BPD Environment: My Mother tends to invalidate my emotions

The other night, I was surfing Youtube.com for videos on Borderline Personality Disorder. I came across one video which featured an intern at a mental hospital being interviewed about the characteristics, symptoms, and environment of BPD.

The young intern was obviously not quick on the draw when it came to discussing all DSM IV 9 characteristics of BPD, BUT, he was very good at describing what he did know in simple, lay term.

At one point, the interviewer asked about environmental factors that cause BPD. Among the intern’s responses was “emotional invalidation”. At first, this answer went right through me, and I had no reaction. Then, as the intern continued to discuss this topic in more detail, I realized just what he meant: Parents or guardians raising a child during his/her formative years can sometimes create an environment rich for the development of BPD if they ignore, cast off, or otherwise invalidate the emotional dialogue of their child.

When I thought about this carefully, I realized right away that my mother, among others, was guilty of invalidating my emotions on a regular basis. Although she seemed to do it less so with my younger brothers, I now realize it was particularly apparent with me, more or less because I was the first child born in the family.

Let me give a couple examples…

1) When I in the third grade, my small town sponsored a variety show. My mother had the idea that I should play the piano in the show, since I had been taking lessons for a year or so and was able to play beginner material. True to myself, I refused at first, feeling anxious about auditioning and performing in front of people.

My mother convinced me otherwise, however, and dragged me up to the town meeting house to play some songs for the show’s directors. This was when I also realized that my mother has some sort of strong fascination with performing arts and theatre, which I don’t quite always understand.

A few days after the audition, I was called and accepted to the variety show. The show was to take place in a few weeks, and I was to practice my medley of piano pieces in the meantime.

When the first night of the show arrived, I was petrified. I had never really performed in front of any sized audience before, and didn’t know what to expect. My mother put her pride first, dragging me yet again up the hill to the town meeting house for the first night of the variety show.

When it came time for me to play, I tip-toed on stage and played without any issues. I felt relieved when it was done.

The second night, however, was different. When I was preparing to step on stage to play yet again, I seized up with anxiety and vomitted twice back stage all over the floor. I was terrified and wanted to run away, but one of the show managers wiped my face up and I was escorted on stage to play.

20 some years later, my mother regards a picture of me on stage playing the piano as one of her “favorites”. When I was home over the summer, I reminded her that there was more than a little kid playing the piano behind this picture: there was an anxiety ridden child who became physically ill to the point of vomitting when faced with stepping on stage to play.

When I enunciated this emotion to my mom she said, “Oh no…..I don’t remember that….I don’t think so….” and a few other dismissive phrases.

My emotions were instantly invalidated! Instead of listening to my emotional dialogue about that night ( AND of course instead of listening to me years ago when I was a child ) she completely dismissed my anxieties and fears. As a child, this made me feel terrible, and to a degree, still makes me feel the same today.

2) In the sixth grade, I was asked by a friend, who was my neighbor and the son of a dentist, to join him on his small sailboat for the weekend.

I had never been on a small boat for an extended period of time before, so I was a little nervous. I ignored these concerns, however, because I had been on ferry boats and other larger ships before and never had any issues. After boarding the small boat, we took off to sail around the bay.

Everything was fine, until about four hours in, when I realized I was becoming horribly sea sick. While the others were up top socializing and relaxing, I stole off to the head a few times and puked my guts out. I felt horrible, embarrassed, and very upset.

The boy’s father (the Dentist) was a royal asshole, to say the least. I think he got wind of what was going on, and declared: “You know what I do to sea-sick kids?… I tie them to a rope and drag them behind my boat until they get better… I don’t deal with sea-sick kids.”

This statement terrified me, and only made my trips to the head worse as the journey continued. Luckily, we dropped anchor and eventually were in calmer waters and I was able to get some sea legs.

When I returned from the trip, and later confessed this event to my mother at another point during my trip home this summer, she again dismissed me: “Oh I don’t think that is true….That probably wouldn’t happen…”

The point was not IF I would be dragged behind a boat puking my brains out – the point was that I was in a new situation and suffered from sea-sickness, anxiety, and possibly even a panic attack. I felt trapped on that boat: I had no where to go, and simply had to suck it up for 24 hours.

Emotions Invalidated!!!

My mother had the opportunity to have a dialogue with me about my anxieties and fears, but she instead passed them off as if she was swatting away an annoying gnat.

What she should have done was said: “Wow…. I’m really sorry that happened. Let’s talk about it and think of ways to deal with these situations in the future…”

And, given the fact that my anxiety and vomitting was not an isolated incident, she should have seen the writing on the wall and taken me to a counselor immediately. Instead, however, she chose the easy route and completely invalidated my feelings, making me feel as if my emotions were wrong, inappropriate, over-blown, overly dramatic, etc.

