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Author Topic: 7.01 | Do you suffer from Compassion Fatigue?  (Read 16793 times)
marlo6277
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« on: February 27, 2011, 10:50:15 AM »

When I first heard this term, my mind went to all different places... .is this a disease? Is it a disorder?

My stepchildren's trauma therapist obviously saw the signs of stress in me and she decided she needed to talk it out with me.  This is usually a term reserved for people in the health care field, law enforcement, corrections, etc... .However, she was seeing these signs in me.  

She explained to me that due to the HUGE commitment of looking after children with a BPD mother, one who is still somewhat present in the children's lives, only adds to the level of stress because I must start fresh every Sunday after they have spent a weekend with their mom and their traumas are relived, and rehashed week in and week out.   With no sign of end in sight.

There are so many great topics on these boards discussing how to manage our wellness and our children's wellness and sometimes I find myself saying "Where do I honestly find the time to manage my own wellness?"  Some of us are just so focused on our children's wellness and the commitment that takes that it's only natural for those of us to 'sacrifice' our own needs because we see how much our children need us.  And our spouses. And our work. And our parents... .and on and on and on... .

For many of us we are in the 'sandwich phase' of our lives - aging parents who need our assistance - whether it be physically, emotionally, or financially.  AND we have small children who also need us in all aspects - especially children with a disordered parent.  

And for those of us who are non-nons, our spouses also need us to help support them in dealing with a BPD ex.  And those of us who are in a relationship with someone suffering from BPD.

That's a lot of sandwich and some of us just don't have that much bread!  Smiling (click to insert in post)  

So it's definitely possible to NOT be in a health care field, or law enforcement field and still suffer from Compassion Fatigue.  Especially when we are dealing with trauma.

From the site www.compassionfatigue.org :

What is Compassion Fatigue?

Studies confirm that caregivers play host to a high level of compassion fatigue. Day in, day out, workers struggle to function in care giving environments that constantly present heart wrenching, emotional challenges. Affecting positive change in society, a mission so vital to those passionate about caring for others, is perceived as elusive, if not impossible. This painful reality, coupled with first-hand knowledge of society's flagrant disregard for the safety and well being of the feeble and frail, takes its toll on everyone from full time employees to part time volunteers. Eventually, negative attitudes prevail.

Compassion Fatigue symptoms are normal displays of chronic stress resulting from the care giving work we choose to do. Leading traumatologist Eric Gentry suggests that people who are attracted to care giving often enter the field already compassion fatigued. A strong identification with helpless, suffering, or traumatized people or animals is possibly the motive. It is common for such people to hail from a tradition of what Gentry labels: other-directed care giving. Simply put, these are people who were taught at an early age to care for the needs of others before caring for their own needs. Authentic, ongoing self-care practices are absent from their lives.

If you sense that you are suffering from compassion fatigue, chances are excellent that you are. Your path to wellness begins with one small step: awareness. A heightened awareness can lead to insights regarding past traumas and painful situations that are being relived over and over within the confines of your symptoms and behaviors. With the appropriate information and support, you can embark on a journey of discovery, healing past traumas and pain that currently serve as obstacles to a healthy, happier lifestyle.

Many resources are available to help you recognize the causes and symptoms of compassion fatigue. Healing begins by employing such simple practices as regular exercise, healthy eating habits, enjoyable social activities, journaling, and restful sleep. Hopefully, the information on this website will be of use to you and help you jump-start your process.

Accepting the presence of compassion fatigue in your life only serves to validate the fact that you are a deeply caring individual. Somewhere along your healing path, the truth will present itself: You don't have to make a choice. It is possible to practice healthy, ongoing self-care while successfully continuing to care for others.

************************************************************************

So my question to you:
<br/>:)o you suffer from Compassion Fatigue?
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ennie
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2011, 01:28:02 PM »

Yes!  I think I DO suffer from compassion fatigue!

I have been in a pretty fatigued place lately.  I have also been getting regular exercise, seeing a therapist, doing things for myself with friends (going to a spa with a girlfriend, just finished building myself and art studio) and with my husband (date nights, etc.).  Still, I am tired of the constant stress.  Often, this has to do more with fear of what is next and not being prepared than with the reality of the present level of difficulty.

DH has (finally) filed a custody motion to get a solid parenting plan.  When DH and his BPD ex wife divorced, his ex was willing to settle only with no parenting plan and a loosely worded, non-comital agreement for 50/50 custody.  So after some challenging events last fall (including SD10's BPD mom claiming SD10 would kill herself if she did not get to live with her mom full time), DH decided to motion for a detailed parenting plan with limits on communication from BPDmom, a full custody evaluation, keeping things at 50/50 unless the evaluation indicated a change was needed. 

I have been really grateful that DH is finally doing this, primarily as he has had such a hard time trying to decide whether to reveal to the court his ex's alcohol abuse and her domestic abuse in their relationship.  There is a way that just him keeping this all "secret" is very hard for me, that people are making decisions about the kids and my DH that do not have the benefit of key information.  So it is a relief, and we are also in the midst of it and all of our biggest challenges in dealing with this stuff are apparent. 

One of the issues BPDmom has raised is criticisms of our home, to which she has never been because we chose after a few violent instances to not invite her here.  So she has our address, and keeps getting the kids to tell us we should invite mommy over, even sent cameras with the kids to take photos.  But has not been here.  It is rural and built by us, and a relatively nice rural home.  But it is unfinished in some respects (decks are not completed, etc.).  It feels so vulnerable to have our place criticized; she wants someone to inspect it as part of the custody evaluation.  We expected as much, as she is very angry we have not invited her here.  But this still adds a lot of stress... .her making negative allegations about our home feels scary.  Where we live, CEs do not make home visits as part of an evaluation. 

DH works full time plus, there are 2 feet of snow out there right now, and I fear it will fall only to me to make our place ship shape, to help him with paper presentations to the CE (he has a lawyer, but the lawyer is pretty hands off about the CE process), and to try to find time to take care of myself emotionally so I am not a wreck, as well as to run my own part-time law practice.  I am just really tired of the drama and stress, and the way that all of that makes the hard work harder.  I end up feeling really angry, at DH, at the situation, at myself for not being as efficient as I could be (which then would make me be able to do MORE, MORE, MORE, than the too much I am doing now).

I am just so thankful for the fact that I live in a beautiful and peaceful place, for the great friends I have and DH has, for my family who are endlessly supportive, for DH's family who are also so there for us, for the fact that I love the kids and they love me, even when they are hurting and angry at all of us, and for how flexible my life is, and for how much my DH loves me and is a really good friend to me even when we are upset with each other.  I am grateful for the room I have with him to express challenging things. 

That said, this level of stress does not seem sustainable.  I will be grateful for the end of this legal issue, and am hopeful that this will free up time for DH and I, and make things more stable and predictable for us and the kids. I have been working hard to also keep my heart open to BPD mom, which just takes constant work and I am not always that great at it.  But I know that this helps me not to drown in all this stuff... .I know many people suggest I just not be compassionate toward the BPDex of my DH, but I really can say that when I am actually able to summon that feeling, it feels good to be able to not continue the lineage of pain she is a part of.  But lately, I am not focused on being compassionate with her but with myself, my DH, and the kids... .and that is tough right now.  Phew.  Really slogging through it. 
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2011, 02:13:13 PM »

I don't feel like I am suffering from Compassion Fatigue.

I do have to say that I relate to this little checklist though:

• Excessive blaming

• Bottled up emotions

• Isolation from others

• Receives unusual amount of complaints from others

• Voices excessive complaints about administrative functions

• Substance abuse used to mask feelings (Mmmmm... .to the red wine)

• Compulsive behaviors such as overspending, overeating, gambling, sexual addictions

• Poor self-care (i.e., hygiene, appearance)

• Legal problems, indebtedness

• Reoccurrence of nightmares and flashbacks to traumatic event

• Chronic physical ailments such as gastrointestinal problems and recurrent colds

• Apathy, sad, no longer finds activities pleasurable

• Difficulty concentrating

• Mentally and physically tired

• Preoccupied

• In denial about problems (?)


I feel like these are some pretty similar symptoms to PTSD?

Excerpt
Symptoms of intrusive memories may include:

Flashbacks, or reliving the traumatic event for minutes or even days at a time

Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event

Symptoms of avoidance and emotional numbing may include:

Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event

Feeling emotionally numb

Avoiding activities you once enjoyed

Hopelessness about the future

Memory problems

Trouble concentrating

Difficulty maintaining close relationships

Symptoms of anxiety and increased emotional arousal may include:

Irritability or anger

Overwhelming guilt or shame

Self-destructive behavior, such as drinking too much

Trouble sleeping

Being easily startled or frightened

Hearing or seeing things that aren't there

For me personally, the pwBPD in my life and all her chaos was merely a catalyst to some underlying issues that I was already experiencing.  As were my codependent tendecies (placing others needs first, etc.) that I had when trying to be a "rescue worker" like the term Compassion Fatigue was termed for.  My commitment to being a stepparent was a little bit foggy in my earlier days, and I've found that my redefining my role has proved to alleviate a lot of my hardships.  She also has very much gone from "traumatic" to "dramatic" to me because of my own willingness to place less value on her words and actions.  That could also be my own good ol' coping skill called "minimization". Smiling (click to insert in post)

I really do like the idea behind awareness and quoted from the site: "While the symptoms are often disruptive, depressive, and irritating, an awareness of the symptoms and their negative effect on your life can lead to positive change, personal transformation, and a new resiliency."

I'm starting to work on that awareness/resiliency myself.   Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)
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marlo6277
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2011, 05:09:55 PM »

Thanks so much to you both for jumping in on the topic!

@ennie ~ I was really hoping that I'd see you post on here!  I know that both of our stories have so many commonalities in them, so I was really excited to see you jump in!

The very first part of your post struck me right off:

Excerpt
Still, I am tired of the constant stress.  Often, this has to do more with fear of what is next and not being prepared than with the reality of the present level of difficulty. 

I just received via email, a copy of a presentation on Compassion Fatigue and there was this great quote in it that I thought of when I read this from you.

Here is the quote:

Let us not look back in anger

or forward in fear but around

In awareness.

James Thurber



@DG ~ I always love when you join in on discussions!
Excerpt
I feel like these are some pretty similar symptoms to PTSD?

I, too thought that and still do.

***********************

From the site:

It is common for such people to hail from a tradition of what Gentry labels: other-directed care giving. Simply put, these are people who were taught at an early age to care for the needs of others before caring for their own needs. Authentic, ongoing self-care practices are absent from their lives.

I'm not sure about you all, but I was definitely brought up in a house that taught me to think about everyone else before myself.  It also seems like that for my stepchildren - even though they are not with their mom everyday, I know that at least for one of them - she is a bit of a caretaker of her mother and her younger sisters at mom's house when she is there. 

Here are a list of some causes of Compassion Fatigue:

* Placing the needs of others before our own needs

* Unresolved past trauma & pain

* Lack of healthy professional & personal life coping skills

* Lack of self-awareness that limits potential growth & change

* Giving care to others under stress or with burnout

* Lack of personal boundaries

* Inability to communicate needs

I'd like to start a list of some causes of stress... .any ideas?

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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2011, 02:14:49 PM »

Great to talk to the both of you about some of this, too. 

DG--I do so agree that all of this stuff brings up pre-existing issues we have... .but I also have come to realize that I had very little trauma growing up, and most "trauma" was interesting, cool trauma dealt with in a good way by my folks--such as moving to the woods when I was  7 and living in really rustic circumstances.  The real trauma for me was being teased in school and feeling different than other kids.  A lot of this was because I was just really sensitive to other kids.  Something neither of my parents have as much as I did that seemed more temperamental than caused by something particular--though I was in school very early, as I tested well, so I was always the youngest kid.  I am sure that felt vulnerable and made me more sensitive.  I was doing 4 year old things in kindergarten.  I knew how to read and do math, so I was placed in kindergarten early, but was not ready for that emotionally.  Before having SDs and dealing with their BPD mom, I really thought I had a hard time with my parents growing up... .because they yelled sometimes, cried sometimes, and mom is not especially in touch with her feelings... .big whup, I see now. 

Now, seeing the trauma my SD's go through, which is relatively minor compared to lots of people's stories on this board, I am really aware of how fear and stress really impact their personalities, ability to resolve conflict, happiness, and self esteem.

Sometimes I feel that my LACK of trauma leaves me with less tools to deal with the impact of trauma now.  I feel like I have good skills for resolving conflict, good parenting skills, decent boundaries... .so I can avoid trauma.  But when it comes to me anyway, repeatedly, I am very sensitive to little things.  I see my DH not creating good boundaries, being somewhat numbed in response to his ex... .but that seems to allow him not to be too rocked by her most of the time.  Thus, he could live with her (I would have run away screaming) for 7 years.  I often like the way of looking at mental illness or psychological defense mechanisms as a natural response, perhaps and effective strategy, for dealing with some kinds of circumstances.  The strategy just does not work elsewhere as well.  In that sense, my "normalness" produced by my "normal" childhood created some mechanisms for dealing with the low-intensity stress of my upbringing, that are just not as helpful with a BPD person.  They give me a good place to start, but they are not enough to leave me happy at the end of this. 

PTSD seems like not so useful a response to trauma... .but in talking to my friends who suffered PTSD from being in earthquakes or my friends who lived through two floods on a trip down the grand canyon (in which they had to wake in the middle of the night and run from walls of brown floodwater, and lost all their provisions and boats and were rescued after 48 hours), their panic responses to even the slightest tremor could save their lives (and did just that in the case of the grand canyon crew, who thought they had hidden on higher ground after surviving the first flood, but woke at 2 am to another because they had hair-trigger responses to any unusual noise). 

I do not think I have terrible boundaries, and did not grow up in a family in which you were supposed to take care only of others.  I feel like my vulnerabilities brought out by this stuff are some "healthy" things (meaning things I would like to retain, but may not be useful in the present context) and some fears and weak spots. 

I feel one weakness is that I was raised to communicate feelings and negotiate to take care of all family member's needs, including one's own.  I think that does make for successful relationships, or is a good start.  I think these values and habits help me to have a lot of close friends, close relationships with family, despite irritating qualities I possess.  But in this situation, there are some liabilities.  First, negotiating is not going to get very far with a BPD person, children, or a DH who has poor boundaries.  I can ask for what I want til the cows come home, and the kids are kids so that is too much to ask; the BPD person just hears that she is inadequate (I have stopped asking anything from her years ago!); and DH is working on this stuff, but most likely will promise the moon and then when things fall apart at work or with his BPDex, my needs are just not his first priority.  And while I often believe that he does make good choices in the moment more and more (like being there for the kids when mom is more unstable), he does not always plan in the long term to change the circumstances that cause the stress.  So I sacrifice in the short term, but do not fix things in the long term, as DH is doing things that make crises likely, and then needing help. 

