Blessed by Adversity

As a four year-old I was quite obviously in charge of keeping my head safe by escaping. I had the Itty Bitties; I had the bats. I also had glorious cows to watch (ah, a daytime activity), from the tippy-top of an enormous pile of dirt. Our neighbors were farmers and I’d spend hours up there, waiting, scrutinizing. For some reason, I made a part-time career out of cow observation. Now, there was no MOO-la in it, of course, but I was praised by the farmer and his wife every time I’d spot a cow who was also, coincidentally, escaping – from the fenced-in pasture. The praise was worth more than any amount of money. Oh, how sweet, tantalizing and delectable it was! Better than the most delicious kind of cheesecake. Of course, if you don’t like cheesecake, then you’ll have to think of your own analogy. :-)

Looking back, I realize how adept I was at finding ways to liberate myself from emotional pain. I found so many methods! Cow observation, bat contemplation, and mouse conversation! Mouse conversation? There was an adorable mouse that showed up many nights to chew through the outside-facing wall of my bedroom. I’d talk to the little critter on the nights he or she showed up to make more holes, his or her cute pink nose poking through them.

Well, all this writing about overcoming, escaping, the ability to deal with what life dishes out, led me to think about adversity. Adversity is the best blessing, a wonderful teacher, if you choose to see it that way.

Kids are pretty tough beings, that is true enough, and if I think about what I had to learn how to handle as a child I’m amazed. But what’s more amazing are the things I’ve had to battle as an adult. Oh, the adversity-versity!

Once I’d been broken-in by the abuse I received from my family, it was easy enough for other abusers to get hold of me. I am still stunned by the number of abusive people I’ve pulled into my life. I never knew, I never saw, but thank God now I do. My original abusers were disguised as parents and other family members. Later abusers would be disguised as schoolmates and friends – as teachers, guidance counselors and other school staff. And of course, much later, abusers would disguise themselves as boyfriends. The worst abuser of my life showed up around age twenty. Me – my very self. And of course the most awful part of that was that I had no idea I was abusing myself. Well, if abuse isn’t adversity I don’t know what is.

But it doesn’t stop there, I’ve had to face the adversity of being very physically ill, from the moment I was born, pretty much. There are days I can barely walk and doing dishes is an accomplishment. Oh, I shall not forget discrimination. There is more of that adversity stuff. I’ve been discriminated against for having mental health issues and physical health problems alike – one just as trying and painful as the other. What’s surprising is how common this is – it happens all the time. The weak ones really do get it!

But then, like a phoenix does rise from the ashes, you can choose to view adversity as your best friend, as a patient and loving teacher, as a wise guru. From an abundance of adversity determination can come. From determination, a few small successes. From the few small successes, CONFIDENCE. From confidence, more success. And from that, a life really worth living. Time, time, time. It just takes time. And then, you don’t feel weak anymore, you feel STRONG.

I’m not sorry my body is sick. I’m not sorry I’ve been abused – physically, sexually or emotionally. I’m not sorry I’ve suffered terrible psychological suffering! I’m not even sorry I’ve felt the sting, many times, of discrimination. In short, I’m not sorry for the adversity that’s shown up quite a bit in my life. On the contrary, I am blessed by it.

Adversity is a lamp that lights the way out of darkness. I am blessed by adversity.

Don’t Quit When You Feel Inadequate!

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.”

Ohhh! Gulp…

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.


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