Understanding Hand-Flapping and What To Do (or Not Do) About It

ASpiring Dad

My 5 year old daughter has been hand-flapping (literally flapping both of her hands for one to a few seconds at a time) since a very early age. It was kind of cute when she used to do at 1 or 2 years old as if she was a little bird or butterfly trying to take flight. Of course, at that time we knew nothing of autism and that hand-flapping is one of its tell-tale signs (but not necessarily a definite sign of it).

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BPD. A Lonely Label.

You know, it’s really really hard talking about mental illness. As much as we support those who do decide to go public and blog, or vlog or write articles in magazines and newspapers frog it’s OUT THERE baby. You can’t catch that bad stuff and put it back in the box. You’re ‘labeled’ then, you and them, forever.
I remember my grandparents telling me about members of the family who were considered mad. Auntie so-and-so, off her rocker, stole all the christmas money and drank herself to death. Uncle Whatsit who came back from Korea and never left his flat for 7 years and lived alone as a recluse until he died.
We all have them tucked away somewhere. Barmy, OCD, suicide.
But when we think about coming clean or going public with our terrifying news, we know we risk being labelled and catalogued along with the rest of them, down in history as another mad auntie . Many (most?) of us just chose the path of least resistance and hide. Just like a person in the closet, we are in there with them, hiding, hoping no one finds is out. Sure they may suspect, you’ve been giving off strange vibes for years but until it’s spoken about, they don’t know. You’re safe.
What’s been niggling at me for years though is, is this the best thing to do? Is it responsible to do that? Can I live with myself forever if hiding is my future? I will forever risk people not knowing me truly, deeply. I’m just not living honestly.
It’s a burden.
It’s a real problem having a mental illness and it’s sad. It’s sad because you are hiding, because there’s such a huge part of yourself you cannot divulge, like Dexter, you keep your serial killer locked away in the dark. And then you risk never truly being known. Those things that make you, are mysteries. Those things that drive you are smothered, disguised, and they can grow and swell and you keep on covering them layer after layer, lie upon lie until you perhaps forget yourself what and where you hid it all. But you dream, paranoid dreams of being discovered, found out, chased by snakes, lost all your teeth, arrived naked at a party.
Discovery panic.
But if you do reveal yourself to the world then what? Their reaction could damage you further, drive you back in and down further than you were before.
Lots of people we know have been touched by some kind of depression in their lives, some illness that we can’t see, can’t quite put our finger on. Some children we’ve known have had problems too which have lurked in dark places, difficult to bring to light. Teenagers with anorexia, self harming/wild and out of control, or sullen and damaged in their rooms unable to communicate with anyone their distress. I was one of these girls, and I grew to be one of these adults.

After years and years of suffering I decided to finally get someone proper to have a look at the mess inside my head. To dust down those layers and layers and to at long last have a look at the engine laid bare. It’s been scary, it’s been enlightening but I’ve stoically refused to let her give me the label I know I have. I’ve feared that label. I’ve feared the power that label could have over me once discovered. That it may just stick and never come off. That once I had it i’d have to tell others about it. Im like that, I like knowledge to be a force for good, to help others.
It took 18 months for me to pluck up the courage and ask. But finally I did. There you have it, I’ve got a touch ‘O BPD. My very own label.

B.P.D. or boarderline personality disorder. Scary stuff, strong stuff – like being told you have a possible terminal illness with a small chance of recovery.

“BPD is considered by medical practitioners to be a severe psychiatric disorder. It is recognised as such by the DSM IV”. http://www.bpdworld.org

We, my fantastic therapist and I, both agree I’ve been suffering since I was approximately 11, when my periods started, when I started to change, when I was sent away to boarding school, a year before my parents split up, when things really weren’t right. What does it feel like? It’s like regularly falling into a deep, dark well, literally a pit of despair. It’s black, devoid of any comfort, full of anxiety and self loathing. Thoughts of death surround you as the only possible means of escape. You want to sleep, just sleep until it passes so you don’t have to feel it, to breathe it in any more. Or you want to hurt yourself, punch yourself, cut yourself, do damage. You may also want to lash out at those close to you for their lack of understanding. You can’t trust your thoughts as they deceive you, you don’t know what to think so it’s best not to even try and fathom any of it. Scary stuff. Strong stuff. Long term therapy is the key, a little bit of dismantling, bit of tweaking, lots of rebuilding, lots of tears and some happiness. She has promised, my lovely therapist, happiness.
Here’s how the website Mind describes it:

“You feel very worried about people abandoning you, and would do anything to stop that happening.
 You have very intense emotions that last from a few hours to a few days and can change quickly (for example, from feeling very happy and confident in the morning to feeling low and sad in the afternoon).
 You don’t have a strong sense of who you are, and it can change depending on who you’re with.
 You find it very hard to make and keep stable relationships.
 You act impulsively and do things that could harm you (such as binge eating, using drugs or driving dangerously).
 You have suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviour, eating disorders are common – bulimia or anorexia
You feel empty and lonely a lot of the time.
 You get very angry, and struggle to control your
 When very stressed, sometimes you might:
feel paranoid have psychotic experiences, such as seeing or hearing things other people don’t,
feel numb or ‘checked out’ and not remember things properly after they’ve happened.”

