movements are slower now also as I’ve come to realize that my serenity lies within me. No longer am I chasing the carrot dangling in front of me, going ninety miles an hour inside, always reaching, grasping for the unattainable that is out there, somewhere out there, just slightly out of my reach. I now know and try to practice a mindful lifestyle based on the innate wisdom that resides within.
But it hasn’t always been like this. It wasn’t until my body broke that I fell into bed and took stock of my life. Perhaps through lack of any other choice, I acquiesed to the cruel fact that I had fractured and splintered, used and abused, pushed and prodded myself almost to death. I quit my job, dropped out of life, accepted the AMA’s diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Immune Dysfunction and slept for an entire year. Summer, fall, winter, spring. When I went to bed, my daughter was a high school freshman. By the time I began to come out of my physical fog, she had nearly completed high school.
But this conversation isn’t about my poor choices or the ramifications of traumatized children or even the physical effects of abuse. This is about a woman, who is a part of a movement, that exists to open our eyes to the possibility of acceptance and compassion in relationship to ourselves. It is about physical slowing and emotional stillness. It is about granting ourselves permission to honor the parts of our psyches that are smaller, littler, slower or feeling unsafe. And taking that recognition to a level of loving acceptance.
Even though I haven’t read her book, I’m certain the gentleness of her words will blow me away. I’ve found that to be true when I’ve visited Robyn’s website, For the Little Ones Inside. Her writing and art struck a chord and I felt the immediate desire to slow down, let go, relax my body, relax my soul. My exhausted self needed her. We exchanged a few e-mails, she’s on my blogrool and I’m on hers. Perhaps I just needed to know that beliefs such as hers really exist. That we can, in fact, lovingly accept our smallest parts and don’t have to hide or push them away. That it’s okay to be confused, unsure, distracted, cautious. That it’s okay to just be.
Suggested Link: Words, images and tales created by Robin Posin, Ph.D. at Compassionate Ink
Identity Disturbance is a relatively and equally fascinating new term to me and since I haven’t researched it to my satisfaction to be able to write about it, I thought I would begin here by re-blogging this article from The Bernard Bert-A Borderline Adventure. This author did a great job of streamlining and breaking down the components of this condition. Hoping this continues to shed some light on the many shades of mental illness and reduce the stigma attached.~~Thanks! Little L~~
Identity Disturbance, November14, 2013
Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self image or sense of self.
“Identity disturbance has many different aspects/features making it a very complexed issue even if it is a lone problem, but with the added factor of other BPD symptoms, it can be an overwhelming and complicated thing to understand and deal with!
In a 2000 study of patients with identity disturbances, Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, and Drew Westen identified four types of identity disturbance:
Role absorption (in which patients tend to define themselves in terms of a single role or cause),
Painful incoherence (a subjective sense of lack of coherence),
Inconsistency (in thought, feeling, and behavior),
Lack of commitment (e.g., to jobs or values).
A stable sense of identity means being able to see yourself as the same person in the past, present, and future.Identity is quite broad, and includes many aspects of the self and is probably made up of your beliefs, attitudes, abilities, history, ways of behaving, personality, temperament, knowledge, opinions, and roles.
A healthy identity includes the ability to choose an appropriate avenue for industry, achieve intimacy with another, and find a place in the larger society by having developed a sense of continuity over time; emotional commitment to a set of self-defining representations of self, role relationships,and core values and ideal self-standards;development or acceptance of a world view that gives life meaning; and some recognition of one’s place in the world by significant others.
“Who are you?” - If asked this question, many people with BPD would be unable to answer and will only be able to reply with – “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure” or “It depends on who I’m with.” This uncertinaty makes them feel empty and lost, confused and lonely.
Considering that identity is comprised of stability, continuity, understanding and acceptance of ones self over time, it is painfully obvious to see why this doesn’t happen in the self identity of someone with BPD.Nothing is stable, everything is changing and totally reactive; all that is left is a fragmented self left with a chronic feeling of inner emptiness caused by the inability to integrate into a coherent sense of self identity.
These unanticipated changes can range from relatively minor things, such as changes in appearance, to aspects central to the life of the individual, such as gender, sexuality and life goals.
People with Identity disturbance may experience:
Experiencing frequent changes in sense of self-worth.
Difficulty committing to roles and occupational choices.
Feeling conflicted or unsure about own gender or sexuality.
Feels as though he or she is a different person depending on who they are with.
Does not know who own self is.
Tends to feel empty inside – hollow, something ‘missing’ and a desire to fill the void.
Who they would like to be are unstable and ever changing.
Views & feelings of self change rapidly or unpredictably .
Has memories only available under certain states sometimes feels unreal.
Tends to feel like a “false self” whose social persona does not match inner experience.
