Borderline Blog Quick Hits: Random Points and Questions

Instead of writing my usual lengthy entry, I thought I’d write a few “quick hits”, or points that I’ve thought about throughout my struggle with depression and BPD. Some are anecdotal and personal in nature, while others are global comments about BPD. BPD Quick Hits – 11/29/2009

  1. I always have music playing in my head. I used to think this meant I was to be a great musician, but that reality didn’t bare itself out. After studying music and through College, I learned that one needs to possess innate talent and an immense inner drive to be a successful artist. As someone with BPD, I notice my soundtrack is constantly playing, usually relative to my mood. If I’m lonely or heartsick, it’s love songs or slow music; if I’m excited it’s hard rock or techno; if I’m in a focused mood, it’s house. Needless to say, the constant stream of music in my head can be entertaining, but also doesn’t allow my mind to quiet down. It can be hard to sleep at night when music is running laps around your brain.
  2. I want what I can’t have (relationships). At 30, I feel like I’ve missed the boat at various points in my life with women who I thought would be the perfect girlfriend or even wife. In reality, these things didn’t work out for a variety of reasons: timing, they didn’t like me back, or different interests. Needles to say, for whatever reason, I still carry a torch for these BPD “crushes” I had, some going back 15 years to High School. Somehow I feel like not being good enough to be with these women has doomed me to a life of compromise and “settling” for whatever comes my way. I HATE the concept of “settling”. I would prefer to be with someone I really like. Sadly, (so far) most of my romantic feelings go unrequited. It hurts me in the present because I don’t try to move on and meet others.
  3. Perfectionist Tendencies. Nothing seems to be ever “good enough” or satisfactory. If I got a 91 on a quiz in College, I tell myself I should have gotten a 95. If I make $5,000 one month from work, I want $10,000 the next. If I’m cleaning my house and I leave a spec of dirt on the window, I drag myself back outside to carefully clean it off. It seems like I can’t be happy unless everything is perfect. How does one be happy when things are just “OK”, or “status quo”? For me, the status quo feels like an unacceptable condition.
  4. I hate the telephone. I didn’t get my first cel phone until 2007, mostly because I hate the telephone. I find it to be disruptive, noisy, and rude when I’m trying to work, relax, or sleep. So most times, I don’t even answer the phone because I don’t feel like being bothered. On the other hand, I’m a lonely person. If I want to connect with people, I should attempt to be in better touch with others, and that makes the phone a necessity. Ultimately, though, if I’m not in the mood to talk, or am doing something else in a given moment, I just let the phone ring until the person gives up. I tell myself, “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message I can hear later”. Hmmmm.
  5. Picking at my body or skin. This is partially a symptom of BPD: picking at acne, scabs, pulling on ears, obsessively cleaning ears, digging fingers and nails into one’s head, or prying at chancre sores is a low grade form of self mutilation. When I am especially stressed, I feel the need to pick at my head, which has resulted in a scar, flaky skin, and hair loss. I made it a point to stop this habit over a year ago. Now, in stead of digging my nails into my scalp, I just “rub” the skin instead. The scar has healed. Instead of this obsessive habit, now I obsessively clean and prod at my ears, which resulted in a painful outer ear infection last March. I also constantly pick and squeeze acne lesions. I know, this is totally gross, but for some reason, it sort of helps relief borderline personality stress. Unfortunately, however, these habits come with consequences, including infections, more acne, blemishes, etc. I’ve found it hard to create substitutes for low grade self mutilation.
  6. Harboring old grudges against people long out of my life. One mode of operation for BPD sufferers is to feel like victims of everything and everyone around them. To be sure, there have definitely been people in my life that have bullied me, teased me, or otherwise completely disrespected me. I HATE these people and always will. Call it BPD “polarized thinking” (people are viewed either all good or all bad), but I think of it as anger buried deep inside me that has never expressed itself in a healthy manner. Instead of going outside and splitting wood (… not that I do that anyway…), I like to daydream about finding bullies from my youth and beating them bloodied and to the point of disfigurement with a pipe or bat. Better yet, sometimes I even picture myself torturing the bully, and then blowing their brains out with a shot gun. For people with BPD, even the slightest taunts can gouge their way through one’s self esteem; and more importantly, sufferers of BPD carry these feelings for a VERY long time, if not for life.
  7. I have a Facebook account. A couple months ago, I posted my status as “Yes, I’m crazy”. A couple people responded with smiley faces or funny remarks. My Mom, however, who had just opened her own Facebook account, thought that I “shouldn’t write such things about myself”. My Mom has her own mental health issues and is a very brittle person. She gets embarrassed at the slightest gust of negativity directed towards herself or her family. I actually ignored her request, and just left it up. I think it’s a good thing that I can, on occasion, make fun of myself. Humor is good, right?

