The feeling of wanting to quit sometimes is very nearly unbearable. It’s such brutal work to change destructive habits and so easy to give up. Yikes, the temptation! Better than all the best foods right when you want them. Better than drugs. Better than success. Because at least, if you quit, you know you’re right – about yourself. You’ll never amount to anything, and you know it, so why bother to continue!? So satisfying. What disgusting happiness it is to put oneself down. Ever notice how ironically wonderful it feels to shun yourself?
So, this not quitting thing, well, this is relatively new for me. I won’t. I can’t. I promised. I promised myself and I promised my beautiful boyfriend. He made me. Well, damn him!
(I’m laughing, really!)
And what made me want to quit?
Last night, I asked my boyfriend what he thought of yesterday’s post. He said, “It was okay.” Just okay? Nothing more? I wanted to quit. Just quit. Delete my blog. Be done. Wipe my hands of it. I mean, why waste my time if it’s just okay? I felt so inadequate.The feeling was intense and tossed me right back into the invalidating, shark-filled waters of my childhood.
Oh, those annoying self-harm urges! Even when you know why you have them, they’re still a nuisance.
In my very first readings about Borderline I thought self-harm meant only the physical. But then I realized, no, it’s not. It’s anything you do that in the end brings on exactly the opposite of what you really want. It gives relief, this self-destruction, because you’ve just validated yourself by invalidating yourself, but it’s temporary bliss. Later you feel worse. I wanted to destroy the thing on which I’ve worked so diligently. Not okay. Quitting won’t bring me what I want. It will only affirm, for a DAY, negatively positive thoughts, positively negative thoughts and (joke on me) make me feel smug – see, you knew you’d quit - and then what? No! No quitting.
I remembered my DBT skills, thankfully, right at that moment – when I wanted to punish myself. Oh, what a pain they are at times. Well they are! They can be immensely burdensome to remember, when you want to lash out at not just others, but yourself. I don’t know which feeling is worse. But use them I did. “What, wait, why was it just okay?” And, no, it’s not that I’m looking to be perfect, as much as I’m trying to avoid INADEQUATE. I was munching away on baked potato skins, while I was asking him, trying to keep my cool. DIFFICULT! Because really I wanted to yell and tell him what a terrible boyfriend he was for not saying something glorious about my post – so I didn’t have to feel inadequate. He hasn’t seemed to enjoy them much lately, so the feeling of inadequacy has been building. I was proud though, despite feeling inadequate, because I didn’t lash out and bash the poor guy and I didn’t self-harm. I asked a question. I was clarifying, using Opposite Action!
I was surprised by his answer.
“Well, honey, you didn’t write about your shrinking and I thought that was the cool part,” he said. Shrinking? Confused, I was. He saw the look on my face and explained. “You know…you told me, when you’d go visit the Itty Bitty family, how they’d shrink you, magically, so you could fit through that little door.”
Oh, yeah! Right. Shrinking! I did forget. Well crap. Okay, so I’m not horrible. Now here, in this, is the art of Borderline maintenance. It’s in the constant self-monitoring and positive self-talk.
Right, it’s okay, these are just feelings. They’ll go away sooner or later. You’re upset because it’s challenging to get out of the habit of putting yourself down. Hey, remember, you’re not four anymore and no one can MAKE you feel bad. You’re an adult now, not a child and you can handle this. You’re not inadequate. How silly you are for thinking that. You’re not horrible either. You didn’t do anything wrong. So, you forgot a part you didn’t want to forget, but no biggie. Life goes on. Continue with your blog, continue to share, continue to trace your illness – to help yourself and maybe others. Keep writing. You like it! Stop feeling bad now, you, and go on and enjoy the new journal you’ve just bought for yourself. It’s red, your favorite color. The creamy pages are scrumptiously lined, elegantly detailed with flowers at the top and bottom and you really like it. Don’t be down. Don’t quit. Stop feeling sad and write in that journal.
You know what I bought the journal for? To keep a Gratitude list. I’m sitting here laughing. Yes, specifically to keep a list of things for which I am grateful. So would I be grateful if I’d quit, just because I had a few moments of feeling inadeQUIT? Uh, no, I don’t think so. What would the first entry look like? How nonsensical. “Today I quit writing. I gave up on my blog. Yep, just got rid of it. Oh, because I forgot something, about shrinking.”
My boyfriend, he’s a good guy. He does his best to understand me, even when he’s terribly confused by my emotions. I AM grateful for this. So, I put those iffy, self-doubt thoughts on clouds and let them float away. Then I grabbed the cute, butterfly-adorned notepad that I’d also just purchased and inked out a message on the very first sheet of paper:
I know it’s hard to understand me, thank you for trying so hard. It’s not easy to keep going, to not give up. Giving up has always been easier. Thank you for trying to help me keep going. I love you.
Well, I am happy to report that my first entry in my Gratitude Journal is this: I am grateful that I did not quit! I did not give up on myself. I can survive that feeling called inadequate and I don’t have to look for the elusive perfect feedback in order to keep going. I am good enough to pursue what I want.
Love, compassion to all. And don’t quit when you feel inadequate. THIS is part of - the art of Borderline maintenance.