Where I’ve been, Where I’ve Gone, and the Borderline in Between

I’ve been all over the place. Impressive considering, as aforementioned, I’m still here. I’ve gone to Dallas with friends (and handled logistics nearly solo), to Paris with people—the majority of whom—I’d be happy to never see again, I went back briefly to California for a funeral and a friend, to Ohio for love, to the city, to a dungeon, to work over and over, but mostly, I’ve gone to the far reaches and dusty divides of my mind. It’s a mess. Admittedly, an enlightening one.

I recently accepted that I have borderline personality. Previously, it would’ve been the disorder, but I’ve achieved a state of functionality and balance that prevent it from really impeding my life in ways I can’t overcome. A lot of luck was involved. I was originally diagnosed as bipolar. It never really fit. I always fell into the ‘other’ classification at the bottom of the thirty-some-odd listings on the Wikipedia page. My shrink, who I’m fond of, didn’t challenge the diagnosis, but then, he only sees me in controlled environments, so it makes sense, and I do have upswings and downswings. They just aren’t cyclical. I turn like a hiphop ballerina—back-forth-back-round-down—in seconds, seamlessly. This may not sound lucky, but it means I don’t get stuck in moods (not typical of everyone with borderline, by the by). Rather, I learned what stimuli can snap me one way or another.

Fiction is my recovery go-to. Furthermore, because the mood swings were more prominent than the depression, which was just one of many common states, maybe the most common at the time, I was put on a mood stabilizer. Again: lucky. Mood stabilizers are a good treatment for borderline. So, I was better. I still wasn’t well. But I was better. I didn’t have any reason to think the diagnosis was wrong.

This all goes back over a decade. Borderline personality was first brought to my attention by a friend who suggested, after an Abnormal Psych class, that it seemed to fit me better. I just kinda kept it in my brain for years, occasionally glancing at it, but not really digging into it.

I only recently learned, after having looked into and accepted it, and then discussing it with my shrink (I use the term fondly, honest), that anger is a big thing with borderline personality. And man, did I have a temper. I mean, I still do, but I police and manage it now. From infancy on, I had rage. More off-tilt luck started me on the path to dealing with it.

The first step was arguing. I used to argue about everything well past the point where I knew what I was talking about. Well, maybe seven or eight years ago, I was in a toxic friend-relation-not-but-kinda-ship. We clashed. Hard. Ironically because we’re at once extremely alike and fundamentally different. We argued a lot. We argued so much people actually attempted to intervene (we not-so-kindly told them to fuck off). We argued into tears and torment, into agony and sunrises, into fits and circles. We would routinely stop hanging out for multi-month stretches to detox from each other, then we’d hang out again, honeymoon for a month, and promptly dissolve into mutual toxicity and conflict. It went on like that for years. Long story short, I burnt out.

I think he may have too, though it wasn’t quite the same. For me, I lost my desire to argue. I started to draw lines. It initially was hostile. I got irritated once it became clear there was a disagreement. I blamed the other person. Gradually, it receded into something more healthy like, “Look, I don’t think that’s right, but I don’t actually know, so…” Sometimes, particularly if I’m low on spoons, I regress and get a little toothy. But I try to stay mindful, to recognize that differing opinions aren’t personal attacks. Likewise—and this one I learned from massive conflict in my current relationship—it’s okay to be wrong. You don’t need to try to convince or convert when you talk. You can listen openly, and if it turns out that they know more than you (woe to those with brainy spouses), you can adjust your thinking. It’s hard. It’s really hard, but it gets easier, and you get happier. Again, luck in the form of conflict.

All these epiphanies fall under the types of things you’d cover in BPD-specific therapy. I learned them the hard way, but I learned them well. There’s probably more that I’m forgetting, but whatever. I promised myself this would be a low-pressure blog and I meant it. This is a record, recorded to process and ponder outside of myself.

