I have a love-hate relationship with IOP.
Half of the time, I sit there and feel as though the others in the group have nothing to offer me and that group therapy is useless for psychosis. But the other half of the time, I feel as though I actually am getting something out of it.
I recently learned that I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I’m not sure I agree with this diagnosis, but it would explain a lot. BPD is characterized by a pattern of extreme instability in relationships, a constantly shifting sense of self, and intense anger.
I spent years telling my first therapist that I wasn’t angry. She would say things like, “Depression is anger turned inside out,” which did not make much sense to me as a teenager. All I knew was that I hated myself. I’m finally realizing that hate is an angry emotion, and that a quiet rage has been simmering inside me for years.
The most noticeably borderline trait I embody is that when I get into a relationship, I completely lose myself. I become obsessed with my partner, and I try to become their perfect girlfriend, despite the fact that the people I get involved with usually show interest in me for who I really am, not some persona I wear.
Being in treatment is hard. I have to be there on days I don’t want to, I have to talk about things I don’t talk about, I have to do things I don’t want to do. I know the ropes pretty well–coping skills, dialectical behavioral therapy, breathing techniques, journaling exercises… I could go on. I am not big on traditional coping skills. When I’m upset, I’m not about to light a candle and make a cup of chamomile tea. I would rather get in the car, put on a Sleater-Kinney album and scream along to it as I drive through my neighborhood.
However, I usually don’t even employ non-traditional coping skills. It’s so much easier to punish myself with self-harm, lack of sleep, impulsive decisions, etc.
Whenever I go into treatment, I will make a certain amount of progress and then just hit a wall when it comes time to work on self-harm. I have told countless mental health practitioners that I refuse to stop self-harming. I will sit in silence for an entire hour if a therapist tries to get me to talk about it. I have a stubborn streak a mile wide.
When I left group on Friday, I was having command hallucinations telling me to kill myself. I get these sorts of hallucinations every now and again, and sometimes I’ll bargain with the voices, “Okay, I can’t kill myself right now, so I’ll just cut a little bit.” That usually shuts them up for a little while.
I was completely freaking out in the group room, so Lisa (the therapist who runs group) pulled me out and had me sit with Amanda, a tech. We talked for a little while until I came back to reality, and then I went home.
I decided to go to a late-night AA meeting after group. I saw my sponsor and some other friends. The voices were still slightly present, and I decided that if I didn’t feel better after the meeting, I was going to do some serious damage to myself.
I talked to my sponsor after the meeting. She gave me a hug and told me she loves me. We made plans to meet for coffee the next day.
When I got home, I asked God not to wake me up in the morning. But God had other plans. I woke up the next day to texts from a couple of AA friends saying good morning, they hoped I had a good day, and that they hoped I was okay.
My dad and I had planned to go to an art show, which was a lot of fun. I got to talk to several local artists, many of whom hadn’t started creating art until later in life. One woman said, “I volunteered with the New Smyrna Art League for twenty years. I never thought I had any artistic ability!” Her medium was dried gourds, paint, and pine needles. She made dreamlike bowls out of them.
It gave me hope because lately, I’ve felt as though I’m doing nothing with my life. I had an epiphany last night and realized, I’m twenty-three! It’s okay that I don’t know what I want to do with my life! I am fighting such a hard battle these days, and it’s okay for now if all I do is show up for work at the supermarket and go to AA and group. I have my whole life ahead of me, and I’m going to live it.
I’m pretty much stuck in IOP whether I like it or not, so I have two options. I can continue to rage against the machine, act like I’m a special snowflake, and get nothing out of it. Or, I can try to work the program, follow the rules, and do the coping skills (even if I secretly think they’re bullshit), and see what happens.
Self-harm was my first addiction. I thought it was some adolescent bad habit that I would simply grow out of. That was not the case. Just like any addiction, it is progressive. I started out by scratching myself until I bled, then graduated to pushpins and safety pins, then straight razors.
I am trying to treat the self-harm as I would treat any other addiction: by taking it one day at a time. Just as I wouldn’t keep a bottle of wine in the house, I can’t have a packet of razors either. I threw them all away on Friday night. I tell myself, “I will not hurt myself today. I will treat myself with kindness and compassion.” And it’s hard, but I can do hard things.