Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Nature vs Nurture

Firstly, I just want to thank everyone for all their support on my last few posts about my childhood. I was slightly apprehensive about posting them - I knew I felt like I needed to write about it, but I felt like people would see them and think 'oh whiny, irritating, obnoxious brat who has had no real problems in her life' because I suppose that is how I think of myself. I suppose in my mind if you have experienced trauma of some kind then mental health problems are perfectly understandable - it makes sense that if, for example, you are abused as a child, then you may grow up with some issues. But I have always felt like I have no issues and therefore I am a fraud in some way - that there must actually be nothing wrong with me, and I am making it all up, because if there is no reason for it then it can't exist. Particularly given that one of my diagnoses is BPD, which is almost synonymous with trauma. Of course I know rationally that a) not everyone with BPD has had a traumatic childhood, although it is a large majority according to studies, and b) that not having experienced this does not make my problems any less real. But it is hard to always think rationally about things like this, and deep down I do just feel like a fraud a lot of the time. There have been occasions when I have convinced myself that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, and that I am making it all up, even if I have been feeling desperately suicidal all the time. Sometimes I feel like I need to tell someone that I have been lying for all these years, and wasting all these resources, because actually there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. Except there is. And not having a reason for it - not being able to justify why I have these problems and feel the way I do makes it even harder to deal with in some ways, because I feel guilty and weak and confused. Professionals always ask about triggers and what caused things, and when you can't tell them, not because there is something too hard to talk about, but because there actually isn't anything, it does make you feel like you are wasting their time in some way. So thank you very much for all the responses. They meant a lot, and actually felt very validating. At first I have to confess that I wondered if people were taking the piss, because there was all this sympathy coming from people, and I didn't see what there was to be sympathetic about, because there was nothing traumatic in my life - there were a couple of difficult periods, but everyone has them. Pandora, who experienced such real and terrible trauma in her childhood saying 'This is heart-breaking to read' about my childhood, which in many ways was so privileged, and normal, and ostensibly happy, just didn't make sense to me - I didn't understand how she, of all people, didn't just dismiss me as a whiny brat after everything that she has been through. But I realised that these comments were coming from people I trust, and who would have no reason not to be genuine in their response, and so I tried to take them at face value. Which was hard, but I do believe that they were meant, even if I don't understand why, and I want to thank you all for that.

I think talking it all over with L has helped too. I saw her yesterday. Although I usually send her pretty much everything I write between sessions, I hesitated over sending this. It felt like such a trivial thing to have written so many thousands of words about, and obviously she knows a lot of what happened in my childhood anyway, both from my notes, and from what I have told her before. Plus it just felt too much like navel gazing. So I debated with myself about whether or not to send it, and in the end decided I would, but to point out that it probably wouldn't be of any relevance, and veered off into navel gazing, and that she really didn't need to read it. Again, I was surprised by her reaction. For some reason she was impressed that I had been able to write about it, and didn't think I would have been able to do that until recently. I have to admit that she made a lot of sense (she generally does to be fair!) and talked about how as a child changes in your life can completely change your whole view of the world, because everything seems secure and safe, and then something happens to destroy that, and as a child you don't know how to deal with that, and so even things that on the surface are not massively traumatic, ie not neglect or abuse etc, can have a big impact on you. Or something along those lines. I don't have the type of memory to quote what was said in appointments verbatim, particularly as I had only had 3 hours sleep before that particular appointment. She also said that seeing your parents unable to cope can be really difficult to deal with when you are young, as you have always relied on them and expected them to look after you, and if you are suddenly faced with a situation where they aren't coping and you have to look after them then it confuses everything you know basically - they are supposed to look after you, not the other way around. She said she could completely see why I would have formed attachment issues after that, although we did also briefly talk about biological predisposition to things like that, and the nature vs nurture debate. I think I probably have characteristics and personality traits that would probably have made me vulnerable to mental health problems regardless of my circumstances, although of course it is difficult to judge how much of your personality is what you were born with, and how much is a reaction to environment etc, for example I am a perfectionist, which is a very common trait in people with mental health problems, and particularly eating disorders. But was I born a perfectionist, or was it somehow the result of my upbringing? I suspect that particular trait was one I was born with, as my dad is also a perfectionist, although my mum absolutely is not - 'it will do' tends to be her motto! I suppose you can never know how much of your character and life is a result of your experiences, and how much is just you, as you came into the world. You can guess, but you will never know for sure. I think an interesting case is identical twins, who obviously come from a split embryo, and therefore should be born with all of the same personality traits I would have thought, and are then brought up in exactly the same environment, and presumably treated the same, and yet can end up with such different personalities. I don't know how that happens. How can one egg split and form two very different people, even when they have had the same upbringing? It is strange the things you think about when blogging. That is never something that had even crossed my mind before, and yet now it seems fascinating. Or maybe it is tiredness making me think that, since it is now 5:30am, and I wasn't actually very late up today..... Time for sleep I think.


  1. Life is fascinating, how it all folds out. It's amazing what happens from person to person. Hang in there- you've got alot in you!


  2. I can relate to feeling like you don't have real problems and like you shouldn't have a mental illness if you didn't experience abuse in your childhood. But just because you weren't abused doesn't mean your childhood couldn't have traumatized you and affected you in big ways. It doesn't at all make you a whiny brat.

    It's good you were able to talk it through with L.

    Take care,
    Cassie x

  3. Having BPD always has trauma whether you remember it or not. It usually occurs in infancy up to two years when your needs do not get met. Hence, the attachment difficulties as you were supposed to learn at this age.

    Do not discount your experiences or compare to others. Please try to focus on getting better and not judging yourself. I also like the way that you just write what is in your head...I can really relate!!!

  4. The fact that worse things have happened to other people doesn't mean that what happened to you wasn't bad. I agree with Clueless - you shoulod focus on getting better.

  5. I can relate to a lot of what you said here. Sometimes I look at my life and I wonder why I'm so fucked up, and especially why all of my problems started when I was about 8 years old. Nothing happened to me that could have triggered that, but I guess I must have had the biology to back it. So I understand what you're saying about lack of trauma. But I'm still glad you were able to share this very personal subject with us.

    Wishing you well,

  6. I have also often felt like a fraud as well and that nothing is/should be wrong with me. It's a strange feeling, especially as I know it to be erroneous.

  7. I often feel this way but then i remind myself that mental illness is a chemical imbalance in our brains. So it is a combination of nature and nurture. YOU ARE NOT A FRAUD. Your feelings are very real - your illness is very real.
    (( hugs ))