…a green spotty scarf.
I know: it sounds like something from a language course. A phrase you sweat blood and tears over, then never ever have to use. Ever. But the words are engraved in your mind along with a thousand other useless phrases.
I’m not talking a foreign language like French, Japanese or Greek. I’m talking the foreign language of “Interpersonal Skills”. Foreign, that is, to everyone with BPD.
During my 2.5 years of Dialectic Behavioural Therapy, I worked my way through four modules. Twice. That’s about right for DBT because the skills that come normally to most people are a completely alien concept to those of us with BPD. It takes a year to introduce the concepts and at least one more year to attempt to put them into practise. The four modules are:
- Distress Tolerance Skills
- Emotion Regulation Skills
- Interpersonal Skills
(You all knew I was going to fit a list in somewhere!)
All four modules were hard work. Bl**dy hard work. But the hardest, and the one that caused me the most grief, tears and inappropriate anger, was the last one.
One of the therapists loved role play. All of the “clients” hated it. Even me, and I LOVE acting. I just didn’t see the point of pretending to be a shop customer who wanted to buy a green spotty scarf when the shop assistant wanted to sell me a green stripey scarf. What was it supposed to be teaching me? I didn’t WANT any kind of scarf, spotty or stripey! Those sessions didn’t go well at all.
Even now, in my state of “recovery”, I can’t grasp the basic concept behind the exercise. I will put my hand up and admit it freely: my interpersonal skills suck.
What does it matter? Well, it means I’m not the best at keeping in touch with people. Throw in the social anxiety and slight paranoia that accompany my BPD, and you’ve a recipe ripe for disaster. I don’t phone people for a chat. I have to remind myself to say hello to people at church. I can go days without speaking to anyone other than the checkout person at Tesco, and even that’s forced and awkward.
I don’t mean anything by it, but talking to people just doesn’t come naturally to me. Once someone ELSE starts talking to me, then that’s a whole different story. You can’t get me to shut up, which is often a whole other problem!
Facebook makes things worse, because I feel like I AM talking to people. I read all their updates, learn what everyone’s been up to, and forget to actually TALK to them about it. Because in my black&white brain, I already know everything that’s been going on!
What can I do about it? Well, I try to keep notes reminding me to phone my Mum once a month. I make a mental note to say hello to my Dad every Sunday at church. I try to text my two Good Friends once every few months and meet up twice a year. But, believe me, it’s all such an EFFORT! I don’t want it to be, it just is. Maybe that sounds selfish, but trust me when I say it’s not meant that way. My brain just doesn’t process “Interpersonal Relationships” very well. What comes naturally to most people, just doesn’t happen inside my BPD brain.
So, if you think I’ve been ignoring you, or only call when I need something, I’m sorry. It’s really not meant that way.