The Push and Pull of BPD

Push and pull. It’s like the classic children’s game tug of war; a rope being pulled in both directions and at any time it could go one way or another, unfortunately it is my illness and not a game at all. BPD…Borderline Personality Disorder. The words themselves fill your mind with uncertainty, for me, visualize into standing at a border somewhere with one foot on either side, knowing that at the drop of a dime I could be pulled either way.

Attachment. The need to have it… incessant. The need to keep it afar innate. Something that seems to come so naturally to others yet feels unattainable to us. There are no fifty shades of grey. It is black and white. You either form an attachment or you don’t.You are either behind our walls or on the outside  There is no middle ground.

Abandonment. The fear of it as intense as being set on fire. Whether consciously or not, we pull people in because we  don’t want to be alone and with the next breath we  push  you away. We try to leave you before you can leave us. It is the only control we feel we have, and somehow we’ve convinced ourselves that it will hurt less this way. We so desperately need to feel attached to someone who loves and cares for us, yet the fear of losing them, in itself, is the thing that stops us from obtaining it.

Triggers. They range from sights and scents to noises and words. Subconsciously or otherwise, they pull us back to a place where we feel unsafe. Those emotions flood us like a tidal wave, our minds full of anxiety and fear, our bodies suddenly tense. Rationally we know at that exact moment we are safe, but our mind is no longer in the present moment. It has regressed to a time of trauma, hurt and pain. Our reactions are often extreme and inappropriate and often echoes our destructive patterns of the past.

Relationships. We have difficulty maintaining them, whether you are family, friends or co-workers. We love you, we need you, we pull you close and hold on tight, and with the snap of the fingers, we hate you, we don’t need you and we push you away. We delete your emails and texts. We block you on social media. We react in a way that you can not comprehend, simply because you do not have this illness. The fingers snap again and we are back to loving you and needing you.

BPD is an invisible illness, much the same as cancer can be. We do not choose this any more than someone chooses to become physically ill. We lash out when we shouldn’t. We react unsuitably to situations or comments that would not affect you. Sometimes we know why, other times the reason is still trapped in the darkness of our minds not yet ready to come into the light. We pull you in like we are reeling in a fish from the river, and in an instant we push you away, casting an empty line back into the water. We walk on eggshells. We are so eager to please you and earn your acceptance because that is what our childhoods taught us.

Our illness did not come out of the blue. We did not just wake up one day suddenly full of anxiety, pain and emptiness. This has built up over years or perhaps decades, and is usually a result of one or numerous traumatic incidents that occurred in our childhoods. We coped the best we knew how at the time and whether there is a physical scar or not, the emotional wounds that were inflicted during our developmental years have left us with a battle to fight. A struggle to quiet the voice in our heads that replays the negative thoughts that were ingrained in us.

The best thing you can do for us is to remain. Simply put, don’t leave. We hope you will at least be at the same park, while we are riding the roller coaster that is BPD.

 

 

 

 

Until We Meet Again…

If you knew the words you said to someone were going to be the last, how would you prepare? Would you say all the things you wished you could have but never did? Would words fail you at the precise time you needed them most? I had 6 full years before and 25 after, and I have just now built up the courage to find the words to say goodbye.

Mom,

It’s been over 9000 days since I last touched your ashen skin, watching the life drain out of you before my very eyes. Feeling your hand as it grew colder and colder. Watching the nurse roll up a small white towel and place it gently under your chin so your head remained stable. You weren’t lying down, yet not quite sitting up. They had closed your eyes so I would be more comfortable in the room. It’s not like the movies where people take a last breath and gently close their eyes upon passing. Most die with their eyes open, fixed and gazed, the expression almost matching their unknown and final thoughts.

I was late. I missed it by 4 minutes. I missed the chance to hold your hand as you found your peace, or to whisper some last words, hoping my voice would be the last you heard. It was traffic…traffic was the reason I was not there. I had called just two hours earlier. 120 minutes before and they had said you would make it through the weekend. I thought I had no reason to rush. I believed it would be a Friday just like the rest. It was October 5th when you died. The Friday of an early Thanksgiving weekend. A day that branded my memory and life with a pain that I could not fathom.

A piece of me died then, right along with you. To this day, my memories are separated by a date. A month and a number. Life with a mothers love and life after.

