My intricate network of defective nerves carrying the equally faulty transmitters must have decided to jolt its self back into action today. I sat for a while in the chilly spring sunshine before my weekly ‘me-time’. It really is such a delight to have a whole hour where I can simply talk about me, and I know that my therapist will give me her full, exclusive attention. That sounds conceited, I know, but I don’t care. I have spent too long neglecting my own turbulent mind. I thought about how privileged I really am while I sat on an ugly and uncomfortable plastic bench outside the treatment centre. ‘I have someone who gives me time to talk and helps me to become a better person; I have a confidant, a sounding board.’ Then it struck me; ‘I have never given myself so freely and truthfully to anyone before and I have never felt such empathy from another human being in my life.’ It feels peculiar, both excellent and shocking at the same time, for I feel extraordinarily exposed and vulnerable having another person on this earth know my secrets, yet relieved that I don’t have to bear the weight of them alone anymore.
We have an idiosyncratic relationship, in so far as I would never choose to disclose such prized and feared confidences to this woman if I knew her casually. To be honest I don’t know if before DBT I would have been able to tolerate her mannerisms. She is quirky and a bit disorganized. Actually she reminds me of my mother; extremely caring yet frustratingly scatty. I got the feeling that I also annoyed her (but of course that could be BPD thinking!). She seemed to resent how little progress I was making despite how well read up I was on the DBT material.
Before we had even met last summer, I had read Marsha’s Training Manual, and shimmed her major body of work: Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. 1993. I am an intelligent woman when I want to be, and I like to be primed and set to tackle a problem when I feel able. I am always able to read. So for the year between getting my diagnosis and accessing the right treatment to treat it, I read everything I could get my arduous little eyes on. I spent hours scouring the internet for reliable sources of information and weaving together the best comprehension I could grasp outside of a Clinical Psychology Doctorate. Luckily I still had my University student library admittance which afforded me full access online to both the British and American Medical Journals. I also had a good grounding in mental health from my years studying Occupational Therapy.
Now all that stood before me was to somehow turn my culvert of knowledge into tangible skills. And annoyingly, I couldn’t do it alone. She was the bridge I needed (but didn’t want to have to rely on) to pass over the violent river safely. Battling the raging currents of emotion alone was not working anymore, but I couldn’t see that. I fought for weeks not only against my emotions, but against this woman who said she knew a better way across and wanted to help me get there. I didn’t believe her. She couldn’t understand my internal conflict, no-one could.
At first I thought she came across patronizing, one of the many things which annoy me about her. Yet, as the weeks wore on, I realized she was merely reciting little Marsha-isims. “How can you create a life worth living, if you are not willing to participate in the therapy?” And every time I would be self critical or chastise myself for my transgressions, she would pipe up and bluntly cut across me; “That’s a judgment!!!” So for a while I stopped talking, I stopped telling her anything and I continued down my white watered river of destruction!
Now that I am a few months down the watercourse, the rapids are less frequent and some tributaries of support have joined my journey towards the sea of recovery. The emotions are still there as is the water in the river, but I have more energy to swim back and survey the journey as the intensity of the emotions have subsided and the volume of support has grown.
Even though we still don’t always see eye to eye, I am now at peace with my therapist and the service as a whole. I can see how far I have come, and how far I still have to go, but like the river, it only really flows in one direction… towards the sea. I guess my route has simply taken a small meander along that path.