Coping with Change

After over 20 years of living in Florida, my husband Joe and I decided to up and move to Indiana to be with our daughter and son-in-law. When we moved from New York to Florida in 1995, we were in our 30’s. This time, we are in our mid-fifties. BIG difference! Add to that the fact that we were leaving behind my 89 year old Mother in Florida, along with my Brother, Sister-in-law and Niece and tons of friends and acquaintances.

Joe and I had just gone through a very tumultuous year with a ton of physical health issues on my behalf, along with mental and emotional issues, as usual. We knew it was time for a change, however, and we waited until Niki and Ross had been living here in Indiana for 1 ½ yrs and visited several times before making the final decision. Ross is a Youth Pastor at a Church out here and Niki is the Connections Director. The Church has over 4,000 members and we were excited to participate in the services and outreach and be members of this new Church. Couple that with the fact that we fell in love with the area and we were ready to go.

Change is not an easy thing for most people in general...it can affect everyone and not just those who suffer with mental health issues. If you look at the tragic recent terrorist bombing in England and other horrific events that have occurred recently, a “normal” day and a “good time at a concert” can suddenly turn into grief, loss and extreme emotional distress. Everyone experiences unexpected change at some point. It’s not the things that happen to us that matter as much as how we cope with the outcome that defines us. Anxiety, depression and PTSD can affect everyone from time to time. These are and can be normal side effects from situational changes or traumas. Only attitude and the ability to cope determines if the effect becomes permanent. It can literally push someone who is considered perfectly “normal” into a long term mental health crisis.

For those of us that live with BPD or other mental health issues already, it means that our coping skills and what we put in place to get us through the change are even more critical. Change, BIG CHANGE, can trigger things that we have not had to have deal with in a long time. It can bring with it challenges that were not even anticipated.

Borderlines have a very odd symptom called “Lack of Object Constancy”. It takes a lot of therapy, GOOD therapy, to overcome this symptom. What happens to someone with BPD is that there is an arrest in emotional development around the ages of 2 or 3 yrs old. Lack of Object Constancy is a stage of development that is not mastered by those who go on to be diagnosed with BPD later in life. When a young child cries or screams for mommy or daddy when they leave, they do not have the ability at that age (yet) to understand that they will come back. A child with BPD takes this “out of sight, out of mind” as total abandonment and a type of protective defense mechanism results in the BPD child “splitting” and going “black” on the “lost” person. This leads the BPD child to seek the constant attention of the “lost” person to feel “white” or connected to them. It is the fear of total abandonment that drives this splitting to happen because in a state of being left alone, the child with BPD does not know how to self soothe. As the child grows, this becomes an ingrained pattern in their life.

I went through a very rough time with this symptom when Niki went to College. It was practically intolerable. I would be calling and/or texting her constantly to try to keep the connection in my mind. If she were not available (which was much of the time) I would go into extreme Panic/Anxiety attacks and fall into depressive episodes over it. It took a great deal of therapy, learning new coping mechanisms and a technique in DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) called “Radical Acceptance” for me to learn how to tamp down this symptom.

When Joe and I moved, it triggered again for me, especially with regard to having to leave my Mother. I was ready for it and knew what to expect...but I also encountered many things upon my arrival in Indiana that I was not prepared for. Not wanting to bore you with all the details, let’s just say that the house we signed a lease with for our first year here had MANY hidden and blatant issues that were not divulged to us prior to the move. Our kids did the “walk through” for us, but many things were skimmed over, not noticeable to the naked eye, or they were told that “it would be taken care of prior to our move in date”. Not so. I arrived to find a house that had problem after problem with it and like peeling an onion, I just kept taking pictures, sending emails to the leasing company and documenting every problem. Add to this the fact that my husband was driving up in the moving truck and was not with me to lean or crutch on for help during this time.

I had no choice but to “put my Big Girl panties on” and deal with the situation myself. The kids were at work all day and they have very busy schedules, so again, I was mostly on my own. I was having to uncover and discover big issues that were wrong with our “dream home”. It was imperative that I used communication tactics that were “acceptable” in our new neighborhood, given the fact that our son-in-law is in a position of prominence in the community. In other words, I could not let my BPD show!

It threw me into a mental and emotional tailspin of crying jags all throughout the day and night. I was using every technique I knew to self sooth, but the initial shock of the move, the condition of the property, and being without my husband was putting me in a real bad place.

I want to share with you the coping mechanisms that I utilized in order to get through this situation. It has been about three weeks since we moved in now and I am very excited to report that not only did the things I used worked, they served to put me in a much better place mentally and emotionally a lot quicker.

~ I went immediately into Radical Acceptance with regard to the status of the house and focused on the task of documenting each and every issue and emailing concise information about what we needed to have done with the situation. I included pictures and tried to keep my communication as practical and matter of fact as possible. Although everything inside of me wanted to BLOW UP at the leasing agency, I had to keep it cool.

~ I joined the local gym ASAP and got into my physical exercise routine. It not only helped to get some of the frustration out, it also released the endorphins that I desperately needed!

~ I kept in constant contact with my Mom, husband (while he was on the road)  and certain friends, to have the connection issue negated. I also was around Niki and Ross as much as possible for the companionship.

~ I surrounded myself in the house immediately with pictures, scented candles, fresh flowers and anything I knew that would help to pick my spirits up. I bought inexpensive plaques and pictures that had inspirational sayings on them and put them ALL over the house!

~I got to know the area quickly by shopping for things we needed for the house. I would explore and price comparison shop to keep my mind occupied. I focused on getting materials (bedding and such) that felt soft and comfortable to the touch and purchased furniture that were in calming neutral tones that soothed me visually.

~ Since it was so beautiful outdoors, I would sit out back on our deck and just close my eyes and listen to the birds, the rustle of the leaves in the trees and practiced my Mindfulness techniques.

~ I took on projects I had never done in my entire life, such as sanding, resurfacing and painting a hutch for our dining room. It kept me focused and occupied and it also helped on our furniture budget!

~ I went on an “organizational” spree and organized EVERYTHING I could in our new home. It helped me to feel a sense of control over the many things I could not control.

~ I was extremely nice to the contractors that were working the kinks out of the house. My husband, when he arrived, joined me in this behavior. We befriended them and were able to get them to work with us in a very easy manner and we even received some “extras” on the side that we normally would not have gotten because of it!

~ To the best of my ability, I ate healthy, sticking to my diet of gluten and dairy free, and slept at appropriate times. I resisted the temptation to “hide” in the bed with depression and forced myself to go workout or take a walk around the block no matter how I felt.

~ I started volunteering a few hours at the Church...just doing simple tasks to help my daughter out with her work and errands that needed to be run. It helped me to be around people and get out and about.

These were just a few of the things I did to keep myself on balance. I do believe, had I not done them, it would have led me into a total meltdown over this Big Change. Like I say, it’s been about three weeks now and even though things are far from perfect...my husband and I are doing much better than we ever have in coping with everything. I thank God for giving me the strength, the skills and the wisdom that I have acquired over the years and for being able to put them to good use!

If you find yourself in the middle of CHANGE ~ don’t run from it! Try some of the methods above and see if it can help YOU TOO to get through the tough times!

Xo Alice

36 thoughts on “Coping with Change

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