Mirror

Back when she was just a little girl .

Smiling back innocently at herself

A rapidly changing, shifting world

Scared to be imperfect, she chose to withdraw

She backed away from the image, she knew that she saw

A fragile, terrified image. An easily broken little girl.

What the world could behold now was only this confused blur

Photographs by Victoria Audouard

No fine details to describe

No shape left of her to trace

Withdrawn into camouflage, no seek just hide

Just one more star fleck in space

A few years had passed and she had grown

What peered back at her was still unknown

Looking at herself, seeking her lost reflection

Certain she’d been hiding from this place

Decided that now it’s time for this correction

To adjust the focus on the blur, to find her face

A few more years had passed

She had grown once more

What peered back at her

Had become a bit more restored

No more concealing her identity true

To find the right masks that fit the crowd or master the new moves

In order to correct her blurred view

She must adjust the focus on herself to…

Find out what makes her real

Find out what makes her feel

She looks in the mirror today

She sees wrinkles and scars

Evidence that the little girl she thought would break

Had made it through more than just a few wars

The beauty is not in her face, but in what she can take.

The mirror doesn’t hold the importance it once did.

As it can’t see the remarkable internal mechanics of a kid.

I no longer look for my reflection in a flat surface called the mirror

But in the smiles on my children’s faces. I’ve never seen myself clearer.

Quarantined with BPD…

I have recently noticed a lot of similarities between Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and the current state of the world under this pandemic. I’ve been unintentionally training for this type of life for some time now. I’ve realized recently that I have been quarantined within myself because of this disorder most of my life without truly understanding what it was I was doing or why I was doing it. This disorder had caused me to practice social distancing from crowds most of the time brought on by anxiety. Another element of this disorder compels me to wear masks for protection from others when forced to enter said crowds. I have always washed my hands way more than necessary… Afraid that I might catch abandonment, especially if I managed to let someone too close. This caused me to wash my hands of many close friendships and relationships.

My self-made mask, to help “flatten the curve”

Now that I can see everyone allowing and encouraging this “social distancing” behavior and the similarities between this pandemic and my disorder I could now see how much my own past behavior, before the pandemic, was hurting and even impeding my own personal growth.

To keep others at a safe distance, to put on the appropriate mask, to wash off the stain of abandonment before it could tarnish me even more deeply. Will 6 feet be far enough? Will this mask work? Can washing my hands of this keep me safe? These things make you safe from the possibility of being seen, heard, or felt by others, but it makes for a very isolated existence. It seems crazy, huh? Well that’s why it’s a personality disorder, I suppose.

Speaking from a very personal and vulnerable place, Borderlines need to be needed, want to be wanted and ultimately hate feeling unimportant to those they think of as important people in their own life. Expressing appropriate emotions and verbalizing these mixed up feelings are even more difficult to manage for the BPD. People without Borderline may say “that’s not any different from the average person.” Sure, I can see that. The difference with the BPD is their ability to base life-changing decisions, impulsive actions are based on momentary feelings, these fleeting moments direct their entire lives. Fear directs their lives. They see the world in two distinct colors, black and white. They see everything in the most extreme contrast, it’s either all good, or all bad. I have had to work very hard to find the grey in my world. It hasn’t been easy. It’s a daily struggle.

Watching the world now try to handle this “disorder” has caused me to look even harder inside myself for the strength to endure this time of uncertainty. It was bad enough dealing with the disorder that was arising from the inside, but to also see it surround me on the outside has made me see things so much differently.

So take what I have learned to help get us back to some sort of normalcy.

*We aren’t stronger isolated, but this will weaken the spread of Covid-19. Stay inside for now and if you have to be out in the crowds wear a mask for everyone’s protection. You get use to it. 😷

*We will always need contact with other humans, it is what makes us feel alive. Contact your friends and family, let them know you are ok, or even not ok. Ask them how they are doing and that you hope they are doing well.

*Lastly, it’s ok for things to not be as they once were. Change isn’t always bad, it just takes some time to adjust. Take advantage of the positives this pandemic has brought to you and yours. I know for me it has certainly slowed things down and offered new perspectives about what this disorder was doing to the people and the relationships in my life.

