Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Stepping outside of yourself ~ Ownership




I had a very strange experience on this last Sunday. I am not entirely sure yet how to classify it really. Lately, I have been all about maintenance. I have successfully been living with Borderline Personality Disorder for the past couple years. When I say success, I mean I have not been in constant crisis, or even frequent crisis. As many of you already know, BPD is a mental illness that has no cure. There is nothing that will make you "get better" and be done with it. It is a constant fight. At times that fight is hard and tiring and at other times that fight is simply just living your skills. 

Yes, I did use the word "simply" because I can speak from this side of the fence that there is such a thing as something being simple in the world of mental illness. Believe me, I know and have tasted the feeling that nothing is simple and the disbelief that anything could ever be simple again....ever. 

So after living my skills on a regular basis something strange started to happen. I started to be able to develop the ability to step outside myself. 

Don't worry, I am not going down some weird tangent about out of body experiences and what-not... but this experience can be quite intriguing.

I have had a personal victory in the past 6 months that I would like to share because it pertains to this particular experience. I have been successful at getting off of all of my meds. This is a great victory to me and my family and we are very proud of all of the hard work that it took for Aj and I to get here and all of the hard work that it continues to take in order for us to be a happy, healthy family. 

I didn't want this to be on the face of this post because I really do not want to encourage anyone to get off of their medications per say  I cannot stress this enough, medication is not an enemy! If you are on medications that work, do not feel defeated if that is something you do not feel you can work without. Your quality of life is what all of this is about and for some, medications is what makes that quality worth living. One persons measure of success cannot be that for everyone. In fact, BPD is a mental illness that generally takes medication to properly manage...long-term medication. Please understand that there is nothing wrong with that. 

So as a cautionary note, when considering meds or no meds be sure to know what mental illness it is that you are dealing with. Often times when families are at the beginning of getting a diagnosis there can be mis-diagnosis. Our brains are delicate and intricate and there are so many factors, chemical, environmental, etc that have influence on our mental health. So when a professional has been enlisted and they begin the journey with you, you may get a working diagnosis that may not be the end diagnosis. So be patient, do your research and be gentle with yourself. If you do end up with a diagnosis of a mental illness that it is highly recommended that you take medications, then try and understand that does not mean a failure to you. Remember, there are mental illness, like Schizophrenia (as one example) that it is extremely dangerous to you  and your loved ones if you do not take medications. 

For those that are able to work towards no meds, I am sure it goes without saying that a life without medications is not easy. It means that we have taken our commitment to the next level. It requires more energy to maintain because not only are we living our skills, but we are living them with having to watch for the signs of relapse that may require medication. That takes a lot of honesty with oneself and a yielding attitude with your support system. If someone on your support team notices something, you have to be willing to hear  it and move on it. 

So back to my experience on Sunday.

Life comes with conflict. It is just a sad fact of life.Well, I suppose it isn't really sad, the sad part is when you cannot manage conflict very effectively. As with many people, mental illness or not, conflict is hard to manage. Primarily because it deals with another factor. A factor that you cannot control...another person. 

So, I am in a conflict on Sunday. I have become quite adept at analyzing my situation, internally. I have long since been able to pass on the physical paper and pen to get a clear picture of what my mind and body is feeling or sensing or experiencing. (On a side note, that skill is very effective in getting to know your patterns of behavior) - There I sit, having my day go by me and I can see in my head the outcome that I do not want to come out of this conflict. As the the tension and ill feelings build, that image of what I don't want becomes clearer and clearer. What I am really seeing is where the current course will end up. 

Now, if I can see where my current course is heading, don't I have the responsibility to change that course? Otherwise I sabotaged my efforts straight away. Seeing it coming and yelling and screaming in my head to stop or divert or "this shouldn't be this way" only serves to have that very outcome become my reality. 

Since this was one of those conflicts that was not able too be readily resolved, I just had to keep going. In hind sight, I do have to admit that I believe this is where I am weakest. As it relates to me being effective in conflict, my weakness is in conflict that simply cannot be addressed in that moment. The kind of conflict that you have to wait for another time is the hardest for me, I am bit too impatient I suppose. Which, I do have to admit, I like that I can still see where I need to improve. I personally think that as long as you can see where you can improve, you have a course of action and that is a good indication that your mental illness is not taking over. The moment that you sit back and think, "OK, well, all the rest is out there, because I got me under control" is a good indicator that your mental illness is in the driver seat.