Anyway, I got tangential (that never happens). The point is, I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I work. BPD is a big part of that. We’ll likely get into others (sleep is essential, discipline is a bitch, meditation changes everything, referring to yourself in the second person disowns responsibility, etc.). For now, though, I wanted to talk about some of the mistakes I made that caused me to fuck up and drop this blog, as well as…way too many other things.

A big mistake is over-planning. If I can barely get myself to write, forcing myself to write this, then that, then this, when maybe I want to write that other thing over there is going to cause me serious issues. This can be applied more broadly to life as a whole. I need to not set myself up to fail by over-planning and trying to take on a mountain when I can’t even tie my shoes. I need to pick reasonable, small, manageable goals. They add up.

I went to TEDxMileHigh (speaking of places I’ve been) last year and there was this talk the punchline of which was “collect the 1s.” Essentially it means collect small victories instead of aiming for the big ones first (in terms of the talk, the 1000s). The 1s add up to 1000 eventually. What’s more, they motivate you to keep going because they’re tangible results. On the flip side, while failure can teach you, every time you fail, you encode the idea that you can’t do the thing you failed at. So, if you’re constantly failing at the same task, it becomes increasingly more difficult to do every time.

Basically, I’m saying this hot, tangential mess of a post is a 1 rather than 100 (maybe a 10; I just realized it’s pushing 1500 words). But I felt better even as I wrote its initial draft. Because I was writing it. I was actually doing what I intended to do (still am). I didn’t get hung up on the fact that I really meant to talk instead about ‘hey, so here’s why I failed before, and here’s what I did right!’ in a nice orderly and catchy post. And, frankly, I did talk about those things. I talked about them like I would if I was holding you captive in my office and you made the mistake of asking “What’s new? It’s been forever!” No joke, that question involves ducktape and no potty breaks if you expect the whole answer (I lose my train of thought easily; I’m sure you’d never guess).

And speaking of what’s new, in lieu of a better transition, since this is just a brain dump apparently: silence is another change. Ironic timing, but it’s true. Silence: I’ve tried to find it and feel it. To accept I don’t need to live in the spotlight 100% of the time, and that attention elsewhere has nothing to do with my worthiness or value (that last bit about worthiness, specifically being worthy of love, comes from my shrink and was an intense process Fall 2015). Silence blossoms. When you’re quiet the world can get in. And honestly, not every thought needs to be heard by others (another trait of borderline personality is needing to give an action to every emotion, and for me that is usually talking). This one is still a work in progress obviously, and I’ve kinda fallen off the wagon the last couple months. But that’s partially because my partner and I were binging on each other.

We aren’t going to have any time coming up here because of my super tight Spring schedule (we’ll also get into that). Speaking of, I need to go the sleep asap if I want to meditate in the morning. It’s 11:24pm and I have class at 9am. So, sorry to end this abruptly. Maybe I’ll edit it to be tidier. Maybe I’ll leave the snarls and tangles and brambly bullshit for posterity. I mean, if you’re coming on this ride, you should know whose driving. This is a pretty clear picture of the license.

-L.

 

 

Post Script: Reread this prior to posting and opted to leave the stream-of-consciousness, even though the last page or so led to deepening winces. In my defense, I was racing the clock. (I lost, by the way.) Hopefully, the next post will be more focused. I’m still playing catch up so we’ll see what happens. Things will continue to develop organically, but will likely find a form eventually.

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Endless Academia

Preface: 

Yet again, I have failed to meet my self-imposed deadline by a truly spectacular number of days. The post-semester slump triggered by a paradoxical overabundance of free time and excess of things to do naturally left me lounging in the heart of T.V. Land, shielded from the reality of its unpleasantly bright light by the shadow of my monolithic mountain of things left undone. It’s amazing how much easier it is to ignore something when it’s stuck in the crevices of a thousand other things just like it. I need to write my blog entry? No problem. I need to write my blog entry, revise my essay, sort through potential submissions, check the submissions’ criteria for the aforementioned essay, email my future boss about my hours, put things in my car so it stops looking like a rental, clean the office, clean my room, prepare for my boyfriend’s arrival in a couple weeks, and buy how many Christmas presents? Oh look! A new episode of Dexter recorded, better clean out the DVR first. Anyway, excuses aside, I’m suffering from a far too often squandered bout of inspiration so I thought I might try using it and finally post the Academia blog entry I promised so long ago. But hey, it’s not like I started writing it three times already or anything. Without further ado, here’s a very fracturally Frankensteined blog post built across days and delivered at last in the form of something resembling done:

Beginning Again: 

And lo’ from the depths of the mostly dead she arose once more to give words to the world’s wide web. As known as: I’m back. As promised (though delivered with undo delay), today’s topic, in the spirit of aced finals and the frosty freedom of winter break, is school.

I love school, I really, truly, and with ardently excessive amounts of adverbs, do. If I did not have to, I would never leave. When I think of taking one or two classes every (or every other) semester for the rest of my life, I think of contentment. There are even some classes I wouldn’t mind taking twice (I’ll try to resist the urge to make this post an ode to the English department).

I have a lust for learning that borders on a pathological compulsion. The tiny drops of trivia that trickle down my gullet each day are rarely enough to satiate the thirst that dries a tongue with “Did you knows” a moment later. Every word learned is one regurgitated to whoever is unfortunate enough to be at hand to hear it. “To learn, read. To know, write. To master, teach.” This is a credo I lived long before I drank the tea whose tag taught it to me (it’s amazing how much wisdom a tea bag can hold). But while randomly collected factoids and snippets of synopses are as much a passion as they ever were—many of them entering and exiting my present education to add their unique highlights—there was a time when they all but made up the whole of my education, a time when the call to formally complete or even attempt that education came not from my mouth but from the mouths of modern mandate, from parents and the state. Yes, there was a time when even reading and writing repulsed me, a time when four notebooks and one trusty pen weren’t my constant companions. Indeed, in the early years of elementary school, I was actually in Special Ed. for reading.

My hatred of the book-bound act was sourced in part in the dreaded and diabolical Hooked-On-Phonics. This “educational” program was, for many right-brained children, either pure misnomer or a twisted metaphor (every time those cards were put before me I screamed and drenched myself and the staircase I clung to in tears that could only otherwise be inspired by a liberal application of rusty fishhooks). I was four or five when first exposed to the torturous teaching device. My parents thought it was necessary because I did not take to words like my gifted sister who began reading on her own at the age of three. Sadly, being force-fed H.o.P. had a violently counter intuitive effect upon me and landed me squarely in Special Ed. several years later. To this day, I still read and write slowly, at least by the standard of readers and writers. A decade and a half later and sweet irony took control of the table and left me holding a logophilic hand (sometimes I truly believe this lifelong game is rigged to favor the most poetic outcomes). The first card dealt was imagination, an innate desire to deviate from reality into the realm of something more. It outlasted my childhood and left me addicted to what fictions I could find. The second card in the Royal Straight, was storytelling. I did and do talk incessantly, always telling and retelling even the most trivial tales as though getting dressed were an adventure worthy of the word “wondrous.” The third card was written roleplay. Discovered in middle school, it gave me a way to write out another life, a different me who dared to do what I would not. Naturally, others followed her until my head was overcrowded with femmes and fellows all clamoring for their own voice, their own stories. Roleplay led to the fourth card: a need for new words, new ways to describe and vividly delineate. This was fostered by other writers and roleplayers whose styles steadily influenced my own until at some point I turned into a bona fide word nerd and a monger of metaphors. The fifth and final card was genetics. My yaya (that’s Greek for “grandma,” in case any of you were curious) was an English teacher and grammatical tactician of the highest order. According to my parents, she passed that on to me and I’m fairly convinced it’s where my English instincts come from (“No, that doesn’t sound right, it must be this…”) because truth be told, my formal knowledge of grammar, like those of so many in my generation, is lacking in the logistical whys of language.