Some of the noticeable changes for those who know the person with the identity issue are:
Lack of consistently invested goals, values, ideals, and relationships.
Their personality changes dramatically periodically.
They are “chameleon-like” depending on who they are with.
Values tend to change frequently / does not seem to have a constant set of core values.
Difficulty choosing and committing to an occupation.
Beliefs,actions and behaviors often seem contradictory.
Has trouble committing to long-term goals or aspirations.
As a way to ‘fit in’ they may:
Identity seems to revolve around a “cause” or shifting causes.Defines self in terms of a label that provides a sense of identity.Depend on relationship to a charismatic other. Tends to be in the orbit of a strong personality.People with BPD can be very “chameleon-like” in an effort to integrate.
The tendency to confuse one’s own attributes, feelings,and desires with those of another person, especially in intimate relationships, means that when a breakdown in a relationship occurs it can lead the person with BPD to fear a loss of personal identity.
The large inconsistencies in behavior,over time and across situations, lead to difficulty integrating multiple representations of self, a lack of a coherent life narrative or sense of continuity over time;and a lack of continuity of relationships that leaves significant parts of the BPD’s past “deposited” with people who are no longer part of the individuals life , and hence the loss of shared memories that help define the self over time.
One contributing factor to borderline identity disturbance is dissociation. When we compartmentalize our experiences rather than integrating them into one meaningful whole, our sense of self fragments causing us to feel lost, empty, and confused.
As this empty feeling and loss of inner self becomes more problematic and chronic (in some cases) a refuge world or fantasy self can at times take the stage by means of dissociation from the painful reality the BPD is forced to live in if they remain in their current state consciousness/awareness – making it similar but not the same as DID - Key points of difference are that those who suffer DID (dissociative identity disorder) usually remain unaware of their other fragmented selves (referred to as alters) which are more concrete, unique individuals, accompanied by blacked out memories/loss of time, whereas BPD’s remain more coherent through their changes in persona.
Identity disturbances in individuals with BPD usually reflect efforts to preserve a sense of self-worth in the presence of interpersonal turmoil.
Because of the inconsistencies in what the person with BPD is doing and saying, non BPD’s may accuse them of “faking it” “Lying” or “putting it on” but this really isn’t the case, they just may not be aware of it and by saying these things to them may actually hinder their progress in changing thier behaviour by making them doubt themselves,their worth and their relationship with you and others.
Other issues that may arise are eating disorders, substance misuse or reckless/impulsive behaviours, (these may also a seperate issue for people with BPD regardless of whether or not the have identity disturbance); all which may feel like a form of control over their lives that they are lacking in other areas.
If you have the associated,emotional instability,impulsive behaviour and black and white thinking of BPD you may have difficulty forming a coherent sense of self because your internal experiences and outward actions are not consistent. In addition, many people with BPD come from chaotic or abusive backgrounds which may contribute to unstable sense of self. If you determine who you are based on others’ reactions to you, and those reactions have been unpredictable and/or scary, you have no framework for developing a strong sense of identity.
However, it’s not all bad, on the positive side of things not knowing who you are allows you to start from scratch, experiment, explore and to build yourself up into the person you want to be!
So how do we tackle this issue and find out who we are?
Treatment/therapy with a trained professional is the most highly recommended way to deal with these issues as they can help to guide you through the process of self discovery; but there are also things you can do yourself too.
One way is by observing your own emotions, thoughts, and feelings, in addition to others’ reactions to you.
Questions and reflection on things like:
How do I want to be seen by others?
What are the things most imporant to me?
Who do I admire and what positive traits do they possess that I respect and could incorperate into my own life?
What am I passionate about?
What talents/attributes do I have?
Another way is to try and work out which areas you would like/need to focus on by writing a list which includes:
How would you like to act/react to each section? What can you do to make this possible?
These are the things that help to give us identity and allow us to form a more stable sense of self. Due to the complexity of the issue, the road to ‘finding yourself’ is a life long journey of discovery and one which may take you to some upexpected, intense and even pleasurable places emotionally!
No one can tell you who you are, they can discribe you but ultimatly it is up to you, you are the one who can make the changes, the one who can decide as to how you act and what you believe and stand for. Who/whatever you decide to be/do, remember that you are worthy of love, to be treated with respect and to live a life that you want and deserve.
I hope that this helps explain a little of what and why we feel this way and, fingers crossed, we can start to finally build the jig-saw of ourselves that has been in so many pieces for so long! ~ Emma.”
The Bernard Bert
This post is about highlighting the work of a woman who is making it her mission to dispel the myths surrounding Borderline Personality Disorder as well as mental health issues in general. I find most everything she writes about spot on as far as the struggles the traumatized face in their journey to become whole. Joyce maintains a blog, Make BPD Stigma-Free! on WordPress as well as a Facebook page. It is worth taking a look-see if you or someone you love fights the good fight against mental illness.
