Deconstructing Cluster B stereotypes.

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This is a cute drawing circulating Facebook depicting the “typical” person with each of the four Cluster B personality disorders (I cannot give credit for it since I have no idea who drew it or where it originated).   While I understand it’s meant to streamline the overall feel of each of these disorders, they’re still stereotypes. Stereotypes certainly may have a grain of truth behind them, but it’s important to realize they are convenient shortcuts at best, and quite negative and damaging at worst.

Obviously, not everyone with these disorders is going to act the way they’re depicted in the cartoon.  Human beings, even those with personality disorders, are complicated creatures, and just as there are many variations in the general population, so there are many variations among any group of people with one of these disorders.

Here’s another cartoon (which I have used in several posts) that also depicts these disorders in much the same way as the above drawing.

cluster_b

ASPD:

I think it’s interesting that in both of these cartoons, the person with Antisocial Personality Disorder is a criminal type of individual making threats, either with a weapon or he is already in jail.   Both wear a sadistic expression.  Both are also male figures.    The reality is, not all people with ASPD are criminals or in prison.   They aren’t all serial killers.  Some have never committed a crime (or at least have never been caught).  In fact, the other group of people statistically most likely to have ASPD (or psychopathy) are the very high functioning CEOs of big corporations.   Many people with ASPD are in high profile careers like politics or entertainment.  Their lack of conscience and guilt feelings, coupled with a nearly non-existent lack of empathy (even narcissists have more empathy than a person with ASPD), make it easy for them to rise high in their fields and have no compunctions about firing people or “downsizing.”  Other people’s feelings are much less important than the “bottom line.”  Many high ranking people with psychopathy or ASPD are actually women.

It’s fascinating to me that the two groups of people most likely to have ASPD/psychopathy appear at each extreme of modern society: the low functioning ones locked up in prison and/or running from the law, and the high functioning ones running everything from giant companies to powerful countries.

NPD:

The person pictured with NPD is also a male in both cases, and both guys are dressed up in business suits.   One is holding a wad of cash, and the other is just arrogant, with a PhD (of bullshit!) on his wall.   Both are wearing arrogant expressions.  The reality is, many women also have NPD–females may constitute as much as half of all people with NPD, and I think it’s becoming more common (why else would there be so many narcissistic mothers and websites about them??)

Also, not all narcissists are of this grandiose, arrogant, showoffy stereotype.   Many narcissists are the fragile, vulnerable or covert type, and use their “altruism” or “niceness” to get supply (or put others on a guilt trip).  Or they present themselves as pathetic, put-upon victims who never take any responsibility for themselves and blame others for their miserable lives and failing relationships.    Granted, the vulnerable or covert type of narcissist is probably more likely to be a woman, but this isn’t always the case.   My mother was quite grandiose and arrogant, and so are many women you meet in business.

HPD:

Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) and BPD are both depicted by women in these cartoons.  In both cases, the woman with HPD is a femme fatale, exuding sexuality and demanding attention using her body and come hither expression.    Some histrionics are men though, and just act dramatic and over the top for attention.  It’s not always sexual attention they’re after.   I’ve seen many men with what appears to be HPD in the gay community (this is in no way meant to disrespect gay men, it’s just something I’ve noticed).   HPDs do tend to be more extroverted than the average person.

BPD:

The BPD women in the cartoons vary the most.  In the first drawing she is crying; in the second, she is split between devaluation and idealization.   The emotional instability of a borderline is a fact; but not all borderlines are female.   Males with BPD can act a lot like men with ASPD, due to their tendency to act on impulse and have hair-trigger tempers and fly into violent rages.  Borderline males are more likely to be imprisoned or have a criminal record than men with NPD, who prefer to keep their hands and reputations clean.  BPD women with this disorder can also be abusive toward others or even criminally-minded.  Or they can be codependent, or primarily self-destructive (this is probably the more common type in females).    There are so many manifestations of BPD that it’s a hard disorder to diagnose, probably harder than the other three.   Many people with BPD have addiction issues or eating disorders and hurt themselves more than they hurt others.  

