Thursday, December 2, 2010

Put this in Your Pipe and Smoke it - an Editorial

Living with borderline personality disorder can be difficult. You may realize your behaviors and thoughts are self-destructive or damaging yet feel unable to control them. Treatment can help you learn skills to manage and cope with your condition.
Other things to do to help manage the condition and feel better about yourself include:
  • Sticking to your treatment plan
  • Attending all therapy sessions
  • Practicing healthy ways to ease painful emotions, rather than inflicting self-injury
  • Not blaming yourself for having the disorder but recognizing your responsibility to get it treated
  • Learning what things may trigger angry outbursts or impulsive behavior
  • Not being embarrassed by the condition
  • Getting treatment for related problems, such as substance abuse
  • Educating yourself about the disorder so that you understand its causes and treatments
  • Reaching out to others with the disorder to share insights and experiences

In light of some admonishing comments I've received about a recent post, I'd like to editorialize a bit.  With regards to my posts - Incomprehensible and It's Not Alone, it's Independent - and my opinions about Former Bestie's recent engagement, I defend my rights to my opinion, as well as Former Bestie's rights and her family's rights to their opinions.  Former Bestie is allowed to make whatever choices she pleases, even if her choices don't please me, which in this instance, they don't.  I don't blog to be agreed with, I don't blog to make anyone else happy - I do it to work through the thoughts that saturate my brain to the point of diagnosed mental illness.

I have a friend with whom I share some of my most intimate secrets.  She's a new friend, but as stolid and useful as a friend could ever be.  I respect her immensely.  I've shared with her my thoughts and feelings about Former Bestie's new situation, and I asked her these questions: Am I overreacting?  Am I being unreasonable? To which she responded:
"I think I want to start by asking what you want from your friendships.  I know that this is approaching things from the back end, so to speak, but bear with me here.  I'm guessing - and don't hesitate to correct me if I'm wrong - that you want love, companionship, support, understanding, people with whom to share common interests (things like soccer, music, etc.).  These seem to me to be the bases of most friendships.  
Then there are other things that I think not all people are brave or strong enough to want in a friendship - things like honesty and accountability.  Do you want your friends to be completely honest with you?  Do you want a bestie to tell you if you think you're making the worst decision of your life?  What if the tables were turned and you were madly in love with someone with of whom your bestie wildly disapproved?  When you were in the thick of things with Aaron, would you have been able to hear it if your friends had had reservations about the relationship?  (And maybe you would have - I don't know.)
I think honesty and accountability are closely related in friendships.  Do you want your friends to hold you accountable for the things you've said you're going to do but aren't really delivering on?  If one of your friends has an ethical problem with something that you're doing or saying, do you want him/her to tell you about it?  Really, really - even though this will almost certainly make for a very uncomfortable conversation?

The reason that I ask these questions is twofold.  The first is simple:  If you want these things in a friendship, congratulations.  You will have the possibility of deep and meaningful friendships based on authentic interactions.  But you need to make sure that the friends you choose want these same things in return from you.  (WARNING:  Radical honesty ahead.  Read on at your own risk.)  It's clear to me that Former Bestie has chosen her path without input from you.  It's clear that you're very frustrated, very angry, and very hurt by Former Bestie's behavior in this situation.  I could be wrong here, but it seems like the depth of your emotion is based on the bond that you and Former Bestie shared for many years.  I'm truly sorry that you're so hurt by this.  Please bear with me; I'll come back to this later.

The second reason that I ask the questions about what you want in a friendship, particularly the questions about honesty and accountability, is the following:  If you provide the sort of honesty and accountability that I mentioned, you need to be prepared for the consequences.  (I think this is sort of the essence of adulthood.  You can do pretty much anything you want.  It's just that for any choice you make, there are consequences.)
Anyway, I know that I'm taking a long, verbose route to answering your initial questions about whether you're overreacting and being immature.  My goal here is to give you a different and potentially more adaptive way to look at things like this, because you are obviously SO upset by this situation.   

So... are you familiar with the Buddhist concept of detachment?  It's a philosophy which (and I'm paraphrasing here) essentially states that you'll experience greater personal peace and improved relationships if you recognize and accept that you can't control the behavior of others.  It involves letting go of your inappropriate investment in outcomes which you have no ability to control.    The mantra of detachment is "Let it go."  It's simple, but it's not easy.  It takes time and practice.

Because you are smart and capable, I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.  Former Bestie is an adult.  She gets to do what she wants, even if you think what she's doing is a spectacularly bad idea.  You have no control over her behavior.  The reality of the situation is that you never did, despite your years of close friendship.  Let it go.

