Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Turbulent Waters

If you use a slow enough shutter speed, a photo of rushing water will look like a smooth wave of silk. It is a technique used in many inspirational serenity-type photos and paintings. But they lie.

The reality is that the turbulence is still there.

One of our four children can't seem to drag themselves out of the rapids, no matter how much they want a peaceful life — and I am convinced that they do want one. They make choices that draw them into the whirlpool and threaten to drown them. They are rescued time and again by people who love them. They are upheld by the prayers of many. They have Borderline Personality Disorder.

My husband and I are alternately shut out of their life or clung to as their last resort. When they are "well," they want nothing to do with us. When everything falls apart, they know they can come to us and we will rescue them. Because how can we not?

There is no "right answer" when dealing with (and loving) someone with BPD. "Tough love" doesn't account for the struggling person's inner pain. We know they feel shame, fear, rejection. We know they compare themselves to their siblings and peers who are making progress in the world. We know they want to feel loved but don't really trust or believe it when it happens.

Meanwhile, my husband and I are thrown from hope (a pleasant dinner! a happy relationship! a job!) to despair (angry texts; impulsive relationships; not showing up for work) in the blink of an eye.

In the Family Connections course that we teach, we have learned (and taught) the concept of "radical acceptance" (sometimes also called "reality acceptance"). It is the most difficult thing we teach, and it begins with grief.

It begins with accepting that the reality you are living does not conform to the fantasy that you have clung to in your darkest moments. It involves letting go of the fantasy — again and again and again. And then again. In a very real sense, it means giving up hope in regards to that specific situation.

It doesn't mean we like it or approve of it. We just acknowledge that it is.

But the grieving seems never to end. And we are powerless to change it, to rescue them, to protect them.

It is as if we are at the end of the dock tossing a lifeline, but they are facing the other way, and drowning. And, in a Groundhog Day reiterative cycle, it just keeps on happening.

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