Ignorant Bliss

January 21, 2011

I was looking for more insight into why some borderlines cling onto denial. I found it in a forum thread named “Mourning for the days of ignorance“, written by a poster who goes by the name Masquerade:

Does anyone else feel this way? l am in the middle of a long and arduous therapy and it has been helpful in teaching me self awareness. l have HPD and cyclothmia and l am certain l have borderline traits too.

Before my therapy, when l lived in ignorance of my condition, life was sometimes difficult but l did not have the knowledge or the stigma of my disorders and lived in blissfull ignorance and life seemed to be so much simpler then. Now that l know l have the disorder/s and have it re inforced by reading about others here who think and behave in similar ways to myself l have actually become more depressed, even though l am now more self aware and can see the patterns in my behaviour and am learning ways to unthink them. lt is as if l am no longer in denial about myself, but not being in denial any longer is PAINFULL !!!!! My therapist has said that this is a necessary part of my recovery because l am facing up to all the pain in my past and not repressing it by acting in personality disordered ways or shifting the blame onto others etc etc, but l wonder if it is all worth it because of the level of pain l am now experiencing?

l feel as if l am mourning for the me l was before l started my therapy, who had learnt to deny, repress the pain by shifting it onto behaviour that was maladaptive. l am also mourning for the blissfull ignorance of the disorder/s and now that l know for sure that l have them l am no longer in denial but it HURTS LIKE CRAZY to be confronted with the stark reality of life. l am no longer in denial about other things, like my poor relationships with certain people or the fact that my husband’s job is insecure and to worry about the realities of daily life is a new one for me but l suppose it is the first step towards taking steps to confronting them head on, something l never did before, when l remained in that childlike state of blissfull ignorance and dependency. l am having to stand on my own two feet for the first time in my life and the enormity of it all is pretty scarey.lf this is what “recovery” is, is it such a good thing? l lived in a safety net before my therapy and l am under no illusions that the journey ahead is going to be a rocky one. lt’s as if l have reached a point of no return now and can’t go back to my former self, even if l want to. l accept that l have a disorder and l know that is the first step to recovery, but the world of adults an normality seems to be a very scarey place to be.

Does anyone understand where l am coming from?

It sort of reminds me of the movie The Matrix, where the general population lives in ignorant bliss, an imaginary world created by artificial intelligence. In stark contrast, the real world is a harsh post-apocalyptic landscape, where people can bleed and feel pain. There is one scene where the Judas-like character is eating a steak. And even though he knows the steak isn’t real, he savors the bite. He agrees to betray his friends, just so he can return to a state of ignorant bliss.

A borderline too will betray his/her lover to return to a state of ignorant bliss.  There was a time when I thought my borderline ex had crossed over into self-awareness with me. I was looking forward to her recovery and willing to stand by her in the process. I truly believed that she would keep her promise to work on herself. But in the end, the reality of borderline personality disorder was too much to bear.

So she detached herself from the emotional bond we had worked so hard to establish.  She demonized me to justify her betrayal. I went from being the Chosen One to being Satan himself. A borderline in denial can actually be very self-righteous about stabbing someone in the back. My only crime- I had lead her into reality, and it was too much for her. So she betrayed me and ran back into her imaginary world. In an instant, she turned from trusted lover to a ruthless Judas.

She has now found someone who she can live with in ignorant bliss, someone who lives in the Matrix. Someone who is willing to play along with the charade. Someone who won’t insist that she get help or examine herself. You see, she grew up in a family that lives in denial. This is her comfort zone.

Like the Judas character in the Matrix, she couldn’t care less if the world is real or not. Ignorance is bliss. But while the citizens of the Matrix are living in bliss, the evil forces of BPD are still at work. While you live in bliss, the real you is slowly decaying and the world around you is being destroyed. In reality, a borderline in denial is dying from the inside-out.

Of course you can’t talk about the Arizona shooting, without talking about mental illness. It’s unfortunate that society doesn’t take mental illness seriously until someone commits a heinous act. But even then, it seems like we talk about it only for a moment and then put the topic back in the closet until the next tragedy happens.

When budgets are slashed, the first thing to go is mental health care for the people who need it most. Look out onto our streets. They are filled with homeless people with serious mental disorders. People who are just left to roam the streets. But of course, these are the ones who are easy to pick out. So many more are not so easy to identify.

