A Borderline’s journey

A few weeks after I graduated my Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) I was invited back to talk to the group about to enter the program.

I remember meeting the woman who did this as I was about to begin my six months. She was honest and happy and listening to her made me believe that I could be better. That this might actually work. I was very surprised to have been invited back as a “guest speaker”. There were people who did better than I did during group, who took on the teachings more freely and who turned up each week ready to get stuck into it. I’m thinking of one man in particular who radiated healthy emotionality at our graduation. For him, DBT had explained and helped him unravel over fifty years of confusion and grief.

I tended to turn up a little grudgingly, gave my one-to-one therapist approximately twenty minutes of good therapy time and simply not do the homework outside of the diary card. I spent entire days drawing and colouring spirals on various pieces of paper. At one stage in the middle of my second cycle I and everyone else involved (they made sure they told me, after the fact) believed I was going to drop out. I’m not sure whether my own guilt or the guilt tripping by those around me ultimately won out, but I am proud to say that I completed the course.

After recovering from my initial shock, I wanted to give this new group a similar impression that this woman had given me. I wanted to tell them all that if you put in the effort (possibly a little more effort than I did at times) that you could feel better. That you could be a more rounded person with more typical emotions. That you wouldn’t need to be a slave to hyper experiences of everything. That being rejected by someone you loved would no longer feel like the world ending. That you will find peace within yourself and that it’s so, so possible to just feel like a person. Things can and will feel right rather than wrong. That there’s a whole spectrum of greys where we all thought there was just black and white.

After I gave my little talk, the group was invited to ask questions. And there’s one question that I am still considering some six months later. One girl asked me if I still felt I fitted the diagnostic criteria – did I still feel I was a borderline?

And it stops me now in the exact same way it stopped me then. Because I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. From reading I can see there is a lot of conjecture about whether the disorder can be “cured”, whether people simply grow out of it or whether it’s just a matter of learning to cope with the way the trauma makes you. The latter being the exact purpose of DBT.

The latter has definitely happened to me. With my ex-boyfriend I would often (half) jokingly say that I saw killing myself as a medium-term solution. A friend who shares many mental health problems with me just the other night told me she was coming to my state so we could enact a suicide pact and I realised there in that moment that I was actually quite recovered. Because I didn’t see the appeal. Rejected by my ex, and still crying about it six weeks later I didn’t see suicide as any kind of solution any longer. Similarly, I don’t entertain cutting myself as a solution to anything either. I believe it’s possible to live a life without suffering. There is pain, certainly, but suffering is self-created.

Other things are harder though. My emotions often still feel extreme and I don’t know if that’s because I am continuously pitted against extreme circumstances (my former psychiatrist certainly believed this to be the case) or that I just haven’t gained any sort of handle over them. Which is a self-slight on my own progress because I am experiencing the best emotional health of my lifetime. I am self aware now, I see myself sinking into dangerously bad feelings in the same way I see myself getting drunk on dangerously good ones. I experience a great deal more introspection than ever before and can nearly always effectively name and justify an emotion. And in the situations where they are unjustified and invalid, challenge them and my thinking.

I think that I will always consider myself borderline. The label formed a crucial part of the healing of my identity and I still use it now to help myself (and some others) understand things that I do, say and feel. When discharged from the care of my psychiatrist five months ago, I continued on my mood stabilisers indefinitely. My emotions, while much stabler and controlled, still go off the charts at times. I am mindful, but still get lost in my head and lose precious moments.

Living with this disorder is something of a journey. It will always be a part of me, but I don’t believe that I still carry it as a “sickness”. That part is curable.

Dedication To my Ex

I messaged you last night to ask you to leave me alone. And you didn’t reply so I can only assume it got through to you.

I know that I agreed we should keep talking. I wanted you close to me in any way possible, because for two and a half years there hadn’t been a day of silence between us and I didn’t know how to live anymore.  Our first post break up conversation was so soothing for my soul. And it made me believe that it was really over. So much so that I fucked someone else, hooked up with another and had lunch with another still.