You looked peaceful. Your long and exhausting war with a cancer ravaged body fought valiantly but eventually lost. The physical pain finally eased. Your emotional burden lightened like someone removed the weights from a scale. Your soul, finally freed, and mine burdened with a heaviness I did not know was possible.

I need you to know I love you, I miss you , and I forgive you. I know now,  you were depressed and battered, that you were scared and alone. I know you did not mean to make me your confidante and protector at age five. I understand you were not strong enough to know not to hide in my bedroom and help me move furniture against the door, or scream to me for help. You put me in a position that no child should ever be in, and I forgive you for that. Perhaps it was one of the things that made me strong enough to survive this long. I know you tried your best with the knowledge and limited resources available. I understand your fear in leaving, your co-dependency and most of all, your mental illness. The severe depression that caused you to lie in bed for hours while I sat by your side, wishing I could be stronger, or bigger, or a better protector. Just know I tried to help you, I tried to protect you to the best of my abilities, at the time.

I sat at the hospital through all the surgeries. I tried to be there for your treatments and to hold your head while you were so desperately sick from the chemo. I did my best to hide my problems from you, as to not cause you any further burden. I tried my best to enforce the DNR when you overdosed at home, and to comfort you every time you woke up from a coma. I know you never meant to put me in the position that you did…to ask me to help end your life. I know you were sick, and desperate and I know you understand why I could not hold a pillow over your face as you asked. I know you realize it would have ruined me. I’m sorry I was late. I’m sorry I missed your passing to somewhere peaceful and was not there to hold your hand….it was damn traffic Mom,  just traffic.

I also need you to know I have finally forgiven myself. I have finally realized that a 5 year old child can’t stop beatings, or save people, or give advice. I know that a teenager can’t stop or take cancer away or onto themselves, no matter how much they want to. I know that it is ok that I could not be all that you needed me to be, and that everything I did was because that was all I knew, and all I could handle. Such a small child with such a heavy burden which I carried for you for as long as I could, and I know you would want me to let it all go now.

So today I say not goodbye, but I love you…..and until we meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loss of Innocence..Chapter 2: The Garage

To this day, I still can’t walk into a mechanics shop or a garage where a car has been parked or worked on without the memory of scent triggering these events. The smell of a old rag with oil on it sends a chill up my spine, so much so I just got one merely writing about this. It’s funny that we can remember these events so clearly but can not clearly remember the exact age they happened. The mind, when blocking out a trauma, for me anyway, does so in chunks, and you literally lose all the memories, good and bad. Locked away for self-preservation to be dealt with when the time is right. I would have been around 8 or 9 I think. I was always a tomboy and gifted at sports so spent much of my time playing soccer, hockey, baseball or football with the boys. They were all older but since I could keep up, it was ok for me to play. This to me was awesome. Older kids knocking at my door to get me to play sports with them? I felt special and wanted and good at something. They were all good kids, nice boys from nice, middle class homes. None of them would hurt me, I would finally be accepted. Then it started again. One kid, who again, I will leave nameless, lived across the street a few houses down. His parents knew my parents, so it would not be uncommon for us to be at one another’s house. I don’t remember the day it started but I do remember it was multiple times. I recall him saying that I wouldn’t be allowed to play with them anymore if I didn’t go into the garage. It had a door attached to the house, and a stinky old car with a workbench covered in tools, and old oily rags. I remember the garage floor always feeling so cold on my butt and legs, and remember he always threw me a dirty rag to clean up with after he was done. I would then clean up, pull up my pants, and he would open the garage and we would get the rest of our friend and go play soccer. This must have gone on for about 2 years. Life went on as usual, just a piece of me died every time.
I remember it stopping only because his mom came in from the house through the garage door and saw me pulling up my pants. I didn’t have to go back into the garage after that, but nothing was ever said. Life went on as usual, just a piece of me died every time. My confidence sank to an all time low and I now not only believed this was normal, but that I had done something to deserve it. I’m not sure now if it is even possible to know how wrong it really is when you are that young. How it robs you of the one thing that is childhood…innocence.
 A good friend told me that often the things we don’t speak about are the things causing us the most trauma. So I didn’t and couldn’t have a voice then, but I can and will now. I will share anything that may help anyone from being hurt like I was, to protect and speak for the children today who have yet to find their voice. Sometimes all you need is a glimpse of light to know that the tunnel does have an end.

