Tuesday, 7 October 2014

In the Lion's Den

There are many lions to face in life. The challenges and difficulties that, if left unchecked, could devour me. The most fearsome of these for me and many with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the one called 'rejection' or, more accurately, 'fear of rejection'. Given that as a child my parents could ignore my needs and, my very presence, it is logical that, as an adult, I will have an almost unshakeable belief that there is something in me which causes people to ignore or reject me - out of hand, automatically, simply because I am me.

So, for me the very process of job hunting and applying for jobs feels like launching myself, bowed and bloody, into the den of the biggest, fiercest of all my lions.

Along with Simba, in the Lion King I proudly shouted 'Hah, I laugh in the face of rejection' as I recently launched myself into the once familiar process of CV writing and application letter preparation. I seem to do this well as I manage to get myself to interview stage quite often, and this is where I meet another of my lions. Hope. If job hunting ends at the application stage, then this smaller, possibly more sinister lion remains sleeping peacefully in the background. However, the period leading up to interview always results in him awaking and growing in stature.

A little something about me. My stuggles with depression and BPD aside, I am an eternal optimist. Hence, year after year, I would put all my efforts into constructing the perfect Christmas, overspending wildly in an effort to reconstruct my dysfunctional family into my version of the 'The Waltons'. So when it comes to any little shred of encouragement ie an invitation to attend interview for a hoped for job, I will become my optimistic twin sister, who has absolute self belief. Sham. All this does is build me up for a fall. Then again, I need to be able to summon from somewhere the wherewithal to keep job hunting and moving forward somehow. I guess this may be one of my flawed coping mechanisms, although I suspect I am not altogether different from most people. I mean if you can't see yourself in the role you're applying for, then how can you possibly sell it to any prospective employer?

So far, so average. The problem for me lies not in this side of the application process, but in the emotional fall out from such investment when I am unsuccessful. Apart from natural disappointment, the million and one hurts from all the rejections of my life add up to make for one massive cold, wet, Trout in the kisser! Along with mental tiredness and disappointment following the delivery of the bad news, the rejection lion roars out his 'told you so's'. I am reduced to a quivering wreck before him. Of course he's right, every time I try to move forward, I am bound to fail simply because that's what has always happened. I mean who would want to employ me, I am after all 'unemployable'. Along with this crushing sense of self defeat, I am also assailed by the roars of derision from Rejection and his pal, Hope, 'ha, fooled you into believing that you could be valued.' Again, the overwhelming realisation that of course there's no point in my ever trying to get a job, because no one wants to have me around them, full stop, let alone working for them.

There I am on the floor of the lions' den, with Rejection and Hope (or as he has now become), his alter ego, Despair, circling me, licking their lips. I have a choice at this point, I can either allow all the missiles coming from the ghosts of my past looking on with glee to keep me down, or I can stand up and face the lions.

It's either this or give up on ever finding an occupation which can provide me with an adequate income. There are enough obstacles to my satisfying any prospective employer, given my history of mental health, without me having to overcome my own emotional and historical 'lions'as well.

This is where my reasonably newly acquired DBT Skills need to be used in earnest. I need to manage my emotional distress, because it is not nice, after all when someone doesn't choose me for a job I obviously had thought I wanted. I need to acknowledge the disappointment and hurt, that's natural and understandable. I need to make myself control the negative thoughts that are my natural default - thought diffusion exercises help with this (Mindfulness). This is where my determination and fight need to begin, otherwise I have no hope of ever re-entering the workplace. I need to learn to validate myself, unlike other rejections a work rejection is not personal - hard when I am in the thick of it to grasp hold of, but I need to remind myself that my skills were not what they wanted. It is not me as a human being who has been rejected. This, again is hard for me, as most of my sense of validation in the past came from being a high achiever in work environments. I could manage my emotions when my mind was allowed to focus on the task in hand. At the moment in my life, I don't need to be validated as a person - I have people who love me who do that. So far so very DBT, reality is that I have to repeat the use of my skills over and over as waves of self condemnation wash over me, followed closely by cycles of anxiety about my future and my ability to provide for myself.

Right now, in between the crash of the waves, I am aware that I'm no longer in the lion's den. I have begun to stumble from the grasp of my lions. The emotional waves that are crashing on me, resemble the sound waves from their roars of derision. I need to grab hold of my bottle of lemonade, and prepare myself for the next time. There is no point in me feeling sorry for myself. Yes, I've had a lot to overcome, yes it feels as if I am due some good fortune, but that's not life as it is. For me to constantly expect that life should be fair, is the real definition of insanity. After all, I just wasn't right for THIS job.