And I would encourage readers to take this one step further. Look deep into these words. Try to see past the fear you may feel when reading such powerful messages from a dark place within a person. See if you can connect with their fears, desperation to express and be heard, deepest desires to be whole and worthy. I believe we can begin to work past our fears of mental illness and all its implications by reading poetry such as Joyce’s. Inside, there is a beautiful being speaking some tough but enlightening truths. If you can get past those fears, see the traumatized person with love, the outcome can be the highest expression of divine compassion.
Every morning, I put on my armour,
To protect me from their poisoned tongues,
Each arrow pierces my soul,
With each one I die a little more each day,
How much dying can one take till they are truly dead?
I am not full of life,
I am not dead,
I am numb and feel nothing.
I am past feeling the pain,
Eventually you don’t feel anymore.
How does one feel so hollow, so empty?
A shell of a person?
How do you get past pain to nothingness?
How do you feel less than nothing?
What a curse it is,
To take on the world’s pain upon your shoulders,
Their anger, their fear,
To feel the darkness of a million souls,
All screaming in your head,
And filling your heart.
To feel it as your own.
And you can never stop the floodgate of emotions that wash over you,
Dragon flames licking at your heels,
As you try to climb out of the hell that’s your life,
Only to be pulled back by your demons to be tortured anew,
When will it end?
- By Joyce Savage.
The little boy comes to me with stifled tears, head bowed, chin jutted out, lips pursed together to keep in his words
I lie down behind him smoothing his long graying hair off his neck
He fights so hard; not to feel, not to disappoint, not to let the little boy get too far away from the only place he knows to be safe
I ache for his longings; his undiscovered freedom, stifled passions, joy without limits
I hold space for his gentle heart even when he can’t
He silently slips into sleep as I place a butterfly kiss on his salty neck and watch him come alive in his slumber, leaving tormented consciousness behind
Slowly at first, then with urgency, his legs start to twitch and run
I pray for godspeed to his running soul
and to please find my husband and bring him back
Photo credit: Image from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Peace and joy are elusive to survivors.
We have to learn and re-learn these types of experiences, cultivating the beautiful aspects of life as if we were students in school grasping a new skill. I’ve usually been able to be kind of a joy parasite (not to be confused with a joy sucker) who gravitates toward frollicking animals, playful children or any group or individual who is just laughing unabashedly. I watched and learned what this beautiful emotion was and then set out to mimic it. These situations always felt right and kind to my heart although in direct conflict with my upbringing. Kindness and love weren’t taught or shown but pathology and self destruction was handed out freely and often.
Survivors as a general rule haven’t learned how to play well or experience peace. If we did learn to play, what we were probably experiencing was destruction in action disguised as play; i.e. out of control drinking/drug/food/anger (fill in your favorite addiction or crazy shit here), driving recklessly, giving ourselves hearts and bodies to men that were undeserving of that sacred gift. So many behaviors were masked as “a good time” that it took decades for me to truly figure it out.
During my high school years, I usually found myself gravitating toward healthier families. I certainly can’t take credit for this action for it wasn’t conscious. But I’ve come to believe that living things; plants, animals, people will gravitate toward health and love and I base that belief on some serious reflection upon my past behaviors. I wanted a better life and in many ways, set out to get one even as a child.
One family I attached to had two parents, 6 children who were blissfully crowded into a tiny house with a tiny kitchen. Many families grew up in this fashion in my day, no one owned a McMansion or rarely had a bedroom to themselves. It was customary to share a room and even a bed with a sibling. And this was the way it was at C. J.’s house. She, myself and several other friends grew up in that tiny house; from junior high girls, into high school girls, to brides, then mothers and now grandmothers. We’ve buried parents, sent sons to war, survived cheating husbands and celebrated our re-marriages. We’ve lost touch and reconnected many times, rarely without missing a beat. They are my ya-ya’s, my sisters.
I had the good fortune to spend a weekend with C.J. It’s always an easy kind of experience to spend time with friend from long ago, who knows your stories and your quirks. We’ve transcended needing to explain things as we just know each other that well.
It was the usual agenda; yard sales, thrift stores, food, playing with the dogs and cats, naps, late night talks with the girls. Yeah, girls….56 year old girls. All the good things in life. My last afternoon was marked by C. J. hosting a dinner (and she’s a fabulous cook by the way) for me before I left for home. Her modest farm home was full just as her childhood home was and served as a playground to many activities that day. After an afternoon of swimming with the grandkids, I plopped myself (temporarily of course) on the living room couch where I soon found myself snuggled in and stretched out.