I do not think I rescue too much, but rather do not create my own boundaries around that pattern of behavior in my mate.  The difference is subtle, but it comes from a different place in me.  It is not that I want to help my mate and fix it for him.  It is that I do not want so much chaos in my life, and in the moment I can see that if the kids do not get what they need, they will be more difficult for me.  Like if DH has important meetings scheduled and the kids have a snow day or are sick, I know that if I refused to stay home with them DH would not choose to cancel a very important meeting.  I set a boundary around me not taking the kids to doctors' appointments, then   BPDex scheduled an appointment on DH's week for SD6 for a cavity to be filled, did not tell DH that she had a cavity or that she had an appointment until the night before the apt.  DH had a conflict, and his choice was to cancel the appointment or to have me take SD6.  The next appointment available was a month away.  SD6 was not in pain yet, but there was the possibility she would have some pain soon.  For a little kid to be in pain that long is just too much in my opinion, and DH was not willing to cancel an appointment that had been put of for 3 months with someone threatening to sue the company.  It was critical.  So I chose to take SD6 to the dentist. 

Where I am weak is that I think I need to set better boundaries over time and to stick with them.  But things seem so hectic, it is hard to make time to have that thinking or to talk about it with my DH. 

I feel like my negotiating techniques work well in superficial relationships, work relationships and some friendships, but are less helpful when the people with whom I am in a relationship feel trapped by their circumstances or unable to be flexible.  Then, my stance is the flexible one so I end up taking on more of others' problems.  I do not seek out problems to rescue (eg, I do not have a history of choosing people as mates who need a lot from me), and my mate and I in our own affairs usually are able to negotiation and maintain boundaries... .but the added load of BPDex and kids that are not my own creates stresses in which my strategy fails. 

So here, I want to keep my style of flexible negotiation with boundaries in most contexts, as it works.  But in situations where others feel unable to be flexible, I think I need to work on a different way of responding.  Especially because there is always a crisis, so if I say that I will only make exceptions in exceptional circumstances, than the exception is the whole of the rule. 

I also see my fear of judgment by others coming up a lot, as a weakness that is not really that beneficial to me.  This is one I have worked on my whole life.  I have been willing to go to great lengths to "work things out" with people, and am sensitive to others' criticisms of me.  I think this comes partly from living in a small community, but also from having a dad with a temper who is quite critical.  He is also pretty loving and willing to be vulnerable.  As a kid, I rebelled against his anger, and he dealt with that pretty well.  But as an adult, I think I just try not to get people angry at me.  This is all well and good unless I am dealing with someone who is always angry at me (ie, my DH's BPD ex wife).  Then, my fear and anxiety about her next move really dampens my joy in life.  I have not really found a way around that one, and am not sure what I need to work on in me, what past wounds lead me here.  When there are less obvious "causes" of "dysfunction" in oneself, it is sometimes hard to figure out how to work on it. 

As for a list of causes of stress, here are some for me:

--situations that are scary, including threats of physical violence, threats to report me for something, or just expressions of rage.

--unpredictability of these outbursts, and anxiety resulting from anticipating these outbursts for very small reasons (e.g., if one of the kids walks into my room when I am changing my shirt, hearing about this may trigger BPD ex)(or may not!).

--regular changes in schedule at the last minute.  I am not an exceptionally controlling person in this area, but it is really hard for me to say no to last minute intense needs, which come about with the erratic style of the kids' mom. 

--Not being able to be understood by the BPD person.  This is a biggy for me.  I have become accostomed to this so do not think about it much, but the constant strategic misinterpretation of who I am, especially when parroted by the kids, is very stressful for me.  E.g., when the kids say, "How come you hate mommy?" which is what mommy tells them, not what I feel.  Or DH's BPD ex telling me I want to have babies and so am stealing hers because I cannot have children, and so forth, when I CAN have children, but choose not too, and am a bit overwhelmed by my existing parenting role, and would MUCH rather she be more of a responsible mom than need to step up in the ways I do. 

--Double binds with the same issue--eg, when mom tells the kids I want to "steal them," and the truth is that I would like more alone time, not more kid time, but to tell the kids that would be very hurtful to them, yet to have them believe that I am stealing them is also hurtful. I usually have an okay response to this stuff... ."I know how important your mommy is to you and I love you very much, so I would never want to take your mommy away from you."  But this stuff is still really stressful for me.  I just feel angry about being blamed for what is the opposite of true. 

--My own anger and feeling of powerless around BPD's crazier actions and words. 

--The subordination of my own needs and feelings that is somewhat necessary for parenting, but feels bad when due to the fact that BPD rages and crises tend to eclipse what else is happening.

--Dealing with misleading information BPD has told third parties, especially if I fear they will think I am lying and being defensive.  E.g., hearing teachers ask DH and I two years ago, "I know your ex is hard to deal with, but can't you just once in awhile say SOMETHING nice about her to the kids?  She says you only are mean all the time," when the truth is that we tell her we love her almost every time we see her, are enthusiastic to the kids' telling us little nice things about her, express gratitude for her regularly when we say what we are thankful for at dinner time, and so forth.  When we communicate this, most all people are really appreciative and grateful, and understand immediately that we are not antagonistic toward her (here, I vent some, so this may not be apparent... .).  But just the innumerable times that people approach me with a story that is plain untrue is just exhausting.

--The constant nature of the crises and anger expressed by BPD, so there is little time to "recharge."

--the many demands of being a partner to a man who is supporting 2 households both financially, emotionally, academically, and so forth (this is related to the subordination of my goals).

--the stress of dealing with balls I have dropped in my career and personal life when dealing with the crises (dealing with telling clients I need to cancel a meeting, and their frustration with me).

--stress of being observed in my own home by the kids and having them "gather evidence" against me (taking notes when I am angry, bringing a camera home to take photos, reporting if they see me in a state other than fully dressed, kids telling us mom photographed a scratch on the rump from falling off of the swing).

--Dealing with the legal system.

--Having my every action be judged and hearing about it from kids, who have no way to understand my perspective or to work it out with me, because it is not how they feel (e.g., the kids feeling bad because their mom tells me I do not like her when I have expressed love to her in lots of ways, made cards for her at every holiday and given cool presents, treated her with respect even when she is violent and raging, and so forth... .but their mom projects her guilt onto me, and there is no way to deal with this directly that would be good for the kids). 

Sadly, I could go on.  But if DG and Marlo have made it this far into my post, their eyes are surely tired.   



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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 04:13:47 PM »

ennie   Hi!

I am so intrigued by your ideas behind your sometimes inability to deal with a pwBPD based on your inexperience with such things.  I can really relate in the sense that the pwBPD in my life was a complete shock to me in that I had never encountered someone so unwilling to compromise, reason or have a desire to be rationale. (Well, not any adult anyways.) It has taken a lot of thinking and swiveling to find a place where I can accept all of that in her.  I also was able to tap into my own emotional well and find a certain empathy for the disordered individual in my life because of my own underlying issues with PTSD (childhood trauma), shame, guilt, etc. So in learning to deal with all of my own stuff has lent me to not so be hard on her.  So I guess my point is that we all seem to be affected similarily yet somewhat different.  (i... e You not equipped to handle BPD due to a peaceful upbringing, where I was not equipped due to being so overwhelmed with emotions triggered by her)

My stressors are/were similar to yours... .but the one that sticks out so much for me is:

Excerpt
-- anxiety resulting from anticipating these outbursts for very small reasons (e.g., if one of the kids walks into my room when I am changing my shirt, hearing about this may trigger BPD ex)(or may not!).



Her blowing non-incidents out of proportion are few and far between anymore, but I forever feel that twinge of fear.


Some of my own:

~ Inconsistency.  I am such a planner and I really, truly mostly dislike the schedule changes.  I've lovingly excluded myself from the decision making to this (and therefore has become greatly reduced since I'm unavailable to watch the girls) but I really struggle when it is ever shifting.

~ Financial. This obligation is so unfairly split between my husband and his ex and with our circumstances in this economy, it has really taken it's toll.

~ Constant exposure. More recently, she has become a (just about) every day fixture in my life. The kiddos all come home to our house after school, and she drops and picks them up on her days.  I used to have to see her only about once a month where now it's close to everyday on her week. I have to admit that I dread it, for no particular reason really.  Somedays she's nice, other days she's grumpy, and a lot of days she is late.  I don't know, I think I just had grown comfortable in the distance we shared.

~ DRAMA.  I don't know if it's the teenagers, the pwBPD, or what... .but it is neverending in my house these days. All are guilty of just overreacting to just about everything. My SD11 had strep throat over the weekend and between her throwing herself on the floor sobbing because she didn't feel good... .to my (often enmeshed) husband calling her BPDmom because he insists on involving her in everything... .to BPDmom taking the results to the pediatrician she works for on Monday and then dragging her back into the office to do their own swab because she didn't agree with/like/respect the ER doctor. Where in the end the pediatrician agreed with the very complicated diagnosis of... .strep throat. 

Like ennie... .I could go on and on.  For me, I think it's often normal stuff that anyone deals with in this life, just exasperated by the disordered individual who rarely, if ever, makes it any easier.

~DG
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« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2011, 05:30:41 PM »

DG--when you say that you dread her coming over, for no particular reason, it reminds me of what a friend said after a phonecall  with her own BPD sister... .she described her sister as having an energetic "buzz,"  that more than anything her sister says ore does really impacts her.  When she gets off the phone, she feels awful--shaky, nervous, cold sweat, ashamed.  I used to notice this wash of similar feelings in interactions with the BPD person in my life.  After my friend mentioned this, I started thinking about it, and almost all of my mutual friends with the BPD person in my life have a similar description.  I thought about it like there is some sort of energetic short in her system, that impacts others around her almost in a physical, rather than psychological, way.  Is this just too weird? 

But that would be something to add to the list of stressors--the buzz. 

Yes, it is funny that we all have our different reasons why this stuff is hard for us... .you know, some stuff is just hard, and we bring to it all our vulnerabilities, and maybe receive some healing from all of this. 

I had the most interesting interaction this New Year's eve.  A friend approached me wanting to tell me about and interaction he had with the BPD person in my life a number of years before, before I was even involved romantically with my DH.  He proceeded to relate this story in which she was drunk and told him some very "deep" things about herself.  Knowing this woman, I know that most of the things she said about herself are not true, but THEY ARE TRUE about the man who is my friend.  The upshot of what she said was that because she was so intelligent and had so much love to give, none of her mates were ever sufficient to meet her in the deep place she was in, so she had decided never to love and was totally alone, even though she was married at the time.  He believed them to be true about her.  But what he did with that was he self reflected, and said, "You know, those things are true about me, also.  I suddenly realized in talking to her that I had pushed love away all my life and blamed it on others, and that this was MY choice, not something that had happened to me.  And you know what, it might be easier or more fun to be someone else, but this is who I am, and I need to learn to love me." 

I was so touched by his willingness to allow her to be a mirror for him.  I believe that her intent in telling him a story that mirrored what she know of his bio (brilliant but isolated son of a famous and brilliant man, never able to actualize his brilliance and also physically disabled) was to impress him and make him feel connected to her because he was a connection to someone important locally (his dad), and was not genuine on her part, but it really did not matter in the least in his ability to get something very profound out of the interaction. 

In other words, back to the quote from the article... .that this all can be an opportunity for growth and increased self awareness. 
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« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2011, 07:43:26 PM »

Wow Ladies... .great list!  I was nodding my way through a bunch of both of your points.  All I kept saying to myself was "FOR SURE!"

I, too can say that many of the stressors you have both spoken of are shared by yours truly!  Smiling (click to insert in post)

Planning and Schedules - this is HUGE for me as well.  I work shift work - 24/7.  So does DH.  It takes an IMMENSE amout of planning for our schedules to run smoothly, never mind add in the schedules of 3 children AND a BPD mom.  I, too am NOT good with spur of the moment changes - I can try my best to 'plan' for the unexpected, but most times it does not work out that way.   And really - I can deal with adding the schedules of the 3 kids - pick up one here, drop another off there, can't sched that on the same day, move to another day, pick up the 3rd here, call one of the kid's friend's parent for carpool, etc... .  But Friday - I feel myself starting to check my watch every 15 or 20 mins starting around noon.  Is mom going to send an email and bail? Is mom going to even show up? Is the school going to call me or are the kids going to be standing outside freezing? Is mom showing up, but just not on time? Will she send someone else? Do I have to suddenly leave work so the kids aren't freezing? Do I have to use vacation days at the last minute because we are both workign this weekend and mom is a no show? All these questions start drumming around in my head... .and this goes on until 5:30 when she has either shown up - on time or late - or just not coming at all.  Then the planning mode has to kick in or I can then relax and breathe a sigh of relief that the kids are okay.

Consistency - this is also big for me. It ties into scheduling, but also it tells me that I can trust you.  Doing what you say you will when you say you will is HUGE for me.

My own traumas as a child were definitely that I had to do as I was told, or there were consequences - not very nice ones.  But one thing that has carried with me is consistency - and my father always followed through on every thing he said he would. GOOD AND BAD.  If he said he would cancel a trip due my continued misbehaviour, he meant it.  If he said he would drop me off at the mall, come hell or high water, he did it.  It didn't matter if he was sick or tired feeling fine.  He followed through on every thing he said he would.  This I have carried with me and is definitely one of the things that I pride my own self on doing - if I tell you I will do something, then I will.  Good and bad.  I know that my skids have very much appreciated this trait in me because it counterbalances a lot of chaos that they regularly experience. 

However - my own DH is so wishy washy.  He, for whatever reason, is totally afraid to give a good solid "NO".  It's always 'okay, well I'll see if I can make that happen. I really would like to go, so I'll do what I can to make it happen'.  And then the kids think he's in. Committed.  And then he doesn't follow through and they get upset, (and so do I) and he says "Well I never said I would. I just said that I would do what I could to make it happen".   

I'm a big fan of yes or no.  I'm totally cool with the answer NO, you just have to tell me. And I'm good with that.   If it's yes, then I expect your commitment in doing whatever you need to do to make that yes stick. If it's a no, then that's okay.  But you gotta say the word!

Exposure - this is very triggering for me as well. Funny thing is that I know it's EXTREMELY triggering for mom, too.  But for different reasons - She doesn't want to see me because of her own inadequate feelings of herself and for whatever reason, it causes her to grill the kids about me - my clothes, my hair, my food consumption, whatever the case.  For me, it's all about the negativity.  It's the cold feeling, the anxiety of being in her presence because I cannot look at her and NOT think of all the abuse she has caused to the kids and I get flash backs to times when the children are having meltdowns because of something mom did or said.  And the fact that she puts on act of mother of the year whenever she shows up all the while looking at me sideways, looking around the house for anything that might be out of place, going to the washroom and I can hear her snooping through the cupboards, examining the tub for cleanliness or whatever.  It just creeps me out.  So I'd rather not have to look at her and think of all the hurt that the children have had in their lives.  THE BUZZ.  I like that term a lot. It really is like a bunch of bumble bees swirling around you buzzing around and you are just waiting to be stung.  That is how it makes me feel as well.  Like she is smiling but could turn at any minute.  So I choose to be elsewhere when she is due to arrive. 

Dealing with the legal system - this is a very frustrating procedure as well.  I go between urging my DH to file for CS and just saying forget it because the lashing out will be tremendous and we've already been down the road where we have been told by judges that mom can pretty much do and say whatever she wants to the kids, to us, and make them endure ridiculous amounts of suffering and it's A-OK, because she is mom. And children belong with their mom. 

