The curse of borderline personality disorder

The curse of borderline personality disorder

From the day I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, I have felt my life slipping out of my hands. The more I read about my illness, the more distressed I get. I have been experienced suicidal ideation since before I was teenager and as soon as I reached the point where I was willing to accept help and consider staying alive as a viable option, I get given a diagnosis that has given me very little but slammed door after slammed door in my face.

It doesn’t seem fair that I have been suffering for such a long time, that I had all the supposed ‘best years of life’ taken away from me, and all I get in return is the confirmation of what I have always thought: I am a bad person, this is my fault, and I have to ‘take responsibility’ and deal with it.

I understand that professionals fear PD patients. They fear the almost inevitable failure of treatment. They are uncertain. PD patients are difficult. But the attitude that patients often get faced with is so devoid of the kindness and understanding needed that it reinforces the problem itself.

Here’s what I know about my mental health:

  • I feel awful, all the time.
  • I can’t reach out to anyone to tell them how awful I feel because I feel like I’ll either a) annoy them, or b) come across as ‘attention seeking’.
  • I constantly feel guilty and ashamed.
  • What might seem like just a bit an off comment or a funny look to someone else, will have me crying behind closed doors.
  • I feel like people are talking about me, in a bad way, all the time.
  • I don’t really know who I am and I can’t remember what my own face looks like without looking in the mirror. I have very little attachment to actual pictures of me.
  • My memories don’t feel like my own.
  • I self-harm in many different ways.
  • I am scared to die but being alive is painful and exhausting and I feel like this illness is eventually going to just take me because I am weak and I can’t cope with it.
  • I have been suffering for a long time.

What mental health professionals seem to think about me in relation to my diagnosis of a personality disorder:

  • That I can’t possibly actually want to die, I’m just doing it for attention, that my brain hasn’t processed what dying actually is and I don’t ‘mean it’.
  • That I must be manipulative and deceitful in some way, especially as I am at a top university and I have always achieved good grades.
  • That I am hysterical and aren’t able to understanding how I’m feeling. This is quite the opposite, as I have pretty good insight into my own struggles.
  • That they can’t really help me.

I don’t want much from mental health professionals. More than anything, kindness goes a long way. Believing me, listening to me. Stepping away from the diagnosis and treating me as a person rather than a bundle of stigma that is still utterly embedded even into the professional mental health system. I just want to be told that it’s not my fault, that things get better, that the traumatic roots of my illness are valid, that I deserve help.

Sufferers of BPD are vulnerable. We are our own worst enemies. Everyday is so, so difficult.

To my beautiful friend Sophie

To my beautiful friend Sophie

I was just 15 when I experienced my first mental health crisis. Despite the fact that I had been struggling with bouts of anxiety and self-harming behaviours for years leading up to that, the summer of 2013 was the first time in my life where I thought it would never get better, and I therefore reasoned that it would be better, and less painful, to end it now.

It was around this time that I joined the Instagram recovery network. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a whole little sub-section of the Instagram world in which (mostly) young people struggling with mental illness, create a sort of update diary on how they are and what’s happening in terms of their wellbeing. It can be very comforting to have other people messaging, supported, and relating to you.

The recovery network was toxic to me for numerous reasons. I subconsciously picked things up by reading them, I got upset when I read that my friends, the people who I had grown to know and love, were in a shitty place themselves. It did trigger me at times, but in those years when my mental health was neglected not only by mental health services but by basically everyone around me, it was solace. It was a private place where I could open up and let it all out.

Sophie Payne was one of the first people who I became friends with on the Instagram recovery network. We then went on to have each other as friends on other social media sites. She texted me when she was upset. She gave me advice about inpatient life and the general struggles of having BPD. I read her poems for her and sometimes gave her feedback (which was always, always positive. She was super talented). She was beautiful, brave, extremely talented, and above all, she was kind. She was kind to everyone who knew her.

Sophie was let down by mental health services. She had been inpatient many times and had sometimes been discharged before she was safe. In her last admission, she was waiting for a personality disorder unit bed (she was excited and hopeful to finally be able to recover properly), when she sadly passed away. In the unit that she was in, Queen Mary’s Roehampton, other people had died on the ward since 2010. It’s negligence. This could have been prevented.

Sophie was passionate and always voiced her opinions on problems with mental health services. Part of her really wanted to get better, and she wanted to help other people. She was really bright. She was insightful. When I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, she talked to me about it. She helped me understand.