When I think about my ex and her borderline personality, it reminds me that many more emotionally unstable people live amongst us. And because some of them are so good a putting up false fronts, most people don’t even realize how troubled they are. Sometimes they, themselves, don’t know how troubled they are. These are what experts call high-functioning disordered people. I can never imagine my ex doing what Jared Lee Loughner did, but then again she did a lot of things I could not imagine her doing. When you are dealing with someone with a serious mental disorder, you never know what to expect.

When I first met her, she seemed normal enough. She was a little stand-offish, but nothing warranting concern. She was working on a masters in journalism and she was a hip hop dancer on the side. She seemed to have it all: beauty, brains and talent. As she warmed up to me, she showed me a loving and caring side that was even more endearing. When I spoke, she showed great interest in what I had to say and valued my opinions. She was good at flattering my ego. But this is how she drew me in. This is what is known as the idealization stage of a BPD relationship. It creates a high for both partners that makes it hard to see fault in the other.

However, as time went on little things began popping up that alarmed me. It triggered my own defenses and made me constantly wonder if I should get more involved with this person. As I said, we had great conversations, intellectual conversations. She was smart and well-educated, but sometimes her logic was a little flawed. I began noticing that a lot of her opinions were tainted by traumatic personal experiences. It was clear she had come from a troubled background.

Every now and then, we would have a heated conversation. There’s nothing I love more than a good debate. But there were a few instances, where the debate turned into personal attacks. Attacks that seemed to come out of nowhere. Attacks so vicious it shocked me into silence. And that is no easy task.

I was silent because I was alarmed by what seemed like a psychotic episode. It made me wonder where all this rage was coming from. One of the attacks was so offensive, I felt compelled to leave. I thought, “I can’t have a relationship with this person”. But she pulled me back, held my arm, and her eyes were filled with tears. She appealed to my sense of compassion. I felt sorry for her. This was a trick she would use over and over again. I later learned that she was a survivor of rape. Though it is not clear whether or not this was just another one of her stories. But whether or not it was true, being a survivor became the excuse she used for all her abusive behavior.

This was just the tip of the iceberg. As I got to know her more, I realized she had a dark side. She use to have a blog that displayed some of her poetry. I can only remember a lot of anger and violence with graphic descriptions of blood. As an angst-ridden teen she went through a Goth phase and an angry activist stage, complete with wrist-cutting and eating disorder. Clearly, she was messed up. But because the person in front of me was so put-together, I somehow believed that she had a handle on her issues. I was led to believe she had put most of it in the past. The truth was that as she got older, she got better at hiding her disorder, hiding her dark side.

She has since deleted the blog with the violent poetry, and replaced it with a sassy fashion blog. She has transformed herself into a bubbly blogger who talks about thrifting and her new life in sunny LA. This instant transformation is not a result of years of therapy. It is a result of a woman who has learned the art of illusion and self-delusion. Just as Norma Jean created Marilyn Monroe, my ex has created her own alter ego. A persona that is much more palatable to the general public, but belies her true nature.

It is only in hindsight that I realize I missed some very obvious red flags. It’s funny, because I consider myself a very perceptive person. But I was blinded by love. Or what I thought was love. More likely I was blinded by the high that comes with an idealized borderline relationship. As humans, we pride ourselves on being an intelligent species. In truth, we are slaves to our emotions. But unlike other animals, we have the unique ability to rationalize our bad decisions.

To the outside world, my borderline ex is bright and bubbly. When she was teaching her kids dance, she was one of them. Laughing and jumping like she was five. It was really charming. This was the side of her I chose to see. But it wasn’t until much later that I would realize this child-like nature had a downside, a side that was the result of arrested development. Like a child, her fun-loving side could instantly give way to a side that was temperamental and prone to lashing out.

The signs of mental illness are not as difficult to identify as most people think. But it requires people to educate themselves. It requires friends and family to be honest about their troubled loved one. Many of these misguided friends and family members think they are doing their loved one a favor by covering up signs of mental instability. But in fact, they are enabling that person to continue engaging in destructive acts. It doesn’t have to be violent to be alarming. Lives and reputations are being destroyed while these friends and family look the other way. You can’t force a person to seek help. But not doing anything is unconscionable. Because you are essentially allowing the suffering to continue.