There are so many things that I have done so well at realizing - Not in my control, can't care about the outcome, let it go.

There are so many things however that are not in my control, but I can't just let go of the outcome - like children getting frostbite because they were left in the cold for 4 hrs because mom didn't show and we were at work and weren't told. 

I will tell you all that I DEFINITELY bring on a lot of my own stress - no one has to tell me when I've flubbed up - I know it already. And no one could be harder on me than my own self.   But I'm also working on telling myself it's totally okay to mess up. It's gonna happen.

And to focus on the really great stuff I've accomplished.  But this is no easy task for me.  Being cool (click to insert in post)

I've stepped past what mom thinks of me, and what people who choose to listen to mom think of me.  I really could not care what their thoughts on ME are.  Since they are not me, they really don't know me and they choose not to see all the good things that I do.  Their distaste for me comes from a different place.  One that is really not coming from a place of good intentions.  So for that - there's karma.  What matters to me is what I think of me. How my skids perceive me and how my husband sees me.  But most of all - can I look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and say I did great things today?
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2011, 07:55:40 PM »

Here is a snippet from a workshop presentation regarding stress vs. burnout vs. compassion fatigue:

Stress vs. Compassion Fatigue

Causes of Stress

 Inability to say “no”

 Chronic need to prove ourselves to others

 Lack of respect & support from colleagues/family members/spouse

 Lack of clear-cut responsibilities & authority

 Lack of organizational skills

 Working against deadlines

 Lack of support from others

 Involvement in dysfunctional relationships

 Lack of sustainable self-care practices

Burnout vs. Compassion Fatigue

Causes of Burnout

 Being seriously stressed

 Being unable to cope

 Being underappreciated

 Being overworked

Compassion Fatigue Burnout Symptoms:

 Exhaustion/Poor health

 Feelings of hopelessness

 Feelings of helplessness

 Loss of purpose

 Withdrawal from activities, relationships

 Low morale

A good way to remember the difference between Stress & Burnout is this:

Stress is “too much” –too much pressure, too much work, too many expectations.

Burnout is “not enough” – feelings of depletion, emptiness, apathy, devoid of motivation.

If Stress is drowning, Burnout is being dried up.


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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2011, 10:13:22 AM »

I think it's also important to remember that generosity that is born of self-hatred is in fact martyrdom.  Compassion is excercising our understanding and empathy for all others, not just "taking care of others".  I slip into that martyr role (a lot)... .I think plaqued by my own desires of reciprocation - of wanting to be recognized and taken care of too.  ennie seems to have a really good grasp on not placing the needs of everyone around her first and foremost - only when she is genuinely trying to help. Me? Not so much.

I think it's why I am struggling with this concept, "compassion fatigue", marlo.  It feels to me (and only me!) like a self-righteous way to excuse my frustration.  Most of my stress is caused not by me taking care of the feeble and weak... .but by me wishing that the disordered person in my life would just be different to make my life easier. To make all our lives easier.  

Even yesterday as I wrote down the words about BPDmama just being who she is (always) and me thinking that I know better then her, that I am better parent then her in this life, it makes me feel yuck (and guilty).  Where is my compassion for her in those moments?  Isn't compassion something we give everyone? Isn't that why a lot of us are here, to better understand this disorder as to help our kiddos learn to cope with what having a parent with BPD entails? As to help ourselves?  

I don't know, what do you think?

Excerpt
But most of all - can I look myself in the mirror at the end of the day and say I did great things today?

I just want to look in the mirror and say, "you did your best, DreamGirl" and actually be okay with such a thing. Smiling (click to insert in post)

 DreamGirl
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2011, 11:21:35 AM »

I am one who was just bred to do for others. Not because I will get anything in return, but because that is just what you do and there is no other way around it.  When someone wants, you do. When someone needs, you do. That's it.

Then I got to thinking (not that long ago), "Where's my person who would do for me?" And there came the martyr.  Throw me a bone once in a while. Why does it always have to be me? Haven't I done enough? Given enough? Said enough? Supported enough for someone to look at me and say, "You deserve it, too". 

Then I realized that the answer is no.  I've taught them that I don't need it.  That I'll just keep on no matter what.  When I start feeling like "This is too much" or "I don't have enough time for me", I just dig down a little deeper and change my question to "How can I do this? What will take for me to do it?"  It's up to me to care for me.

The whole idea behind Compassion Fatigue is that we are people who give to others - our time, our strength, our love, our everything.  And whether we expect something in return or not, if we don't get something in return (either by others or by our own doing), then eventually we get stressed, we burn out and then when we don't take care of it then, it can get worse.  Much worse. Then what good are we doing to those others and ourselves?

I can say that I am horribly sleep deprived - I sleep on avg 4 hrs a night.  And most of the time, it's a broken sleep. And it's okay to get only 4 hrs of sleep as long as you nap in between.  Some people can do this - the famous "cat nap".  Me? I can't.

Sometimes the people around us just need a lot of care.  I can separate myself from mom - what she wants to do is up to her and the natural consequences to her actions will be on her.  I let that go.  But the kids - who need to be taken to trauma therapists 3 times a week, who need a ride to lessons (that I am responsible for signing them up for at their request), who need someone to sit in bed and stroke their hair and listen to their concerns, wipe their tears, love them through their fears.  For a husband who suffers his own version of PTSD. 

And over time somehow your own boundaries get a little skewed - where I once stood firm on my boundaries, over time they sort of became rubber - with an ability to stretch out a little.  And over time, that rubber gets stretched more and more.  And you don't really see it happening, it just does.

Not being able to truly express my own feelings on certain situation - to be able to be angry, hurt, sad, frustrated.  This is why many of us come here - to be able to express those feelings and hope we are not judged.

Compassion fatigue is simply that - giving compassion and caring to a lot of other individuals (or maybe just one in the case of a dying spouse) over a long period of time.  Some people just set aside their own needs for too long, and then it becomes a problem.  You are fatigued. 

To the point that when you once laughed at something silly, perhaps now you find it annoying. Or you think differently about it.  Maybe you didn't complain a whole lot before, and now you find yourself doing a lot of it. When you do get time off from all the hustle and bustle, you don't feel like going out and doing all the things you love, you just want to relax. Lay in bed and sleep, or sit and watch tv, you just don't feel much like getting all ready and going out. You'd rather just stay in, stay quiet, be with yourself to think of nothing.  Questions start coming up in your own head like "Is this good for me? Will this ever end? Am I even making a difference?"

THAT is compassion fatigue. 

I think I understand what you are saying that it feels kind of self - righteous.  In a way it is.  It's not an excuse for what you are feeling, it's a reason.  And it IS okay to think of yourself.  I've heard the words from you directly - we don't do them any good by not taking care of ourselves.   Being cool (click to insert in post)  And that is true. 

I'm one of those people that listens to that advice and says "Well how in the world am I going to manage more time for myself?  I work full time, shift work, 7 days a week. When I do plan something, then things beyond my control happen and I have to cancel.  When I finally do get time to myself, I want to do nothing more than catch up on all the sleep I've missed, or the tv shows I didn't get to see, or the laundry I didn't get to do.  I have learned to forego the laundry  Smiling (click to insert in post) and just worry about the sleep and the tv or the book I have read in a while.   

But now that I can put my finger on the causes of my exhaustion, etc... .I can at least try to manage it.  I'm not sure about you, but I'm not very good at asking for help.   xoxo  I have learned to do more asking for help.  Because I can't do it all.  Do I have moments where I think "OMG, if I had just done it, then it would have been done my now and I could be on the next task!" ?  Yep. Sure do.  But then I have to remind myself - I've been doing it for so long that sure I can do it faster, better, differently, more efficiently... .but I'm NOT doing it. Someone else is.  Because I asked them to.  And in time, they'll probably get good at it, too. 

I'm trying to cut myself a little slack.  To remind myself like that commercial - I'm worth it.

Excerpt
Even yesterday as I wrote down the words about BPDmama just being who she is (always) and me thinking that I know better then her, that I am better parent then her in this life, it makes me feel yuck (and guilty).  Where is my compassion for her in those moments?  Isn't compassion something we give everyone? Isn't that why a lot of us are here, to better understand this disorder as to help our kiddos learn to cope with what having a parent with BPD entails? As to help ourselves? 

I understand where you are coming from as far as feeling guilty and yucky about thinking maybe you are a better parent than BPDmama... .Maybe you are.  Maybe you're not. (I think you probably are IMO   ).  But what the heck do I know?  The point is that we are just different at it.  I can be compassionate in my own way to BPDmom.  I can allow her the space to make her own mistakes, to live through her own consequences and pick herself up when she faulters.  It doesn't mean that I have to be there to catch her when she falls.  I reserve that energy for the kids.  It doesn't mean that I have to swoop in and try to stop the train from crashing.  I can recognize that it's probably going to crash (again) and then I can just brace for the impact.

Helping the kids cope is what this board in particular is about.  But again, it doesn't mean that we are trying really hard to love mom even though we witness the hurt.  It just means (to me) that we understand (some) of what they are going through. 

Here's a question:

What is your definition of "Compassion"? What does Compassion look like for you?

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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2011, 05:59:45 PM »

Is it "compassion" fatigue? 

I see DG's point.  I would say that when I am truly able to be my definition of compassionate, it is not that exhausting.  It is actually invigorating.  The circumstances can be draining, but it is always so much more draining for me when I do not have the inner resources to be compassionate. 

For example, the day that my SD's BPD mom held my arms down and told me she WOULD kill me, mark her words, and I said "I love you.  Who you are is okay with me, even right now,"  not only did I feel relief, but she cried and stopped threatening and expressed love, too. 

One of the hardest things about the kids bringing accusatory messages from their mom is that it is a dynamic that I have a harder time having compassion for, and so I do not feel loving of their mom or able to focus on her vulnerability.  Because it is the kids bringing me this message, I stuff my anger and just feel icky and gray. 

But on the other hand, the fatigue comes from my commitment to compassion.  I know that many people can deal with their relationship to their spouse's challenging ex with anger, neutrality, or indifference.  That does not really do it for me.  I would have a really hard time being a step-parent to kids who really love their challenging mom if I could not actively feel her humanity, her pain and her struggle, and her beauty. 

To me, compassion is not action.  It can inspire action, but it could equally inspire inaction or just bearing witness.  Compassion to me is the ability to connect with someone's deeper self, even when their actions are in opposition to what I want.  To be with them in their struggle to do their best.  To not assume that I know how they should do it, to not assume that I know that that could be different if they tried.

When I look deeply at my feelings about these past years of experiencing my SDs and their BPD mom and my DH, I feel a lot of grief, some fear.  The grief is about the intense pain BPDmom is in and her inability to heal her heart or to get what she needs from others or herself, and about the pain to the kids from struggling so hard to fill that hole in her heart that they miss out on their own needs.  It is grief for how pain spreads, for how someone did something so bad to BPDmom, so she is dishing it out to all the people in her life, who in turn dish it out to someone else.  Compassion is seeing that without judgment, not as something bad that is happening to us but as the way pain plays out. 

The action that is inspired in me is to commit myself to trying hard not to pass on that pain.  When I am doing that, it feels great.  REal compassion.  But I am not up to the task, and when I fail at it, judging BPDmom, myself, the kids, my DH, that feels bad.  But it is the commitment to that compassion that makes me try again.  The fact that I keep trying is what is exhausting. 

I do not feel like I "should" reach out.  I do not really feel I am martyring myself exactly.  Although it is interesting, as our current definition of "martyr" seems to focus on some kind of undesirable sacrifice, rather than the spiritual sense of martyrdom, in which a martyr acted with complete willingness.

I like Marlo's awareness that the martyr part comes into play when you want someone to be there for you, and it is you and only you.  Sometimes I do feel sorry for myself... .for sure!... .but I really feel the wealth of people who are there for me in my life, how many people back me up, back the kids up, back DH up, and back up BPDmom, too, in their way. We have just entered a Custody Evaluation process my DH initiated, and have lots of letters from people.  Most all the people described difficulties of the kids BPDmom, some very intense.  Friends of hers as well as mutual friends of ours wrote.  But almost every letter expressed real care and support for her.  Of course, she could not get that.  But the support for us felt all the richer for its inclusion of her. 

Thinking about it, my current fatigue has more to do with the chaotic present set of circumstances I am in and the triage mentality that results, rather than having put out an excess of compassion.  My DH is dealing with a crises in his business, I have needy clients, we are in a CE process... .it is all a bit too much.  I see things that DH could have done to avoid having his stressful legal process overlap with his stressful work situation; I advised him as such.  But he did not listen, because he is an extremely optimistic and very stubborn person.  So I am left with lots of decisions in which I deal with his crisis by helping or say "no."  Either way, I am close to someone who is really stressed out a lot of the time right now in his life. 

So the burn out is not the compassion, but the fact that when I am stressed, and when I am taking care of others' needs and ignoring my own, I cannot come up with the happiness and presence of mind to be compassionate, which makes being kind or generous or faking it much less fun. 

But I know I can do better.  I know that sounds like pushing myself in a not so nice way, but what I mean is that I really want to learn how to be close with someone and help myself be separate, recognize my needs, etc.  I feel it is only a problem to do for others if it is harming me to do so.  Much of the time, it is possible to give to others and myself at the same time.  Compassion and compassionate acts do not need to be at anyone's expense.  I am not a christian, but maybe that was what Jesus meant with all those fishes and loaves.  That you do not need to have less because you are giving something away. 

I am in a process lately of trying to figure out what it is that I want here.  My husband says he is more than willing to support me in getting what I want.  Part of the challenge is that I want him to slow down and not be so stressed, as there really is no way I can just entirely separate from that and not be distant from him, and I love him and he is my best friend.  But I cannot make that choice for him.  Part of it is that there have been so many crises lately that I am not in the habit of waking up and thinking, "what do I want to do today?" 

But ultimately, I am wanting to deal with others' chaos and stress differently than I have been.  Recently, SD 10 has been being very emotional and intense after a time of peace.  I know the CE is hard for her mom, and SD10 is very enmeshed.  And then there are pre-teen hormones.  When she freaks out, crying and saying, "You never let me do anything!" when I have told her that I will go sledding with her after her homework is done, and she flies into a rage and wants to engage me in an argument (she never just stomps off, she always wants to get me upset), I have been saying, "You know, if you want to be upset that is okay.  But I do not want to get angry and upset, so I am going to be in another room.  When you are ready to work with me in a calm way, I am happy to negotiate with you.  But it is hard for me to stay in a peaceful place when you are yelling at me, so I am going to leave now.  I love you, and would love to work on this when you are ready."  This can be even more upsetting to SD10, but it feels good to me.  Invariably, when I move away in a loving way, she always is willing to get over it and work it out with me.  She is like an extremely mild version of her mom.  Fleas, you know. 

