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Ask the Rock Doc: 
Sound Advice for a Song 

By psychologist, Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. B.L.T., 
the Shrink-rappin' Rock Doc 

Details, and, in some cases, the method of communication associated with the following letter may be altered, to protect the confidentiality of the distressed person. 

***Phantom Tollbooth reader:  If you'd like to hear, and download my single-song "soundtrack" to the response that follows, check out this link:

Borderline Teen-age Girlfriend 

Dear Rock Doc: 

I'm a 16-year-old son of a shrink.  That's right, my dad is a psychologist just like you.  I'd like to be one too, one day, but right now, I've got too many problems of my own to think about anyone else's.  He's been trying to help me, but he's at a loss for what to do.  He tells me he has a hard time being objective since I'm his son, and not his patient.  

My problem is that I keep getting in relationships with strange, psycho babes from hell.  I almost said the other "B" word, and then I remembered this is supposed to be a Christian publication, and if it gets printed, it could lead some Christian kids astray.  I'm not a Christian, per se, but I'm not a Satan-worshipper either, and I don't like to spread my bad attitude and my bad language around.  

I play bass in a post-punk-ska band called Hellena Hand-basket.  Pretty cool name, huh?  Here's how we arrived at it.  Most of us (myself included), live in and/or around Hellena, Montana.  Plus, my girlfriend from hell is named Helen Anne Vargas.  So we took her first name, her middle initial, and merged it with the name of our hometown, and added the last part on a whim.  We've got quite a following here in Helena, but the problems between Helen and I are threatening to break up the band.  

I've been reading my dad's books to try to figure out what the heck is wrong with my girlfriend.  One night I went through my dad's DSM-IV-TR, the manual you guys use to figure crazy people out, and found out that Helen has a textbook case of Borderline Personality Disorder.  In fact, she fit the criteria so well that I was surprised her picture was not in the book.  

Basically, I rescued her from an abusive boyfriend and risked my life to do it.  He was beating on her and cussing her out, and putting her down almost all the time, plus, he was cheating on her.  Of course, she was cheating on him with me, and who knows who else at the time.  She's been passed around since about the age of 12 from one guy to another--jerks who just wanted to use her, abuse her, and excuse her.  I was tempted to do the same at first, because, dude-she looks really hot!  But I was determined to be that one boyfriend who treated her right, but lately I've actually lost all respect for her, and I've even wanted to abuse her myself.  I probably have, in subtle ways.  What really sets me off is when she'll just take off, and won't come back for days at a time.  It's a double standard.  I have to report my every move to her, and when she feels insecure and I happen to not be around, she starts calling all of my friends and family members and then she hunts me down. One night she even stole her mom's car, took off looking for me, and ultimately totaled the thing.  Later she told me that if I hadn't shown up, she would have cut her wrists or hung herself.  She threatens to do that at least once a week.  She's even cut on her wrists a few times, but never deep enough to pose any serious risk to herself.   If I'm ever late in coming home from school, or running an errand or something, she has a fit, starts screaming at the top of her lungs, and cries uncontrollably.  Dude-she's not even doing drugs, at least not to my knowledge, but she acts like she's constantly tripping.  She may also have an eating disorder because she usually only eats very small portions and when we go out to eat somewhere, she just nibbles nervously and picks at her food.  It seems like she really trusted me at first, and she held me on a pedestal, but the minute I didn't meet her every demand, she started seeing me as being just like all the other guys she's been with, and I'm not a bit like them.  I can't win in this relationship.  Helena Hand-basket is a band I'm really proud of, but lately she can't get through a practice without having an argument with me and storming off.  So we can never seem to learn enough songs for our first CD, and never enough to perform an entire gig.   Dude-when we've opened for other bands, we've rocked, but that's all we are-an opening act.  I don't really care about the band anymore, if I don't find a way to either end this relationship or fix it, I'm going to nut up myself.  