I can’t exactly describe what happened but whatever “it” was, I’ve managed to hold onto “it” for weeks, even sharing the feeling with other friends. Sitting on the over stuffed couch, I found myself sinking in deeply, letting my tension float away and began to absorb the energy of this household. The sheer comfort of the environment gave way to me lying down putting a throw pillow over my face. I became so relaxed and peaceful that I couldn’t resist the temptation to surrender. During the most blissful two hour nap I’ve had in a long time, I floated in and out of the commotion of the grandkids playing and eventually crying, the miffed off weiner dog’s continuous bark to get back into the house, doors slamming, the phone ringing, the parental and grand-parental units shushing the kids to be quiet as to not wake me and the most delicious smells of garlic and anchovy coming from the kitchen. It was a sensory delight. And it was heaven.
The more that the everyday, normal family life noise increased the more peaceful I became. A thought came to me as I grinned under my throw pillow; this must be what its like to be a part of a family. It was okay for me to relax, to feel peace, that loved ones surrounded me, even cooked food to nourish me after my nap. I recalled a long forgotten dream as a child to belong to a nice family. And that simple gesture on C. J. ‘s part became a truly, magical afternoon for me.
I left for home that evening, after my nap and dinner, accompanied by my yard sale treasures and fresh tomatoes from their garden. My most treasured gift was the lightness and peace that I felt.
During the 2 hour drive home, I think my heart actually smiled.
Photo credit: An’ Marie
To view other works by this artist, visit www.callmeanmarie.com
There seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
I seem to have made it through the latest chapter of dark times.
When I started this blog, I felt lost. Then I found myself through writing and gave myself a voice that I’d never possessed before, at least for myself. I’d been championing for others for decades; animal rights, women’s rights, diversity, environment. It had become painful apparent to me that a great deal of time had been spent advocating for others and not myself. That was a game changer.
Writing this blog has enabled me to find my voice through writing but look several issues squarely in the eye. Honoring myself was one. A simple bumper sticker noticed by the artist, Terri St. Cloud of Bone Sigh Arts. Honor Yourself. Simple words that were nearly impossible to integrate.
The next issue was that I couldn’t wrap my thinking around the fact that someone, anyone would want to read what I had to say. In my mind, my words had to be profound, a literary masterpiece before putting them out for the world to see. Shouldn’t I get a MFA in writing or something or some sort of artistic approval before being so bold as to put my words, my life, my history into words? Well, that answer came soon too. Survivors trickled in, slowly at first, some stumbling and fragmented, some already having honed their beautiful craft of expression. All were worthy and I felt so blessed to be a part of a counterculture emerging for survivors, men and women, who were taking back their power. I wanted to be a part of that. For me, it was coming home.
My most recent absence is due to my utter confusion and re-entry into that dark place. You see, I thought I’d been through it and had emerged complete, or at least complete enough. I thought I was finally, finally in that safe cocoon where I could share my story of abuse and survival with the clarity of hindsight. I was wrong, at least sort of.
This summer I separated from my husband. My fairy tale crashed and I felt that I was a fraud. How on earth could I write stories of hope and love when I had failed at my own love story? Slowly, I moved through the hazy days of summer with my tool bag (purple of course) of rest, solitude, meditation, reading and dark chocolate. I cried when I felt like it, wandered through the library, raged at Grandmother moon in the wee hours of the morning when sleep eluded me, slept any time I felt fatigued and tried, oh how I tried, to find joy anywhere I could. I picked flowers and herbs from my beautiful garden and gave them to anyone I could think of; my church for Sunday morning service, the women at the convenient mart on the corner who are always so kind and make me laugh every time I’m there buying chocolate, my dear friend’s mother who was passing this summer, a friend who works long hours and commutes into the city each day. I gave them just because. Just because in the absence of my own joy, I needed to create that precious spark of joy for someone else and live vicariously off of that until I had my own.
Many, many people supported me though this passage, you will find them on my blogroll and Facebook page. I simply couldn’t have weathered this without logging on to see their daily posts on love, writing, poetry, painting, nature, food. I traveled with several as they made major changes in their lives too and hope that I provided them a wee bit of support also.
Slowly that spark began to burn again. Now I have more words and more insight into myself. I tip my hat to the dark side, purpose well served.
I still live a love story. Really, there is a love story in here somewhere. One that, once again, must begin with myself. With or without a partner, my daughter, my dogs, my house. I can write words of hope because now I’ve lived them again. I’m not a fraud but an innocent person who stumbles and trips often, sometimes sitting in the mud puddle I fell in, squalling and crying. But then there are times, when I laugh and dance around with a soggy tutu.
It’s all good.