Those days and experiences made me feel alive and desirable, all the things you stripped me of on January the 4th. But the come down was brutal and I rapid cycled through emotions so viciously that I opened my DBT notes to work out how to care for myself most effectively. I haven’t done that in months. These men weren’t you and when the attention I craved and received faded away I pined and grieved for the comfort of what was between us. I wanted to contact you again, but I don’t get to do that anymore and you didn’t seem at all pleased to hear from me the first time. I cried as hard as I did the day you left me and was shamed into blocking you on my socials (Facebook excluded).

I am a masochist at heart and check on your Facebook now and then (I unfollowed you the day after you left, a move that was apparently all show). The other day I was greeted with a status you’d been tagged in by the girl you wanted more than me in the end. The one who said some of the nastiest things you can say about a mentally ill person. The one who’s words are branded to my mind harder and hotter than anything – loving or spiteful – you have ever said to me. The one you called ‘hot’ long after you stopped acknowledging my attractiveness. The one who declared I’d ‘never help [my]self’ until you left me.

She invalidated all the work I did on myself to be a better person. The borderline personality diagnosis was challenging for me, and often still is because I always stop and consider which parts are me and which parts are the disorder and even which parts are permanently a mix of the two. I worked so hard to be discharged from the care of a psychiatrist. I took my meds, kept every appointment and did six real (and difficult) months of group therapy. Especially when I didn’t want to. You used to tell me that you were proud of me and I wish that was what I would remember, but you like the girl who believes I’m a sick and crazy person more than me now.

You never defended me when she attacked me. I’ll never forget that.

Reading that status sent me sky high. I needed to see it because I didn’t want to believe that you were a low key arsehole – it turns out you’re a high key arsehole. You’re keeping me around to lead me on and in case you need a fix from the person who is still (shamefully) wrapped around your little finger. That status demented me for a full day and one night. I had such a disgusting dream that I woke up angry and I never recall dreams. And then you had the gall to text me ‘Hey.’

I messaged you back eventually and it was a stupid conversation filled with stupid games that I don’t understand the point of. I am incredulous that you still haven’t told your parents that you’ve left me. Your cowardice seems to know no bounds. But above all else I was genuinely surprised to hear from you and you said that you ‘meant it’ about keeping in touch and that ‘two years shouldn’t just end’.

So I casually replied ‘you still low key want me, hey’.

And just like that you were gone again. And I had another fucking terrible sleep and my head’s been demented and busy again. So I followed up with you the following night just to say a few things. To talk about that status and how the disrespect was too fucking much and that I wasn’t playing this game anymore where you stalk me online and reach out to me just to remind me that you might be interested in me still.

The hopeful part of me, that part of me that wants the sweet boy who used to text me on the day we first met to remind me and the passionate boy who never used to be able to keep his hands of me back, wanted you to reply and chase me. To apologise, say something. The rest of me is pleased you didn’t.

Because I deserve so much more than to be with someone who always put me last.

 

On Sexual Power and discovering it

No longer having a steady relationship to dedicate my brain space to has left me feeling odd, both physically, mentally and frankly also emotionally.

I got back on Tinder about a week ago. And I’m still not sure if that was a product of boredom, impatience or simply needing validation from the opposite sex. It’s likely a mix of all three.

The experience to date has been extremely gratifying. I sort of forgot that other men look at me, because with him I didn’t notice so much. I only wanted him to look at me. And so I forgot that I was attractive and desirable with a fiery personality and deeply sassy attitude. The past week I have been repeatedly reminded, and it is unbelievably easy to get drunk on that feeling.

I took a leap of faith, challenging myself to go out and meet people, and met a guy I’d been talking to during the past week. He is a few years older than me and not interested in anything serious. I would not be required to commit to anything, or really give anything. It sounded perfect. We went to a bar having a salsa night where we danced badly to gorgeous music. I don’t think I have laughed that hard or freely since before my ex and I started to break down nearly two months ago.