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Diagnostic hell.

diagnostic_hell

I’ve always aimed to be completely honest on this blog and hold back nothing, but there’s something I’ve been avoiding talking about for about a week.   Now is the time, and I doubt (and hope!) no one judges me negatively for it.

As most of you probably know, I started this blog because I decided I had NPD (covert, fragile type).  It was self-diagnosed and I set about a nutty regimen of self therapy (some of the stuff worked, some did not).  I got stuck and stopped progressing, and decided to see a therapist.  I found a very good trauma and attachment therapist, who works with people with personality disorders and Complex PTSD (C-PTSD).   Still, he hates labels and refused to give me one.  He prefers treating symptoms over “disorders.”

When I told him I thought I had NPD he said there was no way and he even doubted I had BPD anymore or if I even ever had it at all (I beg to differ and have an official diagnosis for that).   He based this on the fact that I don’t play mind games with him, I don’t manipulate him, and I’m not “difficult.”   I don’t overstep his boundaries or act high maintenance or entitled.   In fact, he’s told me several times that he looks forward to our sessions.  I realize there may be a little counter-transference on his part (which is pretty normal as long as it’s not acted on by the therapist), but I also think I do present myself as someone who’s fairly easy to get along with (and truth be told, I am easy to get along with these days and most people seem to like me, even if I still avoid close contact or deep relationships with anyone).

Finally, insisting on having SOME kind of diagnosis (for some reason, this helps me feel less crazy), he toted out his never-used looking copy of the DSM and we looked through it together.   He told me I didn’t fit the criteria for any personality disorder, but PTSD might be a good fit.  He wasn’t aware of Complex PTSD because it’s not a recognized diagnosis, but when I explained what it was, he said that sounded like what I probably had.   So I got a kind of/sort of diagnosis.  I let him borrow my copy of Pete Walker’s wonderful book about C-PTSD, which he is reading now. (For the record, Walker believes personality disorders are complications of C-PTSD, which provides a kind of template for their development).

That was several months ago.

During our last session, he told me something that sent me back down the rabbit hole, at least for a few days.   As long as I’ve had this blog, I’ve suspected I have covert narcissism, because I feel like there’s this very thin false self I’ve developed–a false self as thin as a piece of aluminum foil, as a friend of mine put it–over my BPD. This thin veneer of narcissism kept my BPD rages and lack of control at bay, and also kept me emotionally numb.   Of course, mindfulness training  helped me maintain control, but I suspected my lack of being able to feel much of anything and this way I have of shutting people out or even rejecting them when they try to get too close was definitely pathological and indicated something a bit worse than PTSD.    Like all cluster B people, I’m all too aware of this vast black hole inside that I’ve built many layers of defense over to avoid having to confront.

So we were talking about my “many layers of defenses” and I asked him again if he had changed his mind and did he think I really had NPD.   This time, he didn’t laugh or deny it.   My heart started to hammer away and felt like it was stuck in my throat.   He stayed silent for a few moments, and finally said something that rocked me to my core.    What he said was he didn’t think I qualified for NPD, but because he knew me better now and had a clearer idea of the defensive structures I’d built over time, he thought the top layer was a narcissistic defense developed to protect myself from the pain of BPD craziness.

He went on to explain the difference between healthy narcissism and pathological narcissism.  While he thinks my healthy narcissism (self esteem) has increased (which is definitely good), he thinks my pathological narcissism is beginning to disappear.   That was good news (and I think he’s right), but his admission that I did in fact have a narcissistic defense (and therefore am on the N spectrum) just confirmed what I already knew.  Even though I’ve known it all along. hearing him say it still upset me so much I burst into tears (this was the first and only time I actually shed more than a few tears in session).   Even though I’ve come to realize not all people with narcissism–even NPD– are terrible, unredeemable people,  I still can’t help but associate the term “narcissism” with something bad and evil.   The stigma is pervasive.   Even “healthy narcissism” has a pejorative feel to it.

