What does abuse do to you?

This is a very difficult post for me, even anonymously, to share publicly. The word ‘abuse’ is a big and scary one and I wouldn’t classify anything I’ve been through as that, though I know others would disagree. 

In light of my recent post ‘recovery’, I’d like to be able to follow it up with a second post that looks more honestly at the shadows behind that word. In many ways, I think DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) has actually been unhelpful to me. I feel almost as though the past year has taught me how not to cry, how not to react to terror and torment and so reinforced many of the lessons I learned as a child. My therapist, possibly not to her fault, actively discouraged me talking of anything vaguely traumatic and helped gloss over everything that is my life. This has helped me in some ways, it’s arguable reduced some of the ‘BPD’ symptoms (though, I am not sure if I have just made allowances for this elsewhere). The thing it really hasn’t helped me with, and if anything has pushed me further into the hands of denial with, is my PTSD. 

Post traumatic stress disorder. What a phrase. 

I’ve suffered this arguably since I was a child, though obviously I wouldn’t have seen it that way then and I still don’t really now. I have nightmares every night, sure. I have night terrors still, like a child and wake myself up screaming and fighting. And then there’s the day times. Every half step, something seems to trigger my memory and I find myself wincing or bracing to fight my way out. It’s exhausting. It sounds like something out of a movie, but it’s not. It’s really not. This is my life. 

I feel like I am trapped in my childhood, and that wasn’t a good place to be. 

So these are some of the symptoms DBT has not helped me deal with. These are the manifestations of a constant overflow of traumatic memories, one after the other flooding my brain and frying it’s circuits. 
What is it like to have PTSD? It’s exhausting. 

And what of the original trauma? 

Now that I have finished DBT, I am allegedly ‘robust’ enough to start dealing with it. I am not gloating in anyway, but I have ‘survived’ a childhood of abuse, neglect, homelessness but now after a year of DBT you think I might be robust enough – thanks. 

Anyway, so this means onward referal, which I am entirely grateful for. The downside being I must now try and share my story again. 

If admitting to having PTSD is hard, admitting to having been thtough any trauma is impossible. I just can’t do it. So I start scraping around the top of the barrel for some lesser, more acceptable memories. I need to portray to this team I am struggling, but my inner autos kick in and I simultaneously need to portray that I have never been abused in any way shape or form. 

So what does trauma do to you? This. 

It terrifies you to talk and terrorises you to not. 

Even the memories I class as lesser, the one offs, even they terrify me. And it’s only just dawned on me how freaking scary this all is. 

This is all I can share for now. Thanks anyone who reads. 

Recovery

I’ve not blogged for a while, and as such this all feels largely stretched apart. Day one of therapy to day 365 with only a few insights in between. That is certainly not how it has been.

Every session has changed my brain in one way or another, forced me to question something I had never even considered before. I still remember first joining a Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT) group. I remember thinking it absolutely wasn’t for me. I remember reading everywhere that it was the ‘gold standard’ for borderline personality disorder and exactly what I needed, but it didn’t feel right to me. In the end, I was dragged along reluctantly by the NHS and my therapist.

Initially, I thought it was rubbish to be truthful. Mindfulness was the core and most difficult concept to grasp, and I suspect anyone reading this who hasn’t studied it for a prolonged period (or even may have) might agree that at first, it seems like utter sh8t. For me, I think the core of it is just being more present and for now, that is helpful. I do few specific mindfulness ‘skills’ but instead try and make my whole life a more ‘mindful’ experience, meaning I am more consciously partaking in my own life. See, I told you it’s a strange concept.

So anyway, this is titled recovery. Do you ever ‘recover’ from borderline personality disorder? I’m not sure that you do. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that for me, trying just to ‘recover’ from it, may conversely aggravate it. I think it will always be there, always be a part of me. Over the course of the year, I have been forced to accept that I have borderline personality disorder, BPD. I’ve been forced to accept its ways. And in an odd way, it’s been forced to accept me. The core dialect in DBT is the balance between acceptance and change. Me and BPD have had to fight head on for this. For every time I’ve had to accept that BPD ‘makes’ me lash out in rage (for example), BPD has had to accept that I don’t want to do this anymore. That I want to change. For every time BPD has had to accept that I feel happiness, BPD has had to accept that this might be okay (again for example). We’ve had to accept change. I’m never really sure if BPD has helped or hindered, supported or sabotaged. Whose side is it on? I suppose it has always been there for (or against) me.

Now I am on strange and unknown territory. I used to describe having BPD as walking a tight rope. Either side of me, was an abyss. If I moved to far in either direction, I would fall. And often, the abyss meant suicidal thoughts, plans or actions. You can imagine the fear. I fell from side to side into each abyss regularly, never really knowing how I got back out. Now, I do still see an abyss to the left. But to my right, is recovery. I stand facing it, my toes clutching at the surface. I know if I try to move to quickly forward now, I will offset my newly found balance and fall back into the abyss. But I know if I don’t move at all, I will never leave my tight rope. So I am trying to find my feet, I suppose. At least I am aware I have them now.

I no longer fear my BPD, nor it me. In the early fights, my BPD would ram into me with incessant force and pain and batter me while I whimpered helplessly. The first time I fought back, it seemed stunned. It fought me harder and I fought back harder until we both came to a form of impasse. Was my BPD trying to knock me down, or was it trying to teach me I was strong?

Now we just stand like two equals, looking at one another unsure what to do next. I have never not been scared of my BPD, and maybe it not me. I have never stood up straight before. I feel like I’ve had a transplant of so many organs during my year in DBT. My chest breathes freely and my heart ticks away casually. My stomach feels calm and knot free.  I feel free. My head is so quiet – how strange! There is a part of me that wants to reject my new organs for they are not as I recognize and do not seem my own but I think maybe I will take some time to get used to them and see how I go.

There is hope, and to anyone in the early stages of treatment or still fighting head on with their BPD, please do know this. I’m sure you know it already, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Don’t just take my word for it, find your own ‘recovery’. Take whatever journey is needed. I hope your pain eases soon, you are strong. You might not believe me now, or believe that you’re capable of ‘recovery’ because believe me, 12 months ago I didn’t either. But you definitely, definitely are.

Take care.

“I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” – Robin Williams