To all parents of BPD kids out there: Yes, BPD can be dramatic and very emotional, but remember, inside every sufferer of BPD is a human being that has fears, worries, and emotions that cause them pain. Don’t ignore what your child is saying if they are confessing an emotional incident that caused them great stress and panic. Listen and have an honest talk with them.

What’s more, if you don’t feel you have the ability to have such talks with your child, take them to a counselor or child psychologist who has the skills and tools necessary to provide coping mechanisms for the future.

Perhaps my mother does not understand or process emotions. Perhaps not? I’m not so certain. Either way, what she surely did was provide a toxic environment where painful emotions were ignored.

Without a doubt, the intern on the Youtube.com video was right: Invalidating emotions leads to emotional disarray for the BPD sufferer, and only makes treating the condition more difficult. Please don’t let this happen to your children.

Unexpected Teary Reaction after watching A Romance Film

I usually make it a point NOT to watch Romance movies, mostly because they tend to bore me. I prefer suspense, mystery, crime dramas, or thrillers because they keep me more mentally stimulated. Such films make me feel more engaged and I like to think ahead and try to figure out the plots.

Last night, however, I found myself unexpectedly watching a romantic film, called the “The New World”, directed and written by Terrence Malick, starring Colin Farrel, Christian Bale, and featuring Q’Orianka Kilcher.

The film, as its title implies, is about the discovery of the New World and original Jamestown settlement in Virginia in the early 1600’s. Farrel and Bale play historical explorers/colonists that interect with the Native America tribes of the Virginia area, most notably the tribe of Pocahantas, played by Kilcher. The story was a mix of conquest, desperation, love won, and love lost. Farrel’s character Captain John Smith and Pocahantas meet soon after the English discover Virginia, and against the wishes of both the Native Americans and other English Settlers, find themselves in a blissful, crushing romance.

The film’s story was quite moving. It was slow paced, but very dense, filled with dramatic cinematography, and care-free scenes where Kilcher and Farrel nurse their romance along with self discovery, frolics through the forest, and the sharing of each other’s respective cultures.

About two-thirds the way through the movie, Farrel’s character is called upon by the King of England to leave Jamestown and attempt a discovery mission far away. This unexpected event tears the romance of Pocahantas and Captain Smith apart. It is especially brutal for Pocahantas, who was exiled from her tribe to live with the British. Pocahantas was told that Smith “drowned”, when in fact the audience knows that he left under orders from the King.

Now that Smith is gone, Pocahantas is bereft with the loss of his company and love. Slowly, the other colonists begin to help her become more acclamated to proper “English” living, which includes reading lessons, traditional female garb, and more intesive interactions with the inner-workings of the Jamestown settlement.

Christian Bale enters into the latter half of the film as land owner Rolfe, who notices Pocahantas right away and begins to court her. Despite his overt affections towards her, she is still at a loss to find feelings for him. Eventually, she ends up living with Rolfe, but barely speaking, and at times harkening back to her blissful days with Smith, wishing that he was still with her.

One day, to her surprise, she over-hears that Captain Smith is indeed alive and well. She is shocked to hear this news. At the same time, Rolfe has decided to propose marriage to her. During the scene where he proposes, Pocahantas is teary and has reservations about getting married: She still retains a lot of emotions for Captain Smith, but at the same time has come to love and deeply respect Rolfe for taking her in, being patient with her, and providing for her. She accepts his proposal despite her inner-emotional turmoil and knowledge that Smith is now still alive.

For me, this is where the movie came together emotionally. There are many other angles and sub-plots that I could mention, but I am not a film critic and want to elaborate on my own personal reaction to the story opposed to simply retelling the movie.

Director Malick demonstrates the depth of human passion, tolerance, forgiveness, and love quite gracefully in this film, and for some reason the story touched a nerve with me. I hardly ever cry after a movie, but after this one was through, my eyes welled up and I sat in my chair for a few minutes teary-eyed.

I think the one aspect of the film that got to me was its love story and the emotions it created in its characters.

I identify more with Christian Bale’s character Rolfe, the well meaning soul who tries to act properly and gentlemanly at all times; the man who kindly proposes marriage to an emotionally shattered Pocahantas despite the fact that he knows that her heart is, at times, not with him.

By the same token, I was swept away by Kilcher’s portrayal of Pocahantas in love with Farrel’s Captain Smith in the early parts of the movie, mostly because their love, despite everything else going on around them, seemed so free, so unadulterated, so engrossing and joyous.

What made me so teary eyed was that I felt these two perspectives of love and human relations are absent in my life. I know this may sound like a selfish reaction to a story about other people, but I realized by the time the film ended that one of life’s simplest, yet most complicated emotions, is not really present in my life.

I saw the enamoured Captain Smith and the dutiful nature of Rolfe as two juxtaposed types of love that when balanced, create the most wonderful of bonds: in this case, we saw how these men came to love and adore Pocahantas, a free spirited soul touched by nature, an open heart, and a liberated mind.

