BPD and Me

 

Life doesn’t always turn out as we planned, start out how we wanted or follow the course we wish it had. Our only choice is to continue onward, and so we trod down the winding road, following the twists and turns, and doing our best to navigate. Along the way, life will throw in some unexpected speed bumps but somehow you manage to maneuver over those too. My curves and bumps included surviving a traumatic childhood including four foster homes before the age of 18 months, domestic abuse, 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 all before I turned 19.

It is astonishing to know how debilitating depression or any mental illness can be. How it can affect your every thought with a negative impact or render you unable to make even the most simple of decisions. How it can envelop you in an unimaginably heavy blanket of sadness and sorrow. How it can diminish your sleep, eating habits and even your sex life. How it drains you of your interest in activities and hobbies you once enjoyed. Depression can convince you that you are not only worthless but helpless to do anything about it. How it can impose a cloud so dismal the thoughts suicide occur and on occasion prevail. How it can cause not only a lack of motivation and daily exhaustion but a multitude of physical ailments. How it can cause you the inability to focus or remember details often making it difficult to maintain a job. How it will cause you to withdraw from your friends and family because you feel unworthy of their love and affections. How it can bring about an acute fear of being judged; of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

I had no idea until my late teens that most people did not feel sad or want to commit suicide on a regular basis. For me that was all I knew, and consequently, I blamed these negative emotions on all the traumatic situations I had experienced. Of course I am indignant; I was sexually assaulted as a child thereby creating my own reasons for my actions. I had seen numerous therapists over the years from social workers to $200 an hour psychiatrists, whom all seemed to hold the same opinion that I was sad and depressed because of the things that were happening and had occurred, which nowadays I believe they would call situational depression. The answers back then were highly limited to  diverse array of talk therapies, which I was not fond of, so quickly learned to say what was needing to be heard, thereby being “cured” or “fixed” numerous times and the proof being the giant bill I was saddled with which collaborates their statements.

January of this year, I finally broke down enough to warrant a day trip to the hospital, where I finally had access to a psychiatrist without a nine month waiting list. One hour with her and many of the questions I had pondered over the years finally had an answer…Borderline Personality Disorder, Dysthymia (Persistent Depressive Disorder), accompanied by bouts of Major Depressive Disorder, and the cherry on the top being the chronic suicidal ideations. Turns out not everyone wants to end their life, and that my depth of sadness and distress was not only situational but in fact, an actual illness. It now had a label, which provided some type of answer for not only me, but for those around me who had dealt with the periods of my mental un-healthiness. I felt no anger or concern that I had been diagnosed with a mental health problem, instead a felt a sense of relief. For the first time in my life my emotions were both recognized and validated and my actions although not excusable, were not entirely random and without cause.

 

So my battle against BPD and depression officially started and I succumbed to my doctors wishes to try medication. Now at this point, I would love to tell you that the first medicine I tried gave me no side effects and worked wonders and that I am taking CBT and DBT classes which have given me all the tools I need to lead a productive and fulfilled life. However, that would be complete and utter bullshit. The cold hard truth is I went through four anti-depressants, two anti-psychotics (which are commonly prescribed for BPD), two seizures from the SSRI’s and experienced multiple side effects, from nausea and headaches to blurry vision and the infamous brain zaps, and everything in between. After five months of riding a rollercoaster that I desperately wanted to jump off, I think I may have found a combination of meds that are showing some promise.

Fighting whatever challenge you have is going to take most of your emotional and physical energy, especially at the beginning. You may be prescribed meds or you might be better off with some type of therapy, or perhaps a combination of the two. Each case is so individual that my only advice would be to do your best to ride out the side effects, be informed and don’t be afraid to tell your doctor if it is not working so you can try something else. It truly is a game of hit and miss. You will have ups, you will have downs, but after some time you may notice a glimmer of light, something that has been so foreign to you for so long, you may not even recognize it when it first appears. Never stop looking….it is there for all of us.

 

The Naked Truth; With Every Loss I Shatter

broken glass 

 

I have been walking on eggshells as far back as my memory goes. So much so, that if they aren’t there it draws me outside my comfort zone to the point that I believe I subconsciously create them, not only in regards to others but for me as well. Silence your words, mind your actions, and be engrossed with the fear of failure. One that is so great, it inhibits your ability to start things from simple projects to relationships, which brings me to my point; a close friend of mine suggested instead of editing my blogs the fifty times I do, to write about what scares me, and just go off the cuff and hit publish without as much as a second glance. Sounds easy, it comes naturally to her but for me the fear of failure, the fear of a poor reaction, or offending someone is so intense that what she writes in twenty minutes may take me a week. I take the phrase “your own worst critic” to a whole new level. So, as much as it is against every grain of my being, I am open to trying most things once.

