Mittwoch, 18. September 2013

the buddha & the borderline

Wow, this is a fantastic book! This is how I felt already after the first few pages. ... because of sentences like: "We hold each other for an hour and kiss, and since we've discovered each other at NA, where it's often easy to mistake honesty for sanity ...". And: "In my life, relationships are like rubber bands. They stretch and snap back so many times, but eventually something breaks and there's no way to repair the damage." And: "... the only way I know to stay afloat - to survive - is to find a saviour. Bennet, as it turns out, has a bit of a saviour complex."

What Kiera Van Gelder describes here is how borderlines feel in relationships. I've never read anything on borderline that felt more authentic than Kiera's the buddha & the borderline. She calls herself a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, goes to 12-step meetings almost every day but feels that she doesn't get better. Then a doctor tells her that she suffers form borderline personality disorder (BPD). She feels relief that she has "a real illness rather than just being a terminal failure."

"There is no question that the diagnosis fits. I have all the symptoms: I have chronic feelings of emptiness and an unstable sense of self, I'm suicidal and self-harming, and I frantically avoid abandonment and rejection no matter what the cost. My relationships are stormy and intense, and my perceptions can shift between black and white at the drop of a hat. My emotions are out of control, I freak out when stressed, and others often find my anger inappropriate."

Kiera undergoes a fundamental shift when she comes across Marsha Linehan's insights that confirm what she already knows: that borderlines are emotional burn victims, that they are in a living hell, even when they look okay.

How Kiera Van Gelder puts into words this living hell is remarkable, impressive, and most convincing. Also, and this is an achievement in itself, this book is a very funny read. Again and again I burst out laughing, and I often felt that the absurdity of human existence can probably only be met with humour.

The absurdity of human existence? But hey, this is a book about human suffering! Yes, it is and it is heartbreaking what borderlines have to put up with. Yet the buddha and the borderline is much more - it is a tale about the human condition for borderlines aren't different from 'normal people' in what they feel and do, it is the intensity that makes the difference - they feel much more intense, their mood changes are unexpected and abrupt, and their reactions often inappropriately extreme.

In order to control her impulsive relationship behaviours Kiera decides to try online dating for it might, she reasons, "provide some artificial boundaries." Creating a profile is her first challenge, she works on it all day at the office. "The next morning I rush to work, hoping to have dozens of messages from intrigued and handsome men." Well, not exactly for her inbox is empty but she has been 'winked' at twice by overweight men her father's age ... but then she meets Taylor who looks around her studio where every book and pencil and teacup is in its proper place: "'You seem pretty stable to me,' Taylor comments, 'Working. Paying your bills. I haven't noticed you changing much this past week. Things can't be that bad.' 'I've done a lot of therapy,' I say. Should I also mention that I'm always fairly good at the beginning and that it's when I get attached that all the hell breaks loose?"

Dealing with borderlines is a huge challenge, not least because they can't deal with the slightest criticism, to them it is like being punched in the face. For they have to be perfect, everything has to be perfect. To deal with imperfection seems simply not possible. Not always of course but definitely too often ...

There is no doubt, borderlines live on planets of their own. "I still feel like I'm being stabbed when Taylor forgets to make eye contact with me in social groups or when he doesn't respond to an email or voice mail promptly, and it doesn't help that my definition of prompt and his are drastically different." Nevertheless, since, as the buddhists say, the only permanent thing is change, also borderlines, and their close ones, can and do change. "Taylor comments that although I'm still often triggered, my times of upset are shorter. I lose my bearings for a day or two, not a month. And I no longer declare that our relationship is over every time I feel neglected."

Is there a bottom with BPD? Yes, there is, writes Kiera. For her it was anger, "justified, self-righteous anger", an incredible motivator, as not only borderlines know. "I'm so pissed off that I become determined to fight - for my survival, and for my borderline brothers and sisters. We do not deserve to be trapped in hell. It isn't our fault."

She becomes familiar with DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) skills, learns about the importance of "validation": "It means recognizing someone else's feelings, behaviors, and thoughts as legitimate, no matter how problematic or dysfunctional they may appear to be." What DBT ideally should help to make possible is radical self-acceptance.
She also discovers a type of Buddhism that "actually sounds a lot like the DBT skills for change" and finally moves to a meditation centre. "Ironically, the word 'borderline' has become the most perfect expression of my experience - the experience of being in two places at once: disordered and perfect."

 A most helpful book, I highly recommend it..

Kiera Van Gelder
the buddha & the borderline
a memoir
my recovery from borderline personality disorder 
through dialectical behavior therapy, buddhism and online dating
New Harbinger Publications, Inc, Oakland, California 2010

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