It’s such a shock to lose a friend like this. When someone you know is sent back to inpatient, it’s distressing to know they are in a crisis, but you feel comfort. You feel like in the unit, your friend or family member will be kept safe. That they will be looked after. That they will be able to come out of the process much happier and healthier. You expect them back. Nobody should be able to take their own life inside the walls of a psychiatric unit. This is supposed to be the one place where psychiatric patients are indefinitely safe. This is the second time year that I’ve sadly been proven wrong.

Sophie Payne will remain to me always as a beacon of kindness and immense bravery. She fought (and won) many battles, and was always there to help support her friends. She was a fundamental part of the recovery community and someone who will be missed by all of us who were lucky enough to know her. You gave me hope Soph, and I’m so sorry the world couldn’t give you more.

Love always,

Rosie x

SAMARITANS UK 24/7 LINE – 116 123

 

 

To the one who made me feel like I was too difficult to love

To the one who made me feel like I was too difficult to love

I  live with a mental illness that intensifies every tiny little emotion to bursting point. It sometimes feels like most other people have barriers to stop their emotions from becoming so overwhelming, and because of my disorder, I don’t. I’m permanently vulnerable to becoming suddenly overwhelmed by difficult feelings. It takes every ounce of my energy to maintain control.

In one small way however, I feel like I have a tiny blessing in the midst of a horrible and life-threatening illness. I feel this way because it isn’t just my ‘negative’ emotions that carry with them so much weight. It’s the happy ones too. And whilst BPD means that I feel pain deeply, I can become absorbed in happiness, in gratitude, and in love.

 

Recently, I’ve been made to feel by someone that I’m too difficult to love because of my mental illness. Constant reminders that I am ‘just paranoid’ or ‘overreacting’ over genuinely hurtful things have driven me to the point where I’ve sank back into depression, convincing myself that they’re right. That I’m not deserving of anyone else’s love. That I add no value to the lives of people around me. That having BPD sentences me to a lonely life. It’s an easy belief system to slip back into.

But I’m at a stage in my life when I’m bigger and better than letting someone make me believe that I’m something that I’m not. I have borderline personality disorder, but I am not, and never will be borderline personality. I have positive and loving relationships with so many beautiful people, and I am so lucky to be able to say that. My illness might make me difficult, but it has not reduced me. I’m still me.

When I love someone, I really love someone. I just want them to be happy. I want them to know that I care and that I’m listening and that they have me. I want to know their story, their hopes, their dreams. I’m that friend who is constantly giving random hugs, who always replies to selfies on Snapchat stories to remind someone that they look so damn beautiful, that constantly tells people that I love them. I am scared of losing people. There is that. Life is fragile and there are people gone now who I wish I had told one last time that I loved them so very, very much. But it’s more of this overwhelming gratitude and love that is the wonderful silver lining of my deadly disease.

My illness can be hard to understand, but I refuse to accept such toxic comments that I am undeserving of that understanding, or of love. I have a lot of pain, but equally I have a lot of love and a lot of love, both of which I want to give back to a world that I am finally beginning to love.

 

What self destruction takes away from you

What self destruction takes away from you

Over the past few months, I’ve been opening up more and more to professionals about my experiences and my emotions. Despite the fact that I’ve been in services for over 6 years (!), I have always been deemed as ‘difficult’ and ‘resistant to therapeutic engagement’. The reason for this isn’t that I’m rude, or that I’m lacking social skills (well, to an extent anyway), but because the emotional overflow that comes with articulating traumatic events and painful feelings is often all too much. This is one of the biggest problems with BPD: you have to talk about things to get better, but it hurts so very much to talk about it in the first instance.

I guess I’m growing up. Time is a fantastic healer, and as I’m moving further away from things that happened when I was younger, I’ve found that I’m coming to a point where I’m more ready to talk about where all these confusing emotions are coming from, and how that can help me to remain emotionally stable now. Even more so, I’ve realised that nobody is going to force me to get better. Nobody can. If I become determined in my own mind that I don’t want help from services, then I have the right to that decision no matter how costly it is to me, with the exception of being sectioned of course. But even still, nobody can force me to talk and nobody can dig up painful, razor-sharp memories for me. It’s got to come from me.

So, thank goodness, I am finally making some kind of ‘therapeutic’ progress which feels amazing. I’m getting on well with my psychiatric nurse which is a first, and we are going over more DBT (Dialectal Behavioural Therapy) skills, whilst I wait to have a place with a psychologist for more specialist and specific treatment tailored to my individual needs. And I feel better. Just by telling her things and working on them together, I’ve realised that nope, I’m not alone. These things aren’t ridiculous and they are not my fault.

The first thing that we have looked at, and I’ve considered on my own, is the cost of self-harm and other ‘coping strategies’ that actually make issues that I have a lot worse. Of course, I know that self-harm is pretty awful for you, but I had never thought about it in such a systematic way. Although difficult to talk about, it’s important to not reinforce these behaviours positively, and hence to be able to shift away from them.