We talked a lot too. I watched him sucked in by how little I cared. How little regard I had for others in a one nighter situation. He was so enraptured in my ability to tell a guy that he was shit and no I didn’t want his number. I had found out the previous night that this ‘fuck you, I got what I want’ attitude I carried pre my first relationship still existed. I had a fresh, funny and scathing story. I have never, ever been so self aware of the effect I have on others. People have ocassionally and casually told me that I do this, but I’ve never believed them until now.

We ended up at a shitty club in Fitzroy on a couch, where he didn’t feel me up so much as run his hands over me sensually. Almost massaging me, pressing on my trigger points and waiting to feel my muscles relax. That one is new to me and it was magical and something everyone should experience. My body reacted in the right ways and briefly I actually wanted him. Briefly.

I will get drunk on this now that I see what I can do. I will seek out men to dazzle them, take what I need and never think about them again. If I am not careful I will begin filling my missing pieces in this manner.

This is probably the most self conceited piece of writing I will ever produce, but the revelation was stunning for me. Because I saw that I don’t need him at all. And I believed for the very, very first time that I wasn’t the only one who was at a loss. It is his bad and his absolute loss to have just walked away.

 

To text him, or Not to Text him?

I broke the first rule of break ups last week. I texted my ex.

The reality was that I’d spent two weeks toing and froing about whether to talk to him. I repeatedly sought the advice of my friends, who’s advice tended to change. Maybe that was related to how much I wanted to contact him on a given day.

I felt confused about our break up. To me, it didn’t feel final and we didn’t feel finished. He was using my photos as his display picture and cover photo on Facebook and religiously watching my Snapchat story. A story being captured largely for his benefit, if I’m completely honest. And all that aside, I just plain missed him.

So on Wednesday night, two weeks post break up, I sent him a message. Which he ignored. I was extremely crushed because in ignoring me the break up was real and final. It was what he wanted, he wasn’t going to change his mind. I cried, feeling a physical pain in my heart again.

But then he did message me back the following morning. He apologised and said he’d been cowardly. Following that he would not be drawn into speaking again. So I got blunt and direct and asked him what was going on here. Did he want contact or not? Why the interaction with my content?

He expressed a great deal of confusion and what I think was ultimately semi-honesty. My Snapchat story was being religiously followed because he ‘wanted to see where I was at’. He did want to talk to me, but he didn’t know how and he couldn’t figure out whether talking to me was the best or worst thing for me. None of these things were really resolved. Maybe it was too soon for us to talk again (we haven’t spoken since) and I derive a weird sense of pleasure and comfort from knowing he’s looking so I’m not about to cut him off. Above all else it was so nice to just talk to him. We caught up a little bit, enough for him to feel bad I think, about my emotional state. And then I went to bed.

That conversation was cleansing for me. Although nothing was really discussed, I found closure. We are not getting back together. He is sorry that he’s hurt me and confused about how to help me from this new position in my life, but he’s done what was best for him and that’s all I ever asked of him in the event that he didn’t want there to be an ‘us’ anymore.

I think the truth of why he looks is that he’s watching to see if I move on first. And I have, twice over. Whether he can see that on my Snapchat story is another thing, but that’s no longer my problem.

It’s time for me to move on with my life now. To meet new people, redefine who I am on my own and find my way. I’m not sure I’ll ever truly be over him, or truly out of love with him. But I feel ready try.

This Is How I’ll Move On

We didn’t break up for a lack of love. The more I think about it, the more I come to understand so very deeply that ultimately we broke up because there was nowhere for us to go. I was happy to settle down; I felt I was on a near perfect wicket. He wasn’t ready to make the same commitment.

But with no major incident between us, other than this single uncomfortable truth, bringing myself to move on has been difficult. When my phone pings, my heart still skips a beat hoping it will be him. But with the continuing silence I have to accept that we are done. Or that he at least, is done with me.

And that’s okay. Of course it’s okay. I just still have to move on and continue my life. Because although it sometimes feels like it’s ended, it hasn’t. So this is what I’ll do:

I’m reconnecting with my friends.