To my readers, good luck to you and yours during this difficult time. My thoughts and prayers are with you. It is through times of struggle that learning occurs. Take advantage of this struggle to learn new life lessons. Take advantage of this time to improve parts of your life you weren’t happy with before. There is a positive to this, we just have to find it. I hope that everyone can find peace during this time of uncertainty.

God Bless!

Time & Authority

     I began reading “On The Shortness of Life” by: Seneca the past couple of days because of well the pandemic and the growing number of deaths around the world.  It immediately began to strike many chords within me.  Aware now that the secret to a full life is being aware of how one might choose to spend his/her time on a daily basis.  Fully knowing that our time is not promised, and will eventually…run out.  

selective focus photography of brown wooden book shelf

Those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear for the future have a life that is very brief and troubled; when they have reached the end of it, the poor wretches perceive too late that for such a long while they have been busied in doing nothing.“~Seneca, “On The Shortness of Life”

     The recent changes that most everyone have been forced to make to their own routine has brought about some very pertinent questions in me, one being… Am I spending my time wisely?  One might think that we should have more TIME to get everything accomplished.  Here is the kicker, there are still only 24 hours in a day. How am I spending my 24 hours?  Have I been busied in doing nothing?

     I do have a little bit of a routine in how I like to spend my time. I know now that I enjoy waking slowly. I may have always known this, as I have never liked the sound of a blaring alarm.  I then like to make my way to the kitchen for my morning must-have, my coffee. Then I will proceed in taking care of everyone’s breakfast as they wake up, one by one.  I used to worry about many other things, but everything that I have been worried with lately has been based mostly on our internal needs. Health being the top priority.  Growing knowledge coming in a close second.  I took a moment to analyze how I choose to spend my time. This is what I came up with, my Weekly TIME BUDGET…

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     Why do we think we have all the time in the world? At what point does this lie get planted into our minds? The time we have been given, is all that we will ever have. There is no way to store up more time for later.  There is no way to earn more time. It’s not like we can do things on “time credit” that concept will never exist.  We only have what we have, and instead of treating TIME like it’s our most valuable asset that we will ever have any control over, we ignore our authority over it.  The authority we have over it, has it’s limitations. It is limited to how one chooses to spend their OWN time, and once that time has been spent, it can’t be returned. Seneca suggested that the only way to add time to your life is to learn from those that have already lived. “They annex every age to their own; all the years that have gone before them are an addition to their store.” ~Seneca To take their knowledge and add it to ours. How does one do this?  READ, READ, READ!

   Choosing to learn from those that have already lived, will also teach you how to let go of your obsession with things that aren’t necessary. We become obsessed with being distracted.  “They strive for something else to occupy them, and all the intervening time is irksome.”~ Seneca.  We need distractions, without them, we complain of being bored.  I hear it daily from my kids.  They need a distraction almost every waking moment.  I am actually bothered by how much they need this.  Look at your life now, how much of it is spent on distraction?  How much of it is spent on something useful and productive?  What is your definition of useful or productive?  Some people define productivity, by the amount of money made. As a teacher, I define productivity by a couple of things… was something learned, did someone grow?   

     We can learn from our past, and from the past of others.  Those that do not take account of the past, have no concept of time and therefore will not feel like they have lived long no matter how long they may have actually lived. It’s almost like running a race.  If you know you must run a certain distance before reaching the finish line, but you have no clue at what point you started the race. You will not know how close the finish line is to you until you have crossed the finish line. By then its too late to say you didn’t know, we are all running the race.  
photo of man running during daytime
Photo by Tembela Bohle on Pexels.com
  This lie robs us of actions that we believe we’ll have time to do later, the things that mean something to us now should be our focus. The truth is, the only time any of us have is now. The trick to leading a full life with a reign on time is knowing that TIME can’t be stopped, but the authority of how your life is spent is up to YOU.  

Good luck and GODSPEED! We must put down the distractions. Society can’t keep putting things off.