And that, after a winding, scenic detour and a hand of cards, brings us back to academia. It seems so strange to me that I begrudged working in elementary through high school to the extent of nearly dropping out of the latter. I was distracted by so many meaningless things—social situations so silly as to be par for the soap opera course, clothes that now make me cringe, and video games whose names are no longer known—that I did not find the value latent in my classes or the folly in failing them. I suppose it was a necessary lesson though, for after a long absence from high school, when I finally began attending college, as cliché as it sounds, I did so for me. As a result, I treated the classes with far greater care and attentive appreciation than I had ever done before. Every semester I got better at doing the reading, at completing homework on time, and as of late, at being on time. With each improvement my grades gained momentum until they plateaued on the peaks of A’s and have been holding there for several years. I have changed my intended major and minor three times (a major in Business Management with a minor in Psychology, a major in Business Management with a minor in English, a major in English with a minor in…I’ll get back to you on that). Originally, I intended to only write in my spare time but in the last year and a half I’ve realized that would be a mistake. The more I write, the better I become at it and the easier the words come to me even when inspiration ebbs. And frankly, nothing makes me happier than writing, than stories (mine or others). But still, I do not think it would be wise to depend on my words as a sole source of income and as such I’ve decided that I want to become an editor. Doing so would allow me to constantly experience and aid in the inception of new stories and works, drinking in the changing styles and interests of readers and writers to quench my own muses with new knowledge. I would also become more aware of common errors and issues in writing, which would again strengthen my own. And perhaps most importantly, it would give me a foothold in the industry from which I could launch my work, a map of where to send them and who is looking for what.

However, if I want to be an editor of any renown, I’ll need either bountiful luck or choice schooling. This takes us back to the point of this blog, for, as with so many things, obtaining what I want and need requires first, a confrontation with my Minotaurs and the solving of the riddles they read and the fears and failings that lurk between their lines, haunting my life’s labyrinth. I have already bested my fear of college, but now I’ve become too comfortable at this little two-year school and have dragged my feet through interests rather than requirements, leaving me degree-less after five years of never taking more than three courses in one semester. Three semesters from now, at that same pace, I will have my Associates degree with an emphasis in Creative Writing. But what’s next? First, I suppose I need to stop procrastinating and clinging to finely tailored excuses about time and other things to do, and look at last into four-year colleges and universities. Yet, therein lies the next Minotaur. I have never lived away from home (as previous posts have touched upon) and I could not imagine living out-of-state. I am not yet capable of crossing that rope removed from the safety nets sewn beneath it. There’s no need to lose hope though. As I mentioned in my interim post, I have a new anchor in mind for this blog and my collegiate future ties in tightly to it. So on that note, this ramble has run its course.

Stay tuned for near-future posts on:

  1.             The outcome of my driving test.
  2.             The blog’s new focus.
  3.             Adventures in employment.

Driving Me Crazy

Almost a decade ago when I was 15 years old, all my friends were getting their driver’s licenses and permits. Naturally, wanting to stay up with the in-crowd, I bounded over to my parents tail-a-waggin’ and asked if I could get my permit. The answer, contrary to what they say now, was a resounding “NO.” I asked more than a few times before eventually losing interest. After all, my best friend had just gotten hers, so, ultimately, I had little need for one.

The years slipped by unnoticed and suddenly I was 18 and Dad was demanding to know when I would drive. This was a couple of years after I had begun consciously collecting phobias. I thought about his question for a moment and realized just how thoroughly the concept terrified me. I had been so removed from thinking about it that the mere idea had me hiding behind walls of aggressive dismissal.

How could I, a girl who barely controlled her mood swings, let alone her life, be expected to control a ton or more of moving metal at high speeds on highways and back roads, bullied by the traffic teeming around her? It was too much.

But why did it scare me?