I didn’t make the mistake of letting him become my entire world when we got together. I maintained my friendships. If I’m honest, they were absolutely neglected while I allowed myself to become wrapped up in his life. But I didn’t let them entirely slide and now I have many ears, many hugs and a lot of understanding and care. His absence has left me feeling alone, but I’ve been able to see my friends in the times I would have seen him. I’ve been able to have fun. I’ve continued to be social and it’s helped and continues to do so.

I’m throwing myself into my work.

I love my job. I love my job even more now that I can make it my whole life when I need to. A day on the farm is all encompassing, there is never a dull moment. I am often run so far off my feet that there isn’t a second for my brain to spend idling. This is a sweet reprieve as I realised in the aftermath that a part of my mind was permanently dedicated to him and to us and letting that part go and silencing it is scary and challenging and focussing on work and what needs immediate doing is the best medicine so far.

I’m going out.

I miss being a Saturday night party girl. I would have stayed with him forever, but I always wished he’d go out with me more. His dislike of the Saturday night scene that I loved kept me from going out. In 2016 I could count my nights out on the town on one hand. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with this part of myself, reconnecting with this freedom and carefreeness that was once the very essence of my being.

I’m giving myself time to grieve.

What I’ve lost is huge. For me it’s monumental. I have checked the facts, looked at the situation as objectively as I can and my feelings in the wake of the break up are valid. It is okay for me to be sad and to cry and feel frustrated and angry. It’s appropriate for me to grieve and laugh and reminisce. We shared over two years and they were beautiful and challenging, loving and fucking annoying at times. But I wouldn’t trade them.

I’m investing in me.

It’s time for me to rediscover myself. My identity inevitably became tied to him and in the post-him era I need to cut myself out again and step away from my comfortable co-dependence. Because the co-dependence has left me really vulnerable. I was a strong single woman and with what I have learnt about myself in a relationship, I know I can be a strong and healthy single woman. I’ve restarted Headspace’s ‘Take 10’ because I want to do it seriously. I’ve signed up for five pilates classes at a local studio beginning on Wednesday next week. I’m planning healthier meals, looking at a new gym program and even realising I have the time and funds to ride regularly again.

Moving on and forward alone is scary. I’m worried that I will get over him and that I won’t see him again. I’m worried about meeting someone new and starting everything again. I’m worried about what I’ll have found when I’ve finished soul searching. I’m worried that I’ll never finish soul searching at all.

But I know that I can be whole again. It feels like I’ve lost a significant piece of myself in his sudden absence. But I can be whole again. And more whole than ever before.

It’s Over Now

Every morning since Wednesday I’ve woken up and remembered that you’re gone.

That’s my first thought. Every day.

And then I have to try to reconcile with the silence that now exists between us. You talked as though we would stay in contact, be friends. But it was you who didn’t reply to my last message. It’ll hurt me more to try again.

I know deep down, knew it even as you were saying I could still call and text you, that we could never be ‘just friends’. I love you too much, my heart is just too broken. I will never be able to sit beside you as just your friend after what we have shared.

Your hugs were my favourite, and I can’t go to you for comfort now. We had been rocky as I reacted to the growing emotional strangeness between us over the past month. And you were increasingly frustrated with me, which made me feel worse. The circle was self serving and you wouldn’t talk to me about it. Not until it was much too late.

I understand that you didn’t feel ready for this to be your only relationship. I’m taking misplaced hope from you worrying that walking away will be the biggest mistake you make in life. I’m confused and I don’t think I’ll ever truly accept that I just wasn’t enough.

Because for me, you were more than enough. I’d have done anything for you. I’d have waited. I appreciate though, that you felt a break was not fair for me. It may have simply extended the grieving period, and this has been hard enough.

I miss you with every fibre of my being. Some moments my heart hurts so physically I can’t help but howl. Other times I’ve started to feel anger at my rejection and abandonment. But there are sweet times where I know I’ll be okay.

