What motivates me to keep going.

treasure

A few people have asked me how I remain so motivated to stay in therapy and so determined to become whole one day, in spite of the many setbacks I’ve faced and the inevitable triggers I’ve willingly confronted. Even my therapist has said I’m one of the most motivated clients he’s come across. People wonder if I’m just a sucker for punishment and even have masochistic tendencies.  Why on earth would I want to voluntarily embrace so much psychic pain instead of opting to remain emotionally numb the way I used to be?

I think the number one motivator for me is that I’ve learned to think of the road to wellness as an adventure of the mind and soul, not unlike climbing Mount Everest or exploring the ocean depths.    The only difference is that it doesn’t involve bodily risk. Staying as emotionally dead as I used to be seems as boring as staring at a wall all day.  Now that I’ve seen a glimpse of what I can attain, I never want to go back.  Knowing what I know now about myself, remaining in that particular hell would drive me insane.  So these days, I’d rather face the unpleasant challenges and do battle with them.   None are too big for me to conquer, even though at times they can seem to be.

By nature, I’m not a huge risk taker, but I’ve always been fascinated by the workings of the human mind.  My own mind is like a labyrinth right before my eyes, but within its dark tunnels and crevices I never know when I’ll find some treasure.

Being in therapy for anyone who suffered severe trauma and abuse can be extremely triggering and at times very painful.    I’ve left some sessions and fallen into vast yawning depressions afterward, feeling lost within the emptiness that I always knew was there even before I knew what was really wrong with me.

Faith that a higher power (or God, if you prefer) will show me the way to the treasure chest I know lies deep within is a huge motivator for me, but even now, without knowing exactly where it lies, occasionally I stumble across evidence that I’m getting closer.   A diamond here, an emerald over there, a small vein of gold embedded in the unforgiving granite.   It gives me hope and motivation to keep going.    I no longer doubt that it’s there….somewhere.   All I need is to keep going.   Therapy provides me with a compass to know which direction to go and the assurance that I won’t die trying to find it.   The journey may appear dangerous at times, but I know it never really is.   Staying mindful helps me conquer any fear that I’ve gone too far or too deep.

Discovering things about yourself that you never knew can be really sobering, even upsetting, but it’s also enlightening.   Awareness and insight about your own motivations is the key to healing from anything that plagues the mind and soul.   Self discovery is always fascinating and full of the unexpected.    It may seem like hard work, and it is, but I know the reward will be worth all the pain, and there are enough pleasant surprises along the way to keep me trudging along the rugged trail.   I can do this!    You can too, if you want it badly enough.

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Mindfulness keeps me from quitting therapy.

MINDFULNESS (2)

In my last post, Jocelyn made a comment about quitting therapy, and this reminded me of something important that’s kept me going: mindfulness.

People in therapy, especially people who have cluster B disorders and have problems either regulating or accessing emotion, often quit when the going gets rough.  Narcissists are notorious for quitting therapy (if they ever enter it at all) because of all the Cluster B disorders, NPDs have the most problems allowing themselves to become vulnerable (well, maybe ASPD is even worse that way), but for therapy to work, this cannot be avoided.   This is why people with NPD so rarely get better.  For most, as soon as they start to feel too much, they’re outta there.

For borderlines, it’s a little easier.  We’re not running away from emotions all the time the way narcissists do (although I do to some degree and probably have narcissistic tendencies–I also have comorbid Avoidant PD which also explains my reticence).  For BPDs, our main problem is the regulation of emotions that are too intense.  But the core issues–abandonment trauma–is the same.   When you finally reach the stage of diving into the maelstrom of pain and emptiness, it’s incredibly painful.   You feel like you’re dying or going insane.  You think about quitting because who wants to live with all that pain?

That’s where mindfulness comes in.   Without mindfulness, I probably would have quit therapy after today.   But with mindfulness, I can actually let myself fall into the pit of pain and trauma and allow myself to feel those unpleasant emotions.  At the same time the mindful part of me is observing myself feeling them as they arise, and thinking logically and trying to make connections and give them meaning.   This kind of distance–while at the same time being fully submerged in the feelings–makes the experience more bearable and also makes it more likely you’ll learn something valuable from it.   Mindfulness also means you acknowledge that the emotions are not YOU; you have emotions but you aren’t your emotions.  You are you, and the emotions are just trapped energy moving out of you.

Without mindfulness, you just feel like you’ve somehow fallen into the 9th circle of hell and will never escape.   You can’t separate yourself from the overwhelming feelings and feel consumed by them.  No wonder so many people quit when they get to this point.   I’m so glad I took DBT classes (even though I blew them off back in he ’90s when I took them) and had the presence of mind to keep the DBT book I was given.  It’s been so helpful to me throughout this whole process.

I think mindfulness training should actually be a prerequisite for intensive psychodynamic therapy, especially for trauma survivors (whether they are personality disordered or not), because there is nothing to prepare you for the intensity of the ride you’ll be taking (which seems so gentle and tame at first).