I tearfully asked him if he was saying this because he thought less of me than he used to and did he think I was a bad, terrible, evil person.   Was this his way of rejecting me?   Did he think I was hopeless and incurable?  My abandonment terror was definitely triggered.

He smiled sympathetically, and then assured me he absolutely did not think any of those things and his feelings toward me had not changed.   He just knew me better now and could see the way my defensive structures were arranged, which was actually a good thing because it meant he had a better idea of how to conduct our sessions.   He also told me he’d seen a lot of progress in me in the year I’ve been seeing him and that I was one of the most motivated and courageous patients he’s ever had.   “Whatever kind of defenses you have,” he told me, “it’s not a judgment against you.   I have no doubt you are going to be successful in working through them, no matter how painful things might get, because I can see that you don’t give up easily and I can see how much you desire to reconnect with your authentic self, and i can see you are already doing so.” He also told me that he saw no problems with my level of empathy, and probably even had an excess of it.

That made me feel better, but I spent a few days depressed anyway, mostly because he no longer thought I was “perfect” (as in not having a personality disorder) and even placed me on the N spectrum.   I guess that in itself shows my narcissism, because one thing I’ve noticed about myself in therapy (and that might hinder it to some degree) is that I’m always trying to “impress” my therapist with my good behavior and easy to get along with personality (charm).

I hope no one judges me for this, but I’ve never regretted being truthful here, and this is no exception.

At the end of the day, the labels are just labels and don’t define an entire person or their ability to become whole, if they want to badly enough and don’t give up the fight for wellness.

Diving into the Inferno.

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Credit: wallpaperswa.com

I had a productive emergency therapy session today. My therapist was kind enough to rearrange his schedule to see me today, due to all my BPD/C-PTSD symptoms being re-triggered because of the ugliness and emotional abuse I’ve been exposed to following my dad’s death last week.

I thought I’d sob all during our session, but that was not to be. However, I have spent the past two days crying alone–and there’ve been a lot of tears. Not tears of grief over losing my dad, because I have not been allowed to properly grieve due to my being subtly (but clearly) “un-invited” to my dad’s memorial service as well as the high probability of being disinherited. But that’s another topic for another time. I cried because I feel so unloved and rejected by my own family. I cried because I’m so damn angry. The tears were mostly tears of rage, and grief for everything I have lost over the years due to my status in the family as the scapegoat and handy receptacle for all the family shame.

I didn’t quite cry in session but I did come close, and my therapist knew I’d cried a lot at home because I looked like a raccoon with a bad case of pinkeye. I’ve had to wear sunglasses when I’m out in public because I look just terrible (I’m not a pretty crier). I’ve also gone back to an old habit of mine: gnawing at the hard skin on the sides of my nails, sometimes pulling the skin away in painful strips and sometimes causing my cuticles to bleed. I’m actually sporting band-aids on two of my fingers right now. But it’s alright. I’m glad I’ve been able to feel all this emotion, as unpleasant as it is. As most of you who read this blog know, I’ve had a problem now for a long time being able to access my feelings; now they’re right on the surface and are almost too much to cope with. I’m a stew of conflicting and confusing emotions, and my therapist knows it.

I realized while talking about this whole mess just how close I am now to the void inside me, the emptiness caused by rejection and abandonment when I was very young. It’s like a Pandora’s box has been opened, and all this rage is coming out now. The rage masks the grief I really feel for all that’s been lost. I told my therapist that as painful as these feelings are, that it’s a good thing because it means now we can do some real work.

I’ve been circling the maelstrom now for some time, but never actually jumped in.  I’m like a little kid standing by the deep end of a pool, wanting to jump in, but frozen in place due to fear of something bad happening.  There was always an invisible but strong emotional screen that held me back and kept me safe from falling into the deep. It looks like now that screen is gone and I have no choice but surrendering to the void.

