Monday, 7 July 2014

Keeping my "Life Train" on Track

I have recently been building new routines. Due to the turbulence of my life with BPD I have always sought out certainty and routine as a way of feeling more in control when my emotions are anything but. This may seem to contradict other aspects of my life which seem chaotic to the casual observer. My problem in the past has been that I have not been able to sustain life structures that help me live the life I want - or even to be the person that I wanted to be. This is symptomatic of the lack of emotional and personal stability that is the hallmark of BPD.

One of the benefits of having gone through lengthy periods of turbulence when I left behind previous jobs, relationships and areas is that I have had the opportunity to rebuild my life many times. I used to think I was good at it. But the lives I rebuilt before obviously were sustainable. Somehow this time is different. For the first time in my life I have stayed in one area of the country for over a decade. For the first time I have stayed put even when friendships and relationships have become difficult. This pattern continued until diagnosis and treatment, due to the fact that I had reached an age when mortgages and progress in my chosen profession made it difficult for me to uproot my life and move on. Effectively, my circumstances meant that I was forced to face my emotional instability and to take time to explore the reasons behind my turbulent, emotional and mental life.

So, I have found myself in unfamiliar territory. For once, I am not rebuilding my life from the foundations up. The basics of life, a home, relationships, the means of putting food on the table are already in place and have been allowed to mature over the past twelve years or so. There is another difference, in that I now know what I have been fighting against all my life. I have learned that some aspects of my condition and responses to the world will not change. My attitude to my condition and to myself have changed. I now have skills that are not self defeating to manage my emotions and my relationships.

As I've been thinking about what kind of life I want, I have found myself thinking in terms of trains. The engine is what provides the power to move the rest of the locomotive. The engine requires fuel and both engines and carriages require maintenance. No metaphor is perfect and there will be inevitable flaws in this one. However, I have found it helpful to think of my current track to recovery in these terms. Here is how I see my life train (once you've finished laughing at the poor artistry feel free to read on about how I think the parts of my life fit together):

1. The Engine - What I believe about myself and the world around me is essential to giving meaning and hope to my life. When my emotions drive me, my beliefs about life are vaguely in the background. Due to the twisted impression given to me about myself by an invalidating upbringing I am having to relearn self acceptance, care and compassion. In effect this builds on my beliefs about how I relate to others - the challenge is can I show the same compassion to myself as I can show to others? Do I really accept what my faith teaches me about my place in God's world? Can I absorb what I am taught about how much I am loved? In rebuilding my life it is essential before I put anything else in place that I develop and practice my beliefs about who I am and how my life fits into the world around me.

2. The Fuel Truck - My beliefs help to determine the nature of my spiritual practice. I need to maintain those beliefs and this means that I need to maintain myself spiritually. I need to pray, I need to maintain my relationship with my God, this helps me to relate to others and to my day to day life according to how I believe I fit with those. So my daily activities include: prayer, maintaining my understanding of my beliefs by being part of a Church family, meditation on positive beliefs about who I am in my God's eyes and how that impacts on how I live my life.

3. The Emotions - With BPD I need to keep my emotions regulated. This means a combination of skills, including making sure I get enough sleep, food and water. It also means that I show myself compassion when I am emotionally sensitive. Within friendships and relationships I need to maintain my DBT interpersonal skills - ensuring that I do not allow my over sensitivity at times to prevent me being wise in my reactions to things that happen. Above all, I need to be kind to myself and keep learning about what it means for me to live with the symptoms of BPD.

4. My Physical Well Being - I have begun looking after myself - this is one sign that self compassion and self care are beginning to become a habit for me. As I have lost weight and am enjoying being part of a gym and a group of others trying to feel better, physically, I have found that the other parts of my life are improving.

These are the basic components of my life. They need to be linked together and need to work as one for my life to be more effective. All of which means that in every day of my life there is a basic framework which means that I attend to the spiritual, emotional and physical needs and that my life consists of holding these parts of my life in balance.