For Emily Iov************

Sometimes the best things happen to us during some of the most difficult moments in our lives. Such was the case in the summer of 2002, after my senior year in college. I left school torn up about my college experience; emotionally drained, angry, sad, and completely adrift. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t know how to reconcile my emotions with the stark reality that I was now in the “real world” and needed to find my way forward. This is how I ended up working at the steakhouse for a third summer, as a bridge to finding more permanent work after I saved up enough money to payoff debts from school.

Work started much like previous summers at the restaurant. I initially began bussing tables, but was eventually moved up to waiter and bartender. You had come on earlier in the year as a hostess, and were slated to work through the summer before you started school. I met you one evening before customers began arriving. You were working near the main entrance and I introduced myself. Almost immediately, I knew I had met someone special.

You were wearing an attractive blouse, had beautiful hair, and the most enchanting eyes I had ever seen. You were confident in yourself and clearly not the kind of woman that let anyone walk all over her. You were intelligent, fun, and clearly enjoyed life; but you didn’t take yourself too seriously either. These characteristics not only made you a great co-worker, but also a great person. I was mesmerized by both your inner and outer beauty, thankful to whatever higher power governing our existence that I had the chance to know you.

As it turns out, you were also friendly with some of the guys I knew from previous summers. This made it easier to talk and joke with you, since I was able to find common ground and learn things about you that would have otherwise been hard had I been the “new guy” at the restaurant. Eventually, all of us began to hang out once in a while, enjoying time away from work together with other friends that well all knew. I was grateful for the times we all spent together: it was refreshing after some tough years at college that were at times very lonely.

Of course, feelings of attraction gave way to infatuation. I loved it when you helped clear tables and expedite customers through the restaurant. You were a team player. You made an effort to be good to other people. You genuinely cared about the people around you and I found this endearing. How often does someone like me ever meet someone like you? Not very…perhaps a couple times over the course of a lifetime.

Once I brought you a handmade card, in an attempt to flirt. Unfortunately, I spelled your last name wrong and I felt foolish. All the same, I think you understood my intent. Perhaps it came across as immature or childish. I’m sorry for that. I didn’t know how to express feelings of attraction to women in a friendly way that was neither aggressive nor feeble. I just wanted you to know that I was interested in being more than friends.

One day, all of us got together and went out for the evening. I was extremely excited and nearly head over heals. Here was my chance to show a different side of me, the one that wasn’t busy serving customers or making drinks at the bar. We went out to dinner, walked around in a park, met up with other friends at a residential school, and finally headed home just after 10 o’ clock. I was so happy to have this time with you. It was an amazing feeling.

On the car ride home, we were both sitting in the back seat, occasionally chatting but otherwise quiet after an evening of fun. Then, unexpectedly, our hands met. It was like a synergy of hope, happiness, and longing washed over me all at once. I played with fingers using mine, carefully trying to tell you without words that I had a deep affection for you. Then, we parted ways. You had to be home and others had some further plans that evening. I was never so happy. It was a ray of sunlight on an otherwise cloudy day, lifting my heart from its jaded existence to newfound heights. It was beautiful. You were beautiful.

Unfortunately for me, it was just a passing spark. We both felt something and expressed it, but life had other things planned. You were still in a relationship that I didn’t know much about. Apparently you were reconciling with a boyfriend, unsure of where to take the relationship and unsure of just how you felt. These feelings are completely understandable: it’s never easy sorting emotions out, especially when they involve someone you love.

You have to understand that after that night – when we connected (if ever so briefly) – I was stratospheric. The feeling I had was so amazing. I was enamored with an angel. You were so profoundly gifted with both a good mind and heart, not to mention physical beauty that was beyond compare. I knew I could NEVER let go, or else I’d be making the biggest mistakes of my life.

Unfortunately, you know what transpired next. I used Instant Messenger to try and find out where you really stood with your boyfriend. I used your screen name in a childish, completely idiotic attempt to find the truth. Of course, my treachery backfired and you found out what I had been doing. You were very mad and felt betrayed. In my selfish attempt to live in la-la land, I had violated your privacy. It was so F*cking stupid of me. I have no other words to describe it.

The funny thing about life is that it doesn’t have a “pause” button. We can’t mend fences and still have things our way. Inexplicably, there are other things that happen, other people that matter, and the uncertain future that beckons us forward. If I could take it all back, I would. Sadly, this is impossible. I tried communicating this to you in a note. I hope you understood. I was then – and forever will be – so sorry for my behavior.

I just couldn’t let the chance of us becoming something special go. In reality, I was just being selfish, putting my jealousy over common decency. I realize that now and get it. I just wished it could have been more. It would have been wonderful. It would have been special. But it was not meant to be.