I know there is more to that list.

I had no idea about this disorder until a couple of years ago, and I’ve only known I have it for a couple of months. Before, I didn’t have much of a clue what was wrong with me. I just thought it was a collection of random, shitty things I was feeling all the time and that cumulatively meant I was a shitty person with a shitty personality. My bad luck. ‘I just have a terrible personality’ I’d say to myself, or worse, no personality at all.

So as I said, for the last 18 months I’ve finally committed to some regular, deep therapy and I’ve been seeing a wonderful, highly qualified and respected psychotherapist whom I greatly admire. So far so good, we are making small but significant breakthroughs. So I’m not a shitty person?! Hey what about that! Also that so many of the ordeals I’ve been through and put myself through I actually couldn’t help?! Wow, what a relief! I roll that around my tongue a bit every once in a while now to see how it feels – ‘couldn’t help it’, hmmmmm. Not quite used to that thought. I’m so used to blaming myself, hiding myself away, punishing myself, the thought that most of the time I actually couldn’t help it makes me feel strange, like I suppose someone being pardoned after spending many years in prison for a crime they couldn’t remember committing. Yes, relieved and strange. I’ve always KNOWN I couldn’t help it but other people have made me feel like I SHOULD help it – “pull yourself together” “pull your socks up” “control yourself” are the things I’ve most often heard, but of course when you feel totally OUT of control and there seems nothing you can do to stop the flood, it makes you feel doubly worse. Trying to deal with these outofcontrol feelings and shame gave me a life long eating disorder and many years of addictions, just to add to the shitty pile of despair and self loathing.
Having what I have means there is a switch in my head that most of the time, of its own accord flips from ‘good’ to ‘bad’ – bad behaviour, bad mood – and once switched it’s anybody’s guess how long it will take to go back. I just have to sit it out in great despair and wait. Sometimes it will be a few hours, sometimes days, occasionally weeks.
It has made it difficult to hold down jobs at certain times (although I have), to parent effectively (although I have), to maintain close relationships and friendships. I often just don’t understand people or what they want from me. It’s made me antisocial, its made me introverted, it’s unpredictable and debilitating. It’s shocked and upset some, damaged relationships for good – more than I would like to admit to, coloured the way people think of me, made some avoid me and others abandon me which is a shame because I’ve known some fantastic people and I haven’t been able to understand why I’ve pushed them away. It’s made me hide much more of myself from shame and I’ve only been able to be open a select few.
Of course I’m not always bad, a lot of the time I’m very good. I’m kind, empathetic, respectful, obliging, fun and often endlessly giving, adventurous, daredevil and very loving – it’s just I come with an unpredictable bite sometimes – sorry! And I’m prone to hiding, quite a lot. If only I could tame my out of control black dog! How amazing would that be?! But still the black dog lurks, waiting. Perhaps today I’ll see him? Or tomorrow? (The bastard) I’m never sure but I’m only certain that I will see him, he’s never far away.

I would like to say that I’m really pleased I finally committed to therapy. I’ve of course tried many over the years and been disappointed with all of them, most just wishy-washy and ineffective, so to have finally found someone who I really respect is amazing to me! I’ve been on prescription drugs for many years and now finally I’m coming off with a confidence never felt before, I’m learning to be kind to myself, to say no more often and to just avoid situations and people I know may tip me. It has meant a culling of my old lifestyle and a paring back so I can see more clearly the right path, it’s meant I’ve given up alcohol because that messes too much with my head. I have a saint of a husband who loves me despite my worst and who has stood by me like a rock come what may and to whom I’m forever grateful. His love has shown me that I can and do contain light, that I am lovable, I can make something work. I cling on to those thoughts. He has proved to me that my deepest fears of abandonment are groundless – amazing! And I’m learning to relax about it.

I think a ‘going back to basics’ and simplicity is essential to help with the rebuilding process. I’m really hopeful for my future now where once I could only look with blackness and despair. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ‘normal’ as I’d like to be in my utopia, but I can and will strive every day for a better, stronger me, to learn to ride the black waves until they die down. If they ever disappear, I’ll be more grateful than you’ll ever know. Learning to eat properly after 26 years of disorder is a challenge, one day at a time. Punishing myself has been a way of life for over half my time on this planet. I’m going easy.