So this is a good place to practice better ways of caring for me.  I find that pulling back to take care of myself is easiest when I say what I want---I want to feel good.  I want to be happy and to enjoy myself.  Not, you make me unhappy, but when I am near your anger or stress, I find it harder to be in a happy place, and that is important to me.  Important enough to make some changes. 
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« Reply #12 on: March 03, 2011, 09:52:40 AM »

I'm going to have to bookmark this post and come back to it when I can really absorb it all.  You three ladies are my mentors here and I really appreciate all the thought and effort you put into what you have written.

Above all, one of the things I find myself grateful for is that my BF's ex moved 300 miles away and I do NOT have to deal with her everyday.  In fact, hardly at all.

What I do find interesting is the unique chemistry between her self-absorbed mindset and my (mostly) generous one ... .when she wants to shift blame, I have to put a lot of energy into NOT accepting it.  She has a very dominant, overconfident personality with a hair-trigger between happy and angry, very much like my mother had, and it's hard not to slip into the personality that I know from experience meshes with the least amount of confrontation.

And my other major challenge is to set aside how I feel - because I DO have the ability to logically process and overcome my feelings - and focus on what her children feel.  Their confusion, sadness, anger, fear of rejection should outweigh mine.  Sometimes it's like trying to subdue a flailing, raging infant and getting poked in the eye or kicked in the jaw - you have to suck it up, forgive the action without intent, and get right back to the focus on the child's needs.  I need to take care of myself independently of them.  And again, it's easier for me because I only see them every two weeks.  But it's harder because it takes much longer to build up a solid rapport and history between us, that one word or interaction says a lot for a long time.

You all have my respect for being in the trenches every day.  I think I probably have a lower tolerance to this compassion drama, and maybe it's because I still feel very much like I'm rediscovering myself and learning to assert my own self-interests after my divorce.

Again, I'll come back to this when I have more time, but for now, thank you.   xoxo

(PS - I've really internalized a church sign I pass daily, even if I discount the religious part of it - "God gives us the blessings; it's up to us to find happiness."  Reminds me of the unfillable cup and how I need to view mine as full more often.)
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« Reply #13 on: March 04, 2011, 10:03:33 AM »

Khat  Hi!

I really like that church sign!  I'm not a very religious person myself, but I do like saying!

I looked across the internet for the definition of "compassion" - There really weren't any variances in the definition:

Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it. See Synonyms at pity.

It's interesting to me that every definition pointed to "See synonyms at pity".  And here's my own problem:

If the definition is accurate, then I definitely have compassion for my stepchildren - I have a deep awareness of their suffering and it is something that I wish to relieve in them. 

But for mom, I have an awareness of her own suffering, but I do not wish to relieve it. That is up to her - she chooses every day NOT to seek the help she needs.  So I have a difficult time feeling pity or compassion for mom.  She is aware that she has difficulties, she is aware that she needs help and she continually chooses not to get the help that she needs.  I have a difficult time feeling pity for someone who wants to do a lot of complaining, blaming, etc... .but doesn't want to rectify it. Whether it is part of the disorder or not.  She is cognizant of the fact that she has difficulties in her own life and she has come close to actually seeking the true help that she needs.  But again, she chooses not to.  And I can't make her want to really help herself.

For my skids - they do not choose to be verbally assaulted.  They do whatever they can to avoid it. They suffer the affects of it all and they really are powerless to stop it.  Until they are old enough to make their own decisions.  So yes, I have immense compassion for them and I do try to alleviate their hurt.   I will bend over backwards to make sure they know that this is not their fault, that they are loved and they have a safe and secure place to fall at home. 

And I think because I get caught in cycle of mom not wanting the help and the kids needing it, so my focus is on them, this is where it gets difficult. Because it IS a never ending cycle.  For them and for me. (and DH) The only way to break the cycle is dependant on mom getting the assistance and help that she needs. And I can want it for her with all of my might, but she has to want it for herself for it to be effective.



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« Reply #14 on: March 04, 2011, 01:04:00 PM »

For me, I have a desire to relieve the suffering of anyone I encounter who is suffering.  But the truth is, it takes awareness and self awareness to observe the appropriate means.  There is a balance to things.  As we learn in the river rafting business, the raft guide has to make sure she has a life jacket on before she helps others (just like the oxygen mask in the airplane).  Relieving the suffering of others is not achieved by engaging in risky behavior ourselves unless absolutely necessary.  And there are some kinds of suffering that cannot be relieved except by time or deep change initiated by the suffering person.  There are limits to how helpful I can be in such circumstances. 

For me, I truly feel a desire to relieve the suffering of BPDmom.  I feel this with the kids too.  Yet with both, there are times where taking action is helpful, times when it is not.  This week was very stressful. DH going through a work crisis, beginning a CE, sD10 VERY emotional.  I did not have a lot of tolerance.  SD10 flipped out on the way home from school, and I was just too tired to communicate with her as she screamed and yelled about wanting some pens from the store before going home.  So I was silent.  I tried at first to respond, but she cut me off and ranted and raved in her mom's fine form... .lots of wailing and gnashing of teeth and blame and piteous victimized statements about how everyone is always mean... .

I just stayed quiet, and it blew over.  No further action necessary. 

I felt that was a compassionate act on my part, doing nothing. 

Part of why doing nothing can be a compassionate act is that for me when I have "a deep awareness of the suffering of others", it is an awareness of what is the truth of the suffering.  My SD is not suffering because of not getting the pens she wants.  Indeed, my belief and experience is that if I give her what she wants every time she is upset, I teach her to be unhappy.  To be in touch with her suffering, I need to be more observant, to look deeper.  My sense is that she is in pain because she loves her mom and is enmeshed with her mom and her mom is having a very hard time right now.  And also because she wants life to be easier, and she feels a sinking feeling that it will never be.  I want to relieve her suffering, and in this deep way what I can do is to hear how she loves her mom, and give her support for that love, because it is WHAT SHE WANTS, deep inside, even if it seems painful to me.  And also, I can support her in knowing all of the sources of joy that are available to her... .but helping her to learn how to take space when she is upset, by modeling that my upset is not her fault, but helping her know that no matter what she does or how annoyed grownups are, SHE is not bad.  In short, I can help her in many ways to know that she is free to have a happy life, even if her mom does not. 

As for BPDmom, I have the awareness that I am not powerful as to changing her mental illness.  So trying to help her be different would not be helpful to her.  Like marlo said, it is her choice whether she gets help for this or not, and BPD issues take so much constancy and work, it is not practical for me to take that on and do the rest of what I have to do in my life.  And, I do not want to do that.

One thing I can do is always let her know I care about her.  I do not think that this makes her less BPD.  It does not change her story, which is very consistent in spite of available facts.  I also see that the root of BPD's suffering is not whether she can control me (she tries, whether I let her or not, she is more upset).  I see that the root of her suffering is a huge hole where feeling loved lives for most people.  I think this is why when I let her know I love her, this is the only time she totally drops her BPD actions and story with me and really lets me in.  She has no object constancy, so this is not a lasting experience for her.  But in that moment, it is enough to totally relieve her suffering. 

I think that some of my anger, exhaustion, and so forth has to do with my expectations of others' reactions to my compassionate acts.  But the truth is, I am not in control of how my compassionate acts impact people, or how they address being impacted by me.  I feel pretty able to accept that I cannot change BPDmom.  I am less accepting of my lack of ability for my compassionate acts to be seen and understood by the kids (though this is an absurd wish, and one I do not pursue--I just notice it is an area where reality does not match my secret expectations).  I am less still able to be okay with OTHERS not meeting my expectations regarding their perception of my compassionate acts, which mostly shows up when people believe BPDmom's negative allegations about me and DH.  This hurts, as I have an expectation that sane people will see through BPD mom's lies.  Mostly they do.  sometimes they do not. 

Because of the lack of object constancy, I do not have the power to teach BPDmom about love,.  Part of compassion is seeing the particularities of others.  It is not about my need to be there for her, but about discovering the truth of what I can do to relieve her suffering.  And the truth is, not much.  I can love her kids, because I am sure them being happy people will make her life easier.  I can love her when I see her, which is very rare. 

But I can do nothing daily.  Recognizing my limits is part of compassion... .in other words, being open enough to see when I am not helping despite my intentions. 

For the first year of being with DH, I thought if I listened to BPDmom's words, and did what she asked, that this would help her.  But it did not help her at all.  She was just as enraged as if I had not done as she asked.  She seemed to feel more guilty and more angry if I complied.  This is something I have tried to explain, when I have gone through times of NOT following her rules.  That I found it more distressing to her when I did what she asked.  So if she asked me not to volunteer at school and I did not, she would pretend I had, and get furious, and would make me out to be a liar if I explained to her or others that I had not ever volunteered at school.  But at a certain point, I did one or two school things, and she stopped complaining about it.  So odd. 

But the lesson here is that people have their inner dialogue, but that dialogue does not alleviate suffering.  The kids want sugar and to purchase things.  But I observe that eating sugar and purchasing things is a process fraught with anxiety, expectation, disappointment, regret, (and after sugar, raging emotions).  That does not mean they never get stuff or sugar, because to deny them entirely would also create suffering.  But it means that I try not to confuse their superficial wants with their deeper suffering. 

Likewise, I try this with myself and with BPDmom.  The truth is, mostly we can do very little to alleviate others' suffering... .and at the same time, that very little can go such a long way.  Just loving people works its own magic.  Just being grateful for the love of others. 

To me, compassion is being attentive to my own feelings and the feelings of others, and to do what I can to alleviate suffering.  The limits on what I can do are partly related to who the other person is, and mostly related to who I am.  When I eat good food and exercise and get enough sleep and am around mostly nice people, I have a lot to freely give regardless of whether the other people are choosing their unhappiness or not.  The people who choose unhappiness a lot need love all the more, because they get so little of it in daily life. 

But when I am stressed out, have had insomnia the last three nights, am hungry, and am being yelled at by a ten year old, I do not have much to give. 
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« Reply #15 on: March 04, 2011, 01:24:07 PM »

****crossed with ennie

Gosh, marlo, I think we've been down this road before. Smiling (click to insert in post)

I think it's good to take into account that each person who suffers from this disorder is in fact an individual.  We can't place a mass generalization of each parent and determine how it is they choose to be.  I often believe that your skids' mom is mean spirited and really difficult to have positive feelings for.

My skids' mom, on the other hand, is pretty likable when you catch in her moments of clarity and peace.  I've had to practice to be in the present moment without judgement and try to have a true understanding of how she operates to come to a place where I really appreciate those moments.  It sometimes feels like there is never a true sense of who she really is because I don't know that there is a core person - good or bad - involved.  There are "states" that she is in that I don't really care for, while others that are quite pleasant... .her wrath really is as infectious as her laugh. Smiling (click to insert in post)

I empathize greatly with her in some of her overwhelming states where she's yelling at the kids,  because I know how it feels to want to scream at your children who just aren't doing what you want of them. I have found myself where I believe that I have equally struggled to maintain my own emotions when I, myself, was extremely rigid and hypervigilant due to whatever outside sources.  i.e When going thru EMDR therapy I was completely neurotic.  I had a bad moment where I sounded a bit like a screaming truckdriver as I was walking thru the front door to a pile of 5 pairs of shoes that I had demanded be picked up before I got back.  (Not one of my finer moments in my parenting career)  It took a hot bath to calm my nerves and some apologizing to calm my (overwhelming) guilt.  

The disordered mama in my life feels like that most of time and figuratively (and literally) can not deal with the guilt associated with a similar circumstance.  So her and I feel the same, we even initially have similar reactions... .there is just a disconnect to how she manages and deals with those emotions. She'll lie, blame, cheat, and do whatever not to feel that way. What is hard is when it feels like that falls squarely on the shoulders of our little ones. So hard.  

Marlo, you are a strong willed and kind hearted soul and I think I have grown to see where you may never possess the ability to ever have empathy for the disordered mother of your stepkids (not necessarily pity/sympathy/compassion).  You are far better equipped then she's ever been to be able to make the "choice to seek help" you speak of.  I truly believe that in my case (and maybe yours), the pwBPD's fear is far more dominating then her desire to alleviate her own suffering.  So while it is a selfish choice,  I see it sometimes as almost a survival one.  Her pain and suffering is on such levels that bearable is the choice she is making.  It's the paradox of the suffering... .in order to find it's cessation, you must face it and breathe it in ~ where she'll do anything to push it away.    

I understand your choice on closing the door on the BPDmother and focusing your efforts on helping the kids trudge thru.  She's a grownup and she's really not your problem; she lives her life the way she wants and you can't want something for her that she doesn't want for herself.  I just wonder if you were ever to let go of that firmheld belief? I think that sometimes you think it is a betrayal or aggression against yourself or your family to excercise compassion for the mentally ill person in your life. It's the behavior I think you hate though, not the human behind the behavior.  

I have a favorite passage that I reference when it comes to compassion:

Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and be happy is equal to one's own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems. Nor is this wish selective; it applies equally to all.

The Dalai Lama


I think sometimes when we want someone to be "better" and we are selfish in those thoughts, it's where we lose sight of compassion.  When I want BPDmama to be "better" solely because it is her basic human right (and not because it is mine)... .I am being compassionate in it's definition.  When I feel sorry for her and feel "pity", that is an agression as well in that I somehow think I am better then her and look down upon her and say "poor you if only you could be more like me".  

So much like ennie said, Compassion is not what fatigues me.  It's my own attachments in all of this and wanting her to be "better" all for my own sake.  When in fact that she may never be different than what she is willing to be is not where my happiness should ever lay. Smiling (click to insert in post)

~DreamGirl
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« Reply #16 on: March 04, 2011, 03:10:56 PM »

I love you gals, and feel so supported by your differences and similarities to each other and to me. 

DG--I love the dalai lama quote.  That is really what I am saying, only way more eloquent and true, because he is the dalai lama.  I know that we share this commitment, and i remember what it was to meet someone who felt like I do about this and was dealing with a BPD person. 

Marlo--I love your no-nonsense, no apologies commitment to your step kids.  You are not going to apologize for  or discount the fact that you love them and will be there for them no-matter what.  I so often try to fit into others' perceptions of what a step-mom should be.  I think of you often when going through that, and have learned to be more fearless in owning my role, which is specific to my self and my family and my step kids.  As my child psychologist T points out, "the litmus test is the kids.  They still love you, so it is working." 

Maybe compassion is one of those things, like step parenting, that is different for everyone.  And the important part is just that we are able to be compassionate, whatever our definitions.  Without self care, the compassion dries up. 

As for the likability of our BPDmoms, mine is in the middle.  She is not as harmful and destructive to the kids as Marlo's, but she is more raging and damaging than DG's.  My DH tried to take the tack that DG's husband took in the beginning, maintaining communication and including her in everything related to parenting.  Sharing P/T conferences with her, etc. 

But she never was able to maintain "nice" with him.  The "nice" conversations included her commenting that she wishes he or I would just die, but also would include caring statements.  She always goes back to the "you are ruining my life" story, though she first left her husband.  Very odd. 

There probably has not been one conversation with her where she has not threatened to kill us, called me or DH ugly names, etc, in the 4.5 years since they split.  Some conversations go "well" because we say we love her, she says she loves us, there is care expressed.  Some conversations feel good to her because no one reacts when she says she hates us.  But she never notices that she says these things.  She is not easy to love.  It is not just the constant games and dishonesty, but the fact that we need to work so hard for a little peace with her.  So now we do not really communicate by voice, but still do have some family get-togethers, as the kids love this and BPD mom is on her best behavior. 