But it grievously wounds me to know you’ll never give me that look of love and adoration again as I ride you. Or worse still, you’ll give it to someone else. It’s like being repeatedly knifed in my stomach realising again and again that I won’t wake up next to you hugging me out of my morning haze. That there will never be another Sunday that’s just for us. That you’ll never again casually have your hand down my top while we watch TV. That we’re not going to share the new season of Sherlock. That the future I saw for us will not exist.

I understand now that the seriousness of us was scary for you and that you weren’t ready for it. I know that in time it will hurt me less and that my heart will heal.

In the mean time, I have to get used to no longer having the guy who held my hand through the worst times of my life by my side.

Too much of me hopes you’ll come back.

The great Shame of welfare

So I dragged my sorry bum out of bed early on Friday morning. Shortly after my boyfriend left for work at 7.30am early. It was horrific, thank you for asking.

The reason I inflicted this torture upon myself was that I decided to apply for welfare. Not even decided really. Was told. I was told, by my parents, that I should do so. And I read about it. And I groaned a lot – mostly because I couldn’t apply online – and then I agreed.

So I got up at 7.45am and eventually made my way down to Centrelink to be told I didn’t have enough forms of identity but that I should start the application on the computers there anyway and then return with the correct amount of forms of identity. As a result I am now trying to summon the courage to ask my former employer for a separation certificate and then I’ll hopefully, by the grace of our government, be on my way to actually receiving money.

And this is all well and good, except I feel so weird about it. There’s a lot of ~stigma~ about welfare recipients in Australia. Everyone makes jokes about ‘dole bludgers’. The stock standard image of a young person being “on the dole” is a layabout who refuses to work.

It doesn’t matter that this political narrative has been proven untrue time and time again, it sticks. It’s become a part of the cultural narrative, it’s the probably the nation’s only acceptable running joke. Because needing help is offensive to rich, white men and preventing people from living an acceptable life seems to win votes election after election.

So I feel a great deal of trepidation and almost shame about my situation. Even though I have applied for work and trawl various classifieds and websites every day. Even though I have plans to return to school. Even though I have worked under extreme mental (and sometimes physical) duress and continued until the bitter end. Even though there are approximately 800,000 people vying for approximately 160,000 jobs in this country.

Despite all of this, I have been conditioned to feel shame in my hour of need. As if I don’t already live with enough shame and guilt (thank you BPD) every single day.

Sometimes it’s difficult to choose to willingly live, when this is what you’re working with.

I Exist.

I’m starting to really feel the crushing weight of how much nothing I have going on in my life.

Watching everyone around me get up and do things every day is getting increasingly difficult to watch. Everyone else seems to have a job, things to check off and achieve every day, things to save for, goals to meet. And then there’s me; I’m just….. existing.

My days are washed with mixes of anxiety, distress, frustration, emptiness and sadness. I’ve been unemployed since the 22nd of July and I’m running out of distractions. I’ve been using my excessive free time to throw myself into a health and fitness routine. I walk for in excess of an hour nearly every day and visit the gym two to three times a week. I try to eat healthily, though its often difficult to do so in a family environment. You can physically see the difference this has made for me. Mentally, the results are a mixed bag.

But this routine I’ve forged is entirely dependent on the goodwill of my body. A body that notoriously breaks down frequently and inconveniently. Just yesterday I sent myself into a spin after increased pain and decreased mobility surfaced in my lower back. I haven’t used heat packs to soothe my spine in six months and the panic that was clawing it’s way up my throat was suffocating.

Thankfully after a tune up with my osteopath today things look like they’ll settle quickly and any major crisis that was near averted. I plan to go back to the gym tomorrow, for better or worse.

The real kicker, in my jobless and empty state, is watching my finances deplete. I’m afraid to spend money. It stops me going out, seeing people, making the hour trip to see my boyfriend. He nearly always comes to me. I’m acutely aware that I’m missing out. People are planning holidays, saving money, buying new things and I’m sitting on the couch wishing it was bed time so I could stop consciously existing for a few precious hours.

On Sunday night I cried on my boyfriend. This is not new experience and he’s so very good about it. Tonight I cried when Mum asked me how my day was.