Recovery, I’ve been told, is possible. But I won’t be drinking to that.
For more information look at:

Day 18, the sequel…..

Enough already

Gloomily I had a bowl of bran flakes this morning. I can’t take no more Ma, I’s feelin’ awful bad.

I haven’t lost any weight this week and I am TOTALLY sick to death of protein. I just can’t stomach any more today. I have decided to give myself a break today, have some carbs, have some veg, relax and try to understand that I am not in any kind of a race with anyone. It’s just me and the scales and driving myself crazy and craving isn’t going to help me.

I do not consider myself defeated although I can’t BELIEVE how stubborn my fat deposits are.

Survival eh? I’d have thought my body would starve to death MUCH more easily!!!

18 Days

|Exert from the ‘Dukan Diet’ pages……

 I lost 10 pounds in a month even with a few slip-ups, and for th last few days, I have not shed even a pound!

You lost 10 pounds and I think this is EXTRAORDINARY considering your slip-ups. Moreover losing weight as quickly as you did means your body has to stop in its tracks for a short while in order to adjust to the weight loss process. Your body doesn’t like to see its reserves melting and it takes it some time to adapt. Believe me, this stagnation occurs in every diet, especially when the weight loss is fast, but I assure you the weight will keep dropping at about 2 pounds a week now. Keep at it and come back in a few days to let me know. Until then, make sure you exercise and if you can push yourself that little bit more, it will help you go onto a new threshold faster.

Day 16

10st 7lbs

Today I weakened and had AN APPLE. Just like in the Garden of Eden I was naked in the kitchen, whilst the workmen painted the windows, and temptation visited me in the form of the apple. It was red, it was delicious. I ate it. As far as I know I’ve not yet been given notice to leave.

So, I had the apple. I was not supposed to have the apple but I am quite frankly craving sugar, carbs, spaghetti, chocolate, biscuits – you name it. You would not believe how sweet that apple was.  It was GOOD.

I am still on the 1/1, pure protein/protein + veg days. I am getting plenty of exercise – I ran half an hour today, and it’s hilly. And I walk the dog also. But it seems I am STAGNANT, like a lumpy, green stagnant pond, with mosquitoes hovering lazily over the surface. I am stagnating and on a ‘Plateau’

This is somewhat frustrating as I feel I am being cheated of my reward! My prize! My diligence is not paying off! Well, not yet. According to the booook, I must be patient.

Day 14

Back in the UK, different scales which are telling me I have still only lost 5lbs!
However, I am noticeably slimmer, I am wearing a pair of jeans I haven’t for ages, I have been running every day and I have been really good with the diet?
I have had a couple of days where I have had a small bite of veg, we have been out to dinner, and I have also had some oil on my food but they are they only cheats.

I am really pleased with the way things are going even if the scales aren’t rewarding me! I have to bear in mind the hormone contraception I have and my age and another med I take which affects my weight.

I feel like it is a really manageable weight loss programme for me
On Daniels iPad today as my mac is busted, so no superfluous text, funny pics or exciting content as I find typing irritating!!!!! ( and the dog is sitting here eating my hair)

Day 10

10st 7

Half a stone lost since I started 10 days ago.

I am quite pleased with that! Ended up having a large plate of tomatoes and onion with salt and vinegar last night as I was just craving them.

I must admit that it does really keep you feeling full up when you are eating lots of protein. No horrible churning hunger pangs any of the time and that’s strange as when I eat carbs I feel hungry so much of the time.

I have still had water retention and I have historically put that down to eating carbs – I suffer from frequently swollen hands, so now I am flummoxed about that!

What you do get to have every day, which is in fact prescribed, is a satisfyingly large portion of oat bran to have as you like. I have been having mine in yoghurt which makes a sort of porridge. This you can sweeten with candarel. It certainly satisfies a sweet craving and a carb craving.

You also HAVE to walk 20 – 30 mins every day. You don’t have to do any more than that although I have chosen to add runs into my day as I love running. I have also been doing a little mat work with the teeny tiny Tracy Anderson – those arm exercises, my God……..

Day 9 ( I Think)

10st 9 this morning

Cloudy without a chance of meatballs

Put on a pound? Hello, that was not supposed to happen? Had only protein yesterday, yoghurt and oat bran – as instructed.

25 min walk/run around them there hills and hurt my knee. I am going to have another protein day today and try a 2/1 combination

Finding it hard to sleep still, a strange side effect.  Feeling groggy this morning and the boys are driving me nuts  – thank heavens for kids club……