Trauma creates separation, a tear in the fabric of the continuity of our life, of the cosy sewn togetherness of being. Until you have experienced this you cannot really know what it is like to live within a reality which trauma has thrown shadows over. You can never go back to the state of innocence.
On the positive side there is a deepening of understanding into more painful realities beyond the mundane and there can be gifts there. But pain also remains, the knowledge that you as a trauma sufferer will be marked in some way by the experience and limited on some level too.
At the moment I am coming to terms with the knowledge that I have “borderline” traits, a mild form of Borderline Personality Disorder. I had not had an official confirmation of this before this week although I had identified some of these traits in me especially in my behaviour prior to recovering from alcoholism.
I have struggled with a sense of shame, with feelings of being deeply flawed on some level and yet there are gifts within the borderline condition too most especially depth of feeling, strong intuition and sensitivity. Traits that need to be understood and contained as we heal.
To the extent that we can be aware of the traumas which left us with a wound or scar that at times throbs painfully and take steps to treat ourselves with empathy, love, compassion and understanding, to that degree do we save ourselves and protect the loved ones around us, who in reaching out and sometimes triggering us in that deeply painful place unknowingly suffer when we express intense sadness or anger.
Being on the borderline side of the narcissistic spectrum means that in the course of developing we grew up with wounds, with lack of validation, emotional support, empathy and understanding and without the attention needed to help us learn to moderate our emotions and deal with pain. To survive we learned to split off our deepest feelings from our awareness and healing requires we mend this split that we suffer from deep within.
A.J. Mahari explains it this way:
In Borderline Personality Disorder, (BPD) we see evidenced through common behaviour associated with this personality disorder much of the inner child coming through the adult. There is often a painful dissociation between the two. Those with BPD also have a very difficult time even contemplating being vulnerable and the result is that they end up denying their inner child over and over again to the point where they actually take on the role of their past abusers or a caretaker who could not meet their developmental needs and continually re-abuse themselves. Much of this self-abuse is aimed at avoidance of the actual pain that sits under (often subconsciously) their experienced symptomology or pathology, the BPD itself. Continuing to ignore this little aspect of you and all the pain and terror that sits inside of him/her will make change and healing virtually impossible.
The core of our borderline trauma is emotional abandonment about which we may feel deeply ashamed, despite the fact we were not to blame for what happened to us.
When our earliest relationships were tinged with the pain of being held at a distance or misunderstood and treated with lack of empathy when we were suffering, our later relationships suffer. If we have had to carry hurts and wounds that we were not allowed to know about, we carry this deep trauma pain inside.
Often it takes a relationship in present time to awaken that pain, so that we can deal with it and heal. And the painful truth is that now we must learn to deal with this trauma, buried feeling of sadness, anger and pain in a positive way, one that helps us grow and enhances our lives and helps us deal with developmental trauma helping us to understand how what happened to us so long ago is affecting our behaviour. Armed with this understanding we can mature and take responsibility. We do not have the right to dump our pain on others, unconscious as this pain may be.
This afternoon with my therapist I tapped into some very deeply painful feelings around old relationship traumas and I suddenly was aware of the belief : “there must be something wrong with me”. My therapist couldn’t agree and was challenging me on this belief.
The feeling of something wrong with me, as I explore it now, having released those earlier feelings in a safe space, speaks to me of having been met over many long years with a lack of understanding and being told I had it wrong, that there was something wrong with me for feeling so deeply, for being who I was and for reacting as I did. Some reactions were just legitmate responses to pain that was not always conscious and they did not serve me well, but they were the best I was capable of at that time.
Earlier today I had been speaking to someone who affirmed to me what a deeply feeling person they believed me to be. “This deep feeling and sensitivity within you is a gift”, he said. Sad to say these are not words that I have heard before, but I felt the truth in them.
Much of my life seems, as I look back, to have been a struggle for understanding from sources that were not always able to give it. Over the past year I have come to see that the deep flaw wasn’t only in me, it was in the limitations of others, who are only human to understand.
This understanding has been freeing and its beginning to bring me a lot of peace. It has been a great comfort to me to have finally formed a therapeutic alliance with someone who will help me to grow.
I’ve had a lot of wounding and retraumatisation in therapy. In early attempts I often quit due to the fear of abandonment I carried so deeply buried inside. Today I know that I cannot be abandoned as I was in the past, the emptiness which is one of a host of borderline symptoms is no longer there, the deep dark void of loneliness and misunderstanding, at least not when I am centred in my true self and protecting and caring for that self.
Today I have a compassionate, kindly inner self within me that can be with me in the pain on the bad days, there are no longer so many of the vicious inner self attacks which were just internalised voices taken on from wounding others in the past. Today I can hold my own hand or reach out to those kindly people who are willing to love and accept me as I am, flawed past history and all and in helping me to understand the wounds they help me to accept and love everything, even all the deep hate, pain and rage of the unhealed borderline condition.
Today as I was crying with my therapist. I said to her “I wish that people with BPD did not have to be demonised. I know at times they act in painful ways, but underneath all the pain and rage is a wounded heart crying out for love.” The truth is that only the BPD sufferer can take responsibility for healing this wounded self, for loving it and understanding it.
Acceptance and peace comes at the end of a painful journey during which all of these painful traumas and feelings are re-experienced and understood. In having the courage to feel them through we are releasing ourselves from prison. Along the road we need those who are willing to understand and walk with us on the journey to reclaim our true selves. For without this love and understanding we are lost.
If you suffer from BPD there are some marvellous online resources at the following sites. You do not need to suffer alone.
Randi Kreger writes on BPD and you can find some of her posts by following this link:
A J Mahari has recovered from BPD and has some excellent ebooks and articles on the following site:
Robert Friedel is a psychologist who specialises in treating BPD. His site has resources for those understanding and dealing with BPD in your self or a loved one
Other useful links: