THE SUPERPOWERS o The Superpower of Community (and community care) o The Superpower of Showing Up o Resilience o Endurance o Dialectics as a Superpower (holding multiple true stories) o Empathy and Compassion o The Superpower of Quick Turnaround of Emotions o The Superpower of Being Able to Get Out of a Bad Situation o The Ability to ‘Chameleon’
From the document:
This document follows a conversation, facilitated by Osden Nault and Tiffany Sostar, whose goal was to center the voices of folks who identify with BPD (either diagnosed by a professional or self-claimed), and to shift the dominant narrative about Borderline Personality Disorder. This document includes quotes from participants as well as quotes from BPD folks who were not at the event itself.
This event was the result of both Osden and Tiffany noting the lack of BPD voices in the resources available about, and especially for, the BPD community. So much of what is available includes harmful stories about what kind of people have BPD, and how difficult and even dangerous it is to be in relationship with them. These stories obscure the complex lived experiences of BPD individuals who have valuable insider knowledges into how to navigate big emotions and the ongoing effects of complex trauma.
Because we live in such a complex, overwhelming, and traumatizing social context, we hope that this resource might also provide help and insight for folks who do not identify with BPD but who have experienced complex trauma or are living with overwhelming Feels.
We also hope that this resource will help folks who are facing the injustice of inaccessible mental health supports. We recognize that the BPD community faces intense stigma and is also significantly underserved by medical and mental health professionals. If you have found this resource because you haven’t found anything else, we hope that it helps. You are valid, your experiences are valid, and no matter how much you may struggle with your big feelings at times, we know that you also have skills, strategies, superpowers.
There’s so much more that we could have put into this document, and we hope to continue this work both within the BPD Superpowers group and through engagement with other folks who identify with borderline personality disorder (either through self-identification or through a formal diagnosis). Maybe there will even be a book!
Acknowledging the political climate in which we are releasing this work and the intersections of oppression and mental illness / neurodivergence.
At this moment, Black people in the USA and marginalized groups worldwide are mobilizing against white supremacist, racist, and anti-Black violent systemic oppression. We are unequivocally in support of this ongoing struggle for more just futures. In releasing this document at this time, we wish to acknowledge the compounded effects of anti-Black racism, white supremacy, colonialism, intergenerational trauma, and many more forms of violent oppression and marginalization on individual mental health and neurotypes.
An Indigenous participant has shared:
One of the first definitions of BPD I saw described it as resulting from a “genetic predisposition” and trauma. I immediately thought about my own family’s intergenerational trauma. At a point in time when we know ancestral trauma affects us to a genetic level, I wondered how the history of colonial violence plays a role in my present day neurodivergent experience.
We see the effects of violent oppression on physical and mental health, spanning generations and present today. In what Angela Davis has referred to as a “very exciting moment,” and about which she says, “I don’t know if we have ever experienced this kind of a global challenge to racism and to the consequences of slavery and colonialism,” we acknowledge that there is a great deal of ongoing work and healing to be done. We release this collective document with free access and the hope that it will aid in the future and ongoing well being of oppressed individuals and communities.
With love and solidarity, The BPD Superpowers group
Content note: reference to sexual assault, colonial violence, trauma, substance use
The BPD Superpowers group met in a video chat on April 28, 2020 to talk about the intersection of the BPD and The Pandemic.
This blog post brings together some of the wisdom shared in that conversation. This is part of an ongoing project, and our hope is that this post will offer something for everyone, whether you identify with BPD yourself, have friends and family who identify with BPD, or are simply having a hard time in the pandemic. We hope this will help you feel less alone, and offer some hope and some potential strategies. Some quotes from the chat have been paraphrased.
This conversation took place digitally, but we are still all on Indigenous land. Our group included participants on Treaty 7 land, which is the land of the Blackfoot Confederacy, including the Kainai, Siksika, and Piikani First Nations, the Stoney Nakoda, including the Wesley, Chiniki, and Bearpaw First Nations, the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Metis Nation of Alberta, Region 3. Our group also included folks on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, Wendat, and Mississauga of the Credit First Nations, which is governed the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, which precedes any colonial treaties on this territory, and invites everybody to share in what this land has to offer, which is represented by the idea of a dish with one spoon in collectively caring for the land together. Our group included settlers and Indigenous participants.