That said, I have not really seen a lot of her good side.  But what I like about her is:

1) She loves the kids in a way that makes them feel loved. It is conditional, it is impaired, not perfect--but compared to what her mom gave her and what lots of other BPD parents give, she has done her best.  And the kids feel it; they have problems, but they are open and lively and like themselves, and I think they would not if their mom was not loving... .and if they did not have their dad and I to balance the conditional part.

2) I like her politics.  She has done a lot for the community... .or rather, of the measly amount of work she has done, most of it is for social causes like helping homeless people.  She loves wounded people and animals and takes care of lots of strays.  She has also accidentally starved a number of animals... .so she is not perfect... .but she has a big heart and reaches out to people in pain.  I only notice this on the one or two occasions I have cried when she is flipping out at me.  She immediately stopped and was kind.  but I see this in the kids, this willingness to have compassion for others, only in them they do not have the self-absorption of a BPD person, so it is just loving others for who they are. 

3) I love that she let DH have 50% custody from the very first.  That was really great.  She regrets it now.  But the kids needed that. 

4) I love that while she threatens to call CPS or the police from time to time about things she makes up, she has not done so. 

5) I love that if I love her in the moment, she can receive it and stop all her games to love me back.  That is a miracle. 

6) I love that she is not abusive to her kids the way her mom was to her.  I do not love how she treats her kids.  But she was beaten and locked in a closet and sexually abused, and she would never do that extent of damage to the kids.  They will never be damaged the way she was, as they are now old enough not to be crushed the same way she was if something happens.  I am very grateful for that.

BPDmom has no sense of humor and it is always drama with her... .so it would be hard for me to totally love her.  Not to mention the constant manipulation and negligence with the kids.   

I would have a much harder time loving Marlo's BPDmom person. 

I am feeling the fatigue has more to do with what I have had to give up to do this than with the giving of compassion.  The depletion is all the parts of my life that need tending, but I cannot tend them as I have a list a mile long of things I must do and DH must do for the custody evaluation, and my job, and dinner needs to be made, and so forth and so on.  And whatever crisis shows up will require more of me. 

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« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2011, 03:20:27 PM »

I think it should be called "Crisis Fatigue" or something like that.  Drama Fatigue.  Sounds less PC, but that is one of the things about being a caretaker, is that you are used to it, but there is still all the drama.  I remember caring for a friend's sick mom during the 6 months before she died.  It was very profound at times, but so constant.  Always issues.  Always on the verge of death.  It felt good to meet this need once or twice, but after awhile it is hard to put everything on the back burner to the crisis.  Bills need to be paid.  Rest is important. 

It seems like a lot of what we are talking about is the constant crisis, only the crisis is so often totally trumped up by the BPD people in our lives.  A real crisis does require that we all put our needs aside for a moment and take on what is at hand.  But if this just keeps happening, and if a lot of it is not true... .we area all too tired to keep up these adrenaline, crisis, intense mode. 

It is one thing to volunteer in your community with troubled people... .and entirely another to have every small drama require us to drop our needs.  One is compassion, the other is crisis. 

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« Reply #18 on: March 06, 2011, 06:27:33 PM »

Crisis Fatigue - I would have to agree with you on that one.  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

I think in order for us to begin breaking out of the cycle of 'crisis fatigue'  Smiling (click to insert in post) , A few things need to be understood so we can break our own cycles:

Our basic Human needs

Our own perceptions of the situations/world around us (Physically, emotionally, spiritually)

Understanding the upcoming challenges we will inevitably face, but also the amazing strengths that we already possess

Practicing healthy vs Unhealthy caregiving techniques

I know that I have my own list of difficult challenges that will present themselves when I am on my own path to trying to figure out how to get out of this mindset.  I'd be interested to hear some of yours... .

*****************

DG - you mentioned that the symptoms were a lot like PTSD.  And I found this that I thought you might find interesting:

www.nvf.org/blog/item/35

... .Compassion Fatigue is linked closely with PTSD because the caregivers that suffer from it are often treating victims of traumatic stress, and because the symptoms and treatment of compassion fatigue are similar to those of PTSD. ... .

... .The symptoms of Compassion Fatigue, like PTSD, can vary. Some of the symptoms are a decrease in empathy, irritability, constant feelings of stress and anxiety, the inability to focus, feelings of doubt and inadequacy, and reoccurring nightmares or flashbacks... .


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« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2011, 11:56:27 AM »

Happy Monday, Marlo.  Hi!

Excerpt
Our basic Human needs

Our own perceptions of the situations/world around us (Physically, emotionally, spiritually)

Understanding the upcoming challenges we will inevitably face, but also the amazing strengths that we already possess

Practicing healthy vs Unhealthy caregiving techniques

Is this a test?   Being cool (click to insert in post)


Basic Human Needs:



According to Max-Neef's fundamental human needs:

Max-Neef classifies the fundamental human needs as:

subsistence,

protection,  

affection,

understanding,

participation,

leisure,

creation,

identity and

freedom.

Of course it is broken down into being (qualities), having (things), doing (actions), interacting (settings).

I can see where if there is an imbalance - of saying taking care of others vs. being taken care of - where our needs, are in fact, not being met.

Our own perceptions of the situations/world around us (Physically, emotionally, spiritually):

I see this as perhaps dealing in our own issues with reacting/trusting/feeling. Do I see the world as a good place with good people?  Or do I see it as a fickle and arbritary world?

For me it certainly depends on the day. Smiling (click to insert in post)  

Some days I am full of hope and faith... .on other days I am Mrs. Doom and Gloom. My positive/negative thinking can be steered and inevitably altered based on not only outside sources but by my own filtering of events.  So I could see in this idealogy of "compassion fatigue" and being constantly exposed to the often (what feels to me like unnecessary) behavior of a disordered mind, and getting worn down by other events like unfair treatment at work or trouble in my marriage or a particularily needy friendship, etc.  My mind tends to focus in a direction and I physically, emotionally, and spirtually start reacting accordingly.  It would be different if I was basking in the sunshine, rainbows, laughter, and butterflies. Smiling (click to insert in post)

Understanding the upcoming challenges we will inevitably face, but also the amazing strengths that we already possess

Understanding upcoming challenges -along with the strengths I possess - is probably on the difficult side for me. I am, what I have come to realize, a bit of a fear driven creature. I'm worrisome and anxious (especially when it comes to the kiddos) and if I don't practice self care and awareness of my reactions, I can spiral pretty quickly.  A bad day for one of the kids can definitely be compounded by my reaction to it - leaving us all lost and grasping in admist the chaos.  

I do have a pretty fantastic partner who promises me pretty consistently (and often) in that "we can get thru anything".  It takes a lot of inner dialogue, but I do believe in the truth behind that statement.  

Practicing healthy vs Unhealthy caregiving techniques

For me, it's what we discussed earlier in regards to that "Martyr Role" and recognizing that I do slip into it sometimes [and perhaps my codependent ways].  Making sure that it's not depleting my needs in order to fulfill someone else's.

[Do you have some contrasting examples to help me better understand?]


I do have to say this, I think I sometimes try to hard to be someone I'm not really capable of being.  I see other mamas who devote so much time, persistence, understanding to taking care of their kiddos in ways that aren't necessarily my cup of tea. My personality doesn't lend me to be much of a mama who is so in tune with such virtues as temperance and patience.  I look at these mamas and think "wow, I want to be like that!"... .exceling in places where I'm lacking.

But I realize that it's like what you suggest here, marlo. I have to work with what I already possess. I can't be who I'm not, and actually be OK with it when I look in that proverbial mirror.  I have to build my own resiliency which in turn can loosen up my reactions to all these outside sources causing so much "crisis" in my life.  I think that definitely starts with a little loving "caretaking" toward ourselves.  

 DG
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« Reply #20 on: March 07, 2011, 04:51:40 PM »

Happy Monday to you, too, DG!   Hi!

I absolutely LOVE your list!  I really like your list of basic human needs!  Mine was definitely more simplistic:

- To feel safe and secure

- To love and be loved

- To be valued and validated

For me, a lot of those items are actually difficult to achieve in my life.  Feeling safe and secure - that's interesting to me that some of your own actions are fear driven - I guess it comes back to this point - feeling safe and secure.  For me, I don't always feel safe.  I feel like at any moment, something could happen and mom (or SF) can go right over the edge.  Their past behaviours have told me that I am not to trust them, so I don't always feel safe and secure.  Sometimes I also feel like the whole bottom could fall out of this box of 'containment' that I've created.  The one that I relish and cherish.

To love and be loved.  I don't have a problem loving, but whatever it is in me - not sure if I give off some vibe that says "don't love me" or if it's outside forces working against me.  Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)  I do not always feel loved.  To me, you treat people you love in a certain way - you don't make them feel used or there merely as a convenience.  You don't make them feel small - you do all that you can to show them that you love them.  Words just aren't enough.  But as I said -that could be my hard shell exterior, or it could also be the inability of the people around me to love me.  I'm not sure.

To be valued and validated - I think a lot of being loved goes hand in hand with being valued.  Being valued means that people trust you, they show you that they 'value' your presence, your input, your gifts, etc... .Being validated - I think maybe for a few of us we come here to be validated.  To be told by someone - I get what you are saying and understand your point of view and perspective.  To be told we are right in our feelings/actions, or to be told that we are justified in something.

I think it's difficult for my own family members (DH and skids) to validate my own thoughts and feelings for their own reasons - the skids might feel like they are betraying mom if they were to agree or even show understanding to my opinion and DH struggles with his own confidence to be able to validate me for fear that because the kids must not see things the same way, so I think he feels a pull between them and me - and that is never my intention - but I think he has his own feelings of guilt - if he agrees with me, then he must not be agreeing with the kids which is 'bad' to him.

Our own perceptions of the world around us:

I think you nailed it with talking about outside factors as well as the unnecessary behaviour of a disordered mind.  

I think a loto f it also based on our own upbringing - our roots and what makes us who we are.  My experiences in life are different than yours, so right away, you and I may not see things through the same lens.

The world itself around us - I, too would much prefer if I woke up everyday to hot, sunny weather and everything was rainbows and bunny farts!  Laugh out loud (click to insert in post)  But that is not reality for me.

And because of my own history and past experiences, I have my own diaglogue that chirps it way through my mind, so I have my own set of "Thought, feeling, action" that occurs regularly.  

And then spiritually is a whole other realm.   Some people have been able to find that beautiful balance of spirituality - maybe they possessed it all along, maybe they took the time to to work on it.  Whatever the case, for me, I am not as far along as I would like to be with my own spiritual side.  I'm not a religious person, but I do admire those who are very in tune with their own spiritual beliefs.  It's almost like another tool in their arsenal to fall back on.   Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

Upcoming challenges:

-Lack of knowledge

-Lack of time

-Lack of support

-Lack of patience - it's funny to me that when it comes to kids, I have all the patience in the world for whatever reason. It's when it comes to my DH, myself, mom.  If I gave myself the amount of patience that I give to my skids, it might be different. But not sure how I go about doing that.

-Lack of willpower

-Lack of necessary coping skills

-The resistance that I face from outside sources - my DH, skids, mom, work schedules

- Maybe I'm secretly a pessimist, I'm not sure.  But i'm a "SHOW ME" kinda person.  To me, it's not good enough to just say you will do something, or tell me something reassuring, I am a show me kinda gal.  That might be difficult for others.

Strengths:

I think a lot of my 'strengths' can also be my own downfalls, too.  As you have all noticed I'm a 'no nonsense' person. I can tell it like it is and prefer to take things at face value. This is difficult for me in a lot of instances as well though.

I like to think I'm fairly optimistic, and I also feel that you gals are, too.  I have seen your posts and truly feel that optimism plays a large part of our own successes.  And we wouldn't have come as far as we have if we didn't have such optimism and hope for each other, for our skids and our spouses and even the BPD person in our lives.

Our own self-awareness is also key - what it is that we can and cannot handle/tolerate./ What our own triggers are and our what our own healing looks and feels like so we know if we are on the right track.

Self acceptance - we talk alot about acceptance of others, but how much acceptance do we have of ourselves? I think that also plays a large part in our own successes and achievements.  :)o we give ourselves the right to mess up? Do we forgive ourselves for our own shortcomings? I am definitely harder on myself than anyone else could possibly be. But I'm working on that.  

My own self respect goes both ways. I say that I respect myself, but do I actually show it when I allow my own boundaries to be pushed and skewed? Something else I' m working on.  

I do have a very healthy respect for others though.  And this is something that I take pride in. I certainly do 'treat others the way I want to be treated".  

Healthy vs. Unheatlthy caregiving:

I've got this little snippet from a hand out:

What is Healthy Caregiving?

Being healthy in mind, body and spirit is having the ability to put ourselves in win-win situations. Healthy caregivingputs us in the place of reaping the benefits of our positive, life-affirming thoughts, feelings and actions. In recognizing and honoring our own internal pain, we release its power over us.

This process allows us the space to experience true compassion for others while not taking on their suffering as our own.


What is Unhealthy or Chronic Caregiving?

Unhealthy caregiving puts us in lose-lose situations where everyone ends up hurting. This occurs when the caregiver hasn’t reconciled his or her own pain and suffering. When this occurs, the rush of negative, hurtful feelings that reside inside intermingle with those of the person needing care.

Unhealthy or chronic caregivingnegates the compassionate, loving spirit that allows sustainable healing.
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« Reply #21 on: March 07, 2011, 04:56:24 PM »

EIGHT LAWS GOVERNING HEALTHY CHANGE

1.Take frequent breaks from what you are doing.

2.Learn the word “no.” Use it whenever necessary.

3.Share the load with others.

4.There is humor in every situation. Find it and laugh.

5.Recognize when you need help. Ask for it.

6.Give yourself credit when credit is due.

7.Give others credit when credit is due.

8.Breathe deeply as often as possible.
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« Reply #22 on: March 10, 2011, 10:48:38 AM »

EIGHT LAWS GOVERNING HEALTHY CHANGE

1.Take frequent breaks from what you are doing.

2.Learn the word “no.” Use it whenever necessary.

3.Share the load with others.

4.There is humor in every situation. Find it and laugh.

5.Recognize when you need help. Ask for it.

6.Give yourself credit when credit is due.

7.Give others credit when credit is due.

8.Breathe deeply as often as possible.

I like that, Marlo - what's the reference?  So many of these items are considered weaknesses by too many people, especially in the corporate world where many of us seek a portion of our identity.
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« Reply #23 on: March 10, 2011, 12:12:44 PM »

Khat, I went back to my handout and there is no reference listed - it's simply from a handout entitled "Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project 2009".

I guess it must be a version of the "Caregiver's Bill of Rights"... .

There was another section in the same handout for 'standards of self-care' which I also really like:

Standards of Self-Care

- Acknowledge your needs & wants.

- Clarify your goals & objectives.

- Educate yourself about pertinent issues.