It should be said that the vast majority of people with mental illness, will not end up committing an act of violence. But that should not diminish the importance of treating someone who has obvious signs of mental illness. While I can’t imagine my ex committing an act of violence against someone else, she has already committed acts of violence against herself. And she has shown that she is quiet capable of psychologically harming others, leaving wounds that last far longer and go far deeper than any physical wound.  But because we can’t see the wounds, people fail to see it as abuse or violence. But lashing out at a loved one is violent. Infidelity is cruel. Pulling someone into your madness only to cut them out of your life is abusive. And until we recognize these more subtle forms of abuse, their damaging effects will continue.

Abuse begets more abuse. Survivors go on to abuse others. With each cycle of abuse, the damaging effects increase exponentially. I guarantee you that Jared Lee was a survivor of some sort of abuse. Maybe it was bullying at school. Maybe it was emotional abuse at home. I’m sure he didn’t wake up one day and decide to be violent. Violence has a history. I would not be surprised if his parents smacked him around. Sadly, there are still a lot of parents who think hitting a child is an acceptable form of discipline.

When we, as a society, ignore the patterns of abuse, we ignore the process by which the Jared Lees of the world are created. That sounds like a bit of an exaggeration, but it is a pattern that repeats itself over and over again. It happened in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, and now Arizona. So when are we going to pull our collective heads out of the sand?

When the next tragedy happens?

Drowning Barbie

January 10, 2011

I love dark humor. Especially, if it involves putting a sick twist on a cultural icon. So when I saw this video on Ms. Magazine’s blog, I immediately loved the idea of drowning Barbie. But then I read all the comments being made under the posting, and it killed it for me. (no pun intended)

The comments were filled with people who take themselves waaay too seriously, including the artist. People who were concerned that this art might encourage violence against women. People who suggested that Barbie was a symbol of how a male-dominated society is imposing their ideals on women. I read these comments, and all I could think is- What happened to these women? What made them feel oppressed?

It’s just a doll, people. To blame Barbie for an entire generation’s low self-esteem is absurd. Have we become so privileged, that we are desperately looking for things to whine about? If you have a pool in your backyard, then you are way too privileged to complain about how the Patriarchy is oppressing you. If you have a college education, then you have what many people in the world do not have access to. So what are you bitching about?

If you don’t feel good about your body, that’s because you have low self-esteem. It is YOUR responsibility to make yourself feel good about your body. Not the Patriarchy. Not some toy manufacturer. YOU. I grew up reading comic books that were filled with impossible images of muscle-bound super heroes. Did it make me feel inadequate? Probably. So I hit the gym and now I have a body that I’m happy with. Is that so terrible?

The world is full of images that don’t represent the masses. Look at Michelangelo’s David. How many guys do you know who fit that ideal? Not many. Should they crawl up into a fetal position and cry foul? What’s wrong with having ideals? Even if they are out of reach for most. Look at how many guys wanna be like Mike or Tiger. Is that a sign of oppression? Or are they just someone to look up to?

If you hate Barbie that much, then create your own doll. Make it in your own image. If you’re upset because Time magazine hasn’t put Nancy Pelosi on its cover, then start your own magazine. Oprah did it. She can put whoever she wants on the cover. In my mind, she is a true feminist. As one of the world’s wealthiest women and most powerful people, she is another impossible ideal. But that’s why people look up to her. Shoot for the stars and you’ll hit the moon. Or something like that.

Isn’t it time for men and women to take control of their own self-worth? And stop concocting conspiracy theories on how the world is out to get them. Feminism should be about empowerment. But what Ms. Magazine is doing (again and again) is keeping women in a state of blame. That’s self-victimization, not empowerment. It’s time for feminists to re-examine themselves. I think they have lost their way.

This is what Stephanie Hallett of Ms. Magazine asks. She is talking about a recent Facebook campaign to get people to change their avatars to cartoon characters in hopes of increasing awareness about child abuse. Ms. Hallett questions what effect this campaign will have on stopping child abuse. But I would argue that you can’t stop child abuse. Predators are out there. They will always be out there. Unless we can come up with some type of Minority Report technology, there is no way we can prevent predators from abusing children. That is the sad truth. But we can make people more aware. We can try to figure out what conditions lead to this horrible crime.