Most people are afraid of death or disease; fire, heights or perhaps something even more tangible like spiders or snakes. I will admit I am terrified of fire, and not fond of heights, however neither of those fears compare with the one terror that consumes me…abandonment. Simply put, seared in my mind is the fact that has proven true time and time again; attachment leads to abandonment which gives rise to feelings so intense, just writing this is causing anxiety. I understand no one likes to be left, maybe due to the lack of control over the situation, or the fact that it makes you question both yourself and your sense of self-judgment. Perhaps it simply is because it hurts, but for me this pain and fear extends far beyond what the average person deals with. It is paralyzing.

My birth mother was an alcoholic and drug addict. She was given 6 months after my birth to clean up and get me back, however her illness proved too much for her and the worker would tell me years later that she had showed up for visitation drunk or high, one too many times. As an adoptee, I have questioned for years why she couldn’t try harder, why I just wasn’t enough, and why she in my eyes abandoned me. Decades later, I understand the depth of her mental illness and realize that she just did not have the coping techniques required, however, nothing fills the space that holds those thought and feelings of being relinquished. I mean, who doesn’t like babies?

I was bounced around in foster care until I was adopted at 18 months. Every therapist I have seen, and there have been a few, says my attachment issues are a result of not having the nurturing and comfort that babies require. Everyone will argue with me saying it is not possible or very rare to have memories at 18 months, but I specifically remember being dropped off by a worker to my adoptive home and out of sheer terror, went and stood in the corner by the stairs for what seemed like an eternity. My mom would tell me later it was almost 36 hours before I left that spot. I was scared…scared I would be given back again, or have to go to another home where I would suffer multiple forms of abuse.

My father openly admits he hated children back then and only adopted me because my mom couldn’t have kids, and by him I was treated accordingly. Walking on eggshells was the norm and the situation became more precarious when the domestic violence started. My mom loved me, I do not doubt that, but for me the bond of blood simply does not register in my heart or soul. There was always the fear, the threat of being sent back to foster care, which enhanced the fear of attachment.  The only thing I knew as very young child is that if you become attached to something, it will be taken away. It was not a matter of it might, it was in my heart a matter of when.

Throughout my childhood, this pattern of what I saw as abandonment was quite consistent. I suffered numerous losses before I was 12, including three deaths, another foster child coming to my home and being brought back to be claimed by the system. From then on, I started to build a wall, brick by brick I constructed it as high and strong as I could, and I tried my best to live safely behind it as often as possible. Try not to care too much; fight off any feelings of love and trust; and most importantly, do not allow yourself to be loved. Those were the mantras I tried desperately to live by as a kid, as a teen and for most of my adult life. If you don’t let anyone in, they certainly can’t leave and that leaves me in control of the situation thereby effectively avoiding being abandoned again.

My mom died when I was 19, after a six year battle with breast cancer that spread and ravaged her body while I sat beside her watching and doing all I could knowing it would never be enough and that no matter how desperately I wanted it to be me instead, fate did not choose that path for me. I had six years to prepare, but no amount of time can ready you for such an incalculable pain.  For me, not only had I lost my mom but the one person I had let in my wall; the one person who no matter what I did or said did not leave me until it was time for her last breathe. It will be 26 years since she passed, yet as I write this I wipe away the tears.

There are numerous scars on my heart and a voice in my mind that tells me daily it is not safe to venture outside the fortress I have built. That if I do, the past will continue to repeat itself, resulting in more people leaving and the consequent pain from the loss, which in my mind, to this day, is an abandonment of sorts.  My brain turns it instantly into self-blame. Maybe it was something I said, or didn’t say; something I did or didn’t do; maybe I showed them too much of myself. Whatever the reason, the pain with each loss for me is amplified and relentless.

Living with very few attachments is safer for me but at the same time shuts me down from new possibilities. Over the years, I have started a slow deconstruction, brick by brick and allowed a few more people in than I am comfortable with, but the intensity of the fear has not changed one little bit, and at any moment I have a construction crew at my disposal. There is no life without loss.

Self-Harm; The Conversation Needs To Be Had

TRIGGER WARNING

 

Starting the conversation is perhaps the hardest part. How do you bring up a topic that the majority of society will not acknowledge as anything more than a teenage phase of attention seeking. How often is it brought to light in the media as many of the other mental illnesses are? Is it an illness on its own, or a by-product of some form of depression or other mental disorder or anguish? Why is it assumed that self-harm is limited to the teenage years? From personal experience and stories of the many I have spoken with, self-harm like every other illness does not discriminate in age, race, gender, economic status or sexual orientation. Everyone is fair game.