I am going to discuss the generic self-destructive ‘coping strategies’ associated with BPD. Some of these things may, as you know or may be able to guess, be applicable to me, but others won’t. I want to be able to help other people with their journey with BPD as I go through mine, but also preserve my own privacy to an extent. I want this blog to be about helping and supporting other people.

Self-destructive behaviours associated with BPD:

  • Dwelling over mistakes

COST = Lack of productivity, missing out on future opportunities, spiralling into depression, focussing on the problem rather than the solution, blaming yourself or others, twisting the problem out of proportion

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Accepting mistakes as part of the past and trying to learn from them in a productive way, apologising to others, taking time to practise self-care and look after yourself, making a plan to avoid this from happening again and to deal with any consequential problems

  • Isolating yourself from others to avoid distressing situations

COST = Missing out on precious memories and happy times with family or friends, a monotonous life, reinforcing the distressing situation and thus making anxiety/panic worse, becoming more depressed as more time spent alone

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Dissecting why the situation is so ‘distressing’, using friends or family to support you into the situation, practising rational thinking and radical acceptance, using anxiety medication as a short term solution, not permanently writing off the situation, remaining hopeful and optimistic

  • Dependency on alcohol or drugs 

COSTS = Financial problems, issues with relationships and domestic problems, risk of mental health deteriorating further, addiction, violence, health problems, contracting transmitted diseases, accidents and injuries, poisoning

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Seeking professional help for alcohol or substance abuse, talking about the issue with family or friends, surrounding yourself with other people, turning to more ‘positive’ coping strategies such as exercise or self-care

  • Becoming excessively angry at others

COSTS = Temporarily or permanently ruining relationships with other people, self-hatred, violence which could lead to problems with the police, unemployment, loneliness

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Removing self from the situation when you feel your emotions becoming overwhelming, explain to those around you that you struggle with anger and that sometimes you just need Time Out, using breathing techniques, exercise, rational thinking skills

  • Dangerous, physically self-harming behaviour 

COSTS = Life changing injuries, scars, risk of infection, disfigurement, risk of death, hospitalisation, serious and long-term physical health problems

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Caring for your body by practising self-care, minimising the severity of self-harm, using digression techniques to lessen the urge to hurt yourself, seek medical advice for any injuries, keep wounds clean to avoid infection, keep professionals updated on any resultant problems, using distraction techniques

  • Unsafe sexual activity 

COSTS = Unwanted pregnancy, infections, physical health problems, deterioration in mental health, unhealthy perception of relationships, potential violence, self-hatred

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Contraception, regular medical checks, discussing issues with mental health professionals, avoiding states where this is more likely to happen e.g. being intoxicated, try to practise healthy and balanced relationships

  • Using food to punish or control

COSTS = Significant weight loss or gain, anemia, heart problems, chronic pain, hair loss, malnutrition, risk of early death, organ damage, dehydration, low self-esteem, loneliness, depression

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Reward yourself for achievement rather than punishing for failure, maintaining a balanced diet, using light exercise, avoiding counting calories, discussing why you feel the need to punish yourself

  • Attempting suicide 

COSTS = Death, hospitalisation, severe ongoing physical health problems, physical pain, emotional distress from family and friends, Mental Health Act Assessment, feelings of failure and continued hopelessness

IDEAS FOR SOLUTION = Don’t let it get to that point. Take your medication, attend sessions with professionals. Talk to your family, friends and the people around you. Keep them in the know. Write down how you’re feeling if you can’t tell them. Write down why you want to disappear so much, and try to rationalise it. Write down happy memories. Call a suicide hotline number. Text a friend. Get dressed in the morning. Spend time outside. Try and make plans for the future.

So, what next? 

Of course, there are many other self-destructive factors that people with BPD suffer with. Every individual is different and suffer in a different way. But it’s so easy to resign yourself to a miserable and painful existence because of the fact that you may be struggling with these things, and that’s not alright. You shouldn’t have to live in misery. All too often these behaviours become comfortable. They become what we know and what we accept. They become normal. We forget the incredible long-term damage we are doing not only physically, but to relationships with others.

Recovery is a long path, but from the moment you accept that these ‘coping strategies’ are actually the enemy, the things actually hurting you, you have made incredible progress.

Hopefully I will be writing more blog posts as I go along with my BPD journey and try and make sense of DBT skills. I hope this is useful not only for those also cursed with such a problematic personality disorder, but those who struggle with emotional intolerance of any kind, or know somebody else who does.