There’s a car downside up. There’s a girl half outside it, half in. There’s a girl, her insides half outside. She’s a puddle on a low tide beach of glass cubes and gravel, shining in a sunset of flashing blues and reds. It’s harder to hear than to feel. Everything muffled by her pained pulse. There’s a man, his edges indistinct, blurring into the blinding lights behind him. He doesn’t understand that she doesn’t understand.

He asks again, touching her. Did he ask if it hurt? Stranger danger! The childhood chant summons itself into the hollow hole of her mind. She wants to laugh. There’s not enough air to laugh. Why? What was on top of her? A glance up gained comprehension. The door was on her, off its hinge. The door was off its hinges, in her.

“Miss, you’ve been in an accident. Try not to move.”

Why does driving scare me?

Because my brain never stops writing. But rather than be a one trick pony, my innovative little brain started writing excuses on top of its frightful fiction, each as logical as the last.

“I’ll get a license when I go to college.”

“I’ll practice this summer when the roads are clear.”

“I can’t drive the Jeep while she’s using it to get to work.”

“I can’t practice if you keep loaning the car out.”

“I’ll get it when I have a car.”

Between 18 and 22, I drove a grand total of ten times. I hated it. It set flaming nails to my nerves and pounded them in with each passing car. How could I be expected to survive? An irrational fear that I would die in an accident at 23 (spoiler alert: I’m 24) tightened the tension and my grip on the wheel.

Fear mixed with a wounded pride when my brother got his license at 16. My brother is four years younger than I am. Worse still, was the discovery that of all my teachers, he was by far the best when it came to driving. Despite our fights and differences of opinion, we somehow managed to click while driving. It was a Goldilocks kind of thing. My mom was too hot, gasping, grimacing, gripping the door, and crying “Careful!” at every move I made. My dad was too cold, disinterested, ambivalent, and inattentive whenever we drove, more focused on his phone than the road. But my siblings were just right. My sister calmly corrected and talked, pointing out that I was doing fine and my fears were unjustified, though perhaps she was a touch too supportive. My brother was laid back but impressively aware, keeping up conversation while course correcting and offering advice I’d never heard before (“Don’t turn the wheel back into place, loosen your grip and let it slide back on its own so you don’t overcorrect.”). However, no matter how “just right” the meal is, it can’t last.

Eventually, our different mindsets brought our conflicts to the road as well. Like my dad, my brother lacks the ability to empathize with my worldviews. He doesn’t understand why I don’t just drive down and get my license. His logic (or lack thereof) is “Just do it.” Those words still make me cringe, regardless of what they’re referring to. Just do it. What on this planet or any other is that simple? More to the point, how could someone tell that to a person who was quite literally prone to anxiety attacks at the thought of driving and expect said person to not be offended? Offended is putting it lightly; I was livid. Nothing frustrates me quite so much as being misunderstood, and for him to think that it was so simple proved that he had misunderstood a great deal.

That said, months later I now stand on the verge of “just doing it.” As of August 25th I have my own car and drive to school with Mom almost every week. I’ve conquered driving back roads and highways, I’ve mastered not turning the wheel when I check my blind spots, and I’ve even parked in the garage next to Mom’s car without hitting it. Parking in general and backing up still pose a bit of a problem, though they are far from the monoliths they once were. Admittedly, I’ve never once attempted to parallel park. Presently, my issue, the last lap keeping me from the awkward photo-finish that is any form of identification, is yet another concept: driving alone. I’m comfortable driving now, to a degree, but so much of that has to do with the person in my passenger seat, the person who saves me from mind slips and calls out “Red light!” or “Blind spot!” the person who plays the pivotal role of failsafe, of safety net. I know that when I’m finally forced to do it alone, the anxieties will return, the unsteady lack of confidence that can be all too fatal.

I promised them the test at the end of October. I promised them the test when I got my car. I promised them so many things so many times. I promised myself. I feel the excuses behind me, see them pointing out exit strategies and pushing me towards the escape hatch.

But I have a lot to do.

But it’s Halloween next week.