My constant struggle with BPD, depression, and diabetes robs me of a lot of happiness and energy, and as a result, I don’t find myself in situations where I can create and enjoy the emotions of love in my life.

If I take this film literally, I suppose that I should go out looking for a girl in a completely different culture that does not place value on the material things that drive me to get up and work everyday, just as Captain Smith found with Pocahantas when reflecting on the differences between the English colonists and Native Americans.

In reality, however, I think that the aching loneliness I feel can be filled by any variety of love…the fact to the matter is that I am not in a relationship (and haven’t been for a long time) and therefore I have lost touch with this emotion.

Love is everything Malick portrayed it to be in his masteful film, and in the end, the sadness I felt is the result of feeling a vast void in my heart where these feelings should be present.

In non-poetic terms, I need a girlfriend. More specifically, it doesn’t matter who she is as much as what we will come to feel and experience together: feelings that enlighten the heart, lift the soul, and bring happiness to the otherwise daily drudgery of life.

After about 20 minutes of crying I went online and read a few reviews of the film and watched some out-takes. The words of others helped bring me back into focus and also served as a reminder that movies are just stories retold in pictures and words – and that reality is not always main element at play.

I must say, however, that I was thankful for this work of art because it struck me in a way that made me think about my life, what makes ( or would make ) me happy, and what I want more than anything else. Whether you cry or not, “The New World” is worth watching, and it illicited buried feelings inside me that needed to come out and express themselves.

Is there any significance to dreaming at night?

This post is in someways a continuation of my note to L B, but in other ways general commentary on dreaming while asleep.

I had a vivid dream this morning: I was with Ms. B in a stereotypical romantic situation. The dream stopped when my alarm sounded, and I jumped up to turn it off.

Every time I have dreams about women I’ve met that revolve around romance, marriage, family, or sharing futures together, I often wonder why these thoughts pre-occupy my subconscious.

Is my subconscious my true self, that only surfaces when my mind is at ease while asleep? Is it an alter reality where the things I want/wanted to happen become real? Or is it mearly random thought combined with feelings of loneliness and heartache?

Having dreams with women who I know are essentially unattainable (married, with families, have a boyfriend etc.) makes me happy but annoyed at the same time. The feelings of dreamy intimacy and fruition of what I wanted my life to look like feels addictively good; but, when I wake up, I ask myself to return to reality and this realization hurts.

To some degree, I have to accept the fact that some things have a strong probability of NEVER happening. I try not to believe in the impossibile, but I am also a realist and know that the physics of life and emotion take us away from alter-realities we desire.

Part of me thinks that I dream about women from my past (particularly those who are now out of my life and in relationships or married) because it is a “safe” fantasy to have: On one side of the coin, I enjoy the thoughts and mental imagery immensely, but on the other, I realize that becoming stuck in these dreams prevents me from moving forward.

In other words, my emotional state is so awkward that I would prefer to think about women who are “safely out of reach” rather than put things on the line with someone totally new that I have yet to meet. I would rather, as I said in an another post, live in “la-la land” than project myself into my own present reality where there are potentially thousands of women to meet who may make me as happy, or happier, than my dreams about those women who are already spoken for.

It’s also important that I don’t get ahead of myself. Whenever I meet a girl I’d like to date, immediately my mind takes off at 100 mph and I’m planning dates 1,2,3. When I’m finally on dates 1,2,3 I’m planning out vacations and holiday time together, not to mention ways in which I can show love that is only appropriate in a relationship that has stood the test of time in years – not a couple months.

While this sort of day dreaming is the essence of attraction, it doesn’t ground me in reality.

If, for example, I meet a girl, and we have even a minute romantic interaction, the feelings I get become larger than life. The fact is, however, is that if you kiss a girl at a party, or even go out on 2 or 3 dates, she’s not necessarily going to be in your life forever. In reality, things might fall apart in 4 months, and a spontaneous kiss at a party might just be a spark and nothing more.

This is the reality my dreams hide from me: the reality that feelings of attraction and love may NOT work out for the best. Things might fall apart, feelings might get hurt, and other lovers, friends, or complete strangers can change the course of any relationship in an instant. This volatility, combined with the psychological bliss of falling in love is probably what makes it such a powerful emotion.

I’m not going to lie, sometimes I wish that I could meet L, or a number of other girls I have known, all over again the right way. And, I do wish sometimes that I would end up with a partner for life, perhaps even someone with whom I’d start a family.

But, reality must be remembered. If I distill the elements of my fantasy dreams down to their most simplest form, I think the ultimate emotion that is conveyed is HOPE: a sense that one day, even if she’s yet to cross my path, that I will fall in love and watch the sunset with a wonderful person who makes me happy and full.

…Keeping my fingers crossed…but also trying to make myself open, WILLING, and confident enough to risk love for the sake of love.