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Author Topic: The Bridge (Fable) - Edwin H. Friedman  (Read 17095 times)
elphaba
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« on: November 06, 2007, 09:59:21 AM »

CHAPTER 3: THE BRIDGE

There was a man who had given much thought to what he wanted from life. He had experienced many moods and trials. He had experimented with different ways of living, and he had had his share of both success and failure. At last, he began to see clearly where he wanted to go.

 Diligently, he searched for the right opportunity. Sometimes he came close, only to be pushed away. Often he applied all his strength and imagination, only to find the path hopelessly blocked. And then at last it came. But the opportunity would not wait. It would be made available only for a short time. If it were seen that he was not committed, the opportunity would not come again.
 
Eager to arrive, he started on his journey. With each step, he wanted to move faster; with each thought about his goal, his heart beat quicker; with each vision of what lay ahead, he found renewed vigor. Strength that had left him since his early youth returned, and desires, all kinds of desires, reawakened from their long-dormant positions.

Hurrying along, he came upon a bridge that crossed through the middle of a town. It had been built high above a river in order to protect it from the floods of spring.

He started across. Then he noticed someone coming from the opposite direction. As they moved closer, it seemed as though the other was coming to greet him. He could see clearly, however, that he did not know this other, who was dressed similarly except for something tied around his waist.

When they were within hailing distance, he could see that what the other had about his waist was a rope. It was wrapped around him many times and probably, if extended, would reach a length of 30 feet.

The other began to uncurl the rope, and, just as they were coming close, the stranger said, "Pardon me, would you be so kind as to hold the end a moment?"

Surprised by this politely phrased but curious request, he agreed without a thought, reached out, and took it.

"Thank you," said the other, who then added, "two hands now, and remember, hold tight." Whereupon, the other jumped off the bridge. Quickly, the free-falling body hurtled the distance of the ropes length, and from the bridge the man abruptly felt the pull. Instinctively, he held tight and was almost dragged over the side. He managed to brace himself against the edge, however, and after having caught his breath, looked down at the other dangling, close to oblivion.

"What are you trying to do?" he yelled. "Just hold tight," said the other.

"This is ridiculous," the man thought and began trying to haul the other in. He could not get the leverage, however. It was as though the weight of the other person and the length of the rope had been carefully calculated in advance so that together they created a counterweight just beyond his strength to bring the other back to safety.

"Why did you do this?" the man called out. "Remember," said the other, "if you let go, I will be lost." "But I cannot pull you up," the man cried. "I am your responsibility," said the other. "Well, I did not ask for it," the man said. "If you let go, I am lost," repeated the other.

He began to look around for help. But there was no one. How long would he have to wait? Why did this happen to befall him now, just as he was on the verge of true success? He examined the side, searching for a place to tie the rope. Some protrusion, perhaps, or maybe a hole in the boards. But the railing was unusually uniform in shape; there were no spaces between the boards. There was no way to get rid of this newfound burden, even temporarily.

"What do you want?" he asked the other hanging below. "Just your help," the other answered. "How can I help? I cannot pull you in, and there is no place to tie the rope so that I can go and find someone to help me help you." "I know that. Just hang on; that will be enough. Tie the rope around your waist; it will be easier."

 Fearing that his arms could not hold out much longer, he tied the rope around his waist.

 "Why did you do this?" he asked again. ":)on't you see what you have done? What possible purpose could you have had in mind?" "Just remember," said the other, "my life is in your hands." What should he do? "If I let go, all my life I will know that I let this other die. If I stay, I risk losing my momentum toward my own long-sought-after salvation. Either way this will haunt me forever."

With ironic humor he thought to die himself, instantly, to jump off the bridge while still holding on. "That would teach this fool." But he wanted to live and to live life fully. "What a choice I have to make; how shall I ever decide?"

As time went by, still no one came. The critical moment of decision was drawing near. To show his commitment to his own goals, he would have to continue on his journey now. It was already almost too late to arrive in time. But what a terrible choice to have to make.

 A new thought occurred to him. While he could not pull this other up solely by his own efforts, if the other would shorten the rope from his end by curling it around his waist again and again, together they could do it. Actually, the other could do it by himself, so long as he, standing on the bridge, kept it still and steady.

 "Now listen," he shouted down. "I think I know how to save you." And he explained his plan. But the other wasn't interested. "You mean you won't help? But I told you I cannot pull you up by myself, and I don't think I can hang on much longer either." "You must try," the other shouted back in tears. "If you fail, I die."