Self-harm, like depression often carries a negative voice that has taken up residence in our heads. We could call him the demolition man, as he is there to destroy our positivity, our sense of self and our hope. In some people his voice also carries a tone of self-destruction in which he re-enforces the thoughts that physically hurting yourself will remind you that you are alive; that you can try to find some relief on the outside for the agony that monopolizes your mind. He has many reasons to provide you with and carrying the tone of a drill sergeant weakens you to give in to the urge, and so you cut, burn or somehow maim your body.

I do not have children, so perhaps I cannot fully understand the parental point of view, however, I can provide you some insight from personal experience as a cutter. As an adult, I can look at my actions as both a youth and an adult with a different and clearer perspective. I self-harmed as young as 8 years old to my late teens, with at least a relapse every 2 years, including the recent events. By the time you read this I will be one week clean…yet again.

There is no simple way to ask your child if they are self-harming, just as the reverse applies from child to parent, or friend to friend. There is a sense of shame so great we will come up with every excuse in the world to explain the random cuts or marks that riddle out bodies. If we were cutting purely for attention why would we take the time to meticulously cover with makeup, bandages or long sleeves? We are usually smart enough to harm in a place that would not be easily visible, the stomach, ribs, upper thighs, hips and upper arms, but there comes a time if you have cut yourself enough that maybe you have to resort to an area not so easy to conceal.

So, as a note to parents, long sleeves in the summer or at a time that may not be conventional may be an indication that should not be ignored or taken lightly.

Children who have not yet hit the teenage years do generally not shave, nor does the average teen or adult carry a razor in their purse or bag daily so please do not overlook the potential gravity of the situation.

Have you noticed your bandages, face cloths or paper towels decreasing at a more rapidly? How about socks or underwear? Have you had to replace them more often? We will use anything we think won’t be noticed as missing to clean up the blood. Kleenex tends to stick to the wound so they certainly were not my first choice.

Kids and teens are messy. We try to clean up every last drop in the bathroom, but let’s face it; we are not very competent during those years, so a smudge of blood on the counter, floor or around the toilet may not just be your husband clumsiness while shaving.

We may provide some hints before we even get to the stage of cutting; hints so subtle we know you will not pick up on them, despite our yearning for you to do so. We may have withdrawn, communicated less or lost interest in activities we previously enjoyed. We may spend more time isolated from friends and family and have mood swings more drastic than that of teenage angst. Your child is not self-harming for entertainment but rather from the relentless internal, unfathomable pain that has allowed the demolition man to control the slow demise of our minds and souls. We are cutting to provide a momentary distraction from that agony that drove us to press a razor into our flesh.

If you are a parent who has not experienced or been exposed to mental illness, your immediate reaction is likely to be one of anger, shock, disappointment and perhaps even guilt.

“What is wrong with you?”

“Do you really need attention that bad?”

“What did I do so wrong to you, to drive you to this?”

The comments and displeasure you feel may be rational for you, but it is the last thing we want to hear. In instances where there is no abuse in the home, chances are we blame you very little for our behavior. At the same time, we realize this highly frowned upon subject cannot just be brought up at the dinner table.

“Honey, can you please pass the potatoes, and by the way are you cutting yourself?”

Our wish?  Approach the topic with a gentle tone. Don’t ask directly; perhaps mention the things you have noticed with a non-accusatory demeanor. We may lash out on the defense, still trying to protect the demolition man, but inside we are lost. We need love; we need to be truly listened to, even if you fail to understand, we hope you will make every effort to educate yourself so we have to tell you less. We may need to be held or hugged or reassured we are loved more often than usual. We may need to be encouraged to see a doctor or therapist or build a sense of trust with someone, to the depths necessary to talk about this. We want you to know that once you start, it can become an addictive coping mechanism the same as prescription pills, alcohol or gambling. We want you to know we are ashamed, and we are not proud of the disfigurement we have caused our bodies due to this underlying pain, which we may or may not be able to completely pinpoint.

So, to wrap up, please enter this discussion delicately, with an open mind, ears willing to listen without a hasty response, and heart willing to show us the love we need.

 

 

 

 

 

Self-Harm; The Conversation Needs To Be Had

TRIGGER WARNING!!

