Penis envy

Everything's an acronym these days; BPD (which can confusingly stand for two different mental illnesses), CBT and DBT (I know the difference but I still don't know the difference), CMHT, EMDR, SLAM... and FYI, it could all be summed up thusly - THERE IS NO ONE THERAPY THAT ALWAYS WORKS. 

Having decided that now I'm in charge of the life of another human being, I probably should heed the little voice in my head that reminds me I'm a product of some unaddressed issues, and therefore I have a responsibility not to let this cycle continue to spiral down through the generations, I'm now spending Thursday mornings in group therapy for the next 15 weeks. 

Of course I'm not allowed to (and never would) discuss any of my fellow group members outside of those walls. But what I will do is talk about how the experience is for me. I shall begin with the building, because as we all know, the bricks and mortar of a therapy centre are pretty much the only things that stay constant about a hospital for mental illness. Upon first arriving at said building, my attention was drawn to a plaque on the wall - 'This building was officially opened by someone you've never heard of in 1990'. Upon entering the reception, it became clear that this unnotable person was obviously so revered that nothing had been changed since that day. For somewhere that costs an arm and a leg to attend, I'd naively expected that it might've had a lick of paint in 20 years and that perhaps the carpet had suffered enough spilled hot beverages for one lifetime and needed putting out of its misery - ooh, if only carpets could talk...

I'd been advised to give myself time after therapy sessions before going home and going straight back to working, but of course I was about as likely to take that advice as I was to take a shortcut through the ominous looking pond with its layer of green sludge I'd walked past on my way there. This advice had also made me imagine that DBT was going to be emotionally draining and altogether hideous. So I was pleasantly surprised when the very first activity was a bit of leisurely origami. This, although not as easy for me as it used to be, was the kind of distraction I love. Considering I'm normally running from meeting to meeting with a phone in one hand and an iPad in the other, I felt rather as if I'd gone on holiday by mistake. And that's when it began - even in a room full of other people with BPD, most of which have the scars to prove it - I'm still the odd one out. The sense of failure the others all admitted to just wasn't there; instead I just felt like I wasn't ill enough to be there. 

Something about the group setting, all of us sitting at flimsy canteen-esque tables and the dynamic of being referred to as a 'patient' brought out the naughty child in me. I couldn't help but chuckle every time I saw a squirrel through the window, and ask awkward pedantic and wholly unnecessary questions to try and catch the therapists out. I normally loathe the term 'service user' or 'client', but now I was suddenly irritated that I was being called neither. 

I knew things were going that way from the very beginning of my first session, when I was handed the instructions for the origami exercise and my first thought was that one of the drawings looked like a penis. Now of course back in the days when Freud wasn't just a man with some slightly unusual ways of distracting attention from his own sexual fantasies, this may have been significant. Now, it just is what it is (which is definitely a penis).        
A fortnight later I began to realise that maybe I'd got these thought processes and behaviours so ingrained that I couldn't even identify them any more. There's a diagram that shows 3 states of mind - emotional mind, which I spent the majority of my teenage years and twenties in, reasonable mind, where I now hang out, and wise mind, which I'm told is the goal. 

As a teenager, I brought drama and chaos to everything I did. So wildy out of proportion were my emotional reactions that my only way of stopping them was to self-harm. That allowed me to externalise those feelings and then 'fix' them by taking care of the wound. That all changed when I lost my mother unexpectedly at university, and so painful were those emotions, I flipped over into reasonable mind and I've been there ever since. In reasonable mind, I no longer feel anything - I've numbed myself and that means I've numbed not only the pain, but also the joy, and the happiness. As clever as that may sound, being numb means missing out on the things that make life worth living.

Theory is one thing, but practising not doing something you're not even conscious you've been doing is another. 

Emotions are like bile - you need to secrete some into your system - but too much or not enough and it starts to become damaging. 


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