I have been reading “On The Shortness of Life” Seneca on the app, Scribd

 

A N G E R

Responding like a stoic…

Is anger a good thing or a bad thing? Anger, when first recognized, is actually just simply a warning. A signal from your amygdala blasting throughout your brain, sounding an alarm via chemicals, that warns your body that something is not right. Message received as, “there is a present threat and there is a possibility to fight, flight, or freeze.” Anger can therefore be seen as a natural response to external stimuli. It is a response that was designed in humans to help protect us in perceived dangerous situations. After reading what Seneca wrote on Anger, I concluded that he deduced that anger wasn’t natural, that reasoning was natural. The truth is, it requires more brain function to engage the logical areas of the brain. Leaving me to believe, emotion is more natural than thought.

The emotional response happens automatically. This emotional part of our brains (amygdala) is so much more developed than the logical part of our brain, which is known as the prefrontal cortex. The emotional part of our brain has kept us alive, reacting to the world without much thought to consequences, other than one that is primal, “Stay alive!” While this much developed area of my brain has kept me alive, it has also assumed for far too long that it is in charge. I have now learned that the prefrontal cortex can be trained/stimulated so that it can show the amygdala whose boss. Seneca was then saying that allowing our emotional brain to just run rampant in our lives wouldn’t be natural. The natural thing, the “good thing” is to have what we call In DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, your wise mind always aware of what your amygdala and prefrontal cortex are doing. After studying stoicism and understanding that Cognitive Behavior Therapy was designed using stoicism. I can see how it’s philosophy is also helpful in The therapy I am currently receiving now. That this higher order thinking, being cognitively aware is the practice of stoicism. “through Stoic training, Aurelius was able to master his perceptions and see each obstacle as an opportunity to improve”(dailystoic.com) mastering our perceptions, added with the knowledge of how our minds naturally respond will help most manage anger.



You can find some exercises for the prefrontal cortex below…

https://heartmindonline.org/resources/10-exercises-for-your-prefrontal-cortex


If you have read any of my previous posts or know anything of Borderline Personality Disorder, becoming a stoic is changing the natural way in which my BPD brain will more than likely over respond to the difficult to digest external stimuli. Like black is to white, BPD is to stoicism. The way in which one chooses to respond to this automatic alarm system is what I believe answers our question today. When anger is triggered inside the mind, it is neither good nor bad. It is not decided until we respond.

Anger, shows duality, with the possibility of being both good and bad. Stoics believe that there is no good with anger. They were told to see that there is no good, because of all the “evil” it created. They want every stoic to believe that there is no good to be found in anger. I see the justifications of their message. A calm and sound mind, not writhing with “passions” can be controlled. One drowning in anger or other “passions” cannot. So then, if looking at it from this perspective, serenity isn’t the final goal, but rather control. Or does control get us to the place of serenity? I have had moments, in which I have given into passions of anger and it has kept me alive. So isn’t it necessary to be alive in order to be serene? Can we have one without the other?

I absolutely want to be a stoic sage someday, using this higher-order thinking to get through the most complicated of situations with clarity and peace of mind… I’m left perplexed at this particular question. While I understand what the stoic philosophers were trying to convey to their followers in those times, teaching people to seek serenity. Being calm and collected leads to logical thinking and sound decisions. I have also experienced anger on several levels. Ultimately, anger has ensured my existence during some pretty tough times. More recently, I find that I am just angry at myself and my mistakes and this anger has propelled me to find better ways to manage myself, my disorder, and my life. Has it been pretty? No, fighting my way to this point hasn’t been pretty. I feel that’s why we are all built in this way. There is no way to determine which human will be placed in prime conditions and which will be placed in tough conditions. The emotional tools we are equipped with may not be dispersed equally, but we were all equipped with the ability to learn. I choose now as I am on the verge of entering my forties, to learn this higher order thinking. Working a portion of the brain more and more, so that my logical mind becomes stronger every day. My ultimate goal being serenity in this deeply maddening world.

I had a discussion with my students the other day about anger. One student said, “as a kid, my counselor told me not to show my anger, but to keep my anger to myself.” I felt that wasn’t a very healthy way to teach a young person to deal with such an intense emotion. I asked him, “How has that advice worked out for you?” My student responded with, “I’m still trying to find a useful method to control my anger.”

I then asked, “what if we started looking at anger differently?” A lot of puzzled stares looking back at me. I then said, “what if we started looking at the positive ways in which anger can be of use to us? Can anger be of use to us? Can we manage it? Or do we let that emotion manage us?”

