today i

December 14, 2014 § 2 Comments

got up early

drank water

cleaned the house

cleaned the car

vacuumed the car

did the laundry

swept the porch

front and back

swept the path

washed the dishes

ate my cereal

took my morning


for once.

Today i

worked on report

responded to email

went for a run

started blog entry

gave a ride

went to a meeting

went to my parents’

ate my dinner

took a bath

and all my evening pills

for once.

And after all that

i still yearned

to be loved

and understood

and longing

still churned

and thundered

in my chest

like doom.

Today i

finished my entry

took his call

heard the distance

in his voice

heard him not know

heard him not say

i love you

listened to dharma

and cried

and cried

and sat with the pain

and said things like:

may i let it be okay

and may i be free

and i am grateful

for this chance

to be useful today.

and only then

did i make contact

with what doing

would not let be

only then did i touch

the cheek of my longing

with tenderness

only then did i stroke

the back of my grief

only then did i feel loved

only then understood.

on self care

December 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

i know that the standard prescription in these situations is to take care of yourself. or take care of yourself first.

but i’ve always had a hard time visualizing what that actually means. i know that when i get triggered and can’t stop crying or fall into a paralysis of depression or want to refuse food to the point of starvation, it makes little sense to take a hot bath with candles or eat something nice. i simply can’t imagine any way out of my state, even though i have the DBT cards where i’ve thought through very carefully when in a normal rational state what i should do when i’m not.

what is self care, anyway? about a month ago i picked up a zine posing the same question, in which the anonymous writer talked about the insufficiency of care when the problem, as in many cases of trauma, is the lack of a self. or, maybe, the development of a self tightly built around a wound, a self organized to protect against trauma. a self fortified by a multiplication of maladaptive strategies intended to protect and conceal an original injury. in that case, s/he says, what we need is not to take care of that construction of self, but to transform it, to become something other than what we’ve been. to live a life that is not organized around an original wound.

i came to similar conclusions this afternoon when i was running–which is like one of the last things i want to do when i’m stuck in the panic of a trauma response, even though i know exercise helps and it’s on my DBT cards etc. the thought i had was:

when all my energy wants to bend toward someone

please stay, please come back, please hold me, please love me, please don’t leave

what i need to do is to retract that energy to a center, keep it close. when everything in me longs to turn outward, to grasp and to pull, i need to pull it back in. i need to turn it inward. i need to retreat and take my space, to seek refuge in solitude–or in being with others, doing other things. i need to run or lift. i need to meditate and pray. i need to listen to dharma talks. i need to read and write. i need to go outside and observe nature. i need to visit my parents, play with my child. i need to go to meetings–support group and community organizing both. and i need to do these things for as long as it takes for my panic to subside. even if that’s a day. even if that’s a week.

in writing this down, it occurs to me that this thought took shape in stages or drafts. an earlier form presented itself when i was emailing a friend:

he’s still away, but we’re talking and trying to figure out how things can be different, better. i know it’s more complicated than just his mental health struggles, because i have my own trauma that plays out in relationships, which makes it harder than it otherwise might be. so i’m having to confront and think through my piece of our dynamic.  

but i am trying to use this solitary time as a chance for deep focus and prayer/meditation. that’s the only thing i can do, i guess, and in unexpected ways that realization is liberating.

and then this morning, when listening to a dharma talk online, the teacher said, roughly:

fear’s not in the way, it’s the way. if we don’t have a practice of opening to the vulnerability that’s in our body, we don’t discover the openness that is the pure expression of love. open to the truth of impermanence, that there is no ground. the real truth of loss. but opening to loss is what opens us to tenderness. 

just sitting with the freefall when i’m in it, when i’m doing everything to keep from being in it. a cessation of striving and grasping. i can’t do anything about anything. there’s nothing to try. a relief, a liberation. all i can do is use this time to focus inward, to bring my energy back to a center. to transform a self that has emerged from injury. i know the buddhists go further and reject a notion of the self as fictional, but in this case it seems a useful or strategic fiction. a provisional notion, a notion that helps me respond with kindness to my own suffering instead of deepening it.

(here’s another thing. i have decided that it makes more sense to describe my borderline stuff as “trauma that plays out in relationships.” it is less stigmatizing and pathologizing, more forgiving and kinder–putting the emphasis on what happened a long time ago that now continues to manifest in my present experience, rather than on an identity that is static and defective. putting the emphasis instead on the temporal, the phenomenal–once i was injured, now i am compelled, in the future i might have some other relation to that injury. it opens up room for change and transformation. to name it in that way is also just more descriptive of what my experience is.)