Ms. Hallett goes on to criticize the campaign for lacking substance. She criticizes the campaign for not creating “meaningful action”. I think Ms. Hallett has missed the point of raising awareness. Whether it be for breast cancer or child abuse, raising awareness is never meant to be a solution. It’s meant to be a discussion. In my opinion, the use of cartoon characters is kind of brilliant. Because it puts a friendly/familiar face to a god-awful topic that most people don’t want to talk about.

But in order for us to move towards a meaningful solution, we need to move beyond critiques of awareness campaigns. We need to agree that any campaign that creates awareness is a good campaign. We need to move onto more meaningful discussions about child abuse- What are the conditions that cause a person to abuse a child? How can we protect children from predators?  What are some factors that increase the likelihood of child abuse? Are you aware that children with borderline personality disorder are more likely to be abused? Did you know that people who were abused as children are more likely to become abusers?

And let’s not forget that child abuse is not just about sexual assault. There are a myriad of ways a child can be abused. If you are a borderline, you may be familiar with some of these abuses- neglect, fighting amongst parents, resentment/regret of children, abandonment, absence, silent treatment, mental abuse, verbal abuse,  alcoholism, etc… All of these can contribute to depression and trauma in children. And this can lead to that child becoming an adult who is abusive to his/her partner and children.

Maybe Ms Magazine should spend less time critiquing other people’s efforts/critiquing society and more time contributing to more “meaningful” discussions such as- How do we encourage those who have been abused as children to seek help so that the cycle of abuse stops with them and is not passed onto others?

The other day I saw an interview with Tom Sizemore.  If ever Mr. Sizemore acted like a drunk asshole, he redeemed himself in the interview when he made an impassioned plea for, friend and fellow actor, Charlie Sheen to check himself into rehab. Joining the plea was Robert Downey Jr. and Martin Sheen (all three are recovered alcoholics).  Whether Charlie knows it or not, he’s a lucky man to have loved ones intervene like this.

It made me think about people who suffer from borderline personality disorder. Especially those who live in denial of their disorder. Like addicts, BPs in denial are resistant to change and avoid therapy. Like addicts, their lives are filled with never-ending drama and tragedy, directly or indirectly related to their disorder. But somehow they never make the connection. I say Charlie is lucky, because many addicts and BPs do not have this kind of support.

Most BPs surround themselves with other troubled souls. Just as an alcoholic surrounds him/herself with drinking buddies, BPs surround themselves with people from broken families and people who struggle with intimacy/infidelity. Birds of a feather flock together and enable each other to continue dysfunctional behaviors. Parents of BPs in denial sometimes act as accomplices by covering up their loved one’s disorder. When a BP acts out, BP enablers look the other way or dismiss it. It’s incredibly frustrating to see friends and family of BPs sit on the sidelines and do nothing. You want to shake them and ask them how much more crap needs to happen to their loved one before they decide they need to intervene.

As I said in the comment section two posts ago, the difference between treated borderlines and untreated borderlines is remarkable.  I’m not even talking about someone who’s been cured after years and years of therapy. I’m talking about someone who is still going through the eye of the storm, but has taken full responsibility for her condition. Someone who has done research on her condition and sought to make amends for past misdeeds:

I had so much guilt for the shit I put one of my ex boyfriends through, it haunted me. It was on my mind from the moment I woke up. Finally, I got the courage to apologize. I don’t know if he took it sincerely or even took a moment to think about it, but it felt better.

An untreated BP would find it difficult, if not impossible, to apologize for hurting someone.  They might not even realize they have done something wrong. But the woman above made a choice. A commitment to make life better for herself and her loved ones. It’s this choice that makes all the difference. If you read her blog, you’ll see she is still going through the ups and downs of BPD. But she’s aware of her thoughts and the consequence of her actions. More importantly she’s talking about it. She’s not in denial. She’s not blaming someone else. She’s holding herself accountable:

I now understand the reasoning behind my constant infidelity with all my previous relationships. I could never stay. I wanted something new and even now, it’s a hard thing to keep control of. I can totally understand the reason for the suicide outcomes being so high. It’s a constant battle in your mind and you so desperately want people near, but in return get scared. Then your behaviors are so outrageous or unpredictable, over time people cannot tolerate them.

