Crowdsourcing Therapy

I’m still planning to update the site this year – that’s not canceled!  But today I’m posting because I could use some help.

I believe in the idea of being what you want to see in the world.  As someone with BPD, I always strive to keep my mood north of the equator, because when I’m happy I’m most productive, most helpful to others, most creative.  Everyday doses of anger, fear, and sadness can all too easily get multiplied by the mechanics of my brain until they incapacitate me.  But positive emotions can also multiply and have powerful effects, which is why I chase them any way I can.

When, starting in 2016, I discovered that nearly every social media account out there seemed designed to push others’ moods southward, I decided to devote my social media presence to doing the opposite.  For the past few years, I’ve been trying with all my might to help people balance their view of the universe, remember the little things that make suffering through hardships worthwhile.  And for the most part, giving this small service, in and of itself, is enough to help keep me balanced.  But today, I need your help.

There are times when being a “public face” of BPD simply becomes too much for me to bear.  Every time I slip, say something “off,” or admit that I’ve hit a limitation, I feel not only a sense of having disgraced and discredited myself, but I feel I’ve thrown all my friends, readers, and even complete strangers with BPD under the bus.  My job is supposed to be to teach others not to be afraid of BPD.  I’m supposed to be demonstrating that with treatment, people with BPD can be good friends, good co-workers, good partners, good parents.

So when I fail publicly at any of those jobs, I feel a deep-rooted certainty that all my years of struggling upstream against the current of confirmation bias has been for naught. That I’ve become one more example to my friends, colleagues, and family of why You Just Can’t Trust Someone With BPD.  Why it’s better just to avoid them, not hire them, not date them, not be friends with them.

I’ve just had to “out” myself to some colleagues, in a sense–admit that the stress load of a job was triggering symptoms–and it immediately sent me catapulting into a pretty bad spell.  I tried for a long time to “pass” in this particular context but I can’t anymore.  It’s not as though my BPD is a secret; it’s part of my “brand.”  But for the most part, if I don’t show symptoms, people choose to adopt a sort of denial about it, because the reputation of BPD is so toxic that they can’t reconcile their positive feelings toward me.  They subconsciously decide that I must not really have BPD, or maybe I used to and now I’m cured.  And when I demonstrate otherwise, it’s always a shock.

I’m really struggling today.  It hurts to admit to people that I’m struggling when I try to be a source of hope, but I need you to understand why I’m asking for help in such a bizarre and “showy” way.  Here is the problem: since I outed myself, I’ve found that I’m terrified to make contact with those I outed myself to, which means I can’t get work done.  It’s completely irrational, and at the moment completely uncontrollable.  I think the reason the reins have slipped from my hands for the moment is that the confession has triggered way too much related baggage.

The last job at which I admitted I had BPD, it wasn’t even because I was having problems.  I simply confided to a manager, who I’d thought was a friend.  She’d never even heard of it; I explained it as best I could.  But I assured her it wouldn’t be an issue.  I was never even late to that job.  I did it absolutely to specifications, and I didn’t let my bad moods interfere, because I cared about the work.  Still, a few weeks later, when my performance review came around, for mysterious reasons they’d decided I wasn’t working out in the position.  They never told me why.  I didn’t need to ask.

Between that and all the posts about Clarion lately (another place where I confided in people about my disorder and it didn’t go well), I’m stuck in a loop of savage self-recrimination, and so I need outside help to break my circular thoughts.  So unless you’re someone I’ve ever, even once, told that your adulation makes me uncomfortable because it feels like idealization — if you’re not one of those people and you’re still reading this, I could use your encouragement.

Again I have to reiterate the caveat, because lately there’s been a very strange spell of people doing the exact opposite of what I instruct via text:

If I have ever–even once–warned you that you seemed to be idealizing me, yours is not the voice I need to hear right now.  When I’m dysphoric, I trust people less than ever, and I am always wary of those who tend toward idealization.  I can’t believe what they tell me, because I don’t believe they see me clearly.

On the other hand, if you have never received such a warning from me, and you have a moment, your reassurance could be very helpful to me.  Our budget doesn’t allow for therapy right now and I’m mostly doing okay without it, but this is one of those days when I really wish I still had a therapist.  I’m going to have to make do by putting the problem out there, crowdsourcing advice and reassurance.  I need to feel better, and I can’t just wait and hope; I need to feel better immediately.

I much prefer to offer help than to ask for it.  Helping others makes me feel strong, valuable.  I hate looking weak when I’m supposed to be the example proving that people with BPD can be counted on.  But I don’t have a lot of time to struggle through this on my own, and I know from experience that one well-chosen phrase or two can sometimes turn everything around for me.  So if you have anything to say, please — now is the time to say it.

16 Responses to “Crowdsourcing Therapy”

  1. Lynn

    I follow a zillion people on twitter and most of the posts that pop up, I just skim/scan, but when I see yours – I read it. You are a point of light in this crazy world. I am sorry that your brain is being troublesome right now – it is a beautiful brain, even if a bit tricky sometimes. The world would be duller, more boring, and not nearly as much fun if you were not in it. I’m glad that you are.

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  2. Steven D. BREWER

    I don’t have any particular words of wisdom, but I have a lot of respect for your willingness to share your struggle. I can relate in an odd way: my struggle is with obesity. Your struggle could be invisible: people might never know if you didn’t tell them. My struggle is all too visible: I’m fat. Obesity is widely considered a moral failing and fat-shaming is rampant in our society. Characters like Millie help me find a path forward even when I make mistakes. Hang in there.