My therapist once asked me what my favorite books are. I remembered one of them was Dante’s Inferno.  I must have read it 20 or more times back in my high school and college days. On some level I could always relate to Dante’s trip through the levels of Hell. The first line seems to mirror the state of my own psyche at this moment:

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

And with this sudden upwelling of uncontrollable emotion bordered on all sides by righteous anger and shimmering, electric rage, the warning too is loud and clear: “abandon hope, all ye who enter.” But there is much hope, even in Dante’s hell. I’m both terrified and excited. My therapist asked me if I have some sort of amulet for protection to take with me during this treacherous adventure and without hesitation I replied, “You. You’re my Virgil.” And of course, God, an intangible presence who is always there. With my Virgil and God guiding and protecting me, I feel ready to dive into the maelstrom of my disordered mind and explore its terrors and wonders. With any luck, if I make it all the way through, I’ll be able to say, as Dante did at the end of The Inferno, “Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.”

In an important sense my father’s death and the rage I feel right now is an enormous blessing. It’s triggered my original abandonment depression and allowed me to experience painful emotions that had long been kept safely inaccessible to my conscious mind. The triggering events have opened a cauldron of roiling, long-repressed emotion containing enough raw power to blow away the psychological wall that was keeping it all trapped inside and unable to erupt. Now I’m diving into the void, instead of merely circling it, but it isn’t really a void at all because within it are the answers I need that have always eluded me.

Avoidance.

avoidance

The troll attack I mentioned in my last post isn’t the only reason why I haven’t been writing on this blog much lately. There just hasn’t been a lot to write about. I still see my therapist, but lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve hit a wall. Most of our sessions seem to have reverted to me telling him a lot of entertaining “stories.” I feel like I’m spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I realized after our last session that I’ve been avoiding confronting something. I told him this, but I wasn’t able to define what that something was.

Today I remembered what it was. Sometimes I wake up into what I call my “black mornings.” They also happen when I’m trying to take a nap or even just relax. It’s an overwhelming feeling of dread and black despair, but I can’t escape the feeling by burrowing back into the cocoon of sleep. Once this feeling hits me, the only way to escape it is to get up and get busy–anything to push it back to the far corners of my subconscious mind. When that happens I feel like a kid sticking their fingers in their ears and singing “LALALALALALA” because they don’t want to hear what you have to say.

In a relaxed, half-asleep state, my subconscious thoughts come forward, and these thoughts and feelings are sometimes very unpleasant. I can’t pinpoint exactly what they are or what caused them, but they seem to arise from the emptiness I feel inside–or even be the emptiness itself. I know this sense of dark nothingness is a flashback to the abandonment depression that started in my early childhood.

I know what I have to do now. I have to dive inside this emptiness and explore it. I asked my therapist to stop me when I start deflecting and talking about irrelevant things and direct me back to where I need to go. He said he was waiting for me to get to this point.

The voices in my head.

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Tonight was a really interesting therapy session but also confusing as hell. I talked a lot about my Inner Critic (IC), which keeps me trapped in shame. We did chair work with IC. It turns out that IC, while a judgmental, disapproving and sometimes punishing voice (much like my mother), is really trying to protect me. My therapist thinks that it’s IC that kept me from developing NPD. But IC is a terrible control freak. Besides keeping any narcissism under control, it also controls Chair Girl. IC disapproves of her weakness and vulnerability–and also disapproves of her tendency to lose emotional control at times (which doesn’t happen anymore but IC is still afraid of it happening).

Since this inner control freak won’t let me venture too far in any direction, I always feel like I’m walking a tightrope and that’s why I go through life so afraid to take any risks and why I’m so shy and socially awkward. If I go too far in one direction (narcissism), I become evil and just like my mother, which IC cannot allow; if I go too far the other way, Chair Girl (the holder of shame) emerges. IC is almost impossible to please. But it’s judgment and disapproval exists because it’s really as afraid as Chair Girl. My therapist asked me to try to have compassion for IC, as annoying as this voice can be.

I’m so confused by all this it’s hard to write about these voices and their roles in a coherent way. But being able to take apart my personality this way and look at the different parts makes a lot of things I didn’t understand before make a lot more sense. It’s incredible what the human mind is capable of and the ways it tries to protect you.

