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?