We have come to the last, and perhaps most difficult to describe and comprehend, symptom on this section of impairments in personal functioning on the DSM 5, namely: “Dissociative states under stress”. When we see this definition, we immediately think of dissociative identity disorder (me Lawrence, and my other me Lawrence); however Borderline Personality Disorder, although having some similarities, is essentially quite different.
A Sad Story – A Case Study of One*
Please Note: I will use this section to add a personal application to all the technical stuff. It is my hope that if you have BPD you will realize that you are not alone and that if I can make it than you gotta believe that you can too.)
A was born into a single parent family with eight children. I was the ninth child and the seventh son. I later found out that everyone else’s father was not my father. When George (everyone else’s dad) left mom to raise the kids by herself, she was pregnant at the time, and her stress brought on a premature baby who never really got her feet under her. She died at about eighteen months due to infection from complications with teething. Looking for support, she had an affair and got pregnant with me. When I was born, she had a physical and mental crash. The other eight kids went into the orphanage and I went to live with my 76 year old grandmother. After several months, mom recooperated (pun intended), got her kids back and started to put her life back together again. Mom never bonded with me because I was her mortal sin, according to The Catholic Church, and God would soon take me anyway. Just about at that time my grandmother died and I lost my bond we shared. My thirteen year old sister quit school to raise me while mom tried to make a wage to feed her family. She never came to my games or school events although I excelled at both. I cannot remember my mother kissing or hugging me until my fortieth birthday.
Because of this rough beginning, I never developed a solid sense of self. I tried to please everyone in the hope that they would approve and show some form of acceptance and love towards me. I became a perfectionist believing that if I showed the world just how good I was they would have to accept me and love me. I must have a powerful constitution (HS) because I managed to survive for fifty-five years. That’s when I was forced to go into an extensive eighteen week, five hours a day, five days a week intensive, group therapy program. That’s when they nailed me with the BPD label, which was okay, because that allowed me to go on long term disability and still collect my salary. Paid vacation. Not.
I have been a student of BPD ever since which led to my quest to understand it, leading to the thirty-seven traits I have identified from the DSM 5* (aside: totally unscientific but makes sense to me. There I go, apologizing again – impairment 2 – for something that needs no apology. In fact, it’s a damn good idea. When I count them up looking back to those days just before the crash, I had a nine or ten on seventeen of the impairments and traits and an overall score of 242. Bet you can’t beat that.) Above all, I had a poorly developed and unstable self-image. Give me a ten on this one. That’s enough for now. Believe me, hang in there, it does get better as we will see in the following chapters.
Please Note: I think it’s time to leave the research and theories behind for a while and look at BPD from an emotional point of view. Feelings from the heart instead of ideas from the mind. So here goes. The play within the play whereby I’ll catch the conscious of the king (me)(Hamlet).
During one weekend, I attended a writer’s workshop that focused on owning our work and feeling good about it. One of the activities really hit home. We were to carry on a written dialogue with the child within. The voice of the higher self (adult) was expressed by writing with the dominant hand and the voice of the child with the other. The following is what I came up with:
Child: It’s dark in here.
Adult: Where are you?
Child: I don’t know. Mom left me here alone a long time ago.
Adult: I was always there with you.
Child: No you weren’t. I didn’t see you.
Adult: I was watching safely from a distance.
Child: Why didn’t you come and play with me? I was scared.
Adult: I’m not sure. I cared for you, but something seemed to be holding me back. Where was your mother?
Child: I never had a mother. There was a woman. She made my meals. We watched TV together but she was not my mother.
Adult: How do you know?
Child: She never held me. She never kissed me. She never said she loved me.
Adult: What about your father?
Child: I never had a father.
Adult No one?
Child: Just you. But you never held me, or kissed me, or said you loved me either.
Adult: But I was there. I didn’t do those things because I wanted you to be strong, to grow up to be a man. Surely you must remember my visits, those poems I wrote to you over the years?
Child: Yes, thank you. I still have all of them. I read them when I feel lonely.
Adult: I am sorry I neglected you. Please forgive me. But there is still time. Perhaps you can be the child of my mature years, like my grandson?
Child: Yes, I would like that. Do you have time to play now?
Adult: Yes I do, all the time in the world. We can have our own special time every day after lunch until before dinner. Would you like that?
Child: Oh yes! That would be fun. But not golf. I hate golf. How about tag or hide and seek? I can hide someplace in the dark and you can come and find me.