I'm sorry if that sounds harsh.  I'm sorry that you're so upset about this.  It also sounds to me like your feelings about Former Bestie are still fairly conflicted - you had decided that you're done with her, but you desperately wish that she'd listen to you and reconsider her engagement to New Fiancé, and you wish that she'd called you rather than texted you.  For what it's worth (unsolicited opinion here), I don't think it's at all surprising that Former Bestie texted you with the news of her engagement rather than calling you.  It sounds like you had made your opinion on the timing of a future marriage quite clear, and she knew that you would disapprove.  If I had news that I knew would meet with someone's disapproval, I'd be far more likely to text it than phone it in.

More unsolicited advice here:  If I were you, I'd take some time to cool off and think about things, and then I'd try to decide what I wanted my relationship with Former Bestie to be.  Do you want to try to reconcile with her?  Do you want to break off contact, at least temporarily, since it seems to be painful for you?  Do you want to try to split the difference and have some sort of new and different kind of friendship?

And then there are your feelings of jealousy.  I could be wrong, but it seems to me that at least some of the pain you're feeling here is related to feeling like you've been replaced in Former Bestie's life by New Fiancé.  I will give you another piece of unsolicited advice (or at least an observation):  My very best friends - the ones who would do anything for me at 3 AM, the ones who know everything about me and love me anyway, the ones who I've known for 25 years of ups & downs - make time for me despite the presence of significant others in their lives.  They do not ditch me when a new spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/child/job comes along.  They may have less time for me when newborn #3 comes home from the hospital or when they start managing a team of 700 in India, but they make time for me.  You deserve similar treatment from your friends.

And then there are your feelings of envy.  I understand that you want to get married.  Having the loving companionship of a romantic partner is one of the great joys of life.  I get it.  AND you need to be happy and at peace with yourself first if the relationship has any chance of working.  I was really, really happy to read in one of your blog posts that you and your therapist had recognized that you were beginning to give yourself positive reinforcement, when in the past you had looked exclusively to others for it.  That's huge, Beth.  One of the things that I tell people is that you really need to be a thoroughly self-sufficient human being before you can expect to have a healthy romantic relationship.

Another dose of perspective:  You say that you fear that you'll never have in your life what Former Bestie seems to be finding over and over in hers.  Let's think clearly about this.  Yes, Former Bestie has been engaged twice - to men you think are bad matches for her.  So it seems likely that the end result is that by, say, age 28, Former Bestie will have two divorces under her belt.  Is that really what you want?"
Oh she gets it so right, all the time.  And so, the long response:

I want - and expect - from my friends exactly those things - love, support, companionship, and understanding.  From Former Bestie, I got those things, at least when she wasn't attached romantically to anyone.  I have discovered as I get older that I desire honesty and accountability from my friends as well.  Honesty especially - and dishonesty and deceit have caused me to sever friendships without a second thought.  I think that in all my 26 years, the only friend I've had that's been consistently honest with me is Jen, and she's usually pretty blunt as well.  She and I have had and still have our disagreements, but she knows and I know that more often than not, she's right, and so I highly value her opinion, even if it is not in agreement with mine.  When I went over and over and over back to Aaron, Jen was highly disapproving and not afraid to say so.  I told her probably at least twice that while I respected her opinion and thanked her for her honesty, I probably would not take her advice.  Former Bestie also was highly disapproving of Aaron and vocal about it, and I told her the same thing.  It took me a very long time to see that they were right and that I needed to listen to them, and I'll be damned if it wasn't one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, but they were right - separating myself cleanly from Aaron was what was best for me.  Even with the recent contact I've had with him I've felt a hint of the same excitement and love that draws me to him, but because I know that Jen and Former Bestie know me better than perhaps I know myself, I have prevented myself from communicating with him further.

I think I am very able to accept criticism, constructive or otherwise.  As I'm terribly self-critical already, I tend to agree with just about anything anyone else is saying without stopping to give it much thought.  I definitely feel very passionately about some things, and I will take to confrontation to defend myself, but I'm more than willing to recognize the possibility that I need to change something.  I don't often get defensive about my thoughts or actions if I'm made aware that I'm being disagreed with, although I am capable of it.

I guess that is where Former Bestie and I diverge.  I'd much prefer to have a criticism brought to my attention, especially if someone I'm close with disagrees with a decision I'm making.  For example, I am loathe to have to continue living in my present situation - at my parents' house - and since obtaining a job with which I can support myself I have been actively looking for new places to live.  I mostly have my mind made up about getting the hell out of the house as soon as humanly possible.  I have been in contact with a potential roommate, and I am excited about that, so I told my parents and my older sister.  Their reactions were all the same - they think I should not move out yet.  As we had the kids yesterday, I have not had a chance to have an in-depth conversation with them about this, but knowing that they're opposed to it definitely already making me think twice about it.  I know that some of their reservations are based on my past moving-out experiences, and I know that some of their reservations are financially-based.  I understand and am willing to accept that they think I might be making a rash choice, and so I will give the whole thing more thought.  I probably won't move out in January as I had hoped, but perhaps my waiting will make the whole thing easier in the long run - who knows?