- Create a sustainable plan.

- Shift from other-directedness to selfdirectedness.

- Shift from issue-driven to mission-driven.

- Practice the art of confinement.

- Find your balance, stay on course.

I was also given a book that I have begun reading - it's really great.  It's called "When the body says NO.  The Cost of Hidden Stress".  I haven't finished reading it yet, but here is the link:

www.whenthebodysaysno.ca/

Perhaps I'll be able to write a review when I'm done!

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« Reply #24 on: March 10, 2011, 03:27:55 PM »

Wow!  This is just such a touching, great, helpful, inspiring, moving thread!  You ladies are great pals!  Khat—sorry not to acknowledge you earlier!  Hope you are still hanging around this thread... .I also am learning more about you than I have in lots of other threads. 

This is so right where I am at, all these questions. 

Before I answer the questions, I just want to say that I have really been in a process of sorts of working on making all this stuff work for me.  I think my DH filing a custody motion was really inspiring for me.  We are about to start a full custody evaluation.  I think it was sort of like he is finally taking on what he sees as his responsibility, so I could see that there is more to all of this than dealing with BPDmom and the stresses the kids are under.

I went to a therapist/life coach yesterday.  I went with the intention to clarify what I am up to in my life right now so that I could see more clearly where to set boundaries.  I set out a bunch of my priorities and loves right now.  What I am working on.  And I included “enjoying my parenting of my SDs” and “Helping my SDs know themselves and love themselves as much as possible” in there.

I so often feel thankful that the kids have their mom to give them that absolutely special mommy love, even if she does not give it consistently or unconditionally.  But I can see that the kids feel that from her.  My DH’s love is less gushy, less self-centered.  My love is something I hold with me through anger, and speak in the midst of struggle.  It is very strong.  But it is less passionate, maybe.  More reserved.  I think it is good for the kids to have both.

But to recognize what I am doing as important to me meant a lot and was a huge reliever of stress to “validate” this work I am doing—that it is okay that part of my major work right now is being loving to these kids and learning to enjoy the hard parts.

As for your questions (test?) (hee, hee) ere is a shot at some of my understanding of these things for me:

Our basic Human needs

Beyond the obvious food, shelter, etc, there is:

To make a difference for others

To be important in others’ lives (probably these are the need often referred to as “belonging”)

To have times free of fear, and time to recuperate from trauma/scary experiences

Silence/peace

Time without demands from others

Time to pursue what I am curious about

Enough structure to be able to follow through on projects and goals (e.g., if I set a meeting, that it will not be canceled due to scheduled changes most times)


Our own perceptions of the situations/world around us (Physically, emotionally, spiritually)

I can really relate to the awareness of fear and my relationship with fear that DG and Marlo have both voiced.  In some ways I am not very driven by fear, in some ways I am.  In many ways perceive life as full of opportunity, as safe, as supportive.  But I have fear about being seen as vulnerable, have had that most of my life, and chosen professional and lifestyle choices that reinforce that fear. 

But the particular ways the kids’ mom pushes my buttons nest well into my core areas of fear.  I feel like I am a political person, often in leadership roles and seeing from a diplomatic/political perspective.  I think about how I can get conflicting parties to come to resolution, about how many people I need to support a plan I have, and when I meet a new person I think about how their skills and connections can benefit others’ projects.  I think of my reputation and social persona that way, too.  I reach out to all new people in our area, I help people sometimes to connect with them as I see them as key to some issue that needs resolution, and so forth.  When I was younger, I used to work in DC and also thought I would one day run for congress.  That necessitated a separation between my personal life, and my public life. 

My core group of friends and my family could know pretty much anything about me, and I am very open and authentic with these people.  I live in a community where a great deal of personal honesty is practiced, where people resolve all personal difficulties and do not just have grudges.  So this personal reality feels very safe and very loving, but scary and challenging in more personal ways (people will tell you what they really think). 

But then I also was operating in the public eye, in Washington DC and in our more local political scene and in negotiations with federal agencies in a way that required me to show little of myself.  Especially as a young woman, I had to appear like an expert at all times, and to be professional, articulate, and pretty unyielding, yet diplomatic, to have any impact.  I remember women who did not wear panty-hose visiting the offices of members of congress being scoffed at.  I would never make that error, or any error like that.  And I live in a very right wing area, so to present before even local boards, I had to “pass” for very conservative.  I remember one supervisor saying to me when I was asking for environmental protection and more jobs for local loggers, and had brought a bunch of local loggers to support me, “I cannot tell whose side you are on!”  She was so frustrated.  I tried to explain that I was not on a side. 

At some point, I realized that all that political stuff was way too stressful for me to enjoy my life.  A lot of what felt most scary was the possibility that this public, political life would at some point see my personal life, my silly side, who loves to wear costumes at our yearly picnic and is willing to cry in public and hug people, and at my rural lifestyle, where I walk to neighbors’ homes, chop my own firewood, and do not really watch TV much. 

Now, all this is on the table with BPD mom, only she is much more personal, vindictive, adversarial, and vicious than many political foe would be, and she knows all because the kids tell her.  So if I ever take off my clothes in my own home, they come back with comments about my body to mom, and report to me her responses; they tell her of our rural life, and she is critical in the extreme, thinking the kids are terrified of wild animals so never go outside (which is the farthest from the truth).  This stuff all bursts my little bubble of privacy, where I can be who I want and do not have to be afraid.

But it also is of little consequence, as I do not do things that a custody evaluator would really even care about.  They are all the things that might have been bad for a political campaign, but that are just fine in this context. 

So what also has happened is this has pulled the lid off of my real fears.  I think I am afraid to be seen.  Afraid to have my flaws dissected.  I am willing to admit these flaws to many people—to myself and others; but afraid to share them with people who will judge me, afraid that I will not be able to survive that scrutiny or that my uniqueness will not survive. That I would rather change than be judged.

I have worked hard not to have fear rule my life, and to create a home and circle of friends and a community in which less inhibition is needed, and there is a conflict between my desire to protect myself from the judgment of the kids’ mom and possibly courts (as well as the desire to reduce stress on the kids), and my desire for the kids, my DH, and myself to live in a way that is forgiving, in which we can protect ourselves and make boundaries without shame and blame.

I think this core fear of being seen in a vulnerable position is really a big one for me.  Being seen being angry, having people I love be seen as supporting things I do not support (like my friends being naked and taking a bath together and not locking the door—not a big deal, but something I would not have done given our situation), having my body be criticized by the kids’ mom.  Having neighbors come in when my house is messy.  Stuff like that just really feels shameful and scary to me. 

What I am discovering is that my biggest fears are no big deal.  Also, that there is a great deal of support for who I am even including my vulnerabilities. And that it is such a relief to really have no big secrets.

I also have a lot of anxiety when it comes to the kids; I see through a filter that makes me focus on the negative and avoiding the negative. I am afraid of the kids losing who they are, learning to lie about who they are in ways that will be irreparable.  Being hurt bad so not trusting people anymore.  Being hurt by drunk friends of their moms or by their mom’s drunk driving.  This lens is not a good-feeling one. 

With my husband, I see from a lens of “what if the focus is always on his stress and his ex and not on me and my dreams, or him and his dreams?” I feel entirely loved by him—it is not a jealousy feeling.  It is a fear that our focus as a family will be framed in the negative, that we will not give the kids the amazing things that DH and I have to offer, that all that energy will be used on the defensive.  But that fear does so much less for me than skipping to ME focusing on my dreams and his dreams.  Tangled in fear, I sometimes miss my own point. 

But in general, I think I bring to all this stuff a perception that all of us are good enough as is, that it is never too late to try again, to love more, to be open to fear and let it go, that the world is a supportive and loving place if you let it be.

Understanding the upcoming challenges we will inevitably face, but also the amazing strengths that we already possess

Upcoming challenges—My biggest obstacle to seeing clearly in this area is my tendency to project my anxiety onto things, fearing the worst.  I think I go through a lot of anxiety before I act, but when I act I relax and am able to perceive challenges without too much added drama.  For example, when my DH was ready to ask for a full custody evaluation, this brought up a lot of fear in me.  I had wanted this for some time, but my timing would have been in response to one of her incidents of violence or rage, when a reaction would be perceived as being “understandable” by courts and others.  DH chose to act when he saw impacts ON THE KIDS, when they paroted negative things their mom said about him, when he saw them unable to distinguish mom’s feelings from their own.  And, he waited for three months until the holidays were over, so that his action would not ruin the holidays for the kids.  This scared me a lot, to strike when the iron was cold.  To act out of conscience rather than out of provocation.  Because we would be inviting a counter-attack. 

My fear was that the challenges would be horrible... .so I did lots of protective stuff. 

And as it happens, mom has responded much less intensely than expected. 

And DH and I both have approached this time with conscious openness to whatever the outcome is.  To not being afraid of failure or success. 

For me this has really taught me a lot about being at peace with what is.  Not making a big deal out of something.  Each time we have received Mom’s allegations about us, they have been really not so bad, and I have still had a little “freak out,” a little vent of my fear onto DH.  I am seeing how destructive that is, how corrosive that fear and upset is.  A lot of this is so “knee jerk” though; and I think that my fear is a big trigger for me to do too much, to be very prepared which can be good, but is terribly draining when the rate of crises is so high. 

A big challenge for me will be to not allow my immediate fear reactions to be dumped on my mate.  To not indulge in creating drama around painful things.  To know that it is okay to be seem for who we are, and okay to be misrepresented by BPDmom, that there will be time and means to clear the record, and that it is not bad to have the finger pointed at us. 

As for my strengths, I think my lack of underlying judgment about what happens in my life is a great strength.  My mate has that too.  I think the firmness and resilience of my love is also a great strength.  My willingness to make amends for my failings is a strength.  My analytical ability and ability to convey my experience to others is a strength.  My and my husband’s willingness to embrace what life we have, as is, is a strength.  And my sense of humor and ability to have fun with things along the way. And having the courage of my convictions, to realize where my chosen way of living leaves me vulnerable, but to be willing to do my best to protect myself and family, and still not hide from scrutiny.



Practicing healthy vs Unhealthy caregiving techniques


Practicing healthy techniques: 

Setting boundaries in a positive way---meaning, to identify what I want to do or be, and to be willing to break with someone else and their actions and dialog to move toward what I want, when it is not possible to do so together. 

Try to allot time to the things that matter to me, rather than letting the crisis dictate how I spend my time.  This means partly to not respond so rapidly to crisis, which has to due in me with wanting to be needed to validate my worth to others. 

To be wiling not to be needed, or to be willing to see others’ need, and to evaluate relative needs rather than responding immediately.  To allow that tension to be present. 


Unhealthy caretaking: 

To allow that need to be needed to overtake me, to give more than I can without having some negative consequence.

To not allow that extra buffer— to agree to the very max of what I can handle, so emergencies, crises or change is pushing me over the edge.

The most common unhealthy caregiving I do, in sum, is to respond by helping out with kid and household and legal stuff that is beyond what I have said I would do, and usually this occurs when I see my DH struggling in response to his ex.  I have set pretty good boundaries myself with his BPDex, but do not set good boundaries on the secondary and tertiary impacts of her intensity, chaotic way of relating to scheduling, and emotional impacts on the kids.

I am aware in writing this that my fear influences my responses to others’ needs.  I think i fear that my vulnerability and grief will be seen, so I cover that up by helping fix the problem. 

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« Reply #25 on: March 10, 2011, 10:59:37 PM »

Hi Ennie!  Hi!

You forgot one thing in your strengths category - The ability to convey your messages so eloquently.  Your writing is like a beautifully written poem.  xoxo

I admire all the personal details that you gals have been willing share.  I know that it can be scary actually laying it out on the line - making you feel vulnerable to scrutiny or judgment.  I just want to say to all of you how unbelievably proud I am to be able to call you all friends - even if it's only via this thing we call internet!     

I admire your strength and courage to share.

So my next questions are this:

How do we go about creating a self care plan for ourselves?

What do we stand to gain by moving through the whole process?

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« Reply #26 on: March 15, 2011, 12:57:36 PM »

How do we go about creating a self care plan for ourselves?

I suck at this one. Smiling (click to insert in post)

My therapist would just love you for getting me to think about it and (gasp) make a plan and actually stick to it.

I think I get bogged down sometimes when it all becomes "too much" or in more technical terms "overwhelming". And like in your descriptions earlier... .it leads to symptomatic feelings of stress and fatigue along with some resentment. i.e. Why am I doing all of this again?  

Two of the hardest aspects for me in "self-care" when I enter into these stages is in (1)asking for help and (2) saying no. I really need to pay attention to my stress levels better and adhere to the amount I'm willing or even able to take on.  I do notice that when I have a plausible list of goals that I feel so much better about myself (and accomplished!) So if I can't do it all, I need to realize that it's OK that I can't and if someone could help, then it will still get done.

I think "awareness" (like you've suggested) is so crucial.  When reaching a certain threshhold, to stop and start paying attention to the needs that possibly aren't getting met - then making a plan to nurture that a little bit.

What do we stand to gain by moving through the whole process?

One of the hardest things for me is to realize the core of why I'm feeling the way I do. (i.e. why I don't ask for help!) So I think when I not only recognize the process... .but respect it as well... .I gain insight and understanding to why I'm reacting the way I am.   It helps in managing and even alleviating the issues that we seem to face in these situations.

xoxox

~DG
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« Reply #27 on: March 15, 2011, 03:29:05 PM »

 Hi marlo6277.  This is a very interesting topic, 'compassion fatigue' and may be the answer to how I've been feeling lately.  At first I thought that I was depressed but I know depression because I've been depressed most of my life.  This is different though. Things have been better in my family with my BPDdd's and my BPD/NPDmom and even with myself but I can't figure out why I've been feeling so down, so lost and disinterested in life the way I used to be. 

Sometimes I feel that I just don't care about anyone or anything anymore because everything seems to take so much effort and I don't have the energy even for myself some days.  I know I'm still recovering from major surgery and it will take some time to get back but I feel that something really has changed in the way I look at life and I'm not sure whether it is good or bad yet. Even reading on these boards takes a lot of my energy and it's hard to concentrate.

I've been isolating myself and not wanting to see my friends or go out because I feel that... .'what is the point', 'they're all the same',  'all they want is something from me and I'm so tired and worn out and just can't do it anymore'.  I've also worked in the health care field for over 40 years looking after others and really did enjoy my work and I never thought that I was disadvantaged in any way or put upon by the needs of others until just recently.

Now I'm just so tired of 'needy people' and to my horror find myself being needy for the first time in my life.  I've also lost some friends and have some family members angry at me because I just can't be that person who I was in the past looking after everyone. When you've lived all your life as the 'giver', it's really difficult to accept being the 'taker'.  All the rules seemed to have changed for me and I'm still trying to figure out what I have to offer to another person or relationship now that I'm not the caretaker. It's really been difficult for me to feel these feelings of loss of the caretaker role and accept this new phase of my life. Humble is not easy for me.

Thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts about this.

justhere

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« Reply #28 on: March 15, 2011, 05:47:07 PM »

Now I'm just so tired of 'needy people' and to my horror find myself being needy for the first time in my life.  I've also lost some friends and have some family members angry at me because I just can't be that person who I was in the past looking after everyone.  