The point of decision arrived. What should he do? "My life or this other's?" And then a new idea. A revelation. So new, in fact, it seemed heretical, so alien was it to his traditional way of thinking.

"I want you to listen to me carefully," he said, "because I mean what I am about to say. I will not accept the position of choice for your life, only for my own; the position of choice for your own life I hereby give back to you." "What do you mean?" the other asked, afraid. "I mean, simply, it's up to you. You decide which way this ends. I will become the counterweight. You do the pulling and bring yourself up. I will even tug a little from here." He began unwinding the rope from around his waist and braced himself anew against the side. "You cannot mean what you say," the other shrieked. "You would not be so selfish. I am your responsibility. What could be so important that you would let someone die? Do not do this to me." He waited a moment. There was no change in the tension of the rope. "I accept your choice," he said, at last, and freed his hands.

From "FRIEDMAN'S FABLES" by Edwin Friedman, published by Guilford Press    

Friedman's Fables
Author: Edwin H. Friedman
Publisher: The Guilford Press;  (September 28, 1990)
Paperback: 213 pages
ISBN-10: 0898624401
ISBN-13: 978-0898624403



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« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2007, 10:26:57 AM »

Elphie

WOW

I did not read that before. What a great story/metaphor. This is one that should be shared over and over.

How many if us have had that battle? How many of us have been on that place on the bridge?

How many if us refuse to let go or understand that we even have choice?

Thank you Elphie for sharing this again.

You are a true gift lady, a true gift.

Peace4us

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There are two ways of spreading light, be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. E. Warton

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« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2007, 10:46:14 AM »

Thanks so much for putting this here.  I find that it means different things, I find new meanings the further I get in my recovery.  Now I've got to learn how to print this stuff out, and/or cut and paste.  My home computer keeps telling me I am out of memory and I don't think that's a good sign.
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« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2007, 10:55:39 AM »

This was one of the pieces that truly helped me be ok with my decision to end things... .let go of the rope... .

Glad to be able to share it.
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« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2007, 12:12:39 PM »

Just a bit of a review and info on the author... .

Synopsis - Friedman's Fables

Dr. Friedman has woven 24 illustrative tales that offer fresh perspectives on familiar human foibles and reflect the author's humor, pathos, and understanding. Friedman takes on resistance and other "demons" to show that neither insight, nor encouragement, nor intimidation can in themselves motivate an unmotivated person to change. These provocative tales playfully demonstrate that new ideas, new questions, and imagination, more than accepted wisdom, provide each of us with the keys to overcoming stubborn emotional barriers and facilitating real change both in ourselves and others. Sure to intrigue and inform, this book belongs in the resource library of public speakers, teachers, trainers, and clergy, as well as general readers.


Biography

Edwin H. Friedman (1932/n-/1996), a family therapist and ordained rabbi, was born in New York City and worked for more than 35 years in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Well known in the fields of mental health and pastoral education, Dr. Friedman brought his unique blend of systems thinking, motivational style, and common sense to his highly regarded work as a consultant and leadership trainer to diverse professional and government organizations.

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« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2007, 12:43:37 PM »

Again, you have offered up something to think about.

Very powerful. It is a good illustration about letting go and taking your own life back.
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« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2007, 01:52:34 PM »

Oh my god - oh my god... .

That's me - on the bridge!

I wrote my dBPw a letter two weeks ago - told her if she didn't commit to therapy I was divorcing her.  She agreed to go - but is dragging her heels.

That's me - on the bridge!  with no help on its way... .

I COULD let go of the rope -

I SHOULD let go of the rope -

It would be so simple... .

It would be so sane!

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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2007, 04:23:39 PM »

My former therapist gave this to me about a year ago.  After reading it for the first time (I was not involved with present BPD at the time, but getting over a narcisisstic commitmentphobe) he asked me "who is that hanging on the rope?" and I said IT'S ME!  I went on to say it could also be a thousand other people in my life that I've tried to save, but he was astounded with my "ME" answer... .he said in all his years he had never had anyone recognize that.