When it comes down to it, I'd rather sit through the uncomfortable conversation than find out afterward that I made a decision that had little support, especially from people I care about.

I have no idea what I want at this point with regards to Former Bestie.  I don't think I want to reconcile with her, because I think that would require me to make peace with her decision to marry New Fiancé, and I'm just not going to do that.  I think the outcome I'd like to see is for them to break up so that she can take a look at how stupid she's being from a different perspective.  And then she should come to me with an apology for not listening and a vow that from that point forward she will take into account my opinions and my advice when making life-changing decisions.  I don't see this happening, but I can hope.  I am not a big enough person to be able to "split the difference" and start over.  There is just too much history there - for both of us - of not listening to each other and making dumb choices.  

I absolutely feel like New Fiancé has replaced me in Former Bestie's life, but this is also not a new occurrence with regards to her romantic attachments.  It has ALWAYS bothered me that when Former Bestie would find a new guy to spend her time and energy on, that our closeness seemed to dissipate, only to be reappear when she eventually (and always) became annoyed by the guy.  I will however concede that a close long-distance friendship is already hard to maintain and that I always allowed some leeway when it came to our closeness because neither of us were actively involved in the other's life, being located physically over 1,000 miles apart.  

But apparently I have some very deep-seated abandonment issues (the source of which is undergoing investigation), although they're not without their own merit - I seem to be the kind of person that others are fine with forgetting about when someone "better" comes along.  This is not the first friendship that has ended this way, either.  After Former Bestie moved away Junior year of high school, I had to find new attachments, and I found a great one right at the beginning of Senior year - and she and I clicked right away and became very close.  We spent endless hours together, and even went up to Colorado State University together.  It was while we were up there that she became romantically involved with someone who was a mutual friend of ours, and after that I stopped getting invited to spend time with the group I had been a part of.  In fourth grade I had a mini-panic attack after my best friend's birthday party at which she spent all the time with the boy I had a crush on.  As her best friend, I got to be the one to spend the night at her house after the party, and she'd had so much fun with this boy that they'd made plans to go to the pool again the next day, and I knew I would be going along as the third-wheel.

I invest a lot in my close friends, and I want the same investment in return, which is probably why I get so hurt when I discover that I was merely a place-holder until something better came along - which is exactly how I feel and have felt with Former Bestie.  In the past, I've forgiven her transgressions and been supportive and compassionate when she'd break up with whatever guy it was at the time, and bask in the glow of her attention once again.  I just simply do not believe I can do that this time around.  I have to have enough love and respect for myself to be upset that she's hurt me so much.  One night when I was visiting Hawaii last year, I got into a physical altercation with Aaron, and I was freaking out.  Obviously it was even worse when I tried calling everyone I could think of only to remember that it was 4 hours later in the contiguous US (so like 3am in Washington, and 4am in Colorado) and everyone was asleep.  Former Bestie's phone was on silent.  In my opinion, I should have been able to get a hold of my best friend so that she could properly advise me in the steps I should take from that point.  I was able to get a hold of Kara instead but she wasn't nearly as familiar with my situation with Aaron as Former Bestie was.

As for my envy and jealousy (and yes, they are two different things) - I have succeeded in obstructing any real possibility I've had for any kind of relationship since Brian, really, although it's been since the most recent dissolution of any "relationship" I had with Aaron, that I've realized that I'm nowhere near capable of maintaining any semblance of a healthy relationship with a man until I can get my shit together.  My shit is still not together, and I know it, so as much as I long for companionship and love, I know that I'm not ready for it yet.  

I'm not sure which is more frustrating or which I would prefer - having no serious relationship in the last two years at least, nor really dating enough to have the hope of a serious relationship, or hopping from guy to guy to guy looking for whatever it is I really want, regardless of the consequences of never being alone.  Am I doing it more consciously than Former Bestie by attempting to figure out myself and my mental well-being and preventing myself from getting into any new relationships?  Or is she being less serious about the whole thing by having fun with a bunch of different guys?  I do know, from my unique perspective as her Former Bestie, and by way of being my sister's sister, that divorce SUCKS.  Some people can pull it off without totally ruining their own or their children's lives, but it's expensive and heartbreaking and I don't think I could handle it.  At this point, I'm not even sure that I would get married, given the choice.  A domestic partnership or common-law marriage sounds pretty good to me. 

I want very much to let it go.  I want very much to let it all go.  I think that might be a reasonable goal to work towards; being able to walk away from relationships without being completely heartbroken.  I'm not saying I want to be a robot, but if I can feel as much love for myself in the end as I've felt for my friends (Former Bestie being #1, there) and former boyfriends, I think I've got a shot at maintaining healthy and happy relationships with anyone who happens to come into my life.

*"Borderline Personality Disorder: Coping and Support -" Mayo Clinic Medical Information and Tools for Healthy Living - Web. 02 Dec. 2010. <>.

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