I've ran into this before. I think it's a good sign. I think that when you start finding a place where relationships don't have to be you turning yourself inside out being the "giver" - it includes becoming a little selfish for a period of time.  Don't let your guilt get the best of you in those moments.

It's a transcending of sorts - to finding balance in your life. Smiling (click to insert in post)

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« Reply #29 on: March 15, 2011, 06:25:04 PM »

Excerpt
I suck at this one. Smiling (click to insert in post)

Actually, I think you did great!  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)

Excerpt
Two of the hardest aspects for me in "self-care" when I enter into these stages is in (1)asking for help and (2) saying no.

I, too have a very difficult time asking for help.  Funny enough - I've never had a problem saying no though.  I say it all the time. And I follow through! (Yay me!)  The problem that I have other than asking for help is that the things that I do take on, seem to be very draining.  I say no an awful lot, but the things that I do work on are exhausting which also means that I have to say no to other things.  And sometimes I say no to myself - which is a bad thing simply because I am just that exhausted. 

Just here:

Excerpt
I've also lost some friends and have some family members angry at me because I just can't be that person who I was in the past looking after everyone.

This is something that I, too can sympathize with.  I was always the 'caretaker' - my sister from the time she was born, to babysitting extensively throughout my teens, to moving in with my grandma to look after her in my early 20s, to helping my best friend with her daycare and her kids when I was home from work and generally living the single life that was all about me to becoming a full time stepmom to 3 kids. 

It was pretty overwhelming to me, but I liked it.  However, when I started feeling overwhelmed, I started saying no to some people who were used to me being at their 'beckon call' basically.  They called, I came. That's how it was.  Only now I lived an hour away and couldn't just drop everything and come to everyone's aide.  And people did not take too well to it.  Especially my best friend.  She ended our friendship stating that I was 'being difficult'. 

It's a shame that it happens sometimes and I do understand how it can be confusing - I mean, you help all these people all the time and then when you need the help, it's not reciprocated or understood. 

I'm so glad that you joined in on the conversation!  I look forward to hearing more from you!  xoxo

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« Reply #30 on: March 15, 2011, 06:50:10 PM »

Excerpt
How do we go about creating a self care plan for ourselves?

I'm a goal setter - so i like to set 3 small goals for myself and make a 'plan' to achieve them.  Sometimes I don't succeed the way I want to, but I am willing to set that aside and give myself the credit for achieving the goal - period! I can start with small things and that way, I feel like I've accomplished some things and then I will commit to rewarding myself for it as well!  And I think that will make me feel a little motivated to do more - maybe even something bigger!

I think another important part of all of this is really focusing on what I've learned about myself.  Having more self awareness of my own pitfalls will help me be more aware of things as they are happening (I know where this is going), rather than after (how did I get to this point?).

Excerpt
What do we stand to gain by moving through the whole process?

I almost feel like it's a little like driving a car - At first you are just learning all this stuff - rules of the road, where the gas is and the brake, etc... .You are paying close attention to the road, to every little thing - like being hypersensitive to everything.  You have some knowledge (because you've taken the time to study and read), but you really don't have the experience behind you, so you might find yourself in the middle of a sticky situation trying to figure out how you got there. You might think you know alot more than you really do.  Kind of like being Unconsciously Incompetent - you might think that you know a little more than you do, but you still realize that you have to pay close attention.

Then you get some experience and learn from some mistakes. Then you realize that you really aren't as experienced as you thought you were.  So you still must pay attention and realize that sometimes your focus needs to readdressed.  So you have moved over to Consciously Incompetent.

Then you've got a few years of experience in.  Now you do things out of confidence and experience.  You know that you are a fairly good driver and you pay attention to what's going on around you.  You are now Consciously Competent.

Then you are at a point, where you are just doing things automatically.  You actually have to ask yourself sometimes - ":)id I remember to put the gas cap on?" or maybe you don't remember passing a landmark on your drive home that you do every single day and sometimes you realize that you've been doing that drive that you do every single day to work, or to school and wow... .You don't remember passing that store today, but you know you did cuz you always do!  That's all muscle memory kicking in... .You are now Unconsciously Competent... .

So that's how I'm looking at this - right now I'm at the point where I know I have work to do, but I also know that I've gained some knowledge and I've been working on this for a little while, and I've made some mistakes.  I know that I am learning from these mistakes, and I'm still probably going to make more.  I know that it's going to take me time before saying no and asking for help is muscle memory.  It really is something that I still have to think about and talk myself through. I also know that this change is bringing on some resistance from others because it's change for them, too.

But I remind myself - if I feel resistance, then I know I'm on the right track - I'm doing good for me.  And eventually, they'll get used to it.  I'm at the point where I can recognize the problem when it's just starting.  I soon hope to be at a point where I can see the problem coming before it arrives. Then I can move on to the point where I'm not even thinking about it anymore and I can successfully 'steer' myself out of the way and avoid problems altogether just because I've been doing so long... .

And in turn, that will be good for others too... .that will save me so much more energy and I'll be better at doing the caretaking that I choose to do... .

That's my goal for me... .

Marlo  
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« Reply #31 on: March 16, 2011, 03:56:19 PM »

Marlo, Justhere--I was just writing about this on another board.  I like the driving analogy. 

I have been having a really hard time this week.  We have had drama related to the kids' mom being at school all the time against a court order, or maybe in a loophole in the court order--hard to say.  Kids acting out, etc.  At the same time, I have been trying to be more involved in volunteering and community events, especially about a recent controversy surrounding some neihgborhood park/land issues. 

I have always been able to mediate between challenging parties, to reach out to the hard people and work with them.  I have been able to be "low maintenance" and not need a lot myself, so that I can take flack and be flexible and work things out.  I am also able to state my needs and wants in a diplomatic way. 

But in the midst of the stress and chaos that the recent crisis and the past 4 years of crises causes in me, I am really not that great at dealing with people.  My patience is less.  I spent yesterday being harangued  serially by the 5 main challenging folks involved in our community dispute, serving as the lightening rod.  And I found I did not like that much.  I was so emotionally wracked and exhausted at the end of all of it, could only see how I had messed up.  And people are mad at me for the ways that I cannot do it all like I could before. 

Like Marlo, I do say NO.  But I also take on a lot, and am very critical of my failings.  I do not follow through on every detail, and I drop some projects, so there is always room for others to have ground to criticize me and I fear that.  Sometimes I say "no" only after I thought I could do it and said "Yes."  But I accomplish a lot and mostly receive good feedback and am my own worst critic. 

What I found is that when I am wiped out, I am better at being relaxed in response to drama.  This was very interesting.  I had taken it upon myself to inform people I thought had concerns about our community dispute about an upcoming meeting, so they would feel included.  Of course, though I was not organizing the meeting, had not agreed to inform anyone, etc., the people complained to me of my short notice, of the meeting topic (not my choice), of everything under the sun. 

My inside feeling was that I could barely handle this feedback as I had been dealing with really unfair, irrational, hurtful behavior on the part of the kids' mom all week, not to mention my own irrational, unfair, and hurtful internal reactions and expression to my DH.  I had actually been crying all morning. 

But my outside reality is that I listened better, but also set better boundaries.  No energy to try to win them over, I instead said things to the most challenging person like, "If you have a problem with that, show up.  I have my own concerns, so I am doing the work of participating.  I do not want to be blamed by you for something that is not my problem.  It is your responsibility to make your voice heard." 

This would have been unthinkable before the last 4 years dealing with the BPD person in my life.  I am willing to state my own needs, but to "talk back" to someone who needs to be rude, that is not my style.  OR was not.  I have always admired people who just tell it like it is, with no animosity, but no diplomacy.  Unfortunately, I do not yet love that in ME.  But I think this could grow on me. 
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« Reply #32 on: March 16, 2011, 07:59:56 PM »

Good job, Girlie!

I absolutely love how you handled it. You simply placed the responsibility back in their lap. How empowering for you!  And I also like how you stated that your exhaustion has actually served purpose. I never looked at it that way, but that is so very "cup half full". . Way to go!

I absolutely admire that you were not only able to say no, but redirect that blame and accountability back to the person.  Awesome. So proud of you.

Keep up the great work. I love these stories!

Marlo

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« Reply #33 on: March 17, 2011, 10:02:14 AM »

Maybe it is like you say DreamGirl that I am going though a time of balance but it wasn't like I was asking them to give to me but only understand that I can't keep giving to them.  Once I realized though that what I was really doing was asking their permission for me to look after my own needs and I could see that they were never going to do that, I had to do the work myself. I don't know why it was so scary for me and it made me angry at first that they couldn't see me as a person with needs too but this site has taught me that it wasn't their responsibility to look after me, it was my responsibility. 

It is sad Marlo that we have to loose some of these people out of our lives because I really miss my friend like I'm sure you miss your friend too but looking back I can see that I have grown from that person that I used to be and there is no way that could or would even want to go back.

I can really relate to what you posted ennie... .

What I found is that when I am wiped out, I am better at being relaxed in response to drama. 

and... .

My inside feeling was that I could barely handle this feedback as I had been dealing with really unfair, irrational, hurtful behavior on the part of the kids' mom all week, not to mention my own irrational, unfair, and hurtful internal reactions and expression to my DH.  I had actually been crying all morning. 

But my outside reality is that I listened better, but also set better boundaries.  No energy to try to win them over, I instead said things to the most challenging person like, "If you have a problem with that, show up.  I have my own concerns, so I am doing the work of participating.  I do not want to be blamed by you for something that is not my problem.  It is your responsibility to make your voice heard." 

This would have been unthinkable before the last 4 years dealing with the BPD person in my life.

 

I've been realizing that things are different with me too now that I just can't do it all anymore and have to say "no" that word that was always so difficult for me to say. It's been a strange world for me lately because I really have had to 'stop the helping' and 'doing it all myself.' My family members especially my sister and my mother have not liked this at all and have pushed they blackening of me to high gear but it really is not going to do any good because it won't change anything.  They don't know it yet but I'm finished with being that person who they've been able to cajole, manipulate, and guilt because I've come to the end and I have no more to give them at least in way I did in the past.

This is a time of change in my family and it hasn't been easy for anyone but the one thing I know for sure is that things will change. It's too bad that it had to come to this but I'm not sure that I could of accepted the changes any other way.  My family has slowly been picking up the slack and helping themselves with more and more everyday. I've had 2 days this week that my very needy mother hasn't even phoned me at all, and I don't know if you can imagine how good that feels.

I don't know whether it's still considered a boundary or not if you don't have any choice and it feels kind of like cheating in a way but this state of exhaustion is giving me the break I've needed to look after myself.  My mother taught me well to be the caregiver to everyone but myself so for me, it's back to the very beginning, like teaching myself how to eat properly, get the proper rest, sleep and exercise and the best part is just being able to think without someone else and their stuff in my head every minute.   Thanks to all of you for getting me thinking about this.

justhere 

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« Reply #34 on: March 19, 2011, 08:25:34 AM »

I was laboring under compassion fatigue until I read an in-depth interview with Marsha Linehan, the former nun and present popularizer of DBT for BPD. This gave me license to be who I am by nature. She gave an example of her typical interaction with her BPD patients:

"When my patient said they were contemplating suicide, I reminded them that they'd agreed to not discontinue their sessions with me."

It sounds off-handed and sarcastic, but everything is how you say what you say. She initially met a lot of resistance to her approach from other mental health professionals, but we all know how that cookie has crumbled.

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« Reply #35 on: March 21, 2011, 10:49:29 AM »

I was laboring under compassion fatigue until I read an in-depth interview with Marsha Linehan, the former nun and present popularizer of DBT for BPD. This gave me license to be who I am by nature. She gave an example of her typical interaction with her BPD patients:

"When my patient said they were contemplating suicide, I reminded them that they'd agreed to not discontinue their sessions with me."

It sounds off-handed and sarcastic, but everything is how you say what you say. She initially met a lot of resistance to her approach from other mental health professionals, but we all know how that cookie has crumbled.

ktb

KTB - I read this quote in one of my many books about BPD. I really did love this - talk about placing the responsibility back in their court.  It was an excellent way of addressing the issue.

Can I ask something? You said that you were labouring under compassion fatigue - does that mean that you have begun to come through the other side? How did you go about doing it? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

(I know that I asked the same question of QCR, but I am very interested in hearing how others overcome many of the challenges)

Thanks!

Marlo 
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« Reply #36 on: March 21, 2011, 12:43:04 PM »

Feeling sad today.  Not feeling very motivated to deal with all this stuff... .just wanting to retreat into myself and my home.  Kids went back to mom's today, and I am exhausted. 

I feel like the hardest thing for me is the constant misinformation that the kids' mom puts forth, and the ways we then need to be the bad guy or deal with the fallout without speaking up.  To "take the higher ground" or not; we always take the higher ground by not being harmful in return, but it is hard to feel so powerless to her hurtful actions.  She will do whatever is most challenging for us while being perceived by others as being a great mom.  Outside of the class, but at school, mom is yelling at DH because he wrote her a note about the last few bits of a class project we had done with SD10 and she had ignored for 3 months, but inside the class she is telling the teacher how grateful she is that we finally are all working together.  And this conflict with DH is happening when he goes to do his weekly volunteering and she is already in the kids classroom during his week. 

I do not think this is compassion fatigue.  Or is it?  Part of my frustration and feeling of wanting to give up has to do with constantly putting out positive energy and getting negative in return.  Both DH and I put so much energy into trying to facilitate mom participating in this big project... .trying to do it all subtly, not communicating directly so she does not feel we are taking over, but helping SD10 to come up with ideas to take to mom's so she helps mom to get engaged in the project.  Doing everything without a computer, printing anything we got off of the internet for mom as she does not use a computer.  And so on and so forth.  Then finally, 2 days before the report is due when mom has done nothing, DH writes a note indicating all the parts of the project, and communicating what is not finished, and mom flips out at him.  And then the way it gets communicated to teachers is that dad is mad and mom is cooperative.  They have no idea that his grumpy look has to do with mom yelling at him for 30 minutes outside the school. 


it is one thing when compassionate acts do not get seen, and another when they are actively used against one, or received as aggressive acts.  I still believe in being compassionate, because it feels better and ultimately helps more.  And it is really important to the kids.  So facilitating mom's role (even just by not doing some parts) and being kind to her, is probably worth it even if the kids just get less conflict, and do not realize any of what we are doing to help their mom be empowered without noticing us.  At least that is my experience.  Maybe I just do not have Marlo's self control, to be able to maintain neutrality and her own behavior... .for me, I think I have to actively experience compassion to do the same thing! 

But then it is so draining.  Why do I need kudos for my good acts?  If I help a street person, I do not need anyone to know, not even that person.  The satisfaction is to see the load lightened for that person.  But receiving antagonism when doing good for someone--that is tough.  My experience is that regardless of what we do, we get that reaction from the kids' mom.  If we limit contact, she attacks just as frequently  If we have lots of contact, same thing.  If we do lots for her or nothing, or do lots but do it in a way she does not see, or whatever we do.  The difference is that some acts mean the kids see less conflict and get more of their needs met, and then the kids see mommy as perfect and her blame of us makes more sense, whereas if the kids see mom's conflict, they think we are nicer because they see mommy screaming, us being kind.  It really is selfless, to prioritize less trauma for the kids when it results in the kids liking us less, as they then believe mom when she tells them we are always mean to her and yell at her and hate her. 