What if we started looking at the positive ways in which anger can be of use to us?

What are positive ways anger has helped you?

Can anger be of use to us?

Can we manage anger, or do we let anger manage us?

Emotions indicate so many things for an individual, learning to understand our emotions and why we choose to respond in certain ways, increases not only our emotional intelligence but the control we possess over ourselves. Why then should anyone just ignore this emotion, anger? Especially, when anger is often the first emotion we go to when life gets confusing, or when we are afraid, when we feel threatened or rejected.

“Anger is temporary madness: the Stoics knew how to curb it” By: Massimo Pigliucci, here he states 10 ways to curb anger! Maybe one of these can help…

  • Engage in preemptive meditation: think about what situations trigger your anger, and decide ahead of time how to deal with them.
  • Check anger as soon as you feel its symptoms. Don’t wait, or it will get out of control.
  • Associate with serene people, as much as possible; avoid irritable or angry ones. Moods are infective.
  • Play a musical instrument, or purposefully engage in whatever activity relaxes your mind. A relaxed mind does not get angry.
  • Seek environments with pleasing, not irritating, colours. Manipulating external circumstances actually has an effect on our moods.
  • Don’t engage in discussions when you are tired, you will be more prone to irritation, which can then escalate into anger.
  • Don’t start discussions when you are thirsty or hungry, for the same reason.
  • Deploy self-deprecating humour, our main weapon against the unpredictability of the Universe, and the predictable nastiness of some of our fellow human beings.
  • Practice cognitive distancing – what Seneca calls ‘delaying’ your response – by going for a walk, or retire to the bathroom, anything that will allow you a breather from a tense situation.
  • Change your body to change your mind: deliberately slow down your steps, lower the tone of your voice, impose on your body the demeanour of a calm person.

My Conclusion: I thought about anger for an entire week. Oddly enough it kept me from getting angry. While I may not have answered the question for everyone here, my answer is… Anger, like all other emotions is necessary. It is neither a good or bad thing. To let it get out of control is bad. To see what it can do for us when we need it to survive, is good.

Have a great day! The end! 🙂

A game that could help improve logic… Chess

**Wanted to include a huge thanks to @dailystoic and @stoiccoffeebreak for wonderful podcasts! Thanks for stirring good thoughts and inspiring and motivating me to change the things I can control. Check out their podcasts if you are learning on the stoic philosophy.

I Am Pleased To Tell You, I Am Not Here To Please!

I mentioned in my last post that I am beginning a personal journey of becoming a Stoic. A practicing Stoic that also has BPD, learning more about the Philosophy of Stoicism has actually been quite therapeutic for me and has offered many great coping skills to help with my daily struggles. Does this mean I have figured out how to regulate my emotions when they become dis-regulated? Not entirely, not yet, but what it has shown me, is that it’s ok to feel certain ways about certain things. That these feelings don’t always have to be agreeable with others. As they are MY feelings. That the moments I am asked for my opinion, thoughts or feelings on a matter my response at that point only requires honesty, and if I’m not sharing my honest opinion, thoughts, and feelings about things and I am just telling a person what I feel they want to hear, I am in fact using a form of manipulation. As they aren’t seeing a true version, but a version I’ve created for them. (My life in a nutshell!)

“In order to please others, we lose our hold on our life’s purpose.”

Epictetus

This one personality choice. Choosing to please others, a choice that was made without really being aware of the harm it would bring me and my loved ones during my adult years, is one I hope to break. It truly seemed harmless. I was just pleasing others. No, I wasn’t. I had been painting a picture all those years. Only the picture I had been painting was not a true picture of who I am, and now no one knows what the hell they are looking at, (I’m left looking like a Picasso!) At some point in my life before I had made that decision, I had learned that I liked making others happy, or thought that I had some sort of control over making others happy. Stoicism, tells us we only have control of our internal/external responses for ourselves and only ourselves. living as a people pleaser had not only proven to be exhausting, it proved to be a downright painful existence. I’d wonder about, latching on to other’s opinion’s or beliefs and then think who am I? Where do I stand? It was becoming more and more apparent that I had no solid grip of my own identity. No consistency with who I was, no boundaries, just out to please, no limits. Do you know anyone like this? Are you like this? Is it wrong to be this way? Maybe the question is better asked this way, is it right to live this way?

