I get this question a lot.
Probably because I spend a great deal of time alone, in some people’s minds too much. Its not that I want to be isolated, I just find that I am. In fact, I’ve become an expert on non-isolation techniques, as in, I have figured out how to participate in life beyond my physical and emotional disabilities.
I love being with people. I always have. I see the same traits in my daughter, she loves being around her friends and gravitates toward busy jobs brimming with people. The best job I ever had was at a women’s clinic where there was this awesome nest of women, all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and beliefs….it was heaven.
Then, came the losses to an already compromised emotional soul, each taking their chunk of me until I resemble a slice of swiss cheese. The holes are huge and deep and gaping and oozing and I work every day at keeping myself from seeping out all over the place.
Isolation comes when one’s body breaks down, keeping you from your work, livelihood and friends where one begins to fade into the distance. The old adage…out of sight, out of mind is true.
Isolation comes when your family can’t look at who you are anymore, your emotional disease gives them plenty of reason to hate you and not come around, after all, being in pain isn’t pretty no matter how hard you try to gloss it over.
Isolation comes to visit again when faced with your child rejecting who you seem to be and not seeing who you really are. On most days, I can still pray for her and our broken relationship while reframing the unrelenting ache of how much I want her in my life.
Isolation comes when your partner looks at you differently because the toll of you has surpassed what he expected and what he believes he can handle. The look isn’t completely devoid of love; resembling more a doggedly loyalty and disappointment as to how life isn’t fair for him.
Its odd how the question of “are you isolating yourself” is presented to me. Its almost as if I haven’t already climbed the tallest skyscraper to have a full and functioning life. And it seems that its overlooked that I’ve walked across hot coals and practically begged myself into different groups of people in order to keep that phobia at bay, forcing myself to hurdle over the fear/anxiety/warped thinking that wants to win and plunging straight into activities that sometimes work out and sometimes don’t. I know what brings me joy and being acknowledged for who I am and invited to join an activity makes my heart soar. Especially if it comes from any member of my family. And that doesn’t sound like someone who tries to isolate herself.
Now here’s the tricky part. This is where the psychiatric world has been called in to address my pain and isolation. Its been decided that my love for people is an attachment of a pathological form. Something I feel as a warm glow from my heart has been labeled as an aberrant way of avoiding my extreme fear of rejection of course, stemming from my childhood abuse and neglect. My desire to love and not be isolated is now a bad thing. Its now being presented, rather callously I may add, that I have borderline personality disorder to which in some parts I don’t disagree with. The message has some merit but the delivery so far has sucked.
Wikipedia defines borderline personality disorder as “prolonged disturbance of personality function characterized by depth and variability of moods”. It seems to be one of the scariest, time consuming and all around unsatisfying diagnosis for the psychological/psychiatric profession to deal with. Joke among therapists… “How do you get rid of the annoying, troublesome patient from your caseload? Tell them they are BPD and they will become so angry they will leave!” Apparently even the non BPD want to be labeled BPD. While some people laugh at this, I find this profoundly sad.
Wiki goes on to say that there is concern about social stigma; “the severe disapproval of or discontent with a person on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society”. Apparently some members of the profession get that this particularly disease tends to ostracize the very people who are more than capable of doing that to themselves. Hmmm….I’m getting some irony here….Wouldn’t it make sense to surround these people with love and acceptance for who they are while not enabling the disease. Aren’t we back to the last post where I ranted about separating the person from their behavior? Love the person, hate the disease?
Thank the universe for Marsha M. Linehan who has led the field in therapies for the BPD patient and added a whole lot of humanity to their situation. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is proving to be not only the best choice for recovery but accessible to those therapists choosing to change their elitist views on treating the sickest of the sick. Marsha herself was/is a BPD patient subject to the most inhumane and cruel treatment at the hands of the psychiatric profession. She schooled herself, becoming a PhD and led the way toward a kinder, gentler way of viewing the sick.
Those closest to me have learned to scorn me in a very obtuse sort of way. If they find me hurting and difficult, they leave. If others see me alone too much, they say I isolate too much. If I am anxious about an upcoming separation where I will be completely alone for several days, they tell me I am too attached and fear rejection. If I object to and confront a situation that feels wrong (even though I’m told to take care of myself and my boundaries), then I’m labeled hostile and aggressive.
And as always, I reflect continually, my behavior, my nuance, the energy I project and constantly wonder….Am I really the crazy one?
- Linehan and Jung as Wounded Healers: Two Dialectically Different Approaches to Dealing With Inner Demons (psychologytoday.com)