The Loss of Innocence…Part 1

WARNING… GRAPHIC DETAILS OF SEXUAL ABUSE….
Chapter 1: The Couch
I was 5 the first time I remember being molested. Funny how I can’t recall learning to ride a bike, but remember that day as clear as yesterday. It was sometime in the summer, as I recall as I was outside playing in shorts and a t-shirt. This was 1976, a decade where we showed a pretty picture of the house but always hid the contents. We lived on a court and there were not a lot of kids my age so I tended to gravitate to the older kids. Two doors down was a family friend, and his son, who I am guessing would have been maybe 18-20 years old at the time. It was not strange for him to come out and throw a ball around with us kids, or join a game of street hockey, so how could he be of any danger. I remember not wanting to go inside his house when he asked because I wanted to stay and play with my friends, and enjoy the sun beaming on my face…but I went. Who knew that so few steps and a small amount of time could damage a person for life. I won’t mention his name (he has since passed from drug overdose) but I know what made me take those steps was his eye. He had a glass eye, we all knew that, but no one had ever seen it…I was 5, it seemed like a neat thing to look at, so follow him I did. I remember walking into the house and there was a scent in the air that I couldn’t and have yet to put my finger on, but know that if I smelled it again it would send shivers down my spine. I wonder sometimes if it was the smell of evil.
The couch was beige and  when he picked me up and sat me down on it I felt like it was one giant cushion. I remember being excited to see the glass eye…I would have been the first one on the street and felt almost lucky that he had chosen me to show it to. Indeed, he did pop it out, and I had my first look at a glass eye and a face with an empty eye socket. I recall the eye was fascinating to me but looking at his face with no eye still haunts me to this day. I didn’t think it was wrong when he asked me to sit on his lap, how was I to know what a sick individual could do to a child. I didn’t know what rape or molestation was…or at least I didn’t remember it. How could I have known it was unsafe? It was the lap of the boy next door, what could I possibly be doing wrong? The rest will always be a bit fuzzy and I don’t remember if there was physical penetration of any sort, but I do remember him telling me it was ok when he pulled me shorts and underwear down, lied on the couch, picked me up and placed me on his face. I wondered why he would want to “kiss me “ there, after all, being age five, the only thing I know is that is how I take a pee. I remember it feeling weird, the sensation of a wet sloppy tongue on this area felt gross. I remember wanting to get a towel or shirt or anything to wipe myself off, like someone had spit on me, over and over again. I don’t know how long it lasted but I remember feeling at some point, even though he was telling me it was ok, it was normal, it was our secret game, I felt that a piece of me was shriveling up and dying. At some point it stopped, he dressed me, made sure to tell me I can’t tell anyone…actually said I would go to a kids jail for lying, told me my parents would return me to foster care if they found out I had been a bad girl. He got me a popsicle…the one with the red, white and blue, and sent me on my way back to play with my friends. I have since to eat one of those popsicles.
That day was the beginning of my silence and the end of my innocence. Nothing would be the same, I would never feel the same about myself. Little did I know, that incident actually stamped a mark on my forehead saying “take advantage of me”, and there were plenty more who did. At that age, you do not know there are predators looking for vulnerable, lonely children like myself, and before you know it they find you, again and again. That begins the cycle of self destruction and questioning your self-esteem. What is wrong with me? Why is this happening again? Is it something I am doing?  I must deserve it. Maybe this is normal. All questions and statements that are unable to be answered or analyzed by the mind of a child.