Since then, 9 years later, we’ve moved on in life. You have your career and your own life, much like I’ve found my way to different places and different people.

If you take nothing else from what happened between us, take this: never before had I felt so in love, and never since have I felt the same.

Good luck and best wishes to you. You are a person with a bright, happy, promising future ahead of you. Embrace that and never let it go.

Is it possible to treat BPD differently?

I’ve often wondered if it is possible to self-treat BPD, perhaps with the help of a good book or some initial counseling from a therapist.

As a whole, BPD treatment isn’t cheap. I’ve been involuntarily committed to pysch wards twice, saw a therapist every week for two and half years (now just once yearly for meds), and still take medication every day. Those pharmacy copays add up to a ton of cash, making BPD a rather profitable “industry” (used loosely) for those that resell anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers. What if I was less fortunate or out of work? How on earth would I pay for treatment? I’m 32 now and can’t get a rider on my parents’ insurance policy. Therefore, I’m solely responsible for my own treatment. Could I rely on self treatment for BPD if times get tough financially?

I was killing time the other day on, watching some life coaching gurus, specifically Tony Robbins. There’s no doubt that he’s effective for some people, and much of his material is available free thanks to the internet if you know where to look. Is Tony Robbins, however, up to the challenge of treating someone with BPD, or is he better suited to “normal” people experiencing a rough patch in their life? Could I really watch enough Tony Robbins on Youtube to tame my BPD, effectively reducing – or eliminating completely – my need for occasional therapy and constant meds? Somehow I’m not sure Tony Robbins could coach me out of BPD, unless I was actually working with him one on one for months, which would cost an extraordinary amount of money.

What about alternative religions? This weekend I watched a show called “30 Days” that was on FX (USA) at 2 AM in the morning. The show profiles people who set aside a month of their life to live in new environments that are sometimes the polar opposite of their own. The show I watched followed a guy who wanted to live on a Navajo reservation for a month, to get better idea of how Native Americans live. Along the way, he was introduced to several Navajo religious customs and ceremonies. He ultimately concluded that [paraphrased] “the Navajo are definitely in tune to something else…more deeply rooted in the Earth”. This is probably true, but could a sweat lodge ceremony involving vomiting and immense loss of water from the body really purge the BPD demons inside me?

What about living as a Buddhist priest? Sometimes I think part of my BPD is due to American society, it’s rapid pace, social pressures, and expectations. Maybe holing up in a monastery somewhere in parts unknown and meditating every day might cure my BPD, putting me in touch with my inner self? Would a life composed of constant prayer, manual labor, and introspection do the trick? Could I really live without the help of Effexor, Welbutrin, Zyprexa, and Clonezpam? Being off any one of these medications for more than 3 days is extremely uncomfortable, let alone going cold turkey from all of them at once.

To be clear, I’m not trying be to snide about different lifestyles, or cynical about religions that are very holistic and productive for both the individuals involved and society at large. When was the last time a Buddhist priest made a shady deal on Wall Street, or a Navajo medicine man over-medicated his patients in order to get a kickback from a big pharmaceutical company? In reality this has probably NEVER happened, and that’s why these religions, in many ways, are the most purest forms of living a productive, healthy, and psychologically sound earthly existence.

I do think, though, that the line gets drawn at mental illness. I’m more than just “bummed out” over a girl breaking up with me; “down in the dumps” because life has taken a difficult turn; or “has a hot temper” when things don’t go as planned. My mind – as far as I can tell – doesn’t always operate correctly, meaning there might be something chemically wrong with my brain, in addition to environmental factors (upbringing, family, etc.) that are conducive to creating BPD.

There’s a reason Psychiatrists go to medical school for years and must obtain terminal degrees as both a medical doctor and psychologist: treating mental illness is NOT for mainstream religion or self-help gurus. BPD takes a certain measure of skill to treat. In many cases, psychiatrists fresh out of residency won’t treat people with BPD, simply because BPD patients are known to be cantankerous, manipulative, and difficult. The fact that some psychiatrists refuse to treat BPD patients surely means that self help, alternative religions, or other radical life changes would not “cut the mustard” when it comes to being efficacious against the evil nature of BPD and its comorbid conditions. Even Dr. Marsha Linehan’s DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) strikes out against the worst cases of BPD.

Conclusion: if there’s a panacea for BPD, we’re still waiting for it. Until then, take all steps necessary to get better, even if it means going to therapy AND taking psychotropic medications. So far, these measures are the best weapons we have against a formidable enemy like BPD.