I feel almost like someone with DID, with all these “personalities” emerging (Chair Girl and IC). But these aren’t alters or whole personalities. I’m fully aware of them and can talk to them and they can talk to me. There’s no blacking out or amnesia. Now that I can name them and see what their roles have been, it’s easier for me to understand some of my contradictory behaviors and feelings that always befuddled me before.

So there’s Chair Girl (my true self), the vulnerable child who my IC tried to keep in hiding. But the IC’s other role is to keep me from becoming as narcissistic as my mother. The IC is needed, but its bedside manner is way too overbearing. It needs to be trained to loosen the reins a little and trust me more (I noted it allows me more freedom when I’m blogging and writing). It needs to stop worrying that I might lose control, bring it shame, or become a narcissist.

Recovering BPD?

Something else interesting happened and this felt like a victory.  He wasn’t finished diagnosing me and wanted to tell me what he’s concluded. He does think I have PTSD (C-PTSD isn’t an official diagnosis but he knows of it and thinks it’s valid). He also thinks I’m a recovering Borderline. Based on my accounts of the ways I used to behave and react to things, as well as the fact I was diagnosed with BPD twice, he’s quite sure I had BPD but that this label no longer applies, which means I somehow managed to cure myself. As grandiose as this may sound, I think what happened was my motivation to get better was so great I internalized mindfulness skills and through starting to blog a year and a half ago and using the other self-therapy tools I’ve described in earlier posts, I worked through a lot of the issues that otherwise would have to be worked out in therapy, or not at all. So the BPD is gone, and all that’s left is residual PTSD (or C-PTSD), which is what I’m working through now.

Triggered.

Depression (1)

Some days are better than others. Overall, they are getting better and better, but there are days where I feel like I took three steps back and get trapped in my old toxic emotional thinking patterns. At those times I feel like I’m trapped inside a dark, moldy prison with no one but my own demons to talk to and will never be able to escape. I know that’s not true, and tomorrow will probably be better, but right now, at this moment, I’m in immense emotional pain.  I feel like if I died and went to hell, it wouldn’t much worse than this.

I got triggered. At least I know what the trigger is. Today is my daughter’s birthday, and we were planning to drive up into the mountains and have lunch together. She was supposed to be here around 10 AM. But by eleven AM I still hadn’t heard from her. I began to panic and imagine some kind of catastrophe befell her, the way I always do because the world has always seemed incredibly dangerous to me and no one can be trusted.     You never know when you’re going to get bad news or when the other shoe will drop.  It’s a horrible way to live and I definitely don’t recommend it.   But it’s in my programming.   People think I’m nuts but I can’t help being this way.   It’s hard to change the programming.

Around noon, I finally got hold of her and she hadn’t gotten out of bed yet. She was hung over from a night of partying and she was also depressed. All I could think about was myself and what SHE was doing to ME. I told her I’d been looking forward to this and I’d taken the day off work to spend with her. She told me I was putting her on a guilt trip and she was right–I was. I apologized and told her to try to have a nice day and we’d get together another time. But I still felt triggered  and ornery.  I’d written a nice, positive post this morning about the fun day I was anticipating having with her, and what a great daughter she was, but I couldn’t bear to keep it up, so I removed it.

I spent the rest of the day alternately feeling sorry for myself and being angry. I did nothing but sit on the couch, switching channels mindlessly but not really watching anything, and poking around online but not really paying much attention to what I was looking at. I tried to read a little, but couldn’t focus and would keep reading the same sentence over and over, not comprehending the words. I yelled at my cat for no good reason. I snapped at my housemate. I thought about how much my life and everything in it sucks and how I’m not getting any younger and will probably be dead in the next 25 or 30 years with nothing to show for it.   I thought about how most people my age and even much younger are doing much better than me emotionally, financially, and every other way. They have healthy, real relationships because they were given the emotional tools to have those things.  My programming cut me off from having access to those things.   Of course I was constantly reminded of my inferiority by my unsupportive narcissistic family (I was rejected and labeled “the black sheep” for my failure to attain the “success” in life my very programming denied me) until I cut off almost all contact with them.  I was cruelly told to “sink or swim” but never given any swimming lessons and in fact spent most of my childhood with my head forcefully held under the water. That’s the sort of mindfuck you get when you’re the child of narcissists. You can’t win. You can only lose–and then you’re callously blamed for it. I’ve been treading water–barely–for years, in constant fear of drowning.