“To find yourself, think for yourself.”

Socrates

I have been a self-prescribed people pleaser for so long it’s hard for me to pin-point the age of my youth at which this actually started, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I started to really feel the negative repercussions of this prescribed way of life. I wouldn’t stand up for what I wanted, because I had no actual clue of what that was. I would easily go along with whatever it was anyone else wanted to do, or agree with what was said just as long as they appreciated or made note of my easy-going personality. I wanted to be liked. Not for the things that made me unique, or the things that actually made me, me… I just wanted to be liked and this meant at any cost.

Wearing masks is actually a part of having BPD ( Borderline Personality Disorder) I’d say it’s a side affect of being a people pleaser as well. I listen to several different stoic podcasts daily for inspiration and direction. One morning, I hear that masks are important in stoicism, but they are referred to as roles. When I am at work, I fulfill a role as a teacher. When I am at home, I have two roles, my first role being a wife and second role being a mother. Our first roles are generally given to us when we are born, either as a son or daughter. I grew up thinking that I never fulfilled my roles very well. Especially after my parent’s divorce. Now, after looking at it through the lens of stoicism. I observe that the expectation I once had of myself may have been impossible. I kept trying to fix everything that was broken. That was not my function, which is why I felt my role was left unfulfilled. I look back and notice that I was raised primarily by my dad and was the only daughter. I was also the only grand-daughter on my mother’s side. No one taught me how to be a daughter. I just discovered what that meant on my own, just like we all discover our roles. I can only expect to function in my role, no more and no less. I can only do my best. My best is what I will do. That is all!

I am just now learning how to respond to the world in an honest way. I know this will take major mindful intentions in order for me to make these changes. I plan on making these changes daily and have already taken the first steps. I’m pleased to say, I’m not here to please everyone, I am here to be me. Have a great day, just be you! Those that love you for who you truly are, truly deserve to be in your circle!

**Wanted to include a huge thanks to @dailystoic and @stoiccoffeebreak for wonderful podcasts! Thanks for stirring good thoughts and inspiring and motivating me to change the things I can control. Check out their podcasts if you are learning on the stoic philosophy.

Can An Individual With BPD Become A Stoic?

Emotional dis-regulation might be the opposite term one could use for Stoicism. I’ve lived most of my life without acknowledgement to my dis-regulated emotional state. In my teen years, emotional dis-regulation could be seen on most days. This dis-regulation often misinterpreted as just being a teenager. As teens are often moody, impulsive, and emotional. It was a convenient front being a teenager, as everyone assumed I was behaving normally. As a child I can remember being so upset at times that I required a paper bag to breathe into just to help with hyperventilating. This happened many times. Again, the excuses were she just needs to calm down, she is just sensitive. Being a shy little girl, I was unable to communicate properly about the things I was feeling. This made it easy for others to believe I was fine. I still at times get almost to the point of hyperventilating when I experience an event that I have perceived as negatively emotionally-charged, or I perceive I am being blamed. I have moments where I feel my entire person has been hijacked and is now under someone else’s control. This is the danger of being highly emotional and highly reactive to your situation/s. You become subject to reacting without logic, thus leaving the person feeling like a puppet being manipulated by someone else. If I am not in control, then who is?

The stoic philosophy says that one shouldn’t react but rather look at the situation as something that you can not control. The only thing that you do control is your thoughts and your reaction in that moment. The stoic philosophy reminds one to stay mindful, in the present moment. Not to worry about the future, but educate yourself that tragedies and challenges are sure to be expected. That one shouldn’t take this personally as each of us are being challenged.

Understanding this philosophy has helped create some control for myself. I have been able to halt an impulse, as I consider the way in which I can be better received. It is my way of having some control in every situation. It alleviates the constant push and pull that we often feel when dealing with difficult situations. It’s understanding that you do hold some power, but that this power is limited to just your own actions and responses. Once you try to push your power onto something or someone else it is no longer a power, but a wasted effort or wasted breath. You then push everything out of balance and something may fall apart. In my experience the thing left falling apart would be me.