Suicide: An Insiders Perspective

Suicide. The word itself is stigmatized with weakness, and shame. We judge people who kill themselves as being selfish, people who just gave up. I mean really, what could be so wrong in ones life to drive you to actually end it? Suicide leaves a lot of unanswered questions for the survivors…the loved ones who are left wondering why, or if they could have helped. Well I hope this perspective can help you, the non-suicidal person to take a journey in the thought process of a suicidal person, so perhaps you can better understand and either be able to help or at least cope.
I am not going to speak on behalf of all suicidal people, but this is my story. First of all, you need to be made aware that most if not all people who attempt or succeed at suicide are dealing with some sort of mental illness, sometimes diagnosed, often not. Most of us have experienced moderate to severe trauma in the early stages of our lives. Most of us were in some way victimized as children or teens or young adults. The mind is an amazing tool with its own protection method by compartmentalizing things we cannot deal with at the time. It is locked somewhere in the back of our minds, and often we think that because it is locked away, it is dealt with. Sadly, that is far from the truth. These traumatized emotions sneak back out in multiple forms, some we recognize, some we do not.
I was severely traumatized multiple times until age 14. My first suicide attempt was at age 8. Yes, I know you are thinking…how can an 8 year old know what suicide is, after all at that age children hardly comprehend death…which may be true. Perhaps I didn’t understand the long term consequences of what I was doing but I knew that if you were dead you weren’t here. I remember my mom always warning me when we went to my Grandma’s house to stay away from all her pill bottles. “Pills will make you very sick and you could die”…..a statement that immediately made sense in my small mind. So I grabbed as many pills as I could and hid them in my pockets until we got home. I don’t recall the time of day or many other details, except for knowing that these pills would make me sick or die and somehow end my pain. So, I took them all. The rest is a blur really, recollections mostly through what I was told. Turns out they were high blood pressure pills and my mom had found me as I was throwing them back up. It turned into a hospital stay and numerous outpatient therapy sessions. I felt embarrassed, ashamed and was made to feel like I was selfish and mean for doing this to my parents. Keep in mind this is the late 1970’s and therapy and medications were nowhere near the standards they are today.
I had 2 other attempts in the following 15 years, obviously both failed or I would not be telling my story. Suicidal ideation is deeply inset in your mind. It can become a part of your every thought and action. We usually are self-destructive in most of our habits and relationships because we do not know any better. Our self esteem has been crushed to the point that we self-hate, we believe we are worthless and serve no purpose. We have a sense of emptiness and loneliness that we think can never be filled. We feel vulnerable, and that no one will understand why we feel this way. We feel so insignificant and lost in this big world. We have lost the ability to hope…which is essential for survival. Imagine yourself in a dark cavern with no exit, not a ray of light shining through. How long could you stay there? That is how our minds see the world…in a form of black and white instead of color. We are too ashamed to seek help or even mention the word because we are made to feel that way. We are made to feel insignificant. Our thoughts are so easily dismissed in many areas of the medical field. We often have to wait up to a year or more just to see a therapist, and I am telling you that from a suicidal mind, a day can seem like a year, so a year seems like eternity, an insurmountable wall. The overwhelming amount of pain that is involved to become suicidal drives us to the idealizations. The negative thoughts that have been burnt into our brain, emotionally and physically for years are now habitual in how we perceive ourselves, telling us that it there simply is no purpose for us.
We often have been diagnosed with some sort of mental illness, be it, depression, PTSD, Bi-Polar…the list is long on diagnoses and medications and short on preventative resources. Suicidal ideations can be common amongst these types of illnesses, but the problem lies when the door between idealization and action presents itself. Sometimes that door is opened when we relive a trauma, or have a memory from a trauma. Sometimes it is opened because our minds create it as a way to get out of the darkness. The bottom line is you can’t see it, or understand it, yet we live it daily. It becomes our sense of hope, as most of us are simply looking for some way to make the pain stop. We have tried medications, or not. We have self-medicated, or not. We have seen therapists, or not. Sometimes none of that is enough to close the door that is beckoning us out of our darkness, and that is when our thoughts may turn into actions. It could only be a 5 minute period where our brain is so irrational that we act. We could have been planning it for days, months, or even years, and something finally cuts that last piece of rope you were holding on to. That is when you choose to let go.
That being said, after 3 attempts and thousands of idealizations, I am still here fighting. Most people who end their lives are not looking to hurt other people with their actions, they are simply seeking emotional peace and see no other way to achieve it. Everyone deals with pain differently. Everyone’s coping mechanisms are different. Every person has a different length of rope. Do not judge us for not knowing where to turn, or for asking for help. Instead, perhaps take a look in the mirror and try some to put yourself in that persons shoes. Try to think how awful they must have felt to have ended their lives, and question not what you could have done differently, but what you can do now. Encourage people to end the stigma of suicide. Tell them it’s ok speak and ask for help. Be a voice for the ones who lost theirs, and if you can’t do that, at the very least stop judging something you are ignorant about.
Ignorance is not stupidity, it is the refusal to learn.