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    • Mishell Baker

      I was raised by a confident fat mom who taught me that everyone’s body is their own business. I’m sorry so much of the world doesn’t see it that way, but your body is YOURS and no one else gets to decide what’s right for it. Stay strong!

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  3. Heather

    Hi Mishell. I’m one of your readers and twitter followers. I’ve bookmarked a lot of your threads about mental illness and social justice. They’ve really helped me in the last few years as I’ve tried to support family members who are dealing with depression, addiction, and anxiety. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and being a force for light and understanding! A thing that delights me about you is your joy in learning languages – if I could choose a superpower it would be universal language comprehension and speech ability. I hope that you will have the resources for therapy soon, and want you to keep communicating with your readers and asking for help. I wish I could give you a hug! Consider this a virtual hug, {{{{Mishell}}}}. Going to try to get back to the letter-writing habit you encouraged in me a few years ago, and you’re at the top of my list! Take care my friend,
    Heather in CO

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    • Mishell Baker

      Hi Heather! Your letters were always so great to read. I still remember how much hope it gave me when I read about the compassionate way you made room for your family’s mental illnesses without speaking of them as any kind of burden. It was just one of the facts you planned a trip around, like the weather or the geography. That meant so much. Virtual hug returned. {{{{Heather}}}}

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  4. Paisley Pond

    I recently experienced a traumatic event which got me back in therapy after many years away from it. While it has been helpful, one of the best things I’ve done during this recovery period is take up language study again. I have a talent for it so it gives me a sense of accomplishment and somehow it provides a sense of relief. Sharing your love for languages helped me rekindle mine. Can’t thank you enough for that.

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  5. Dana

    I really appreciate you, and learning from you – I deeply respect the way you interact with knowing your brain has difficulties, and even though the ones I have are very different, it’s still helpful. (I think of your discussions of waiting for emotional storms to pass much like I think of Emily nagoski’s phrasing of thinking of your feelings like a sleepy hedgehog you have to be nice to, and they both make me kinder to myself.)

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  6. Anna

    I only just stumbled upon your work and have read some of your online articles, but none of your books (they have been put at the top of my to read list!). However, I am openly Borderline among friends and about to step on stage this week for the first time in front of a room full of mental health professionals to talk about my experiences with BPD. On days that I breakdown, I feel like my story of recovery is a front. But recovery is not a life without symptoms or being “cured”. You can be a positive face for BPD and still struggle. That is my goal right now. The #1 person I like to “split” on is myself–one day I’m a force for good and the next I’m a total failure. Reminding myself that I’m splitting, and that my “I’m all bad” feelings are a symptom not the truth is the most helpful thing for me. May the internet bring you enough encouragement to keep you doing what you’re doing.

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    • Mishell Baker

      You have clearly done a lot of important work on your self-awareness–that’s so hard even for neurotypical folks!–and I’m really glad you’re out there representing BPD and showing that behind a diagnosis there can be a beautiful, intelligent soul. Thank you for going to bat for BPD, and I hope your presentation goes well. Whatever happens, know that just having the courage to do it makes you a success. <3

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  7. Julie

    Hi Mishell,

    My sweetie has the other BPD, and what I’ve learned living with and loving her is that sometimes the brain weasels take over for a bit, not because anyone did anything wrong or because anyone is bad, but because EVERY brain has good days and bad, and people whose sine waves have higher amplitudes have it happen more obviously. I see you doing the work and taking care of things as much as you can, and that’s what you can do. And when the brain weasels start, I see you putting things in place to deal, like this very post, which had such great boundaries. I hope you feel more stable soon.

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  8. Autumn

    I only came across your blog and it resonated with me which I found validating. I came out of the closet two years ago, but still didn’t feel comfortable speaking candidly about it. It remained the elephant in the room. Only in the last year have I been somewhat more vocal, but because I can blend well within society, hold a job, be successful, and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol I must be misdiagnosed. Then I find myself having to justify my BPD with people who obviously have not been privy to one of my meltdowns or outbursts. How could they know when they don’t “know” the scared, deeply insecure person behind the mask? Sometimes it’s hard even for myself to discern what I’m truly feeling because I lie to myself too. Only those closest to me such as my ex-husband and children have seen me at my worst when I can no longer keep the overpowering emotions shoved down my gullet and I’m spewing my emotional garbage. I live in this deeply rich and complex inner world that I have to hide away. I hide alot of the emotional instability from even my loved ones, or at least I think I do. My ex would probably say otherwise lol, but what he doesn’t realize it’s so much bigger of a problem than even he realizes. One minute I’m on top of the world and unstoppable and the next I’m drowning in mud. It is exhausting trying to hold it all together and being one button away from exploding like Uncle Dave’s shirt after a Thanksgiving Dinner lol, yet somehow we do. Somehow we’ve become experts at carrying it all. Every day you wake up is an opportunity to make today better than yesterday to be better than the day before. Be good to yourself and everything will fall into place.

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    • Mishell Baker

      Yeah, that annoying logic of “Everyone with BPD is a complete failure and so if you’re not a complete failure you don’t have BPD” needs to disappear, like, yesterday. I’m really proud of you for holding a job (which I never quite managed) and super glad that you’ve not resorted to substance abuse (that success I can share with you!). The rest of it, meh, all those mistakes can be fixable. Individual relationships might not be fixable, but in general relationships with rigid, unforgiving, uncompromising people aren’t the kinds of relationships you need in your life anyway. The best people see that you’re working hard, forgive occasional weirdness, and don’t overreact to overreactions. Everyone’s got to do their part. You’re doing yours, and I’m proud of you.

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