Sunday, 18 December 2016

Sunday Stories | Stephanie's Borderline Personality Disorder Story

Sunday stories is a new series on my blog where every week a different person talks about their condition (physical, mental etc.), shares their story and raise awareness. For the past 5 years I've used my blog as a space where I could do just that but I wanted to extend things even further to allow others to talk and raise awareness of their conditions. I'm really excited to introduce everyone to you! Today the lovely Stephanie is sharing her story and journey with Borderline Personality Disorder.

* trigger warning: mention of self harm, suicidal thoughts and psychotic thoughts *


Can you tell us a bit about your condition and how you were diagnosed?


My condition is a mental illness that goes by the name “Borderline Personality Disorder”. This is also sometimes called Emotionally Unstable Disorder (EUD). I don’t know anyone else who has this disorder, but I know a couple of people who have been diagnosed with Bipolar which is similar but they are also very, very different. When people hear that you are “emotionally unstable” they think that you’re just sensitive and the littlest thing upsets you, or that you can’t take a joke, but it’s so much more than that. It’s much more complex.

As for a diagnosis, I haven’t received one. Last November I was dropped from my university degree in Salford due to what seemed to be depression, within 3 days of arriving home I was seen by my GP who ignored my pleas for help back in August before I moved country for Uni. He prescribed me anti-depressants to “get me by” until the end of September, despite telling me “nothing’s wrong with you, this is just how life is”. He then referred me to my local Community Mental Health Team, I saw them in a couple of weeks. They were friendly but they didn’t help me or give me what I needed. They told me I could come back to them if I ever needed their help, months later I discovered they actually closed my case without informing me. Weeks went by and I was sent a letter for my first psychiatric assessment, this was when I had an hour long session with one doctor, who then asked another colleague to join my session just to have me regurgitate the information I had just spent an hour telling. I felt as if they were trying to catch me out, and they belittled me on a lot of things. In the end, they told me it’s not depression, bipolar, narcissism or anything that I had listed – it was most likely Borderline. This was amazing, to be finally told what was going on with me, and that it wasn’t just all in my head. They let me walk away with that statement, and never referred me on to a Psychologist for a formal diagnosis.

Weeks later I went back to my GP and asked if I was referred to another professional, it was brought to light that only one place in NI deals with Personality Disorders, and that was in Derry. He told me he referred me and I waited a number of weeks before I got fed up again. I went back, pleading for help and medication, he said he referred me but couldn’t give me any medication because what was “wrong” with me was innate. He pushed me into talking therapy, I attended counselling sessions with a woman who bullied me. I stopped going, I went back to my GP to tell him about a significant event that had happened on account of my mental illness being unsupported, to which he responded “It’s more attention seeking than anything”. Safe to say I stopped seeing this GP and was losing more and more hope in NI’s Mental Health system. A few weeks later I received a letter in the post for yet another psychiatric assessment, this was only a month ago or so. I had a new Doctor, but the experience wasn’t pleasant. He spoke over me, he cut me off, and he didn’t allow me to talk about the symptoms of Borderline that I very clearly have. He asked me questions, wrote down answers in his own words and told me about the letter my GP has gotten from the PD Unit in Derry, saying that I was being rejected as the referral “wasn’t appropriate”. My relationship with my GP is nothing short of can’t-be-bothered, so the fact he hadn’t kept me in-the-know wasn’t surprising in the slightest. I walked away from my assessment with medication to help me sleep, and this has done nothing but worsen everything.


How does your condition affect you on a daily basis?

I have a bad habit of keeping toxic people around. When I say “toxic”, I don’t mean that this person sometimes says things that put me down or they upset me, what I mean is that they have either physically or mentally abused me, and cause me emotional distress or turmoil on a daily basis, and proceed to make me feel as if it’s not happening on their behalf at all. I do have positive friendships, I do have best friends that have been my best friends for 4-9 years, and as I’ve learned more about my disorder I’ve been able to tell which friendship is harming me and which isn’t. As of recently, I’ve been able to gather up the strength to cut ties with those who cause me emotional distress. This is tough as I have a fear of being abandoned and I’ll do anything to stop it from happening when the situation arises. In addition, I find it difficult to make and keep friendships or relationships. Because of this, I feel worried constantly and frightened, but at the same time I will push someone away with my constant mistrust and paranoia. That brings me to my next point; the emotions I feel are nothing short of intense and often explosive. Yes, explosive. I can totally, utterly and completely BURST with love for you, or I can burst with hatred. Usually, there is no in-between. For me, personally, sometimes I see things as black-or-white, I am not touch with reality and my perception of reality is distorted.

The emotions I feel daily (this is where Bipolar and Borderline differ), last between a few seconds and a few minutes. Those with Bipolar Disorder experience emotions which last a few days or weeks, or even months at a time. My rapid change of emotions can be calming or catastrophic. For example: Making a cup of tea. I can go and boil the kettle, feeling good, and when it comes to the click of the kettle boiling, I can feel really angry. Once the cup of tea has been made, without a doubt, I will have gone through a cycle of good and bad emotions. It affects the smallest things in my life, I feel I’m unable to carry out simple everyday tasks. When my emotions are catastrophic, they’re difficult to control. Often, admittedly, I don’t even try to control them. Whatever I’ve gotten angry about is justified for whatever reason, and when it’s not justified, it’s easy to spot. If you're really close to me, you know how to speak to me when I'm angry or low. There's nothing worse than someone saying "it's just your mental illness talking, this isn't really you", because this may not be who I am but it is a large part of who I am.