We can be our own worst enemies and biggest roadblocks to our own success.
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« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2007, 04:39:02 PM »

{{sigh}}} wow... .  I don't want to let go... .  I guess I am not at the end of the story yet :-(  I'm still trying - He's tugging which is good

AWESOME story :-)  Thanks!
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« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2007, 11:01:23 PM »

Thank you for posting this.  A friend of mine (who happens to be a therapist) verbally told me the Bridge story about a year ago, when I was deeply entrenched in my relationship with my BP ex.  I couldn't really hear it then, but I am out of the relationship now and it is so affirming to read this as I move forward with my life. 
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« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2009, 12:39:19 AM »

It's a great story, simple moral: Don't drag dead weight through life. It'll kill you.
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« Reply #11 on: March 30, 2009, 08:31:00 PM »

I don't want to let go, because I will miss him... .OH wow! Miss what? Miss his BS, his anger, his immaturity, his lack of love, empathy, feelings?  No I will miss the good part, the part with all those sweet kind, caring, love filled smiles... HUH? TWISTED LIFE I sit in... .

I can't let go... .but I should... .

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« Reply #12 on: March 30, 2009, 10:30:44 PM »

But likely you will let go, in time, when you're ready.  If he or she won't seek therapy or counseling and diligently apply it, then it's up to you to take action, for yourself, for the others in your life.  Meanwhile, protect yourself.  Already your eyes are being opened to the big picture.  Knowledge is empowering, so is awareness and deeper insight.  Learn and grow.  Learn and grow stronger.
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2009, 05:11:14 AM »

The enormous feeling of relief when you do finally let go is palpable. Like getting out from under a crushing weight.
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« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2009, 10:22:59 AM »

While exploring around the site this morning I found this old posting...it 's a story about a man on a bridge and is an excellent allegory for the situation so many of us can find ourselves in with our BPD loved ones. 

It's well worth a read.




https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=65164.0
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« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2009, 12:46:51 PM »

I'm printing this and posting it where I can read it every day.  Thank you, pennifree.
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« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2009, 02:37:05 PM »

I read it and sent it to my dad.  He's SO the man on the bridge and he won't discuss it with me at all.  He's my sister's enabler.  He feels so sorry for her and constantly asks how much more can happen to her.  He just doesn't understand that he's hanging on for dear life and she's sucking him dry.
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2009, 02:53:43 PM »

He feels so sorry for her and constantly asks how much more can happen to her.  He just doesn't understand that he's hanging on for dear life and she's sucking him dry.

So interesting...I was describing to my 24 yr old daughter how I feel when I allow myself to continually enable my UBPD son by giving him money to help him through every crisis.  She really startled me by telling me that I'm like a drug dealer to a heroin addict...just giving him one "fix" after another.  Although my son doesn't do drugs, he IS like an addict...hooked on one crisis after another, and I do try to fix them all to keep him going.  It's mentally and emotionally exhausting being the "man on the bridge."
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« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2009, 03:30:29 PM »

Can I ask from a parents point of view, why do yo keep on when you know that its not helping?
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« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2009, 03:31:29 PM »

dear solost12,

please figure out how to let go of the rope and save yourself!

x

lbjnltx
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« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2009, 05:07:35 PM »

Can I ask from a parents point of view, why do yo keep on when you know that its not helping?

I can give you the same answer that probably dozens of others on this site would give you...FOG.  I've learned that term since I got here.  Fear, Obligation, Guilt.  I would actually change the term to FLOG...to include Fear, Love, Obligation, Guilt.  FLOG is probably a more accurate term, because I flog myself mentally for so many things I've done wrong and for not yet being able to let go. 

The man on the bridge story is a great analogy. However, it goes so much deeper when it's your own child, your precious, beautiful child that is aching to feel "normal" and doesn't know how. From a mother's (me) point of view, we "help" even when it's not helping because it's our child.  It's watching our child suffer and wanting to stop that suffering for a moment, even if it's only for the briefest of moments.  It's feeling their pain right along with them compounded by the FOG...what will happen to him if I don't help?  Will he go to jail, will he be homeless, will be feel alone and lost and abandoned?  Will someone hurt him, will he die?  The agony that these questions bring to a parent is unimaginable and dreadful.

Common sense is a wonderful thing, and I do believe that tough love works.  I also know that I need help to "let go of the rope"...it's no easier for me to do that than it is for my unhappy, lost son to to accept and understand that his actions are self-destructive.  I KNOW I need to do this.  I'm trying, but it's extremely hard to do this alone.  That's why this support group is helping me so much and why I will surely be getting counseling myself to help me cope with my pain.  Right now this site is full of loving arms that have held onto ropes from that bridge just as I still do, and I feel no judgment or chastisement from them for doing it, only understanding and empathy.  I commented on an earlier post regarding a line that hit home with me.  It was one of the most compassionate things I've read here.  The person said: "To detach with love is the hardest thing in the world - and to nurture yourself so that you do not die from grief is even harder."  I am learning this daily...I'm just not there yet.   :'(
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« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2009, 05:25:05 PM »

dear solost,

:'(

sometimes we go around and around and around ... lost in the FLOG.