Adult: And yes, and we can both run for home…
Child: And yell HOMEFREE!!
Adult: Yes let’s do it.
Child: And you can hug me and say you love me.
Adult: Yes, I promise. I do love you, you know?
Child: I know.
The Silver Lining
What can we take from this? Most of us borderliners with BPD have had to survive with a wounded child, often because of childhood neglect or abuse. Because of what we have experienced, we now have the opportunity through the power of our Higher Self, to use these experiences to grow into conscious beings, to use our trials to give insight into what it means to awaken to the infinite possibilities of the universe. Once we deal with our problems with self-esteem and develop a positive self-concept, we will be miles ahead of the rest of the population who haven’t yet faced their demons and discovered their Higher Self. We can now revisit those days again and do some healing, and then pass this knowledge on to others.
My five suggestions for borderliners
- If you have no self-identity issues and no BPD problems – enjoy the read.
- If you are one of us who struggles with poor self-identity and poor self-image, you are not alone. We* can learn to accept ourselves just the way we are. We can seek a new foundation. We bond with ourselves. We bond the fragile ego-self with the spiritually powerful higher self (HS). We become our own parent and give ourselves a hug whenever we need one.
- We flood our self with self-love from the HS. We practice looking in the mirror and seeing the higher self within. We do this until we can look ourselves right in the eye and say “I love you”, and mean it, and feel it. It will feel like a rush as the HS accesses the pleasure center of the brain. When we do this, we bring the two identities, the mind self and the higher self, together. We enter into the awareness of the infinite power of our Self-identity as body, mind, and soul.
- We tell ourselves we love our self (body, mind and spirit) over and over again day after day after day, until all the old feelings are permanently erased. When confronted with a moment of self-doubt, we stop it. We tell ourselves that we are better than that; in fact, we are beautiful and powerful beings in complete control of our emotions and feelings. We make a conscious decision to let go of the negative feelings associated with low self-esteem, and embrace the positive feelings bathed with love from our higher self. We do not blame our negative mind self, we thank it for being diligent and assure it that things will be different from now on.
- Set aside fifteen minutes a day for meditation with a purpose; namely to become aware of and appreciate the presence of our higher self.
* (Last aside in this chapter: I like to use “we” because using “you” can really be hard on borderliners with an already a poor self-image that says that any kind of unwanted advice is criticism, and intervention is useless. “We” means we are not alone; we are in this together. You may wish to sign up to my newsletter and attend some of my webinars at lawrencejwcooper.ca. These are free services that I offer, because, like the Ancient Mariner, I feel compelled to tell my story to anyone who will listen.)
(This is the third in the series on the relationship between bisexuality and Borderline Personality Disorder.)
As we have seen in the studies quoted in past blogs, there is a definite connection between Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Bisexuality. The first symptom listed on the DSM4 is Fear of Abandonment.
With bisexuals and other members of LGBQT community, this fear usually originates in childhood abuse or neglect. In the object (relations) constancy theory, the child develops a psychological representation of the parent that satisfies the need for contact when separated. With neglectful parents the child may not be able to develop relations constancy and therefore may suffer from separation anxiety that could eventually lead to fear of abandonment. The DSM5 defines this fear as “Separation Insecurity”. It includes “fears of rejection by – and separation from – significant others, associated with fears of excessive dependency and complete loss of autonomy”. There are two significant aspects to this symptom, namely fear of rejection and dependency.
Some degree of abandonment fear can be normal, but when fear of abandonment is severe and frequent, it can lead to a whole host of problems. A person who has experienced abandonment may be more likely to have long-term mental health issues. They may have mood swings or be unable to control their emotions. Self-esteem can also be affected making it harder to feel worthy or to be intimate. These fears could make a person prone to anxiety, depression, co-dependency or other issues.
Abandonment fear usually affects a person’s ability to form, lasting relationships. They may feel “other” or disconnected from those around them. They may have difficulty trusting others, and in extreme cases, may exhibit some form of paranoia. Adults who are afraid of being abandoned may over work to keep their partner from leaving or, in the case of bisexuals, we may go to extremes to hold onto the relationship often abandoning our own physical and emotional needs. People with the fear of abandonment may tend to display compulsive behavior and thought patterns that sabotage their relationships. Any slight may be interpreted that their partner no longer loves them. From the partner’s point of view, the sudden personality shift seems to come from nowhere. She may be confused as to why her partner is suddenly acting clingy and demanding, smothering her with attention, or pulling away altogether.
If the fear is mild and well-controlled, one may be able to control it simply by becoming educated about their tendencies and learning new behavior strategies. For most people, though, the fear of abandonment is connected to deep seated issues. Therapy may be needed to build the self-confidence needed to truly change destructive thought and behavior patterns.
My five suggestions for bisexuals:
- We get in touch with our higher self and practice self-love and self-care and make sure our own wants and needs are met.
- It is important to talk about our fears. we need to have at least one significant other who is bisexual and who understands the issues we face.
- We may wish to be a part of a support group that deals with abandonment issues.
- We can become passionate about our own lives. We systematically build self-confidence and believe that we are strong enough to cope with whatever life throws our way.
- If we cannot control our fears we can seek therapy. We can search for therapists who use Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) which is designed specifically to help those with BPD. Therapy sessions provide skills and practice focusing on stress management, emotion regulation, and interpersonal skills.
As I was searching for something intelligent to write about, I revisited the research section on bisexuality. After reading yet another study on whether or not we exist, I asked myself why I was still looking at this stuff. We know we exist, so where do we go from here? The answer, of course, is that we should be looking at the issues we face, so that we can somehow finally get past our sexual identity crisis and learn how to enjoy the lives we have been given.
Twenty years ago, I was having a mental meltdown, largely because of my bisexual orientation. I loved my wife and was very much attracted to her; we had a great sex life. But I also had developed an obsession and compulsion for engaging in gay sex. During one counselling session, my therapist conducted a survey in the DSM4 on Borderline Personality Disorder (the 5 had not yet come out). First of all, let me explain. Borderline Personality Disorder is not “borderline”; it is a dysfunction involving significant impairment of self-identity, the ability to relate to others, and difficulty with impulse control. When sexual identity issues are involved, self-loathing, feelings of emptiness and worthlessness, and unhealthy impulses are usually centered on our sexuality. She looked up and said, “Amazing, you have all the symptoms except sexual identity issues.” She stared at me for a few seconds and said, “Oh my god, don’t tell me you are gay too.” Well, I can now say I no longer have sexual identity issues. I know and understand my sexual orientation. I am not gay. I am bisexual.
Looking back, I think it is important to address the issue or borderline personality disorder. In an analogue study, 141 psychologists evaluated a hypothetical client with problems that resembled borderline symptoms but were also consistent with a sexual identity crisis. In this study, client descriptions varied by sexual orientation and gender. Results revealed that male clients with bisexual attractions were more likely to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Therapists were more confident and willing to work with female bisexual clients and gave them a better prognosis. In other words, the clinical community believes that we bisexual males have severe issues in dealing with our bisexuality resulting in Borderline Personality Disorder. This means that our belief system makes it difficult to make changes through traditional therapy, and difficult to function in our society. Women on the other hand seem to be able to assimilate their bisexual desires into normal life patterns with or without therapy.
If we have indeed overcome our identity issues and we know and understand that we are bisexual, than what comes next? I think the answer may lie is taking a closer look at the borderline personality symptoms. In my case, I may still have a Borderline Personality Disorder, but I now understand it and have learned to live with it. Somewhat like in the movie, The Beautiful Mind, I now know when my disorder is throwing false information at me, and I can simply reject it and function with the truth: I know who I am; I love and care for myself, and I appreciate my mind and body with their bisexual desires. But that was a long and painful journey. The next few blogs will be devoted to the steps we can take to overcome our borderline personality symptoms.
My five suggestions for bisexuals:
- We accept the fact that we are psychologically and biologically bisexual. If we are sexually attracted to both males and females, then we are bisexual.
- We get comfortable with it. We keep telling ourselves its okay to be bisexual.
- We recognize our negative feelings, enter into a state of mindfulness, and allow our higher self to soothe our mind until we begin to see the amazing qualities we possess because of our bisexuality. It is truly a gift.
- We deal with negative thoughts. We don’t suppress them, we convert them to positive thoughts. We can do this by simply taking a negative statement and turning it into a positive. For example “I cannot control my sex drive” becomes “I can control my sex drive”.
- We look for ways to appreciate our bisexual body and brain. We keep an ever growing list of things we are thankful for. When we have doubts, we simply check out list and recite all the things we like about ourselves.
 Eubanks-Carter, Catherine and Goldfried, Marvin R. . The impact of client sexual orientation and gender on clinical judgments and diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology. March, 2006