I exist. I cry. I exist. I sleep. I exist. I exist. I exist.

Nothing more.

A Funny Story about the Day I truly became Australian

There is a great tradition in Australia that rolls around once a year. It commences at the changing of the seasons after a long, cold winter. The sun starts to come out and warm our pasty, white shoulders and we all leave our houses to bask in it. It’s wonderful. Amazing. Absolutely idyllic. But it’s just not safe.

I am routinely informed that their are many hallmarks that truly define your (white) Australian-ess. They invariably concern watching the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympics and Commonwealth Games (bonus points if it’s hosted by Australia), eating and enjoying Vegemite, being a regular at a Bunnings sausage sizzle and having a vested interest in whether Melbourne or Sydney is the better capital city (ps. it’s Melbourne). But there’s one more experience that truly defines what it means to be Australian.

Magpie swooping season.

It is widely acknowledged that a proper Australian has been swooped by a magpie at least once in their life time. And after the weekend I can truly say that I am Australian.

I decided to visit Living Legends on my way north on Saturday afternoon. ‘Why not visit some champion racehorses?’ I thought, ‘it’s been awhile, it’ll be nice.’ 

I paid my entry fee and was casually strolling down to the paddocks when something wooshes past me. And in a matter of milliseconds I managed to freeze, look up, panic and begin a sprint for my life. Above me was a magpie with death in it’s eyes.

Now, I’m well known for holding a decade old grudge against magpies. At age 12 I diligently raised a caterpillar. In time that caterpillar made her chrysalis and shortly thereafter burst out a gorgeous butterfly. I carefully placed her in our old lemon tree so she could find her wings and be free! Only for a magpie to swoop in and steal her right before my eyes. I have experienced many traumas in my life, but this was a new one and it was devastating. My Dad quickly shooed the magpie away and left me with the dead butterfly’s little body. Her shiny, new wings now tattered.

So seeing my assailant begin another dive I just legged it. If you’ve ever been swooped, you’ll know that this is the wrong thing to do. You would certainly think that removing yourself from the magpies “territory” would remedy the situation, but it doesn’t. The murderous bird followed me, swooping again and again and again.

Realising that running was not helping me I turned around and started swinging at it with the only weapon at my disposal. My iPhone. Did it work? Not really. Why did it eventually stop swooping? Because I had my eyes on it.

So if you, like me, are awaiting your baptism of magpie – do not run away. Glare at it. Glare at it so hard in those beady, lifeless eyes that it’s afraid to move. Even if that means you have to walk backwards to your car and trip over a rock.

And that is the story of how I tried to have a pleasant afternoon and instead learnt that I possess amazing sprinting powers, how to fend off homicidal birds and that I am a bonafide Australian at last.

The $0.65 Banana

I’ve been on a bit of a health kick lately. Don’t get me wrong, fitness has been important to me for a long time, but with all the time I have to waste I’ve really gotten back into it. I’ve been hitting up the gym and walking for at least an hour most days.

I’ve also really gotten into good food. For weeks now the only breakfast/lunch (and it’s not really brunch because breakfast/lunch occurs around 1-3pm day depending) food I’ve been eating is fried eggs on avocado, cheese and toast. With the full knowledge that I will eventually lose interest in this delicious concoction, I sought to broaden my horizons. And I settled on protein pancakes.

I found a recipe I liked, bought some (admittedly budget) protein powder and went home pretty excited to cook these up the following morning. Only to realise I had neglected to buy the banana I needed.

So I summoned the energy to saddle up and go to the supermarket and buy one, single banana. And I was really embarrassed about it as I went to the (self serve) register. The bananas were like $2 a kilo, so this single banana was going to be so, so cheap. I nearly didn’t buy it because I felt so awkward. My unease ultimately forced me to buy two Cherry Ripe bars so that the total became a minutely more acceptable $2.65.

The irony of going to the shops for health reasons only to buy unnecessary chocolate was not lost  on me, I assure you.