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BPD: The Playlist

October 15, 2014 § 10 Comments

Today while driving in traffic, one of my favorite songs came on the radio. That’d be “Clarity,” by German DJ Zedd.

When “Clarity” came out last summer, I wrote this about it at the time on This is a Liked Music Log:

I’ve long thought that the allure of dance music (for me anyway) is its ability to both tap into despair and to mobilize against it, simultaneously. Like gospel, its roots are a deep existential suffering – tho where bondage is the root of gospel’s pain, the sufferings of love lie at the heart of dance – yet as a genre both by their nature intend to literally move their audiences to action, to movement out of that despair. Gospel through prayer, dance through…well, dancing. As a genre dance recognizes the pain in you but refuses your getting stuck there—if you’re listening right, you’re literally moved up and out of suffering in responding to dance through movement. It’s a kind of music that both touches and transforms pain; through movement comes a kind of liberation.

I put this song (Zedd, “Clarity”) in that category.

But I was also mesmerized by “Clarity” then (and still am) because I identify with its essential conundrum: what inspires profound longing also inspires profound suffering. I understand this paradox to the the psychic essence of what gets labeled borderline personality traits:

If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy?

If our love’s insanity, why are you my clarity?

For me, borderline traits have meant a longing for reciprocity, a weeping, absolute absence–no, abandonment, an absolute abandonment–at the center of me that is so intense it collapses under its own mass like a star going supernova, sucking everything down into oblivion. My love is so intense it is unstable, it is destabilizing. Nobody could survive my love. Everyone must run. I must run from myself. My need is so intense I can only be abandoned. My need for response is the very reason I am abandoned. To love is to grieve, then, in the same moment. An unsolvable conundrum.

Anyway, from “Clarity”, a playlist slowly began to take shape in my mind. Not just songs I jam to when I’m crazy–flying high on manic energy or stunted immobile by despair–but songs that expose the anatomy of madness, that illuminate the inner workings of borderline craziness, specifically.

And so, I present to you BPD: The Playlist.


July 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

i told my dad: so just leave now. or maybe: when that day comes, go ahead and go. but i’ll cut off the relationship. and i’ll be very angry. and i won’t want to stay in touch. when he said that after my mom died, he would rejoin the seminary and renounce his earthly family.

i know i am dreaming about g. i try not to stand in the way when waves of grief overtake me. i cry in public, sitting in my car in the bank teller line or on the bench as x plays on the jungle gym. it’ll pass if i just let it happen. grief like he’s dying. it feels like he’s dying.he’s not going to get better. it’s too hard, and there’s nothing that works. i know that’s the story spun by his illness. my story, triggered by his illness, is this: i’ll always be left. if i love someone, that person will leave. if i love someone, that love will make the person leave. it is my love itself that will make the beloved withdraw, ambivalent. my love is disgusting in its excess. my love is painful to experience, as the imminence and inevitability of abandonment. this is the story. this is the story. as soon as i type it out i feel my chest constrict into panic, my eyes burning.

so i try to change the story. i sit in front of my altar where i have placed the candles i once bought for myself when i moved to the little house in west sacramento, finally alone, finally on my own. there is the clay sculpture of the dark skinned ocean goddess, her skirts flowing with jellyfish, her arms bearing coral. there is the ceramic box cradling two origami swans that my friend sat folding without thinking at a meeting once. the requisite virgen vela. a streamlined wooden figurine of mother mary–different from la virgen–with eyes downcast and hands folded in prayer. a gift from my mentor, my surrogate grandmother. i light incense and work on changing the story.


of course he wants to die; he’s depressed

many people face this situation–disability, unemployment

there are always things we can do to get better

i believe in the possibility that things can get better

and so i pray:


may i be fearless in the face of loss

may i be courageous

may i be curious

may i be kind to myself

may i stay open and tender

may this suffering awaken



and when you are gone

i still have my writing

i still have my daughter

my family

my work in the community

i have a chance to breathe

and not to worry

until you return.


it doesn’t make the grief go away

it doesn’t change the reality of loss

but it changes my relationship to it.

it doesn’t make the fear go away

yet it cultivates a fearlessness.

a friendliness that greets and bows

and says, yes, please come in,

i know you.

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