Starting the conversation is perhaps the hardest part. How do you bring up a topic that the majority of society will not acknowledge as anything more than a teenage phase of attention seeking. How often is it brought to light in the media as many of the other mental illnesses are? Is it an illness on its own, or a by-product of some form of depression or other mental disorder or anguish? Why is it assumed that self-harm is limited to the teenage years? From personal experience and stories of the many I have spoken with, self-harm like every other illness does not discriminate in age, race, gender, economic status or sexual orientation. Everyone is fair game.

Self-harm, like depression often carries a negative voice that has taken up residence in our heads. We could call him the demolition man, as he is there to destroy our positivity, our sense of self and our hope. In some people his voice also carries a tone of self-destruction in which he re-enforces the thoughts that physically hurting yourself will remind you that you are alive; that you can try to find some relief on the outside for the agony that monopolizes your mind. He has many reasons to provide you with and carrying the tone of a drill sergeant weakens you to give in to the urge, and so you cut, burn or somehow maim your body.

I do not have children, so perhaps I cannot fully understand the parental point of view, however, I can provide you some insight from personal experience as a cutter. As an adult, I can look at my actions as both a youth and an adult with a different and clearer perspective. I self-harmed as young as 8 years old to my late teens, with at least a relapse every 2 years, including the recent events. By the time you read this I will be one week clean…yet again.

There is no simple way to ask your child if they are self-harming, just as the reverse applies from child to parent, or friend to friend. There is a sense of shame so great we will come up with every excuse in the world to explain the random cuts or marks that riddle out bodies. If we were cutting purely for attention why would we take the time to meticulously cover with makeup, bandages or long sleeves? We are usually smart enough to harm in a place that would not be easily visible, the stomach, ribs, upper thighs, hips and upper arms, but there comes a time if you have cut yourself enough that maybe you have to resort to an area not so easy to conceal.

So, as a note to parents, long sleeves in the summer or at a time that may not be conventional may be an indication that should not be ignored or taken lightly.

Children who have not yet hit the teenage years do generally not shave, nor does the average teen or adult carry a razor in their purse or bag daily so please do not overlook the potential gravity of the situation.

Have you noticed your bandages, face cloths or paper towels decreasing at a more rapidly? How about socks or underwear? Have you had to replace them more often? We will use anything we think won’t be noticed as missing to clean up the blood. Kleenex tends to stick to the wound so they certainly were not my first choice.

Kids and teens are messy. We try to clean up every last drop in the bathroom, but let’s face it; we are not very competent during those years, so a smudge of blood on the counter, floor or around the toilet may not just be your husband clumsiness while shaving.

We may provide some hints before we even get to the stage of cutting; hints so subtle we know you will not pick up on them, despite our yearning for you to do so. We may have withdrawn, communicated less or lost interest in activities we previously enjoyed. We may spend more time isolated from friends and family and have mood swings more drastic than that of teenage angst. Your child is not self-harming for entertainment but rather from the relentless internal, unfathomable pain that has allowed the demolition man to control the slow demise of our minds and souls. We are cutting to provide a momentary distraction from that agony that drove us to press a razor into our flesh.

If you are a parent who has not experienced or been exposed to mental illness, your immediate reaction is likely to be one of anger, shock, disappointment and perhaps even guilt.

“What is wrong with you?”

“Do you really need attention that bad?”

“What did I do so wrong to you, to drive you to this?”

The comments and displeasure you feel may be rational for you, but it is the last thing we want to hear. In instances where there is no abuse in the home, chances are we blame you very little for our behavior. At the same time, we realize this highly frowned upon subject cannot just be brought up at the dinner table.

“Honey, can you please pass the potatoes, and by the way are you cutting yourself?”

Our wish?  Approach the topic with a gentle tone. Don’t ask directly; perhaps mention the things you have noticed with a non-accusatory demeanor. We may lash out on the defense, still trying to protect the demolition man, but inside we are lost. We need love; we need to be truly listened to, even if you fail to understand, we hope you will make every effort to educate yourself so we have to tell you less. We may need to be held or hugged or reassured we are loved more often than usual. We may need to be encouraged to see a doctor or therapist or build a sense of trust with someone, to the depths necessary to talk about this. We want you to know that once you start, it can become an addictive coping mechanism the same as prescription pills, alcohol or gambling. We want you to know we are ashamed, and we are not proud of the disfigurement we have caused our bodies due to this underlying pain, which we may or may not be able to completely pinpoint.

So, to wrap up, please enter this discussion delicately, with an open mind, ears willing to listen without a hasty response, and heart willing to show us the love we need.