At the time of our meeting, the Tiny House Warriors and other land defenders had been attacked, with a truck driven through one of the tiny houses, and another land defender camp burned down. It is important to acknowledge this, because the pandemic has not paused racist violence in Canada, and the effects of the pandemic impact different communities in different ways.
Panic and the Pandemic
“For a lot of people experiencing various degrees and intersections of marginalization, the pandemic is kinda just another hit. Whereas people with more privilege, who may never have experienced a complete meltdown like this, they don’t know what to do. But for me, my life feels out of control a lot of the time, like I’ve got constant whiplash from my emotional reactions to things. And I’m all over the place right now. They’re all big feelings. And I feel like we can teach people a lot, as people who have survived and continued to survive in our ongoing existence with all these big feelings, so much of the time. It’s not specific to BPD, but a lot of BPD people have insider knowledge into how to respond to panic. A lot of people are in panic mode right now, inside this time, and they don’t know what to do. But BPD folks already know all of these really good ways of reaching out, and a lot of this is not new to us. We’ve already had to find our communities online a lot of the time.” – Kay
Returning to childhood skills
“I feel like I lot of my coping skills are really thriving right now. I’m still having bad days, up and down, but I feel like I’m using a lot of the things I did as a kid. In times of crisis and panic, when I’m constantly on edge, I just learn to do things. I pour myself into what I know keeps me grounded. I’m really drawing on how studious I was as a kid. I’m pouring myself into my academic work (which sounds very nerdy but it’s true). I used my homework (usually math) to escape. I really enjoyed it and it was when I felt safest. Now I’m just using my thesis writing as a way to create routine – I write for at least an hour almost every morning starting at 9am.” – Sean
Navigating the return of trauma memories
“When the pandemic started, I wasn’t too upset, didn’t feel the need to panic, but was also sort of noticing people saying that they were having a lot of old trauma come up. And for a couple weeks I was grateful that I wasn’t experiencing that. And then I was. And a lot of my trauma is based in my early home life, a lot of my trauma also involves like, sexual assault, which has resulted in certain social coping mechanisms that involve feeling like I have a lot of control over who has access to my body and my sexuality through things like being as casually promiscuous as I want. And there’s no promiscuity in social isolation. And there’s no, kind of through these actions this like, affirming this control over my body that I had found. Being brought back to all your trauma, without your coping mechanisms… I feel like such a raw nerve right now. And those are things that maybe suck, but I just wanted to put them out there ‘cause I’m also sure I’m not the only experiencing that kinda shit.” – Osden
“This collective sense that everybody, not just folks with BPD, are struggling has been a big comfort. Everyone else is starting to understand what it’s like to feel lonely like this.” – Sean
Recognizing and naming our skills
“Maybe as folks with BPD, especially for folks who have been able to do the work of kinda setting certain boundaries because we have enough of a familiarity with our symptoms or challenges, boundaries may be one of the areas that, I don’t know, I imagine we do kind of have a superpower here. Like as much as I’m struggling with some things, I’ve been able to maintain the level of respect that I expect from people I’m gonna date. That’s a place that I still do have something healthy that I built prior to this going on.” – Osden
“It is difficult to hold those boundaries, especially when you care very deeply about people. Having to choose the health of the people that are in my house as well as myself, over someone that I love and cherish like a family member. It sucks. I had to do that even though it was really difficult.” – Kay
“I was thinking about how we have those conversations about risks and health, and how we’ve been having those conversations throughout the pandemic. And maybe this is also one of my coping things, as someone with a history of being sexually assaulted, I’m very, very consent oriented and I’m also very anti STI-stigma. I’m pretty involved with the queer community in Toronto, we have these conversations really often. And I was thinking about the kind of risk mitigation that comes into talking openly about balancing mental health and physical health and all those needs, that maybe in some ways gives us toolsets to say, ‘no, sorry, you’re taking like, a risk that I’m not okay being exposed to, so I’m gonna have to set a boundary here.’” – Osden
“Something I’m learning right now is that I am capable of advocating for myself.” – Sean
“It’s funny because as people with BPD, one thing that we always get stuck to us seems to be the all or nothing type thinking, or the black and white polarised thinking, and it’s like, we know how to find the grey. I keep my feelers out, and I make sure I’m listening for people who need help, because I have connections to people who can deliver groceries, and I make sure that I’m listening to my community. I might not always talk within my community, but I’m always listening. And I think that we always find ways to find that middle ground. It’s beautiful.” – Kay
Here are some of the things that people in the BPD Superpowers group are doing to respond to this difficult time:
Taking the time to acknowledge the feelings, even if they seem immense and impossible. Having a validating conversation with ourselves about what is happening.
Defaulting to the assumption that your feelings come from somewhere real. If you are upset, there is probably a reason you’re upset. Even if the way those feelings show up isn’t what you prefer, assume that the feelings themselves have some valuable information to offer. (This is especially important if people around you seem to be defaulting to the assumption that your feelings are not coming from somewhere real.)
Turning to people in ways that feel accessible. This might mean texting if video chatting or phone calls are too intense. It might mean phone calls. It might mean letters! It might mean creating a “pandemic pod” of people you see. Turning toward people in whatever way feels possible.
Recognizing that when the ideal solution is not available, the available solution is the right one. This might mean using coping strategies that we wouldn’t otherwise use, leaning on or staying connected with people we would otherwise distance from, or using other strategies that are less preferred, but that get us through a hard moment. “Lean where you can lean!” You can even write yourself a permission slip, if it would help.
Going for a run or doing something else to get your heartrate doing something different than the panic rhythm.
Participating in affirming group spaces. These might include identity-specific group spaces (like an international chat group for queer and trans folks to share pics and affirmation), or interest-specific group spaces (like anti-capitalist cat groups).
Using creative ways to alleviate sexual tension within the restrictions of physical distancing. Taking and sharing sexy photos can be one way to maintain a connection to your own sexuality and to a sense of control over access to your body, and a way to feel playful and connected.
Writing poetry, especially poetry that holds space for rage and horror.
Taking time and space from relationships that are experiencing conflict. Reminding ourselves that taking time and space doesn’t mean we can’t come back to that relationship (or that the person on the other side can’t come back to us). This is especially difficult and important when we’re all so aware of how much we need each other and how much depends on the few relationships within our pandemic pod.
Sometimes taking time and space doesn’t help, and we might ask the person we’re experiencing conflict with to stay and talk through what’s happening. Communicating our needs when we’re able, in the ways we’re able.
Recognizing how our specific context influences what feels possible – being hungry, tired, drunk or intoxicated – all can influence which strategies are available to us in responding to panic.
Finding small moments of joy. Baking, creating, being a personal cheerleader for friends. Even delivering cocktails or mocktails to friends, and being able to say, “everything outside is collapsing but I’m gonna sip this dainty, fancy little thing.” Whatever brings you some joy!
Trust yourself. “Finding your way to survive, whatever that looks like right now, you’re doing it. You’re fucking stellar at it.” – Kay
Image is a person sitting on a couch, watching tv. On the tv is a stick figure with the quote, “That’s what friends do, they stand by each other when there’s trouble. – Gabrielle.” Beside the tv is the name of the project, Zine: A Warrior Princess. The quote is from the show Xena: Warrior Princess, spoken by the character Gabrielle.
I’m ready to start working on my next zine project!
This one has the potential to be a little lighter, a little more playful.
This zine is about how pop culture is getting us through this time.
What is this zine about?
It’s about the lessons we’ve learned from our favourite tv shows, movies, comics, and books. It’s about how pop culture can invite us into an alternate world, and how these worlds have been safe and comforting spaces for us for many years.
It’s about the archetypes in the Princess Bride allowing us to see ourselves in a playful and generous light.
It’s about Buffy surviving a new apocalypse every season, and what hope that might offer for us as we face this particular apocalypse.
It’s about Steven Universe and She-Ra and Aang and Korra and Kipo and The Magicians and Elle Woods and Kamala Khan and Miles Morales and America Chavez and Kimberly Kane and Starbuck and Furiosa and Marge Gunderson and Elastica and Zoe Washburne and Veronica Mars and Minerva McGonagall and River Song and The Doctor and Jane Eyre and Phryne Fisher and Jo March and Alexander Hamilton (and Eliiiiiiiiiiiiiza) and Fem Shep and so many others, and it’s about how these characters, and the worlds they inhabit, the worlds they invite us into, make it more possible for us to get through the pandemic.
It’s also about pop culture personalities and how we navigate our relationships with celebrity (of whatever magnitude) in ways that make it more possible to get through the pandemic.
Prompts to get you started
What shows/books/comics/characters/etc are getting you through?
Are you re-engaging with old favourites or discovering new ones?
What are the gifts of these pop culture offerings? What skills have they taught you? What values have they nurtured in you? What hopes have they sparked? What comfort have they offered?
Where did you discover them? Does appreciation of these characters or worlds or creators connect you to a community?
Do you share these shows, books, characters with others?
What have they made possible in your life?
What have they made possible in your pandemic life?
I think this will be a fun project and I’m really excited about it!
When and how to submit
I’ll be accepting submissions until the end of June, and hoping to share the zine by the end of July.
I love the comic about how we are basically houseplants with complicated feelings, and it got me thinking about how isolation means we need to be succulents, able to survive and thrive in conditions of scarcity and intensity, and how fear also turns out lives into deserts, and how precarity does the same.
So, I thought we could use that metaphor, and make a little zine about what gets us through, and how we get each other through.
What are our skills of survival?
What are our strategies of mutual aid and collective action and care?
How are we keeping ourselves going, and what can we teach each other?
Many of us are in communities with generations-long histories of succulent lives in deserts of ableism, transantagonism, queerphobia, colonialism, white supremacy. Oppressed and targeted communities know the way forward.
So many folks responded to this invitation,
and what I imagined as a “little zine about what gets us through” is actually
over 90 pages of poetry, art, essays, and narrative projects. I am incredibly thankful
for these contributions, and honoured to have been able to bring them together
in this work.
Each contributor took the time and energy to create something that they shared with this project. This time and energy is precious, especially right now as we all deal with scarcity, precarity, uncertainty, and rapidly changing expectations and pressures.
There is abundance in these pages. Richness despite scarcity.
If you would like a printed copy of the zine, please get in touch for pricing. The PDF is available at no charge, and can be shared.
Tiffany Sostar. Canada. Finding Succulence and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor) Tiffany Sostar is a narrative therapist, writer, editor, community organizer, and workshop facilitator. They collected and formatted the zine. This is their webpage! (My webpage? What even is authorial point of view in collective documents?!?!)
Brianna Sharpe. Canada. Neverlings Brianna Sharpe is a writer and parent. She writes beautiful, moving, well-researched articles for The Sprawl, among other places. Find her website here.
Kalina Wolska-Chaney. Canada. Little Rock and cat art. Kalina is a young writer and artist.
Sophie Cao. China. How a Wandering Cat Survived During the Coronavirus Outbreak and Dear World, Dear Friends. Sophie is a narrative practitioner in mainland China, and has been involved in projects for the Dulwich Centre. Dear World, Dear Friends formed the basis of the Exchanging messages with Chinese narrative practitioners, which can be found here.
Lyn Janelle. Canada. Cat art. Lyn is a seamstress, artist, and crafter-of-all-sorts.
Neko. Canada. Huohuo and Momo Neko is a young writer and artist.
Agnieszka Wolska. Canada. A Pandemic Correspondence with a Challenging Presence and I am Tired of Sitting and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor) Agnieszka Wolska is a narrative therapist and parent in Calgary, Alberta. You can find her therapy work, Calm at the Centre Therapy, here.
Bryan J. McLean. Canada [ Lights in a Dark Landscape ] Bryan McLean is a poet, musician, writer, and artist. You can find his website here.
Anupa Mehta. India. Toolkits For Trying Times. Anupa Mehta is a narrative therapist and workshop facilitator in India. Her website is here.
Josiah Ditoro. Canada. Become the Borg of Your Favourite Things Josiah is a writer, disability justice advocate, and one of the engines behind the Calgary Wrimotaurs, Calgary’s NaNoWriMo group. You can find the Calgary NaNo site here.
Rei. Canada. Allow Yourself to Start Again and Cheerio Upside Down Rei is a writer, artist, and disability justice advocate in Calgary.
Lori Helfenbaum. Canada. A Pandemic Passover Haggadah and When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing (contributor) Lori is a narrative therapist in Calgary. You can find her website here.
Nicole Marie Burton and Hugh Goldring. Canada. Take Care: A Community Response to Covid-19. Nicole and Hugh run Ad Astra Comix and publish smart, funny, political comics. You can find their website here.
Hugh D.A. Goldring. Canada. Anarchism and Pandemics
Kay Fidler. Canada. Sober in Isolation and Novel: A Pandemic Love Poem Kay is a Metis writer and perfumer in Calgary. They are working on a graphic novel, and it’s going to be amazing!