Running away isn’t going to solve anything. Jumping from one broken relationship to another won’t make things better. You have to make things better. No one said it would be easy. But things do get better. It takes a lot of courage to change but there’s no other way.

In a recent interview, his holiness was asked what the key to happiness was. (What else are you going to ask him?) According to the DL, it isn’t educational success or financial success. The key to happiness is compassion, empathy for other human beings. I guess this isn’t a real shocker. He is the Dalai Lama after all. He’s not going to say that it’s all about the Benjamins.  Even though most of his buddies are rich Hollywood types. Is the DL over-simplifying life? Probably, but maybe simplifying life is the key to happiness too.

But he makes a good point. If you’re the type of person who treats people badly, you’re probably not a very happy person. If, in your pursuit of success, you leave people in your wake then you are creating an aura of misery. And misery always finds a way of coming back to you. Your conscience always finds a way of haunting you. Karma is a bitch. That’s my quote, not the Dalai Lama’s.

Profile of a Man Hater

October 28, 2010

Karen had vague memories of being molested by an uncle when she was 3 yrs-old. She was either too young to remember, or her mind simply blocked it out. This horrific memory would taint the way she would relate to men for the rest of her life. As with many survivors of sexual assault, she would go on to be victimized by other men, victimize other men in return and even victimize herself.

Later in her college years, Karen was raped by an acquaintance at a party. Once a woman has been assaulted/abused as a child, they become easy prey for other predators… Predators who pick up on the scent of emotionally-damaged people. Sadly, these were not her only experiences with assault. It’s not hard to imagine why Karen hated men.

Though she would deny it, Karen was a bona fide man-hater. She hated men so much, she could only have relationships with women years after her rape. For a while, gay men were the only men she could trust. When she finally worked up the nerve to date men again, she ended up using and abusing them. If she didn’t use them for sex, she used them for goods and services or as an emotional security blanket. 

But even in her most committed relationships, her disdain for men would reveal itself in the way she mistreated them. Once she had lured them in, she would begin the emotional abuse little by little.  If she felt too attached or dependent, she would find a way to withdraw both sexually and emotionally (relationship sabotage). She would even emasculate her partners with verbal jabs and emotional cheating. Her break ups were always nasty and would end with Karen badmouthing her ex. Whether she was conscious of it or not, this was her way of getting back at the men who had assaulted her.

Unfortunately, the men she was abusing were the rare ones who treated her with kindness… Men who foolishly thought they could help her get better. Though she adored such treatment, in the back of her mind, she felt like she didn’t deserve such kindness. Towards the end of each relationship, she would resent such help. It made her feel weak. Which is why she always ran back to emotionally unavailable/damaged men. Ironically, damaged men made her feel like she was the healthy one.

Though she loved the trappings of love (the cuddling, the hugs and the kisses), this was all part of an act to fool herself (and her partners) into believing that she was capable of love. But the reality was she was far too emotionally damaged to love. Because she had been violated by men she thought she could trust, intimacy became a trigger for pain.

The shallowness of her “love” could be demonstrated by the callous manner in which she would discard her lovers. Those men and women never knew what hit them. One minute Karen made them feel like the love of her life. The next, Karen would act as if she were repulsed by them. Whenever Karen realized she was actually in love, she would feel smothered and run away. These were the kind of mind games she would play over and over again… Games that gave her a sense of power and control. This is how survivors of assault react to intimacy.

Karen would run away from one lover and jump into the arms of another unsuspecting victim. She was, after all, human. And even the most damaged human being yearns to feel loved. Karen feared intimacy but was addicted to the high one can only get during a honeymoon period. But as soon as that honeymoon period was over, she would find herself getting “bored” again and her eyes would wander. Karen was a notorious flirt. This was how she kept intimacy at bay. This is how she hurt men.  Onto her lovers, she passed on her fear of intimacy. They would become as jaded as the one who hurt them. Karen went from being a victim to becoming the abuser.