To: A Child Abuser: From: A Survivor

Dear Child Abuser,
First off, I want you to know that I survived. You may have broken me, but you did not shatter me completely. Secondly, please know that I realize that you too, suffer from a mental illness. I realize your actions are likely a response to the trauma you have suffered, likely as a child as well. I know somewhere inside of you there is a part of you that is so sick and twisted that perpetrating these acts of horror have somehow become your comfort and your sense of “normal”. Perhaps there is even a part of you that wishes you had control over your actions, and maybe, just maybe you don’t want to inflict the same pain that you suffered, but you lack the support you need to get well. That being said, I can forgive you to a point because you are sick, but I can never forget, and I hope if you ever read this you will realize the full extent of the damage you have caused me, and perhaps reach for help and not for a victim.
I am mentally sick also, however, you are a great deal of the reason I am sick. The difference between you and I, is I have not inflicted my illness onto others the way you have done to me, and so many others. Allow me to elaborate and let these words resonate in your mind.
You stole from me two things that can never be replaced…my innocence and my childhood. The ability to smile, laugh and play freely among my peers, snatched away and replaced with a shadow of overwhelming darkness. The sun didn’t shine as bright, the birds songs, not so sweet and the first piece of me was lost and tucked away in a dark cave to be dealt with at another time. You took my ability to trust…both then and now. You made me question everyone that came into my life and cast a shadow of doubt on their intentions. You crushed my self esteem. You made me believe I was worth nothing. That I was so unworthy of affection that you showing me your “love” was the closest I would ever get to love…and being a child, I believed you. You made me believe I would never amount to anything, and that it was my fault it was happening because “that’s what little girls like you deserve “.  You instilled a sense of guilt and shame that I struggle with to this day. In fact, there is not an aspect of my life, from my relationships to my ability to work, that you have not affected. I will never have normal relationships,  the full ability to trust,  and the ability to love and be loved, all destroyed by your touch.
Now let me tell you something. As much as you destroyed me, you made me stronger. You made me empathetic to others;  you made me strong enough to stop the destructive cycle with me. You made me realize that although you touched my body, over and over, you did not touch my soul. I was physically there but I mentally escaped to a safe place where people like you simply don’t exist. My body has long healed from your scars, my mind not so much…but it will one day, because I will not allow you any more control over my life. I cannot take back what you ripped away from me, but I can stand up and tell you, I survived you and your illness, and I will survive and thrive from the illness you have inflicted on me. You will not have the last word, you will not control one more minute of my life. You have given me the power to have a voice, to stand up and tell people what you did, and do my best to fight for the children who have yet to find their strength to speak. My words may not resonate with you, but they will for the rest of us…the survivors that can not be broken by your illness.
I beg you to seek help in any way you possibly can. I know you are hurting like me, but you do have a choice NOT to hurt others….I have made that choice, and I hope one day you will too.
Many things in life can be fixed or replaced, the loss of childhood innocence is not one of them.

A Bit About Me

I am a survivor, above all else. Life doesn’t always turn out as we planned, start out how we wished, or follow the course we wish it had, but we have no option but to carry on. We trod down the road not always choosing the right path, often led  blindly by the traumas of the past. I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, depression with suicidal idealizations and anxiety. The battle against depression, for me anyway, is a battle I have fought alone, and as with any battles there are victims and survivors and on any given day I am unsure which one I will be…but I continue to fight.
I have survived 3 suicide attempts, a traumatic childhood including 4 foster homes before the age of 18 months, long term sexual abuse, watching and trying to protect my mom from physical abuse, followed by six long years watching her die slowly and painfully of cancer and then I turned 19.
I want people to know how debilitating depression can be. How it can affect your every thought,  your every decision. It can wear you down to the point of exhaustion and physical illness. It can cost you your job, your friends and family…and why? Because they are afraid, uneducated and it’s easier to stigmatize than to learn. People don’t know how to deal with mental illness so it’s easier to turn away and make excuses than to reach out a helping hand.
Depression, anxiety and all other forms of mental illness are not a choice. These diseases chose us, and our choice now becomes how hard we are willing to fight them off. I truly believe many will win their battles, but let us not judge those who don’t. You don’t know their story, the depths of their negative emotions and the fact that they have been fighting this their whole lives. Everyone has a reserve of strength they’re unaware of until it’s the only thing they have left. Now what if that runs dry? Where do you pull hope and strength from when you are completely drained? When you have no one to talk to, no one to show they care, hope is not a feasibility.
Suicide happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain. Every day is a challenge, a game of chance with my life being the playing piece. Today I win, tomorrow all I can do is try.