But it just snowed.

But I am busy.

But I can’t do it right now.

But I can’t parallel park.

But I can drive.

Background: Building & Breaking a Boomerang

Rather than Tarantino-ing it, I’ll start my story with a bit of background otherwise known as the Beginning. If we were to take a glance as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, from birth I would be placed on the third tier, which deals with belongingness and social needs. I never wanted for food or safety. My parents toiled amongst technology and the top-secret, building a better life for themselves and their babies-to-be. They met and worked together at Lockheed Martin in California building a career, in my father’s case, which eventually led us to Colorado. With their accomplishments and persistence came means and with those means, I was spoiled.

It began in part because I was the baby (my sister is ten years my senior) and in part because of how my parents were raised. Both teachers, my father’s parents raised him and my uncle in a world of scholastic achievement and discipline, instilling in him the value of hard work and the pride of a self-made man. My mother in contrast, was the baby of a bigger and occasionally turbulent family, at the head of which was my exactingly touch-the-TV-to-make-sure-it’s-cool-upon-arriving-home strict Grandfather. In both cases, my parents took to heart the things they lacked and sought to provide them to their own children whenever possible. A couple of months back, whilst discussing some of the topics that spawned this blog from their bilious depths, Dad said, “My greatest weakness is that I want my children to be happy.” It struck me with the blunt force of epiphany, embedding his wince-inducing expression of resignation and disappointed acceptance on the wall of my memory, a permanent monument to my codependent failures and yet another reason to overcome them. My Mom shares a similar fault to his: she has always been compelled to wrap us in a world-blocking blanket of affection—both emotional and material—vowing to never repeat the mistakes of her own parents. Alas, it is from these good intentions that a monster comprised of equal parts gluttony and guilt was born.

I was a horrifying brat from birth on through the better part of High School. Some would argue that I still am. I discovered at a very young age my propensity for logic, arguments, and typhoon summoning temper tantrums. The word “No” was temporary at best, a weak-willed obstacle in the way of my constant overindulgence and unearned demands. My parents found it easier to clear the clouds and wipe away my tears with wants than to stand their ground and weather the wailing storm. Unfortunately, this instilled in me a sense of profound entitlement. What need did I have of work when my desires were so easily gratified through battles? This belief extended to my academic career as well. In elementary school primarily, but even on through high school to a lesser extent, my Mom held my homework-hand, guiding the pencil with her own, giving answers wittingly and otherwise. In terms of chores, they were optional and my Dad consistently paid more than their worth. Cleaning the dog run alone was $20 task completed in half as many minutes. The truths of this past taunt me.

I do not condone the benefits of my privileged life; they have prevented me from living one of my own, on my own. Yet my awareness of the issue should not be mistaken for a condemnation, it is merely an analysis of cause and effect. Sadly, my parents do not understand. Despite how many times I explain it, my parents think I blame them. No amount of carefully cultivated words, levelheaded reasoning, psychological references, or frustrated, “No that’s not what I mea—“s will make them accept that it is not blame. It is an inference, it is the logical deduction that led me to lap up the bounty of bread crumbs, following them back to the kindness-caressed but ultimately careless child who dropped them. As my mom says, “It is what it is.” No parent can predict the path their actions will pave for their child. Maybe they’ll eventually grasp my guilt, my understanding, my shared responsibility for what happened. After all, it’s not as though I’m free of fault. My eyes never closed on the light of my selfishness, they never turned from trials I put people through, from the unnecessary force exerted to obtain trivialities and avoid work. Choices were made (often in the form of mistakes) and ultimately, the consequences are mine to bear, and mine to best. I love my parents and appreciate what they’ve done and continue to do regardless of the outcome, and hopefully I’ll be able to fix what I’ve broken and better what I haven’t. With a will repurposed towards working my world into what it should have been all along, into a place where I pull my weight and continue to push forward, I’m going to take the first step.

It all starts here, with a blog, a brat, and a bit of hope.