The rain stopped and the sun is shining but I have no motivation to even go sit outside on the porch. All I want to do is stew in self pity and self hatred. Why? What good does it do? I hate it. Angry and bitter? You bet. But I refuse to drown in those feelings because I still hold onto hope that I can be a real person someday. I won’t give up on me, even though the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally did.

Finally I got a call from my daughter apologizing to me. She was crying. I felt so terrible. She told me how depressed she was and it sounded a lot like my own depression. She was talking about all the bad choices she’s made. She feels badly because some friends she went to school with are starting families or are getting advanced degrees or have careers and she has none of those things. But she’s just 23.  She blames herself. I could relate. I tried to be empathetic and not think about the way I feel very much in the same boat–only I’m a lot older and don’t have my whole life ahead of me or the options she still does. I assured her that she may be a late bloomer but that she is blooming and to be patient with herself. I may never be a perfect mom, but I will never give up on her or abandon her the way my family did to me, because it’s not something you ever get over. It ruins you. It murders your soul. I won’t let her soul be murdered.

Sorry this post wasn’t more upbeat. But I’m just really depressed today and needed to write about it. It doesn’t help to keep this crap inside.  And I thought maybe I was “cured”?  Hah!

Where did BPD stigma come from?

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In recent years, BPD has earned a very disagreeable stigma, so disagreeable that people who have a BPD diagnosis are refused treatment, being told they cannot get better or feared by professionals who might treat them. NPD too, hasn’t always been as demonized as it is right now. NPD and BPD have become almost interchangeable in the narc-abuse community. I don’t recall it being that way in 1996 when I got my BPD diagnosis, and I don’t remember ever being told I was hopeless or unredeemable or evil or anything like that. I was treated pretty much like any other psychiatric patient, and was given therapy and put on antidepressants. I was obliged to take a DBT class, which at the time I blew off. (DBT is like CBT but exclusive to Borderlines–and it does work. The fact it worked for me makes me think maybe I *did* have BPD but no longer do!)

BPD was always classified as a Cluster B disorder, ever since its introduction into the DSM in 1980 (it was recognized, however, for much longer than that, and popularized as a disorder in the 1960s because of the research of Otto Kernberg, a German psychologist who studied “the narcissistic and borderline personalities,” and other “disorders of the self.”).* All “Cluster B” means really is the person has a weak, fragmented or nonexistent sense of self. Not being able to access a “true self” means they become either cut off from or cannot regulate their emotions. One of the results of this is a lack of empathy (but BPDs are the most empathetic of all the B’s, and some have normal levels of empathy). In NPD, a strong false self takes the place of the true one, which is a very dissociative symptom. In BPD, there’s not a strong false self like with NPD, but there is a weak and unstable one, and the person isn’t ALWAYS showing that false self. Some BPDs act quite a bit like over-emotional or unstable narcissists (or narcissists in the midst of a breakdown due to loss of supply). Others act like covert narcissists or just act neurotic and insecure but are otherwise nice people. Some feel their emotions too much, including empathy. A few are antisocial. I’m not sure why BPD (and maybe NPD) isn’t classified as a dissociative disorder, because essentially the person is cut off from their “self” in some form or another and that is what dissociation means. I’m not sure what the mechanics are in ASPD (antisocial personality disorder) but they are very different from either Borderlines or narcissists because they aren’t dependent on others to boost their weak egos. They are psychopathic and just do what they want.

