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**The ideas contained in this post are the opinions of the writer and communicated without reference to supporting documentation. The writer also recognizes that BPD is a disorder that affects both males and females, and uses of “she” or “he” in the communication of ideas are not intended to covey sexual bias. Breakaway MHE Disclaimer
The thing that becomes apparent over and over again when working in mental health is the unfortunate tendency people have to ignore and deny the meaning of mental health symptoms. There is procrastination for taking an honest look at self, right up until symptoms become so overwhelming and chronic that body and nervous system are in severe disorder until life is starting to fall apart at the seams, or loved ones are making ultimatums that changes need to be made or connections will be lost. When symptoms reach these levels is usually the moment when the phones ring at mental health. It is also the time when people end up hospitalized or injured or both. It is so sad that mental health can become, or possibly has become, such a low priority in the lives of so many.
Perhaps there are assumptions that everyone should just “naturally” have it all together and know how to take care of themselves, that parents should just “naturally” know enough to set their children up for independent functioning, and that the systems we live in should just “naturally” have our best interests in mind. Perhaps the belief is that adhering to these systems will eventually get us to a place of health and well-being, as long as there is sufficient obedience to the rules set. If this were the case, then why would therapists like me be so endlessly busy? If things worked out so naturally like that, then people with nothing but good intentions and good hearts wouldn’t find themselves in constant disarray and distress – frustrated, confused, angry, and looking for things and people to blame. The truth seems to be that there is much about the way we live and the way we assume that keeps us unwell, although almost always believing all is okay until it isn’t okay.
For me, becoming a therapist did not allow for any of the escape hatches (such as denial and avoidance) to be sustained indefinitely. When you work and exist around people that can see through the bull – with people that are not in the business of promoting and enabling denial – eventually there comes a time when you start to see what they see. Had I continued down the path of giving systems and caregivers the benefit of the doubt; had I assumed there was sufficient learning in my development to function independently and sustainably, I would no doubt have destroyed all that is real and precious to me.
Being completely honest, I DID NOT learn about myself (my emotions, anxiety, stress-response, etc… critical factors in mental health problems) in all of my development and contacts with people… family, friends, parents, girlfriends, schools, churches, etc. I learned lots of things and gained lots of knowledge and experience in other ways, but learned NOTHING about the things I needed to be independently healthy.
Despite my respect and thankfulness for caregivers and others that I realize did the best they could to support and teach me, I was ultimately set up to experience severe and crippling emotional/mental health challenges. Like so many others, I developed Borderline Personality Disorder due to genetic variations in emotion that were not attended to properly (my parents didn’t know what to look for or what to do). And because I was never afforded the developmental opportunity to understand and regulate my emotions, I made many bad decisions and created much unnecessary suffering and stress.
But why so much not knowing and neglect on these matters in a whole development? Where was the developmental learning when it was needed? Is there anyone or anything in particular to blame? Your guess is as good as mine. I have since been lucky enough to have learned many things to help myself and others because the pattern of not knowing is no more. But it is a daily challenge of learning to live with emotions I never learned to tolerate at the appropriate developmental stage. That said, I now see that it is understandable to struggle in such a way with such a thing, being that the world does not make a habit of setting the right conditions for mental health.
I have no problem being open about this. I have no problem owning it, regardless of its origins. I believe shame and secrecy is a poor choice and a bad example to set. I believe hiding and silence keep people limited, stunted and gets them nowhere in getting well. I DO NOT believe in blaming people, parents, and even systems for what they don’t understand. Where a lack of awareness abounds, those that struggle will be dealt with as the surrounding society sees fit, unfortunately very often being punished for having an illness and symptoms.
But everything is just supposed to “naturally” work out, right? People are supposed to just “naturally” figure stuff out that they have no clue about, right? Punishment is supposed to work, right? People are just supposed to have a development that sets them up for success, right? No! When your eyes are opened, you finally see that these kinds of assumptions are downright absurd. Of course, some might say this is just another opinion, although years of learning and affirming evidence from experiences in therapy with patients and otherwise suggest to me they are at least close to accurate.
At this stage in the life journey, it has become increasingly easy to recognize that unaware people and systems let each other down, despite believing they are not. The insidious lack of awareness will find anything to blame other than itself. The not knowing, the not caring, the ignorance that so regularly bears its fruit right before our eyes over and over again. It makes its appearance when families fall apart, when people make foolish decisions, when people lose all motivation and interest in life, when people get suicidal, when there is violence between people, and when there are abandonment and a focus on punishment to solve problems.
I could go on… but realize it would not lend itself to a wise mind and waste valuable energy that could be used for helping others gain the necessary awareness for healing.