Beatrice Aucoin. Canada. Good Leadership in the Time of Corona Beatrice is a writer and cat sitter in Calgary. You can find her site, Cat Mom Calgary, here.
Callan Field. Canada. Mixed media pair Callan is a visual artist in Calgary. Callan’s website is here.
Anisha Uppal-Sullivan. UAE. Cat art Anisha is an artist in the UAE.
And the narrative practitioners group! We each contributed to the conversations that formed the basis of When Everyone is Flailing, It Kind of Looks Like Dancing Tiffany Sostar Agnieszka Wolska Lori Helfenbaum Joel Glenn Wixson (see his website here) Amy Druker (see her website here) Mim Kempson (see her website here) Sonia Hoffman Rosie Maeder Julia Scharinger Marisa Barnhart J. L.
This isn’t new, but somehow I had never put a link into a blog post!
I’m sharing it here now, in honour of Trans Day of Visibility.
Last year, my beloved colleague Rosie and I collaborated on a project – we met with non-binary youth in Adelaide, SA, and also with non-binary youth in Calgary, Alberta. Then we created a collective document bringing together the insider knowledges shared in those conversations.
This collective document has since been published in the International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, and you can download the PDF here.
I’m putting some of the material I’ve been generating for An Unexpected Light to work in other spaces. I’m proud of this, because one expectation I often apply to myself is that everything must be fresh and new, that it will have less value if it is something I created for another purpose, and that it reflects “laziness” on my part if I don’t come up with something brand new every time.
In the spirit of this month’s event, I am formally resigning from this expectation, which does not serve me and does invite me into significant feelings of failure and anxiety.
With the time and energy that would previously have gone into meeting this expectation, I will make myself a London Fog this afternoon – an act of solidarity with myself that I haven’t made time for in far too long.
You can find the Facebook event here. We are meeting on November 19 from 6:30-8:30 pm at Loft 112 in the East Village.
I am still working on getting an event calendar up on my website – hopefully this month!
In November, Possibilities will be borrowing an activity from An Unexpected Light, the six-month online course in narrative therapy and speculative fiction that I have been running.
We’re going to be resigning from some expectations of normality!
We all live under a significant (and growing) weight of normative expectations – to look the right way, to work the right jobs in the right way, to do our gender right, to do our orientation right, to be in our relationships in the right way, to not be too loud, too sad, too needy, too dependent, too … whatever! And also to not be deficient – not enough energy, not enough enthusiasm, not enough productivity, not enough independence, not enough self-care (how dare we be burned out – take a bubble bath and get back to normal!)
This month will be a bit of an experiment – rather than our usual facilitated-but-freeflowing conversation, we’re going to have a more structured event with a few exercises to work through together, some conversation about the role of normative expectations (and our “failures” to meet them), and a final exercise to formally resign from a few of these expectations and to start imagining the acts of solidarity that could take their place. (David Denborough defines acts of solidarity as “acts of justice or actions of care toward yourself, others, or the natural world”.)
We may collect some of these resignations from normal and commitments to solidarity into a small document to be shared with the rest of the community, because I think that this exercise might be helpful for folks as we head into the holiday season with its many demands and expectations.
Please RSVP so that I know how many handouts to print off.
(If you are participating in the current round of An Unexpected Light, this will give you a one-week-early sneak peek into the Integration and Care module exercise for November! And if you’re curious about An Unexpected Light and debating whether to join the next round, this will give a peek into one of the four modules in the course.)
We have a focus on community care and narrative discussions for the bi+ community (bisexual, pansexual, asexual, two-spirit, with an intentional focus on trans inclusion).
This is an intentionally queer, feminist, anti-oppressive space. The discussion is open to all genders and orientations, as well as all abilities, educational levels, classes, body types, ethnicities – basically, if you’re a person, you’re welcome!
We will meet at Loft 112, which is wheelchair accessible through the back door, and ASL interpretation can be arranged. If you require ASL interpetation, please let me know asap so that I can make arrangements.
These discussions take place on Treaty 7 land, and the traditional territories of the Blackfoot, Siksika, Piikuni, Kainai, Tsuutina, and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nation. This land is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.
It is important to note that Possibilities Calgary is a community discussion group and not a dating group.