Borderline Personality Disorder - My Introduction
I have felt so incredibly alone in this world, I feel like someone has to tell my story or it will get lost and let’s face it, no one else is going to! I hope to regain some control and to hopefully help others understand more what it is like to live with an illness that never really relents. It is with me 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and quite simply it is exhausting.
I should get the official stuff out of the way and will keep this part short and sweet.
My diagnoses are this – get ready for it – Major Depressive Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, PTSD and here comes the kicker, Borderline Personality Disorder. Combine that with my sexuality issues, throw in a few fairly traumatic life events and there you have it.
Of course, my least favourite is the Borderline Personality Disorder or BPD. It historically has a very bad reputation, to the point that some practitioners shy away from treating it, but I guess I consider myself lucky that I fall at the better end (if there is really one) of the spectrum and have a great Doctor. Some symptoms are quite separate from each other and I am learning to distinguish these, reflect on my thought process to try and see the wood for the trees. But there are times they snowball into the perfect storm. I become paralysed, unable to navigate things in a healthy way, but I am getting better at realising time is sometimes the only thing that will help.
Although it feels like more time passing me by, again.
As the years have passed, things have seemed to need to get worse in order to get any better. It has been a time of learning, so much learning, and me understanding my illness more, how it affects me and the decisions I make, the mistakes I repeat and my responses to situations. Changing these behaviours is another thing altogether and most definitely a work in progress.
The most positive aspect is that I have learnt far more about how my illness affects others, meaning my family and friends. This would ultimately prove to be by far the hardest lesson to learn because I had to lose almost everyone and everything in the process.
My only wish in the world is to one day soon be able to say “I’m ok” and mean it. I have genuinely forgotten how that feels, even just being “ok”. It is something many people with chronic illnesses know all too well. The constant need to make up lies to cover not being able to do things. From the most simple to the most challenging situations, like work, relationships and socialising. Covering them up is almost more exhausting than the symptoms themselves.
Having multiple diagnoses means I need to constantly check myself to see what’s going on. Is it my anxiety and depression driving my behaviour and feelings? Or is it the constant and severe mood shifts that seem inexplicable to me at times? These are the worst because I struggle to accept that my mood can change and swing so quickly and so extreme.
I have many classic Borderline behaviours, but one I would like to talk about just now is rejection. The official terminology from the DSM 5 is; Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment Doesn’t sound too scary right? Wrong. Think about the very first word.
It’s not just fear of abandonment, which is something we all experience in our lives on a minor level. It is literally frantic. Many of my extremely dangerous and debilitating episodes have come from being rejected, whether it be a partner, friend or family member. The self-shaming, anger and inability to navigate the situation, is something I feel like I will continue to struggle with. So no, I didn’t fall through a shower screen and cut my legs open when I was broken up with, but it seemed a plausible excuse for the injuries at the time.
About 18 months ago, I was offered a redundancy from my employer. It was the first time in my life I had some money, I wanted to enjoy it, but also didn’t anticipate that leaving a job where I felt I had a purpose and also almost all of my social construct would leave me feeling completely lost. This was the beginning of a huge downward spiral.
A couple of months into my new found “freedom” my world started to close in on me. It was around this time, my two closest friends in the world decided they needed to step away from the friendship. I was devastated and still am. I never dreamed they would abandon me, in fact, it was quite simply my worst nightmare coming true. Now all of a sudden, I had no one, literally no one to see and talk to openly and honestly like I had with them. And so I checked into a private hospital, terrified and alone.
Needless to say, my experience in the hospital was tough. When I was getting dinner in the dining hall and lining up for my medication I felt like I was in an episode of “Orange Is The New Black”. I had some pretty negative things happen along with the feeling of being somewhere alone, not understood and terrified beyond belief. It was almost enough for me to want to check out again. Almost.
I was enrolled straight away in an inpatient DBT group. The first morning, I walked into the room so incredibly nervous and waited for the session to start. The facilitator went over the introduction to DBT, there were several nods in the room as they indicated they were return patients to the program. Anyway, as we went on we got to a workshop scenario and I remember it perfectly. “ You wake in the morning and make plans with your partner that you will be cooking and be having a nice dinner together tonight. You spend the time looking forward to it, getting everything organised, food cooked, but your partner doesn’t come home. They later walk in the door and say they were working late and seem surprised that you appear upset” Now I should explain, the DBT based skill in this instance was to list the negative emotions and actions, eg throwing the plates at the wall versus not throwing the plates, and how this would determine the outcome once the partner comes home.
In my mind, the second she started the scenario I went into a panic. “ I don’t have a partner, I don’t have anyone to cook dinner for, why are they talking about something that not everyone can relate to? And with that, I ran from the room in tears and sat crying in the fetal position in my room.
It wasn’t until an extremely kind psychologist who had observed the whole thing came straight away and explained to me that this was just a scenario to build the skill itself, not to focus on the actual scenario of having or not having someone to cook dinner for. It was about what to do when my emotions start becoming distressing and escalating.
This was a moment for me. I realised there are skills, not a one size fits all version, but lots of options of how to regulate and stabilise my emotions. It filled me with some hope that I could actually do something instead of feeling at the mercy of my illness all the time.
Then reality came crashing down as it often does. I had run out of money and needed to go back into the workforce and I have the skills to get quite a decent job. Keeping it is another matter.
I used to see my psychiatrist once a week, add on my medication, general living and I just about have no money now all the time. The hardest part to accept is that I cannot access the DBT program because it would mean a day off work, which is financially and physically impossible. I find myself desperate and angry that I cannot get the help I know I really need.
My dream is to get my YouTube channel and my blog successful enough that it allows me to reach people with my story. After only two videos I have already been invited to speak in my hometown about my own experience with mental health which I am both elated and terrified about at the same time.
The stories I read here on the internet have been incredibly important to me. I have learned I am not alone, my world has more people like me than I thought and the experiences people have shared have brought me comfort and knowledge.
I should mention, I have an awesome dog named Harvey who is training to become an official assistance animal. Harvey quickly became my world, often my emotional state would be determined by how he behaved. For example, if he didn’t listen to me, ignored me, I felt the pangs of rejection, even though intellectually I could understand it was a distorted thought process. I am learning to challenge my thinking more and more, not just accept the onslaught of my mind all the time.
I am a work in progress, that’s how I try to see myself at the moment. I am still here, still fighting and if anything my illness has brought me even closer to my Mum and my Sister as I continue to try the best I can. I’ve learned that its ok that my version of doing my best might not match up to expectations and that’s alright.