bpd_stigma_quote

So the Cluster B’s, including BPD, were already around, but until the mid-1990s, no one thought of them as anything but mental illnesses or for ASPD, a kind of “adult conduct disorder.” They were psychiatric labels and nothing more. The narc abuse community started in 1995 or so, and Sam Vaknin was pretty much the first one online who wrote about it. Of course, he has NPD but even so, he first called attention to the “evil”-ness of NPD/narcissism (actually it was M. Scott Peck but at the time he wrote “People of the Lie” in 1983, the term “malignant narcissism” wasn’t in vogue yet and there was no connection of “evil people” to people with NPD. There was also no Internet to spread Peck’s concepts like wildfire the way they could have been in 1995 and later. But over time, M. Scott Peck’s book has become one of the most popular in the narc-abuse community) After Vaknin established his online narcissistic abuse community and wrote his popular book “Malignant Self-Love,” more narc-abuse sites got established (many or most of them started by victims, who were understandably angry at the narcissists who had abused them). Soon “narcs are evil” became a sort of meme, and by association, so did all the Cluster B disorders earn a “evil” reputation.

There are benefits to this, of course. Victims are being more heard than ever before. People are paying attention and avoiding narcissistic abusers. But some people who carry a Cluster B label are being hurt too, especially Borderlines (or people–usually women–who were erroneously diagnosed with it). Some experts want to get rid of BPD and just re-label BPD as Complex PTSD (probably not a bad idea). There are MANY similarities. The vast majority of BPDs are not anything like malignant narcissists and are not sociopathic at all. Most just act extremely insecure, needy, and maybe “high maintenance.” They can be manipulative or act out to avoid rejection. They may collude with people with NPD, however. But it’s possible to find these same types of behaviors in many people with Complex PTSD. Are they actually the same thing?

Another reason for the BPD stigma could be the tendency for narcissists and borderlines to form partnerships or be attracted to each other. In such a pairing, the Borderline is almost always the abused or codependent partner. In several “couple killings,” one of the criminal partners, usually the female, has had a BPD diagnosis. But they may have been so brainwashed by their abusers they were coerced into colluding with them against others (a form of Stockholm Syndrome).

Finally, a number of high profile criminals and serial killers have labels of NPD or BPD. But they almost always also have a comorbid ASPD diagnosis. Media icons like Joan Crawford who were known to scapegoat their children also had a BPD diagnosis. In Crawford’s case, she was also diagnosed with HPD (Histrionic Personality Disorder). It wouldn’t surprise me at all if she had NPD (malignant) or ASPD as well, as her behavior was very sociopathic behind closed doors.

Why am I “defending” people with BPD if I don’t have it?  Several reasons:

  1.  I was diagnosed with it and carried that diagnosis for two decades.   I have personally experienced being rejected by therapists once they saw my “red letter” on paper.
  2. Just because my current therapist thinks I don’t have it doesn’t mean I don’t.  Or maybe I did have it and no longer do.  If I no longer have it, that means BPDs are not “hopeless.”
  3. Maybe BPD isn’t a valid diagnosis.
  4. Many people I have cared about who were slapped with “BPD” have been hurt by it.

These are just my rambling thoughts about this matter; I’d be interested in hearing your opinions.

* Timeline of BPD

Personal bias and diagnostic labels.

I’m probably overthinking this, but I was wondering if my therapist’s giving me a C-PTSD diagnosis and not a BPD one could have to do with his having positive feelings about me. He admitted he likes me personally, not in a sexual way (I don’t think, anyway–and if so, I would not want to know) but he has said things like “I look forward to our sessions” and “You make my job easy” and well, I can just tell he is fond of me. As hypervigilant and over-attuned to other people’s reactions to me as I am (a very narcissistic trait, I think), I’d definitely be able to feel any negative vibes if they existed.

