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A small success


devils daughter

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To me the notion of trying to “change” when you have a personality disorder is a bunch of bunk. It’s rather a notion of putting yourself in a situation where you can be changed. Now that it’s happening for me I think I’m in a pretty good position to say that.

Not that I didn’t try to “change”. Before I fell apart 10 years ago I could set myself goals of how I “should” behave differently and could frequently do those things. But “changing” according to a set of goals is NOT changing the underlying confusion (mess) inside.

When you have a fragmented or dissociated or otherwise incomplete sense of self, then that’s all you know. I guess toddlers have that and with good parental support get to have an integrated sense of self normally. But if we didn’t, we’re pretty much screwed, even with ordinary therapy. Or at least that’s been my experience. I am still very, very upset about that.

My current therapist is a specialist in dissociative disorders, not PD’s per se. But whether you call it fragmentation or whatever, her perspective in treating dissociation has been very helpful. I glad about that part. One of these days I may outline all the therapists I have seen in the last 20 or 30 years and what the results were. Maybe my experience was uniquely bad, but I can’t help but wonder how many other people with PD’s are out there still struggling, still not finding help? Maybe not so many, I don’t know.

Anyway, as an example of how changing can HAPPEN, here’s an improvement I noted last week:

I was taking two of my cats to the vet for their annual exams and shots. They were meowing and “crying” in the car and I alternated between feeling very sympathetic with them -- hence like I was a horrible person to put them through this misery they couldn’t understand -- then when I couldn’t stand feeling like that any more I kind of cut my sympathy off, I guess, and felt “powerful” but sadistic and didn’t care about their feelings. So then I was a horrible person for feeling sadistic and not caring about their feelings. As I was aware of how much I disliked feeling sadistic a third option/feeling appeared. It’s like “I’m the human being and I know that it might prevent you from getting bad diseases if we go to the vet. I understand that you don’t understand that, but I’m the human being and I have a bigger brain. That doesn’t mean that I’m more important than you – I love you and I love us all living in the house together. But I’m the human being and I understand things that you can’t and that’s just the way it is.”

I’m thinking that may be an example of an integrated sense of self in relation to others. My mother didn’t have it. I didn’t have it when my kids were little. You can probably see, and I can see, how me switching between those two states – overly sympathetic or cold -- could be very confusing. But all I could do as a mother was to try to stay in the state which was most sympathetic with the children. I also had a state of being responsible, task oriented, and doing what I was “supposed” to – be a good mother, be honest, work hard, don’t hurt people, etc., etc.

My kids are adults and doing OK. Not great but seem to be mostly OK. Our relationships are kind of non-existent, though. My daughter is currently not speaking to me. My son and I speak occasionally.

Maybe I didn’t help them develop a strong sense of self either. But blankety-blankety-blank I tried. I went to therapy. I took my daughter to therapy when she was 7 and seemed depressed. I didn’t know myself and my self states then as well as I do now. So all I could describe to therapists was my mild depression, anxiety, and that I sometimes felt like a bad mother. Which overall I wasn’t I suppose, so the therapists tended to see that as me just deprecating myself, which is something that I definitely did. I now understand the self-deprecation as a way I had of trying to keep the “bad mother” at bay. And it succeeded relatively well. It’s just that I didn’t have much of a “good mother” to offer my children either. Protecting my kids by keeping the “bad mother” away, and by doing what I was supposed to as their mother, those were what I was focused on.

Probably that was a strategy I had learned as a child, as well. Keep my own mother’s “bad mother” away by trying to obey the “rules” and “be good”. That stopped working very well when I was a teenager but that’s another story.

So, last week a small improvement, a small “change” perhaps. Maybe too late for my kids but maybe not. If they ever do want to try to relate to me, maybe I’ll be here. Not yet, though. I’m still having to wait for more of that “change” to happen. Keeping on with therapy. Keeping on with my support group. And I’ve added this community to the social environments that I’m putting myself in and maybe some change for the better can happen from the experiences of being here, too.

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