Borderline Productivity: What makes you feel full?

I’ve mentioned before that I am self-employed. My business interests are mostly based around internet marketing, although I’m heavily invested in my USA currency collection ( old paper money ) and in a bio-tech penny stock. I spend much of my time working on my websites, creating programming scripts, and doing SEO (search engine optimization) on a daily basis.

During my annual trip home for the holidays, I was discussing achievement and goals with my therapist. I started with my usual line of thinking when I was talking with her: How do I do something that feels meaningful or productive, inspite of the fact that I am shackled by mental and physical illness?

Usually I state this as a rhetorical question, followed by some self pity and comparisons to others. Specifically, I am always harping about the fact that I feel I have been deprived, given the short end of the stick, or somehow cheated out of having a better life mostly because I have to deal with my illnesses, difficult family, and mediocre personal achievement.

Using a topical example, I cited some the achievement and promise of Barack Obama. Intellectually and emotionally, I realize he is a very special person. He has had his share of difficulties in life, but also was blessed with some gifts that were nurtured along as he grew up, finally giving rise to his amazing candidacy and election as President of the United States.

I mentioned how I envied his Ivy league Harvard education, open minded up-bringing, and his personality that is calm, cool, collected and engaging. He feeds off people and they feed off him, and he is happy to be around others and make a difference.

Once I framed this argument for my Psychiatrist, I then proceeded to wonder why I feel so short-changed, so empty, so without direction. Why do I lack purpose? Why aren’t I my social, more intelligent, more gifted to achieve more? Why do I have Type 1 diabetes and BPD, both of which hold me down and handicap me? How is my life really worthwhile, if I can’t at least mimick the goals and intentions of a great man like Obama?

This year, my therapist offered a different, two part reply to me: 1) Not everyone wants that kind of responsibility or weight in their lives, even if it could be more self-fulfilling; 2) Just be another “Bozo on the Bus”, a motto that many 12 step programs like AA use to help people feel more connected to one another.

My problem, as I’ve reflected on this advice, is that I DON’T ACCEPT IT.

I don’t want to be another Bozo on the bus. I DON’T want to be average, chained to a 9-5 work life, and stuck with trying to deal with my enfermities for the rest of my life. I don’t feel this is worthy or worthwhile. I would prefer to be exceptional, but I’m realizing that in some ways this is a fallacy. At some point I need to stop fighting about my hand of cards and just play them the best I can.

But since my return to Costa Rica, I’ve rebeled against this “Bozo on the Bus” idea and have put in many hours of hard, very productive work in the past 20 days. During this time, there were moments where I forgot that I live alone, that I don’t get out much, that I’ve put on weight, and that I feel very empty.

In these highly productive moments, it feels somewhat euphoric to know I’m doing something other than sleeping, moping around, or being depressed. At the same time, however, I realize that I risk falling back into ruts sown in High School and College; where I busied myself and motivated myself out of spite of others to the point that in moments of recognition, I somehow felt alright; only to crash by the end of my college years completely exasperated emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

When I work, I do what I call “head banging” ( no, not the grunge or heavy metal head motion ). By head-banging, I mean I picture myself slamming my head against the wall repeatedly, harder, and insistently until I get done what I want to get done. The end is result is project completion, but I’m mentally and physically exhausted to the point that I need to lie down and sleep.

So, in a way, this form of productivity is productive, per se, but is also a slippery slope that can lead to other problems and aspects of my BPD personality type that, in the end, bring me down. Working because you want to be better than someone else or more worthy of admiration is really a short run solution. In the end, I ask myself: “Do you really feel any better – and if not – what is it that you can do that will make you full inside and out?”

The answer to that question is very unclear to me. For now, I continue to work as I’ve done before, doggedly, determined to best my competitors despite glaring weaknesses and physical and mental illness. Somehow I feel better if I can outgun someone knowing that I come to the table like an underdog.

The core problem with BPD, however, is not productivity, but feeling full inside despite immense emotional turmoil.

How does one feel full inside, and how does one find what makes them full?

Borderline New Year’s Resolutions

Well it’s 2009. Man, after 20 the years seem to fly by. 🙂

I’m going to be 30 this year, which sort of feels like a milestone birthday for many reasons. I’m not sure whether I’ll be depressed about it or indifferent. Most birthday’s since Junior High School have been downers because I didn’t really have parties. There were, however, a few years here and there where some very good people in my life decided to buy a cake and spend some time with me. I am EXTREMELY grateful for this, and I make it a point to thank whomever took time out of their day to arrange cake and ice cream for me. Sometimes, it’s the little things that count.

Anway, here are a few New Year’s resolutions. Basically, the idea is that I’m going resolve to do several things, but give myself a break (hopefully) if I don’t get to all of them.

1.) Write in more often and start linking together with other articles. Some of the entries I’ve read in other BPD blogs are amazing: very emotional, yet telling about this painful, shitty condition that is BPD.

2.) Lose weight. I put on 12 pounds last year, in part because my diabetic control was good. At first you might say, wait: “if you’re diabetic, and you have good control, why would you gain weight?”. I asked the same question to my Endocrineologist, a he stated: [paraphrased] “Strictly speaking, with Type 1 insulin dependent Diabetes – which is what you have – weight gain is a good sign, because it indicates that your blood glucose levels are normal. If they were constantly high, you would be passing all your bodily sugar/energy out during constant urination, which would lead to Ketoacidosis and extreme weight loss; both of which are very bad for your body.”

3.) Try to find an English speaking DBT group, and if not, at least research it as much as possible in Costa Rica. During the holidays, I went to see my psychiatrist for my yearly checkup, and she stated that DBT, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, is a very popular and successful treatment program for BPD. Pioneered by the famous researcher Marsha Linehan, DBT seeks to retrain the BPD sufferer’s brain. This is an intensive process, loosely akin to joining a 12 step program, but is more like a very methodical, constant re-working of thought patterns. In the end, the idea is that the brian will be re-trained and hopefully free from some of the ways BPD causes it to make us act out, get angry, become self abusive, or depressed.

4.) Be more weary of my own non BPD related weaknesses. Last year I lost a lot of money to companies that either did not pay me, stole it, or simply kept the money and refused to provide the services they promised. This was very upsetting and embarassing for me, because I would like to think that I can discern between “the good guys” and “bad guys”. Unfortunately, I’ve learned my lesson the hard way. In some cases, my loss of money was due to my feelings of greed: I wanted to gain an edge in my business and made risky investments, only to see them disappear. In other cases it was being miserly: attempting to save a buck at every corner, even if it meant pre-paying service providers as way to get lower prices. I ended up losing thousands, which tells me my tendancy to “gamble” is still very much alive in me, even if I’m not playing cards at the casino.

5.) Figure out ways to meet others/get out of the apartment more. BPD is a big handicap and the fact that I’m shy and anxious around others doesn’t make it any easier to meet new people. Some people are very socially resilient: that is, as friends and lovers come and go in their lives, they are able to adapt and meet others. For me, this process of adjustment takes a lot longer, and I desperately want to think of ways of meeting people without coming across as “strange” or “desperate”. In my own words, “I want to meet new people, particularly women, the confident way”.

Well there’s five things to work on in 2009. I hope everyone else has set a few goals, big and small, for themselves. Even if we never end up actually achieving our New Year’s resolutions, I still firmly believe the actual process of thinking about things we need to work on is very therapeutic and helpful. At the very least, our sub-conscious becomes aware of things we need to do, even if our minds may be clouded by depression, BPD, or any other mental illness.