If you think about yourself as a lightbulb, it might help explain my understanding of this philosophy a little better. A lightbulb’s main function and purpose is to produce light, to lift darkness. Some may say that your light isn’t bright enough, others may say it’s too bright. Stoicism says, it doesn’t matter what others say, as long as YOU are shining as brightly as YOU can. That is all you can control. You don’t control where you are placed. You don’t control when your power is cut off, or how long you should last before your light burns out, but you can do your best knowing that you did your best at what you could control, and be happy that you were able to shine your light. This thought is so soothing to me, I honestly feel it has helped my anxiety more than my anti-anxiety meds.

I have several roles I fulfill on the daily, who doesn’t? My life is not so different from most. I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a wife, I am a mother of two, I am a teacher, I am a friend, etc. we could list the roles for a little bit longer I am sure of this. The beauty with stoicism isn’t to compare your role to that of another, it’s to ask yourself while on a said task, fulfilling specific roles, are you genuinely focused and completing the task to the best of your ability? This has changed my daily life in a huge way. When I find myself doing something I don’t particularly care to do, the complaints cease and I am left repeating the question, is this the best I can do? Which leaves me doing a much better job and feeling the intrinsic reward of completing something at my best.

I am just starting this journey, practicing and learning stoicism. Hopefully the question is answered in my progress. I do hope someone with BPD can become a stoic. Have an empowered day, knowing that you can only do your best and that is more than enough.

* if you are on a similar journey please share your thoughts/feedback on stoicism in the comment section. Have a mindful day!

**Wanted to include a huge thanks to @dailystoic and @stoiccoffeebreak for wonderful podcasts! Thanks for stirring good thoughts and inspiring and motivating me to change the things I can control. Check out their podcasts if you are learning on the stoic philosophy.

Combat Of Black Friday

I am a veteran of the United States Army. Even in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I pondered how I might be able harm another human being. I had so much trouble with the idea that I’d often say to myself, “it’s me or the enemy!” I never had to assess whether or not I would be able to take someone’s life or injure anyone in order to save my own. Although, I was living close to combat I didn’t have to test my nerve in that way. I can also be sure I wasn’t the only soldier who pondered those very same thoughts, and our reasons for war are suppose to be for honorable reasons; freedom, security, or acting as allied forces. I’m also a lover of the outdoors and often observe nature. I killed a deer once, and understood the reason I pulled that trigger wasn’t to hurt the animal, but to help provide food for my family. Pulling that trigger was necessary in order to do that. Both situations were difficult, as it challenged my internal motives and my beliefs. I would only shoot someone, if I was in danger and I would only kill an animal, to provide food for my family. I watched videos of Black Friday chaos a few days ago and watched it again with my class.

My thoughts… Are these actual people or wild predators? I’d like to see National Geographic do an episode called “The Bargain Shopper” the worst and most dangerous of the species being “The Black Friday Shopper”! What has happened within our society to make us act like animals in shopping centers.

Survey says that around 50% of people who partake in the madness, do it selfishly. Not buying gifts for anyone except me, myself and I. We have become the most selfish and greedy place on earth. To see people trampled leading to multiple injuries and one recorded death… one worker died after being trampled to death because the mob rushed the entry and I guess she wasn’t fast enough to move herself out of the way. Talk about insanity. That is absolute insanity. And for what, why are they acting like this? They are behaving like this for items that will more than likely fill the shelves of a thrift store, yard sale or landfill with the next year. We use, and abuse everything in our society and I want to just say, I’m sorry!

I first want to apologize to my kids. I’m so sorry my loves that you will grow up in such a materialistic world. I’ll try my best to keep you aware of what is necessary to be a good person. Lesson 1:

Let’s agree that Black Friday shopping can be done (if necessary) on Monday during Cyber Monday sales.

Christmas isn’t about gifts, and Thanksgiving shouldn’t be the precursor to the purge! I was completely disappointed in our culture and lack of respect. What will happen if we just decided not to buy their items, but stayed home and enjoyed leftovers and family, not to mention the warmth of our beds at 4am!

I had to vent!

God Bless!