i found a map that led me out of the FLOG and into the sunlight...it's a bright and beautiful day here.  today is my BPD13's birthday.  i remember vividly and can recall the great love i felt for this precious baby girl as i rocked her in her greatgrandmothers rocking chair...her namesake.  i still love her that much today, maybe more.

i can tell you where the map is.  i can only hope that you will follow the directions and come share this bright and beautiful day with me soon.

go to the spiritual aspects board...find the thread called "letting go" started by cindy.  follow the directions...i will wait for you out here.

x

lbjnltx
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« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2009, 06:20:53 PM »

Such a powerful story.  When you are the mother...your hands grip that rope even harder.  Because that is what mother's do- much to our own health and detriment.  

I may have seemed to have let go of that rope - but my D is still with me 24/7- and I worry and feel responsible even though I feel like I let go of the rope...(nc now for a few months- ) so knowing full well that what becomes of her is not in my hands...yet AT my hand..she has been let go- and that makes me feel so helpless and afraid.  She is low functioning BPD and ill and if you imagine someone with diabetes for instance in denial- and with BPD to the max in the spectrum of BPD and over the age where a parent can be involved...it is scary.  But yeah- I guess I did let go of the rope...or so it feels like I did.

So I did some research on this Rabbi that wrote the book from which this story came and along the way-  I found this quote of his.  


"The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change. Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them. Even the choicest words lose their power when they are used to overpower. Attitudes are the real figures of speech.

"

— Edwin H. Friedman

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« Reply #23 on: October 22, 2009, 08:02:47 AM »

Thank you Solost.  I am a mother too so I can understand a lot of what you wrote and I appreciate your grief.  The BPD in my life is my sister and not my daughter so my feelings are from a totally different place and I've tried for years to understand why my parents keep on enabling her.  I try to put myself in their place and I guess I can't honestly say what I would do.  My sister has been so sick for so long that I have completely washed my hands of the situation.  I see what she is doing to my parents and I've tried so hard to tell them that this is the way that she is choosing to live.  She won't go to therapy but is at the doctor constantly for pain medication in one way or another.  They've talked to a chemical dependency interventionist but then when it comes time to actually DO something they can't.  For the only other child in this family it is very frustrating.  They will give me up, and have, before they will talk to a therapist or do anything proactive to help her.  Thanks and I truly am trying to be an understanding person.
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« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2009, 09:36:37 AM »

whiletheseasonspa

Thank you for the quote from the author of the fable.  I think it really helps to clarify why hodling onto that rope just doesn't work...and that's the part that IMHO so many of us don't get until we get help.  We keep figuring that if we just do a little more it will make the right difference to change the situation.  Through it all we don't realize that we are perpetuating the situation and actually may be making things worse.  As soon as we start to realize that we do not have to drown along with our loved one who's refusing to get help is when we best start to help them.

Just because we let go of the rope doesn't mean that they won't start to swim... eventually
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« Reply #25 on: October 22, 2009, 04:54:56 PM »

pennifree you said:  {"Just because we let go of the rope doesn't mean that they won't start to swim... eventually"}




Now it is my turn to thank you! 

I have been having a really down day - very sad and depressed and scared and hopeless  I end up with multiple days like today - very down.  I try not to be-  but it is so painful...and my 26 year old is my only child and I feel like I have lost everything...and she has been lost to this illness...and this year seemed worse than ever so all so hard to accept.

But having said that- your post- You have reminded me - okay- that maybe they might start to swim...and that = the possibility that they could maybe possibly find the way...to where they were meant to be- maybe in spite of so so so much my D has a chance. 

Now having said THAT- I  do believe that for my D the possibility is not even 50-50 but less that she could start to swim...but maybe it is not as low as I have been thinking.  Sometimes I feel like the possibility has been close to zero...

Still having said THAT - I- over the past year- have spoken  to several professionals- ( whew! now I am done with that - looking for the way to handle this as the mother of a BPD with lots of issues)   and they all say the same thing...that I have to let her go as this would be her best shot at getting well with her mental illness and her physical illness the latter of which she has really let get out of hand and then it amplifies her PD. 