The Closer: WOW, I just finished watching Saturday Night Live with Gerard Butler and musical guest Shakira. The women in the audience screamed anytime Butler stepped on stage, and heck, they also screamed when Shakira was on stage.

I wish I could meet Shakira for just an hour and talk with her. Unlike so many Pop artists, she is very intelligent, sensual, and beautiful both inside and out. I actually don’t even feel lust towards her – it’s more like a feeling of “this woman, who is so free, liberated, brilliant, and beautiful, could be my soul mate”.

I know, ha ha ha. Wishful thinking. For me, though, as a borderline male, I daydream about ways to somehow get her attention in a good way. I’ve even visited her website to see if there were any “Meet Shakira for dinner” song writing contests. If there ever were, I swear I would dig up all my old music and sit at a piano for hours until I made the perfect song that might catch her ear. She is a rare human being and a rare talent; and more importantly a good role model.

You’re probably still laughing. Don’t worry, I know it’s a pipe dream, but for someone with BPD, the thought of connecting with someone so exquisite and seemingly perfect represents a reality free from the chains of depression and inner anguish: a reality where love is not brokered or bartered, but given and returned unconditionally. …Now do you get it?

“The Bridge” An HBO Documentary by Eric Steele

A couple weeks ago I was channel surfing, and noticed HBO had an evening of documentaries lined up. One of them was called “The Bridge”, a film about the Golden Gate Bridge in California and various events that take place on the bridge.

SPOILER WARNING: Do NOT continue reading if you want to experience this documentary with a fresh mind. Otherwise, the rest of this entry contains many poignant moments and details from the film.

When I landed on my local HBO channel, my first thought was that this was going to be a look at how the bridge was built, along with other stories about important events in the history of the bridge. Well, to say the least, I was sort of correct: it was indeed about the bridge and history, but not in the usual sense. Instead, this film was about the countless number of people who leap from the bridge to their death each year. The bridge itself was merely a backdrop for a larger discussion about suicide.

The documentary began with some ominous discussion about mental health, the Golden Gate Bridge, and suicide in general. It was episodic in nature, bouncing back and forth from personal narrative to general historical facts and trends regarding suicide on the bridge.

The film also delved into the mental health history of each past victim of suicide. Some had Paranoid Schizophrenia, others severe depression, and a couple had multiple personality disorders. Through the narrative of each victim’s friends and family, we learned about a constant battle with pyschiatrists, the state mental health system, and medication: all attempting to help treat or cure the eventual victim of suicide.

The movie makers also detailed, through the words of loved ones, how each decesased person talked about, or otherwise planned, their eventual demise. Some thought that the bridge was a symbolic place to die. Others believed jumping from a national landmark took on dramatic qualities; while a few believed the deceased jumped because it is a relatively quick, painless death. For the most part, loved ones acknowledged that they knew the deceased were in a lot of pain, constantly at war with their mental illness and desperate living circumstances.

Slowly, as each story progressed, the documentary would cut away from one-on-one interviews to views of the Golden Gate bridge. Apparently, they setup cameras at a distant location that allowed them to observe activity on the bridge: traffic, construction, tourists, etc. These views gave way to closeups of people on the bridge. Initially there were shots of local folks, joggers, visitors etc. crossing the bridge, but soon the camera footage began to focus on specific people.

It became clear that the camera operators were scanning the bridge for people that were troubled, and were about to attempt suicide. To me, these views were a bit voyeuristic in a morbid sense, but at the same time relevant to the story since they showed real life instances of people who wanted to jump from the bridge.

As the documentary progressed with family stories, the footage of the bridge became increasingly intense. It was revealed that on average, one person jumps to their death from the bridge every two weeks. This does not include many others that attempt to jump. The film makers illustrated this with amazing closeup footage of people literally about to jump, but are otherwise persuaded to stop by police officers, good samaritans, or family members. According to bridge security officials, this is a common occurence.

All the more surprising were the people that happened to walk by someone contemplating a jump. One would think that in modern society, we would lend a hand to those who are troubled and within inches of their life; however this was not the case with the bystanders on the Golden Gate Bridge. Footage of people attempting suicide was accompanied by people walking by, completely oblivious to desperate individuals who had climbed over the bridge’s 4 foot safety barrier and were sitting on its ledge.