Sometimes, those of us with BPD can act impulsively and engage in activities that can cause us great harm, e.g. drugs, promiscuous sex, alcohol, self-harm, driving recklessly etc. Or it could be something as simple as binge-eating, over-spending and throwing things around the place. Personally, I haven’t engaged in most of those activities, but some of them have definitely happened. Sometimes the thought of suicide happens so often that it becomes the norm, the same goes for feeling empty and lonely a lot of the time. When I’m in distress, I feel paranoid, I see and hear things – my dreams / nightmares feel so real sometimes. I tend to have psychotic thoughts, and when it hits a high level I become numb. I emotionally flat line. When I am angry and lashing out at someone, or something really terrible is going on and I react, I will often not remember things properly when it’s over. I’m currently out of work and out of education because of how uncontrolled my mental health is. I don’t enjoy most things I used to do, I don’t enjoy socialising as much, I don’t like a lot of company. I keep myself busy, but there’s a sense of dread every time I wake up – that is, if I get to sleep.

Do you have any tips for someone who is newly diagnosed?

Don’t read online articles about men/women with BPD. Just don’t do it. They’re negative, biased, and written with the goal to hurt anyone with BPD or to warn anyone close to you. Those articles fail to mention that, yes, one individual with BPD that they’ve encountered may very well have been “crazy”, and have done specific things or said specific things, but remember not all of us are the exact same. The symptoms I experience may not be the symptoms you experience. The way I deal with things may not be the way you deal with things. We’re all different, nobody can paint us with the same brush.

And don’t give up. Your Doctors might ignore you and dismiss you, sometimes mental health professionals themselves will be ignorant towards your disorder or illness, but don’t give up. Something, somewhere, at some point, has got to give. Talk to your friends, don’t keep your family in the dark, and continue to build friendships and relationships; let people know who you are, inside and out. Don’t hide yourself, don’t hide any part of you. Accept who you are, work on yourself, do things to improve what needs to be improved.

What is one thing that you would like people to remember about your condition?

We’re all evolving. You're not your illness, there's more to you than this label. For me, personally, I might be full of anger, but my God will I love you harder than anyone has before. I'll do all it takes to make you happy, and you will see a completely different side of me than my illness shows. Don’t pass us all off like we’re less than you. We are not criminals, we are not your enemy, we are not a burden on society, we’re human and we should be treated with the love and respect we deserve.

You can follow Stephanie on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. You can also find more information about BPD, as well as some support, on the MIND website.

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8 comments

  1. It's so wonderful that you are using your blog to spread awareness/use it as a platform for an unheard voice! I haven't been following you for a hugely long time but you have done so many good things, and especially for someone so young, it's incredible! As for a comment on the actual post, I've been researching and looking into BPD for quite some time (I do not suffer with it nor do I know anyone who does, I just find it "interesting" for lack of a better word - I don't want it to sound like suffering is my source of entertainment, because that's not it!). It's nice to read personal accounts from people who have BPD instead of reading from websites and to know it more.

    (Also, are you still taking "applications - sorry, not the greatest at phrasing things today, clearly - for these Sunday Stories? If you are, I'd love to know which way you'd prefer to be contacted about it?)

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    1. Thank you, it just felt like the right thing to do! I do so much to raise awareness of my conditions and not enough to help out others. Thank you SO much!

      I understand what you mean, I like to gain as much knowledge of other conditions also, you never know when it might come in handy, especially when it comes to building spoonie friendships.

      I am still taking applications! Send me an email: shonacobb21@gmail.com

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  2. This was such a good read! Thank you for sharing! I'm loving this series so far, I've been learning so much! Xx

    http://thriftyvintagefashion.blogspot.co.uk/

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    1. It was such a good read wasn't it, I learnt a lot! I'm really happy to have people involved with conditions like OCD and BPD as I think we know a lot about depression and anxiety but not so much about other MH conditions xx

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  3. I'm actually working with people who were diagnosed with BPD (or any other mental illness) and this is definitely an interesting blog post. I'm sorry to hear you didn't and still don't get the help you need Stephanie but be persistant as there are effective and great programmes for people who suffer from BPD (ask your GP about the coping skills toolbox!). Keeping my fingers crossed for you x

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    1. I really hope this helped you, hearing personal stories can be super helpful sometimes! I have the same advice for Stephanie, persistent is key, there is something out there that will help, you just have to find it through a good and caring doctor! x

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  4. This has been a difficult and enlightening read for me. I have an adult daughter with BPD and she still lives at home. Life is so difficult every single day and I do try so hard to understand her but she hides her condition and refuses to accept she has it or is affected by it. Everything is always my fault. She is formally diagnosed and has several years of therapy and medication. She also has PTSD which she blames for her behaviour. The most difficult thing to understand is how quickly emotions change in her. It's like walking on eggshells all the time, but even if she explodes, 10 minutes later she's as nice as pie. Sorry for rambling on, but I really don't get the chance to talk to anyone about her and how life is at home. Reading this account has helped me a lot. Thank you so much for sharing xx

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    1. That must be a really difficult situation to be in and I really hope that 2017 is better for you both. It can be really difficult to accept that you have a health problem, especially when it comes to MH but I hope that in time she is able to come to terms with her diagnoses. Until then, I'm sending you all the strength in the world to get through each day xx

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