Bottom line for today- - your words- that maybe they might swim on their own- just gave me a reminder- a nudge- a lift...so thank you! 

whiletheseasonspass
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« Reply #26 on: October 22, 2009, 10:34:33 PM »

  Thanks and I truly am trying to be an understanding person.

  lbmeyer...I do believe you're trying to understand.  No worries!   Smiling (click to insert in post)  I have two daughters as well as my uBPD son.  Both of my daughters struggle with what my son has put me through and where he is with his life.  My older daughter, who is 31, is especially fed up with the situation - she's very angry with him and has been for a long time.  She pointed out to me a long time ago what was happening, and I blindly thought it was just jealousy.  The things she told me about his anger and behavior when they were children (I'm a divorced mom) were things I just blew off as normal sibling rivalry.  I know that she holds a lot of resentment toward me for putting up with so much and for not taking her seriously, and she, also, has pretty much washed her hands of him.  I love her dearly but unfortunately have made sacrifices for my son that have affected her negatively. 

As a mom, that's also very painful.  I'm very close to my two sisters and always hoped my kids would have that same kind of loving relationship.  It's not to be, I'm afraid.  There really is no end to the pain that this disorder can create.  I'm pretty much at the end of my rope (ah...there's that rope again!    )  but I truly am working hard to let go.  After a lifetime of holding on for what I thought was my son's dear life, I recognize that I've made it even harder for him to get well.  If I had only let go sooner!  If I could only let go now!  I'm trying, and at least he is seeing a therapist now. 

I feel for you, lbmeyer, for what you've had to witness and deal with too. The fallout from BPD doesn't discriminate -it can affect everyone.  Is there any possibility that you can show your parents this site and maybe they can recognize themselves here and start to help themselves too?  x

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« Reply #27 on: October 23, 2009, 07:28:26 AM »

Solost,

I've talked to my dad about the site and I'm pretty sure my mom is BPD also they much milder than my sister.  I guess they would say higher functioning.  Anyway, that's a whole different story.  I've talked to them about seeing a therapist and even asked them to come to a counseling session with me.  They won't go on their own because "there's nothing wrong" with them.  They wouldn't come with me calling my therapist a quack and if my sister wasn't invited they weren't going to come and listen to me slam on her. 

This is a horrible condition.  I have this dream of a family where everyone loves each other.  To have a sister that I am close to.  I see my husband's family and they are so close and have welcomed me and made me a part of that family but it's not mine.

I completely understand your daughter's feelings.  I've been accused of being jealous, spoiled, etc, etc, etc.  I guess in a way I am jealous.  I'm jealous that I haven't had my parents' attention for many, many years, if ever and there's little or no chance of having it in the future.  And to top it off my sister just continues to spiral down.  It has been almost three years since her last suicide attempt but all the planets are lining up, I can see it coming, and pretty soon the cycle will start all over or she'll succeed this time and then the lifetime of guilt will pile on my parents and they'll still be absent from my life.

Thanks for listening.  By the way, I'm also jealous of your daughter at least she has another sister that she can hopefully have a relationship with.

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mangrel365
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« Reply #28 on: October 23, 2009, 04:04:57 PM »

i'm the man on the bridge.

after some terrible events and years of wanting to sever ties, about a year and a half ago, i cut all communication with my mother. my step father had died a few months before, after being sequestered with my mother for a week in their house and under very weird and suspicious circumstances. he had leukemia for two years before his death. he was diagnosed just when i'd decided to break things off with my mom. my wife and i decided that we couldn't do that given my step father's illness. we made ourselves available to them until the day that he died. some very strange things happened after his death, to the point that i was actually afraid of my mother. weird things had happened before, but i'd never felt like that and i'm in my forties. so anyway, we cut ties and have not seen her for about 1 1/2 years.

i have been thankful for the time without her and much happier that i no longer have to try to reconcile her madness with my family. but i was raised to take care of her, to hold her life/feelings above all else. i have tremendous guilt and suspect it is eating away at me in ways i don't understand.

the rope has slipped over the side, but i can't help looking back to see if she is somehow still swinging there from the bridge. i am well away, but the rope burns still remain.
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bikerchick1

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« Reply #29 on: October 23, 2009, 06:17:57 PM »

My husband is the "man on the bridge" and I'm planning on showing him this.  It's so terribly hard to let go but we must do it to preserve our own lives.  But I ask, which is worse hanging on or living with the guilt once you've let go?  My husband & I are NC with BPD d since January 2009 and he can barely stand himself because of the guilt he suffers.  I am in the process of finding a counselor to help him work through his feelings. 

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