My response to this is depletion.  Exhaustion.  Not WANTING to make my own plan.  Not wanting to dialog on how to care for myself.  But here it goes:



How do we go about creating a self care plan for ourselves?


I am seeing a therapist/coach about this.  With her, I listed all of my priorities.  Now my task is to make it into a work plan, with percentages of my time listed for each goal/priorities.  Then to try to make a schedule that reflects that. 

But the part that is harder to plan is the overwhelming feeling on the day the kids go back to mom's of needing to hide, to just stay at home, not to see others, to rest.  Maybe this needs to be part of the schedule.  My work is very flexible, so this is possible.  But I have guilt when I get nothing done, especially when DH works so hard all the time.  My comparing myself to DH is a big obstacle to my will to care for my own needs. 

What do we stand to gain by moving through the whole process?

Great question.  So easy for me to want to dwell in the place of it not working for me.  I just want to hide from it all today, not to have to figure out how to make it work.  I resent being so responsible for dealing with the effects of others' actions myself... .I know this is "childish", this wanting others to do it for me.  Not to be rescued, but to have the kids' mom take responsibility for her actions.  This morning, SD10 was hiding candy. SD6 "told," and SD10 lied about having the candy and then pretended to get really mad at SD6, saying SD6 was lying about her having the candy to be mean.  This reminds me so much of how their mom is.  When I finally got the truth out of her, she said that she "can't help lying," that it is a habit and she cannot help it.  Later, she said she was lying about that. 

We had a good talk about it, I stayed calm.  There will be a consequence, and we also talked in more detail about what it means to not be trusted.  She really wants to be trusted, and I what trust means... .not a judgment, but my ability to rely on the information she gives me, like a percentage reliability that goes up or down when she lies.  That it just means I need to get the information elsewhere when she lies a lot. 

But I can take responsibility for this with a ten year old, I can let her know what my response is to her, with firm consequences, but still be loving and not resent her too much.  i can own my response, and share with her. 

But man oh man how I resent having to deal with the fallout of the same kinds of dishonesty in the kids' mom, even when I know she is doing this out of unquenchable pain for which I truly have compassion. 

Acknowledging my resistance and resentment, and moving on---what do I have to gain? 

I have to gain the feeling of being adequately rested, of being able to deal with things more easily and happily because I am not drained.  I stand to gain the enjoyment of the activities I do to take care of myself.  I stand to gain less friction with my mate over where my boundaries are by clarifying them... .indeed, this is the case. 

So I wonder why not just stick with the plan.  I started, then dropped it.  Was exercising daily, then stopped.  It has also been rainy and snowing a lot... .which dampens my ardor for outdoor activity.  I think the question for me is "What do I have to gain by NOT forming a care plan for me?" as there seems to be something that weighs against the obvious benefits that maybe should be more openly evaluated--the pros and cons of this. 

What do I have to gain by not forming a care plan for myself?

I gain the unhappiness that is so powerful for with my mate--he prioritizes things based on who is the unhappiest with him, and if I am unhappy, he acts.  But this does not work if it is stuff he has no real desire to fix, for even if it changes in the moment, he then becomes accustomed to my anger and stops trying to fix it. 

I gain the motivation to rest... .feeling down and depressed can result in me avoiding things I do not want to do, which is fun in the moment though painful in the long term. 

I gain the motivation for disengaging from others, which is a challenge for me but necessary.  My T invited me to join her club--they never meet--which is for introverts who love people.  I am very social and engaged with others a lot of the time, but am really nurtured by alone time.  I feel I need and crave alone time, and one of the hardest thing about being part of a family who needs so much from me is never having alone time for more than a few hours.  But when I feel down, I give in to that need.  I am willing not to call people back, not to engage.  To give up on people. 

The place this feels bad is with the kids.  And my husband.  With my husband, I can explain but with the kids, me pulling away emotionally (especially for SD6, who has been really close to me for most of her life), this is painful and no explanation fixes the pain it causes her.  I still pull away at times, trying to do it in a clear and loving way. 

On the whole, do I gain more by not planning my own care, or by making sure to care for myself?

I know we are all supposed to think the answer is that we gain more by caring... .after all, look at Maurice Sendak's Pierre for the dangers of not caring. 

But I want to meditate on this as if it is a real question, because at times I find myself acting as if not caring for myself is the preferable option... .so there is some degree to which it must be

I will get back to y'all on this one. 

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« Reply #37 on: March 21, 2011, 11:46:06 PM »

Ennie,

If I could, I'd reach through this computer screen and give you a great big hug... .Just wanted to let you know that.   

It's a little late for me tonight, but I will come back and respond what you've already written and look forward to what else you will write.

So sending you good thoughts tonite and hope that you can feel my hug. 

Marlo  xoxo
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« Reply #38 on: March 22, 2011, 12:21:38 PM »

Oh ennie I felt so bad for you when I read your post and I'm sorry that you have all this stress in your life and feel discouraged.  I guess I must be a lot further away from healing and healthy coping then you are because even after all these years I still don't want to be in the same room as my BPDexh let alone work on some project with him.  Maybe I'm missing something because I'm relatively inexperienced with any kind of cooperation with my exh but couldn't your dh, you and the teacher find ways that one time your dh helps and next time his exw helps because it sure seems unrealistic to me to think that you can all work together in peace and not be affected by her BPDbehaviors?

I do admire your dedication to your stepchildren and even the compassion and kindness you are extending to your dhexw but I can also see the toll it is taking on you.  I can only wonder what my life would of been like if my father, a teacher or an aunt or someone would of had the awareness into what I was going through with my BPDm and helped me to see what healthy looked like and taught me about boundaries and healthy coping so I wouldn't of had to spend all my whole life in the FOG and dysfunction. What you are giving your family is something very special and a blessing beyond measure.

It's odd that I should be thinking about this at this time in my life because my own children are adults now and my exh and exhw have moved away and there is only occasional drama from them but my BPDdd is dealing with something similar. Of course her own BPD makes everything worse as well but she is very determined to continue with this relationship and has been trying very hard to deal with the issues of his 3 children and their mother.  She found herself a book 'The Happy Stepmother' by Rachelle Katz that has helped her a lot with dealing with the issues of a blended family. Just thinking of you.

justhere

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« Reply #39 on: March 22, 2011, 12:30:42 PM »

Excerpt
On the whole, do I gain more by not planning my own care, or by making sure to care for myself?

I know we are all supposed to think the answer is that we gain more by caring... .after all, look at Maurice Sendak's Pierre for the dangers of not caring.  

But I want to meditate on this as if it is a real question, because at times I find myself acting as if not caring for myself is the preferable option... .so there is some degree to which it must be

I will get back to y'all on this one.

You know, I have a girlfriend who recently became engaged and will soon take on the title "Stepmom".  She is having some pretty difficult, real struggles in that she has a great, big heart and really, truly cares about her soon to be stepson - who at 8 years old is attending therapy because of recent suicidal ideations - and the biological mama acts terribly towards her in many facets - for no reason at all (sound familiar?).  She called me in tears the other night because the therapist, with the very best interest of her SS8, explained to my friend that she needs to reassess her role and perhaps stop attending functions where everyone is present (like his soap box derby the next day). She could barely contain the tears when she admitted that she was so afraid that her stepson would ever think that she didn't care... .

I think "caring" comes in so many shapes and sizes. I care so much about my stepdaughters that I had to step outside myself and be someone I wasn't to truly "care" about them. I had to stop attending every one of their functions in order to give their mom some room to stop throwing temper tantrums every time she saw me.  I had to let an otherwise "crazy" person take the reigns of control to help ease whatever it is that she thinks she needs so that her wrath could quit being the normal in our life.  I had to do a lot of things that helped me "care" for my SD's so indirectly that I couldn't even be seen.

Learning to love them from a safe distance so that mom feels better? Hardest thing I've ever done.

It's what I told my friend, that she'll have to learn what it is that is going to work for her. I found my peace and my place... .which isn't going to fit in everyone's situation. So in what can be seen as "not caring" is all a matter of perception.  I care very much about the well being of my stepdaughters and I know how much influence their BPDmom has in their life.  I also know that in my own Radical Acceptance of the situation that I can't sacrifice my life trying to change the inevitable chance that my SDs will be impacted [greatly] by their disordered mom.  

This stuff is hard. It's extremely difficult to wrap your head around what is occuring sometimes on a day in and day out basis.  I had to seek therapy at one point because my capability of handling the situation was non-existant.  Was it Compassion Fatigue?  Perhaps it was.  Whatever it was had gotten the best of me and I forgot what it was like to have hope. I forgot what it was like to look at the world and see the goodness in it and I really did not know how to look at the mother of my stepchildren anymore and not feel anything but hatred and injustice.  

But then like I asked my friend... .what now? Where do you go from here?

I think that's where we get so stuck sometimes, in diagnosing the injustice and what doesn't feel fair. At least it was for me. It's what I really think is so great about this site (and this workshop!) in that here is the solution in a pretty simple form.  We need to learn to care differently when our current way just isn't working.  Whether we're codependent (guilty!) or controlling (guilty!) or maybe inexperienced in dealing with the situations that arise having a disordered person in our life (guilty!)... .there is always hope and resolution I think.

And I don't think it happens overnite and it sometimes happens in a very round about way.  Like when we start taking "care" of ourselves and our own resilience makes the situation a little more bearable.  Or when we look at the situation thru clearer eyes because we work on our own mental health (another form of self care) and realize the humanity involved... .

I think, ennie, you are such a good stepmama who is just expending yourself in ways that are enriching your SDs lives.  It isn't always so apparent when our children act out, but even if they take one little seed of knowledge from you and you are able to help them nuture it... .it will grow.  I'm 6 years in and my SDs are turning to be fine young ladies, where at one point I felt that they were going to really struggle in this life.  

I'd like to think I was a part of that. Smiling (click to insert in post)

  :)reamGirl
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« Reply #40 on: March 26, 2011, 12:14:14 PM »

DG  Hi! 

I like the way you worded that post.  Doing the right thing (click to insert in post)  I absolutely agree with you - a lot of things that I don't do for my skids is because I do care about them so much that I needed to step away and 'be in the background'. 

Excerpt
It's what I really think is so great about this site (and this workshop!) in that here is the solution in a pretty simple form.  We need to learn to care differently when our current way just isn't working.

I have these conversations with my DH all the time - and the truth is that it really IS a simple solution... .but it's not easy.  It takes effort to change the way we do things. It takes effort and thinking and planning and foresight.  And sometimes I just don't have that kind of energy because I'm so busy trying to manage the basics... .  And yet, if I let the basics go and just let them be, then I'd probably have more energy to plan and think instead of operating on robot some days.   Being cool (click to insert in post)

Marlo 
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« Reply #41 on: March 26, 2011, 04:41:38 PM »

I have been off bpdfamily.com for a week or so - actually on VACATION! Dh, gd5 and I went camping in Utah for a week away from the news on TV/newspaper, away from work demands, away from little friends and neighbor moms chitter-chatter. It so helped clear my mind. We also got a lot of sleep because THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE TO DO - and sharing a 23 foot travel trailer pretty much negates any married adult activity with the gd5 bunking in same space.

So this was such a self-care time and my compassion fatigue is so much less. And there was wi-fi at the campground - that was mostly empty while we were there Sun. - Thurs. and I am so proud that I was able to choose to look up stuff on lizards and things instead of getting into email and BPD issues.

Coming home started getting texts from DD24 as she was aware when we would return - first saying she had a 'blanky' for gd5, then asking for money, then she 'missed' getting to shelter and needed help (she hasn't gone to shelter that i know of this past winter -why would she go now when it is warmer out?), then saying come get me, taking breakup hard, bf left, i am alone... .Her messages were filled with contridictions about her distress level, and for a change I was able to HEAR WHAT DH HAD TO SAY ABOUT IT. So my responses were matter-of-fact questions about her situation - reminder that bf had always come back before - did she get the $60 we transferred to her account when we left as that was all we could help with this month. (she gets a small stipend from county each month that we supplement a little last 2 weeks of month). Then only silence again, so am pretty sure dh's take that she was just trying to push my 'hot' buttons for more money and bf was right there beside her. She had been no contact for the 3 weeks prior to our vacation - ever since I told her we were going, and yes of course gd5 was going with us, where else would she be?

So what has helped me here is 1. getting away for several days 2. consious choice to avoid news and internet (except to get info on lizard gd5 caught!) 3. getting lots of sleep 4. having lots of fun with dh and gd every day in spite of dust storm, snow storm, wind/wind/wind. There is such a wonderful connectedness with the 3 of us that was missing before. I feel able to keep in my Wise Mind so much better after this rest break. Best vacation of my life.

qcr xoxo
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« Reply #42 on: April 02, 2011, 02:34:39 PM »

My compassion must have been developing stress fractures because I finally caved last night and spoke without thinking. It just came out that I wanted my estranged wife to just leave me alone. I think what did it was the accumulating, albeit subconscious, realization that nothing I was saying or doing was getting through or landing anywhere, triggered by her accusation that I was being accusatory. Ugh. Then came flooding the realization of who, and what, I'd been trying to deal with all along. My compassion fatigue gave way to compassion collapse, and I doubt whether I'll ever get it back. If she calls again I'll be speaking to her from a different place, one much more removed.

LW
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« Reply #43 on: April 12, 2011, 11:30:50 AM »

Do I suffer from Compassion Fatigue?

Yeah, probably   

My wife is seriously mentally ill. One of our children is seriously mentally ill.  Our other children have physical disabilities, which feel easy by comparison, but still take a lot of time and scheduling difficulty to manage. (Only the physical difficulties were known and "chosen", BTW - our family was built via adoption.)

Somehow I have to hold everything together, keep my full time job, and not go nuts myself Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #44 on: April 12, 2011, 11:54:05 AM »

Somehow I have to hold everything together, keep my full time job, and not go nuts myself Smiling (click to insert in post)

Any idea how?

Wanna let us in on some of those ideas?

Smiling (click to insert in post)
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« Reply #45 on: April 13, 2011, 04:48:49 AM »

Somehow I have to hold everything together, keep my full time job, and not go nuts myself Smiling (click to insert in post)

Any idea how?

Wanna let us in on some of those ideas?

Smiling (click to insert in post)

Well, it's still a work in progress! But these things probably helped most:

-Spending a lot of time here, at bpdfamily.com. Learning from how other people handle these situations.

-Seeing a therapist for myself

-Learning that I can be empathetic without rescuing

-Learning about boundaries

-Remembering that my job (as I understand it) is to love God and to love other people ... .my job is not to be a perfect rescuer. I can't fix everyone's problems, and sometimes I can't even fix my own problems, and that's OK. Smiling (click to insert in post)
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Have you read the Lessons?
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