B.O.B.B. (Boyfriend of Borderline Babe) 

Dear B.O.B.B.: 

I'm glad you are in a band, and, yes, I could understand why others would gravitate towards a band by that name, and what I'm sure is a great deal of talent to back up the catchy name.  Being in a band with a girlfriend, however, is like falling for someone that you work with at a regular day job.  It can lead to overwhelmingly distressing complications.  

I have to admit, when I looked into my musical doctor's bag, I couldn't find a song that seemed to fit the dilemma you were in, so I wrote and recorded a new one, just for you.  It is not designed to cure you.  It was just a way for me to try to put myself in your shoes long enough to be able to understand how you must feel.  I tried to put a little punk attitude and a little ska flavoring in it to suit your stylistic preference, but I'm not sure whether I pulled it off.  The song is called Borderline Teen-age Girlfriend and you can hear it via this link:

Borderline Teen-age Girlfriend 
As far as advice is concerned, labels only go so far in terms of understanding people and relationships.  Borderline Personality Disorder is a convenient hook to hang her problems on, but the fact is, she is suffering more than anyone on the outside could imagine, and you are suffering from feeling like you have to rescue her.  

Do I think she's ready for a relationship in her condition?  Not on the basis of what you've told me.  Do I think the two of you should break up? Based on what you've told me, yes.  But in such a situation as you seem to find yourself in, it's like a song written long before you (or I for that matter) were born-"Breakin' Up is Hard to Do." 

It's not just a matter of "just dump her!"  Though you've used  disparaging names to refer to her (and are tempted to use even more disparaging words), it's a complicated situation.  You are sophisticated enough to read your dad's DSM, but I'm wondering if you know what it means when I say borderline persons (if, in fact, she falls into that category), lack ego organization and decompensate easily into a psychotic state?  Are you prepared to face such a psychotic break?  You can't give her the adaptive techniques she will need to handle the break-up.  That could make you suddenly go from an angel of light to Satan himself in her eyes, a process known as splitting.  Once you break up with her, you won't be able to be there to help her through the depression, the rage, the fear, the anxiety, the somatic concerns, the impulsivity, the sense of utter helplessness, and the dark sense of emptiness and despair.  You can't reverse the problematic parenting she has likely received. 

I'm not trying to scare you away from breaking up.  What I'm urging is that the two of you first get into therapy first, and then, after you have undergone a period of treatment, revisit the issue with the therapist.  This could be a real mess, and both of you must be prepared for a long, complicated, and likely messy ending.  Even if you decide to stay together, therapy is likely to be of benefit to you.  I would recommend a Christian therapist even though you haven't shared too much with me about your personal beliefs.  I would also recommend that each of you have your own therapists, just in case you split up.  You should each pick someone with whom you feel comfortable, and someone you trust to be able to handle your problems.  Your girlfriend may also need some type of psychiatric medication, although I am a psychologist and not a psychiatrist, so I would not be able to make that determination myself. Nevertheless, if you let me know where you live, I will help you find both a psychologist or therapist, and a psychiatrist.  

This problem is so complicated that even therapy may not be enough.  I believe it may call for divine intervention.  If you want to know how more about Jesus, and how He can help you get through this, please e-mail me back.  Even if you are not interested in becoming a Christian, it wouldn't hurt for both of you to get into a Church youth group. The larger the supportive network, the better.   In the meantime, I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.  

***If you're a musician in distress, and you'd like to hear from Dr. B.L.T., write him at 

Dr. BLT, aka Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, is a Christ-centered licensed clinical psychologist and university instructor who specializes in the psychology of modern music.  He uses his original songs as well as those of other artists to address the problems of his patients, including his biggest, sickest, most challenging patient--society.

His face and name recognition, particularly with teens, comes from his short part on a long Cake music video--the Cake video for “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” that earned the band a nomination for Ground Breaking Music Video of the Year on the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. 



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