Gradually this awareness of mine of this outcome I desperately didn't want started to feel so real that I felt like I had literally stepped outside of myself and I was able to observe that reaction, the ineffective one, as if I was watching it without an attachment to it. I was able to observe and not judge, no judgement because it wasn't really happening. It was only a possibility of what could happen. 

In this experience, the other skills of effective conflict resolution was not working because, as we know our skills govern what we choose to do, not the other person. Often times we can persuade the other person to respond a certain way, or we can affect their response in our favor. But sometimes, no matter what skill we use, it does not stop the other person from being ineffective. Does that mean our skills did not work? Honestly, I am still grappling with that one. Yes and no would be my answer in this moment, and that I can honestly say would be an answer more from my emotion mind than my logic mind and I don't know  how accurate that is right now. 

The outcome? I did end up behaving very closely to the outcome that I did not want. I say closely because after some time and quite a bit of using my skills, I was tired and I felt that flop from "on board" to that slippery slope of "way off baseline". In hind sight, I find it quite intriguing that I know so very well the physical feeling that is attached to it. Which of course is a good thing because that gives me that many more tools to be able to act before I engage. 

My world does not consist of zero episodes. I think that a life absent of any episodes is unrealistic. Rather, I accept that my life will have ups and downs and it will have emotional episodes that are unpleasant and ineffective. I will fail to use some of my skills from time to time. The difference from this me and the one in 2008 is dying is no longer an option. What is happening to me in any given moment is not my entire life, it is not a predictor of the worth of my life and I believe that. 

The me 4 years ago did not see that an emotional episode does not mean I am a failure or worthless, I didn't do this to myself and I don't have to hurt myself (and those who love me) because I am hurting. Don't get me wrong, the hurt is so bad sometimes I can barely breath. I physically at times, feel as though I cannot move one more limb, but what I know now is that that feeling will pass. I have established a safety net, that when I cannot see that, when I honestly cannot know that this moment will pass and that Aj loves me, and that the world is not black and white, I then know and trust that my mental illness has taken over the reigns and I must then divert to crisis management to avoid target behavior. This is what living without medication is like. It may sound overwhelming and believe you me, it is at times, but really just keeping a steady understanding of this undertaking...daily....usually keeps my driver seat occupied with skills and there is no room for my mental illness to take over. It is when I don't take care of my needs, or vulnerabilities that it becomes dangerous. 

Sunday... this "outside myself" experience... I flop back and forth a bit about whether I should classify it as a failure, because I did behave badly. (On a scale of 1-10 badly for this chapter of my life, I'd say it was a 4 ~ If I were to use the scale I lived on 2 years ago? It would rate a 2, the scale 4 years ago? It wouldn't even have rated - there is some perspective for you) However, after typing this out and exposing some of the realities of it all that I hadn't yet considered, I believe it to be another learning experience. I was able to see what I didn't want to happen, I attempted to make adjustments within my control. I went down that road and as I sat on my bedroom floor crying I played the image I was wanting so badly to avoid in my head something happened...I was OK with myself. Inside I understood that this conflict was the other parties inability to understand me. I had done what I was responsible for, I had asserted myself gently, I had expressed myself and I had validated the other person. I had made my request. I was being told "no" - which that other person has every right to say, whether I think it is right or wrong, I was not going to be given what I needed. I had to change my needs. Rather, I had to understand that what I believed to be a need was in fact a preference and that I could go on without that " need" being fulfilled. No matter how "wrong" I believed it to be.

Yes, I cried. I allowed myself to cry. It was OK to mourn the loss of something very important to you. No, I did not have to stand up and go about my day as if nothing were wrong. I was not obligated to pretend that I wasn't hurt, I was. Seeing that ineffective outcome early on forced me to recognize that it didn't need to go that far. I could be hurt, I could cry, and I could be OK. I was OK. And any parties to the experience were then going to have to own their own stuff and I wasn't going to take on their thoughts of how they thought that I should or should not be feeling. They could keep that, they owned it, not me. Often times my pain comes from me taking possession of something that does not belong to me. At the end of the day, I own whats part of me and the other person owns whats part of them and we owe it to ourselves to keep it that way. 

 Thanks for reading. 

If anyone else has had experiences with this, please share. There is nothing more that I would love to see with this blog than interactivity. 

~MJ







Pic thanks to: tomostudio.com