It should come as no surprise that Karen was a staunch feminist. In feminism, she found a way to legitimize her hatred of men (aka the Patriarchy). Now she could fight her emotional demons on the political stage. Feminist theory would validate her hatred, by presenting a history of men systematically victimizing women. With feminists standing behind her, she felt empowered. But in many ways, it made her feel like more of a victim. As a feminist, she saw sexism and oppression everywhere. Even where it didn’t exist. The fact was feminism didn’t heal her wounds or make it easier to find true love. If anything it added fuel to the fire.

Her hatred of men, was part of  the reason why she avoided therapy (a male-dominated institution). She feared they would slap a label on her and make her feel more shame than she already did. And so Karen went on hating men (and herself). Ultimately, Karen would victimize herself by not seeking help.

Filling the Bottomless Void

October 26, 2010

When Jessica went out, she wore the brightest red lipstick she could find and the shortest skirt she dared to wear. Not because it made her feel pretty, but because she was screaming for attention. There’s certainly nothing wrong with expressing your sexuality. But when the motives behind such expressions indicate profound insecurities, then it’s time to take a deeper look.

The more people complimented Jessica, the more dependent she became on such validation. But it was never enough. No amount of compliments could fill the void she felt inside. This was yet another negative side effect of her Borderline Personality Disorder.

BPD is crippling disorder that leaves its victims without a sense of self. A BP teen grows up with a profound identity crisis. They may dramatically change their appearance on a regular basis, absorbing outside influences like a chameleon. They may change their hair color, get tattoos. They may go through a goth stage only to go through a hip hop phase years later. Many adolescents go through such an identity crisis, but for BPs the search for acceptance is much more desperate.  Most kids grow out of this stage. Many BPs do not. Without a sense of self, they grow up without self-esteem. Adult BPs then continue to rely soley on other people for validation. Which is why they always seem starved for attention.

BPs in a relationship demand all their partner’s time. If they don’t get it, they punish their partners (sometimes with infidelity). Or they accuse their partner of being untrustworthy (relationship sabotage). Like a 2 yr old, they cry if a partner leaves them for just a few days. It triggers their fear of abandonment. This phenomenon is what the experts call object constancy. BPs lack object constancy. That is they freak out when a lover is unavailable.

Jessica, like most girlfriends, would wear her boyfriends shirts or sweaters as a reminder. If we weren’t dealing with a borderline, such an act would seem sweet and endearing. But it is in fact, a sign that a borderline is becoming more insecure. The more serious a relationship gets, the more insecure a BP gets. An insecure BP looks for attention elsewhere and pushes lovers away. In the end, even the most dedicated lover could not make Jessica feel loved enough.

I just read an article, where a film director/friend said Lindsay was not happy about being ordered to rehab. Awww. Dear Lindsay, just be glad you weren’t sentenced to prison time. Instead you get to spend time in lovely Rancho Mirage. But Lindsay wanted everybody to know how rough she has it and that she is “not at a spa”. You’re not suppose to be happy my dear LiLo, you’re suppose to be sober. You should thank the judge for saving your life. But Lindsay is complaining that this stint in rehab will cause her financial hardship. She has money for a limitless supply of Blow, but she doesn’t have money to clean up her life.

I’m sure emotionally distraught individuals will accuse me of amateur speculation, but it’s pretty obvious that LiLo is a classic Borderline/Histrionic Personality. The common signs are all there: cutting of wrists, substance/alcohol abuse, cheating parent, wild behavior, hyper/confused sexuality, mood swings, attention-seeking, weak moral boundaries, and clearly self-victimization.

Lohan is outperforming her BPD idol Marilyn Monroe as far as behind-the-scenes drama is concerned. (Above pic- Lohan doing her best Marilyn impersonation). Sadly, the media is content to portray LiLo as a Hollywood girl gone wild, but makes no attempt to get to the root of her behavioral problems.

So what’s the moral of this story? No amount of beauty and glamor can cover up a personality disorder. The more wealthy and successful a BP is, the more excuses they have for why they avoid rehab/therapy. Though advocacy groups like to say that people with BPD know what’s best for themselves. They are flat out wrong.

Left to their own devices, a BP always chooses to repeat destructive patterns. BPs are notorious for ignoring the mountain of evidence suggesting they are not well. Even Lohan’s dysfunctional father has pleaded for LiLo to get help. It is usually not until a BP faces death, the prospect of losing a loved one, or a court order, that they finally get some help. But even that is not a guarantee.