So, basically, I’ve been trying to write this post for a while, but it never seemed quite the right time until now.
When I was in university, I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. If you want to read all about it in more detail, you can go here, or here (though obviously you can Google more, and I shouldn’t have to point out Wikipedia isn’t the be all and end all of sources). Basically what it means, though, is that I’m really bad with people – I feel very uncomfortable with people I don’t know, and don’t know how to deal with them or talk to them – , and I’m really down on myself a lot. Before I got treatment, I also had frequent panic attacks, and weeks of not being able to do anything. And I mean, nothing. I would huddle under the covers in my bedroom and marathon TV shows, sometimes not eating for days, sometimes bingeing on sweets. I skipped classes, and was mentally absent at work. I couldn’t sleep without having horrendous nightmares. There would be times when I would tell myself how much of a failure I was, and how I wasn’t worth the paper they printed my birth certificate on. I hurt myself in ways that I don’t like to think about, and there were moments – however small – that I wondered if it wouldn’t be better if I just went to sleep and never woke up.
This was a very rough time for me, prompted by a series of events which began when I was in my last childhood/early teens (as far as I can recall), culminated my last year of highschool, and festered during my university years. My grandfather passed away and I just sort of sunk into this trend of being either really hyper and happy, or really lethargic and depressed, while attempting to be the awesome person everyone seemed to think I was – the person, I was convinced, was a lie I had made up to trick everyone into thinking I was a good person. It wasn’t the real me. The real me was horrible. I couldn’t quite put a finger on why, but I knew the real me was a really horrible person.
I managed, for a long time, to hide my issues from the world, though I realize now how much my issues probably affected the people around me, even if they didn’t realize why I was acting the way I was. I [thought I] was very good at manifesting these issues when I was alone, and pretending I was ok when others were around. This seemed especially easy, since many of my friends are far away, and my family has always known be to be a very private person. It didn’t make them suspicious if I was not communicating to them.
The moment I realized I needed to find help and would allow myself to do it arrived in my final year of university. I had distanced myself from a very unhealthy relationship and had decided that I would try and find a way to be happy – whatever that was. I used my school’s mental health resources and was assigned to a psychiatrist who also studied psychology. Within two sessions he had a tentative diagnoses, and he respected my desire to fix the problem without the use of medication.
My final year at university was a very tough year for me between working, therapy, and classes. I won’t say that just because my psychiatrist was understanding that my treatment was easy. It was a lot of soul searching, a lot of dealing with issues I didn’t want to deal with, and a lot of questioning things which I had until then never questioned. Exploring the idea of being happy was terrifying, as I didn’t even know what that meant. I knew it wasn’t like my manic moments, as those inevitably fell to the wayside to be replaced by crippling depression. It had to be something different.
Looking for something you don’t understand is hard.
Here’s my little PSA: if you’re in therapy and are getting frustrated because it’s difficult, I feel you. I know it’s hard, but keep going. For me, it got worse before it got better. I had plenty of panic attacks and what I would call “fat days” (because of how much I hated my body) during my treatments. My cravings for self-harm became worse on occasion because I was talking about things which were massive triggers for me; during this time, I buffered my nails until they were short and dull just in case I ever had a moment of weakness.
After my final year of university, I was invited to take part in CAMH’s BPD Group Therapy Clinic. This was especially hard for me, since, as I mentioned, I hate being around people I don’t know. It forced me to talk to strangers about things I had rarely allowed myself to think about, which I hated, but also presented me with a forum where I wasn’t alone. I recognized the issues my peers faced. I knew what it was to not be able to get out of bed in the morning, even though I couldn’t sleep, and to feel worthless. This group, and the therapist who helped me through it, settled me down a bit after the time I spent my last year of university unsettling myself. I learned how to cope with the symptoms of BPD, and learned that it might be hard to deal with sometimes, and that that’s ok. On of the things that happens with BPD is a spiral effect; you have an issue, then stress out about how stressed you are about the issue, and then stress out about how you’re stressing out about stressing out (ad infinitum). It’s very exhausting.
After all of the above, I should mention that I found happiness. The end of August 2012, I realized I was happy and it was the weirdest and most beautiful moment of my life. It was as if I had shed a weight I had been carrying around for as long as I could remember. I knew what happiness was after pretending after it for what seemed like an eternity. I feel like it is no coincidence that my now-husband and I reconnected after I found my own happiness. It’s also no coincidence that I am now in a career that I enjoy.
I will note, as per the purpose of this post, it is not always easy to keep going. I have days sometimes where I’ll fall back into old patterns. They aren’t nearly so bad, but I’m still learning to cope with what has been deemed a disability (BPD is qualified as a lifelong disability). I have a tendency to make myself so busy I stumble and can’t get out of bed. I sometimes have a day where I can’t handle being around people, and so need to pump myself up to walk out the door. But these are little struggles compared to the big things I once battled with, and so I’m proud of myself for what I’ve accomplished in the last two years. The last three weeks I’ve been making myself work around 70 hours at two jobs, and I have accepted it’s too much, and I’m working on rectifying my mistake.
“Own your shit”, one of my chefs once told me.
I have accepted that my BPD will probably never go away completely. I might have days when I’m in my sixties where I can’t handle being around people; I might have a panic attack when I have a super bad day when I’m 35. But that’s ok. I know now I’m strong enough to deal with these things. Just by accepting my disability I have gained power over it. There’s nothing “wrong” with me; I’m different, and that’s ok, too. As long as I know how to deal with myself, I know I can do great things.
Mental health problems are hard. Sometimes, I wonder if I should post things like this because what if it affects my life in a negative way? But you know, if someone isn’t understanding enough to know that with or without my diagnoses I’ll work damn hard to be the best I can be, maybe I don’t want to work for that person, anyways.