Would a therapist who sees the same traits in a person they like diagnose them with something non-stigmatizing or more open-ended (like PTSD or C-PTSD) and one they dislike with a highly stigmatizing label like BPD? Since diagnostic labeling is really such a subjective, unscientific thing anyway, I would guess personal feelings do play into this a lot, which is another reason why labels can be so dangerous. You could be stigmatized with a “personality disorder” even if you don’t have one if just one professional didn’t personally like you. Sometimes I think diagnostic labels aren’t even valid unless the client could be tested or evaluated by a team of different professionals who then decide together on a diagnosis. In a one-on-one client/therapist relationship where no tests are given, any diagnostic label given should probably be regarded as a matter of personal opinion. This is probably one of the reasons my therapist was so reluctant to give me a label in the first place and only gave me one because I insisted on having one.

In any case, it makes no difference whether I’m PTSD, C-PTSD, BPD, NPD, ABC or XYZ. I’m getting good trauma therapy and that’s all that matters.

Diagnosis: C-PTSD

your brain on CPTSD

My therapist finally spilled the beans (at my insistence) and thinks PTSD or complex PTSD is the closest fit for what I actually have.   BPD may have fit once, but he doesn’t think it does any longer, if it ever did.   He said a lot of those “borderline” symptoms may really have been C-PTSD.   He also doesn’t think I fit the criteria for any other personality disorder.    Also I would not be responding to therapy as well (or as quickly) if I had an actual personality disorder.

This is wonderful.   Complex PTSD is a non-stigmatizing label that acknowledges that damage was done to YOU,  and you are just reacting normally to the abnormal.   Personality disorders imply that the problem is in the person and BPD is one of the most stigmatizing labels of all.

I’ve grown quite attached to my BPD label though, and I’m not quite ready to give it up yet. I still could have it anyway; this is just one person’s opinion and I was diagnosed with it twice.  Maybe it was an erroneous diagnosis or maybe not,  but being a “borderline” has become very much a part of my identity.  I’m just overjoyed that my therapist does NOT think I have it and also that he’s aware of narcissistic abuse and the ways it can really f**k with your mind.

He says it’s fairly common for people with PTSD/C-PTSD to try to self-diagnose and it’s normal to be confused, as I have been very much so. Now I can focus on healing and less on useless self-diagnoses, which was getting me nowhere and just making me more confused.

The waif inside.

bigeyedchild

Tonight’s therapy session definitely made up for the one I had on Monday, which I felt wasn’t very productive because I seemed to be deflecting and avoiding talking about my feelings.   I asked my therapist to stop me if I did that again, even if I get angry.   He agreed to this and tonight I dove right in.

We were talking about myself as a little girl, especially the way I was never allowed to express my emotions, especially anger.  He wanted to know what I did with all that anger.  I thought about it for a minute, and told him I turned it toward myself, and that’s why I started to become so depressed and why I started to hate myself .  He asked me to put my mind inside the mind of “little me” and describe how she felt and what she looked like.

We came up with a picture.  I described her as a waiflike child, like those paintings from the ’60s of those sad, big eyed little kids, dressed in rags, with a gray, unhealthy pallor.  She is always sad, almost always crying.  She’s afraid of everything.  She feels completely defenseless and in fact she doesn’t have any defenses.   She was never allowed to grow up.

I was asked how I felt about her.  I said I didn’t hate her, that in fact I felt protective of her and had to keep her safe from harm.    She also makes me feel angry when she comes out without my permission because she’s too vulnerable and defenseless and that makes me feel ashamed.   I have to protect her, but I also have to protect myself by keeping her hidden away so she doesn’t embarrass me.

It was harder to talk about her feelings about me, the way she views me.   All I could come up with was that she felt like I kept her safe but wishes I’d let her out more.  I realized then that it was easier to describe my feelings toward her than to describe her feelings toward me.   I’m not completely disconnected from my true self, but dissociation is present.

He asked me what good qualities she has that I want to protect.  I said she has a kind, gentle soul and a big heart.  He asked what she wants.  I thought about it and said, “all she wants is to love and be loved, and to belong.”  I got emotional at that point and started tearing up.  I wasn’t able to describe the emotions I was feeling at all, but I knew we’d made some progress.   He wants to start seeing me more often.   Somehow I’m going to find a way to afford it.   This type of inner child work is hard, but it’s amazing.