I was completely engrossed in the film at this point. I began to think about the times thoughts of suicide or death crossed my mind, and if I would ever consider jumping off a bridge. I also watched the reaction of friends and family of the victims, who were experiencing a wide array of different emotions. Some were shocked and surprised. Others were at peace and suggested they felt better that the victim was no longer in pain. On the other side of the spectrum, some family and friends were visibly distraught and angry: they didn’t understand why their loved ones decided it was necessary to commit suicide. They felt like there were many other options available besides death.

To digress for a moment, I had mixed emotions regarding family reactions to the victims of suicide. I’ve experienced a few low moments in my life when thoughts of death came to mind, arising mostly from a pervasive sense of unending pain. When my family tried to talk to ME about my feelings, they failed to understand the anguish I felt; and they couldn’t fathom the feeling of being trapped in my mind, surrounded by anger, sadness, pain, and other horrible emotions. In those moments, suicide felt like the only way to permanently end the constant torture.

I also took issue with people in the film who reacted to suicide with anger. Why would anyone be angry about another person’s suicide, particularlay if they knew that their loved one constantly struggled with mental health issues? To me, anger is a childish and macho reaction to suicide (particularlay when coming from men). I guess it comes down to walking a mile in the other person’s shoes: if YOU, the angry family member, lived in a world of persistent pain and depression, would YOU want your family to be angry after you finally made the decision to essentially euthanize yourself? Probably not. To be clear, only a few people recounted angry reactions to the suicides discussed in the film. Some experienced a period of anger in the grieving process, but had clearly arrived at more appropriate, sympathetic emotional viewpoints by the time they were interviewed in the film.

Returning to the film, the stories of each jumper slowly came to a close, and footage of the Golden Gate Bridge was seen from various different view points in its vicinity. In a pan and zoom shot, one saw a bunch of young kids playing soccer in the foreground, with an ominous view of the Golden Gate bridge off in the distance: far enough away to not see what was happening on the bridge, but close enough to appreciate the breadth and beauty of this national, world famous landmark.

As the film concluded, views of one troubled person traversing the bridge returned. The man’s name was Gene. We learned that he was the only child of a mother with mental illness, who had died of cancer. His mother was the rock of his life, and her death only served to worsen his depression. Despite these dark inner feelings, on the outside, we learned he was “popular with the ladies”, and had many friends. One lady, an older family friend, discussed Gene’s struggle with mental illness, and the fact that he had a very difficult life and upbringing. Then, the camera cut to a view of Gene climbing over the safety barrier of the bridge, stooping precariously on the bridge’s edge.

At this point, I thought that we would see some sort of intervention or emergency crew coming to Gene’s aid. Sadly, this was not the case.

The parting shot of “The Bridge” was Gene leaping from the bridge, spreading his arms like a bird, and crashing into the water at terminal velocity. His body later resurfaced and was brought to shore by the rescue crews who obviously came too late. I had never seen someone’s suicide recorded on camera (aside from those leaping from the World Trade Towers on 9/11/2001), and this was a very troubling moment for me. Usually, when the TV news talks about someone committing suicide, they just show the body recovery. In this case, however, the film maker’s months of surveying the bridge by camera yielded them a disturbing 4 second shot of someone’s last moments on Earth.

There are a few other stories in the documentary that I haven’t discussed, including one jumper who miraculously survived and later started a long road towards recovery from his Schizophrenia. That story is one of the better moments in the film.

Aside from that, I found “The Bridge” very depressing and sad. I also felt that the people filming “The Bridge” should have at least called 911 to alert the authorities that someone was contemplating a jump. Perhaps they were too far away…In any event, the closeup footage of suicide was very upsetting.

Immediately before the credits, a list of 25 people who had jumped from the Bridge during the making of the flim was was seen. Of these 25 people, 3 or 4 bodies were never recovered, due to the strong currents and depth of the San Francisco Bay. The documentary did a great job of illustrating the end of the each suicide victim’s life, but did not give the viewers, nor the families of the victims, much closure.

Perhaps this was the final point the director, Eric Steele, was making: after suicide there is almost never any closure, because families and friends grieve for a lifetime. Even more importantly, 12-20 people EACH YEAR continue to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge: a fact which in and of itself made me shudder and not feel any sense of “closure” as a viewer of this thought provoking documentary.