Challenging Personality

One thing that has never failed to really upset me – is when people challenge a part of my personality.

It’s difficult enough when you’re growing up to work out just who you are, and when people challenge the tidbits of your personality that you feel sure about it’s incredibly frustrating, and demoralising.

I find that having a personality disorder sometimes means that parts of my personality are twisted and re-shaped. I know that it takes a lot to wind me up, but there are days when on top of all the outside influences that I cannot control, I’m prone to making steps to wind myself up.

I believe that I have a lot of patience with children, and having spent a lot of time working in a school for children with all kinds of special needs, a lot of people believe that must be true. This is something that I challenge every time I think about it. My therapist asked me to make a list of things I like about myself, which at the time felt like a mammoth task. For every one item on the list, I could think of about three reasons why it didn’t belong on there.

Second guessing myself is something I’ve been doing subconsciously for as long as I can remember. I was the kid in class who would only put their hand up if they KNEW the answer 100%. I had to be right, because to be wrong would be a reflection of who I am. I wanted to be the child who could ask questions and give answers without feeling the heavy weight of failure not in the eyes of my peers or my teacher – but me.

I don’t like to be wrong. One of the only times you can get me to shut up is when I’m challenged by an opposing opinion that I do not know enough about. I’m keen to learn, but pride keeps me from asking the questions to help do just that – which I’m not proud about. I believe in bettering myself, and will keep trying to find the strength to do things when it feels like my entire body is frozen to the spot but it’s only a reflection of the fear I feel.

One of the hardest questions I’ve been asked at a job interview is the age-old “How would your friends describe you?” I used to think that the never ending yo-yoing of my personality was down to being a Gemini, and whenever horoscopes come up there always seems to be a debate at hand, but for a long time I ‘believed’ in my star sign and gravitated toward people who also accepted this view of personalities.

It’s a great example actually, of how things used to seem. On the topic of horoscopes and star signs I was incredibly flexible. Remembering the ‘list’ of people in my head that I could admit to ‘being a Gemini’ around and the people with whom it would result in some kind of severance of our friendship because of.

I’m *pretty sure* that being a Gemini and having Borderline is a coincidence, I have a lot of traits from both of these things and I identify completely with both of them as labels, but they don’t define me.

No one can be defined by any single label, it’s just not possible. Even bread has a bazillion different forms and I don’t think any two bread loaves are the same! (It’s not even anecdotal evidence, so sue me. Anyway.)

In my mind, I believe I’m the only one who can truly challenge my personality. There have been plenty of times when someone has told me something about myself, whether it be positive or negative (and from whose perspective! “was that a compliment?” springs to mind), but when all is said and done it’s only me who can decide whether to believe in them or not. Which is both a good and bad thing at the same time, isn’t it? No amount of someone telling me that I need to stop being so loud is going to make me stop being loud, but equally no amount of people telling me that I’m a caring person is going to make me believe that it’s true.

Bettering myself is how I’ve coped with the world, and myself. I’ve been able to reflect on the things I have said and done, and looking back I know there are a lot of things that have changed because of that self-awareness. (The self-awareness that was only made aware to me by other people mentioning it.)

We *are* most often, only going to listen to the comments that we want to hear. The ones that don’t mess with the status-quo or threaten to destabilise our entire mental picture of ourselves, but it’s certainly important sometimes to consider the things we don’t quite understand about ourselves.

My personality is mine, and knowing that I have a weird ability to shape it is probably one of the more positive things about being a person with Borderline. Not that it’s possible to wake up tomorrow with a completely new, hip outlook on life, it will take time as it always does but knowing that it is completely possible is pleasing to me.

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Splitting

It hurts. We know it’s not just us that it’s hurting too – but it happens for reasons that more often than not, we don’t even understand.

For an impossibly long time, I realised that here and there I’d been developing personal vendettas against people in my friends groups. I began to detest them, and grow agitated by the slightest thing that they would say and do.

Some of these people had never meant anything more to me than someone with whom I was acquainted, usually due to mutual friends. Of course, there was always the potential for more to come of our friendships – but instead of fostering those friendships, for whatever reason, subconsciously I chose to keep them at a distance.

I can be cold, judgmental and harsh about their every single move, detail and decision.

Being the introspective, self-aware thing that I believe I am – over time I’ve put this down to some very complex and difficult concepts. I once managed to convince myself that the reason I so despised these people was because there was some part of them that I saw as ‘negative’, but worse than that – I believed it was a reflection of who I was. That one personality trait we shared, that I found to be so ugly was too difficult to come to terms with so I chose to hate that person, rather than try to come to terms with it.

The other conclusion, was that the person whom I directed so much of my frustrations on actually deserved those feelings because of some kind of negative attitude. I cannot count the number of times when I’ve felt frustrated about someone’s situation – and equally felt powerless to offer them any support or guidance because, and isn’t that the nature of people, they are their own person and can do what they want with their lives.

Sometimes, I feel like I care too much. I know that I have a lot of love to give, and I love a lot of people – and I’m working on the acceptance that I am a compassionate, caring person.

Splitting is difficult. Equally so when it directly challenges my belief that I am the person I want to believe I am.

I have days when I know that every little thing someone does is going to make me mad, and I feel completely powerless to stop it. Things frustrate me, sometimes the smallest things and for whatever reason ‘letting go’ of those things is impossible, or at least it feels that way. I constantly strive to make sure I will see the day when I am able to take control of those feelings and turn them on their head. This disorder might have directed my life for this long but I am determined to prove that there are ways to accomplish what sound impossible.

The Importance of Recording

One of the most useful things that I do now, is to keep a record of my daily ‘accomplishments’.

Right back in the beginning it was something that I attempted, but found that it was demotivating when all I did – day in, day out was sit and watch Netflix or play video games. Since then I’ve been able to learn to forgive myself, be kind to myself and show the same patience I’m capable of offering complete strangers.

Now, it feels like my most valuable tool.

For a long time I focused on working through a Bullet Journal to record and motivate myself on a day-to-day basis, and although I absolutely adore the concept and the work and fun that goes into keeping a journal like this, I found that a very different approach was important to help me to put together the foundations for my recovery.

A Bullet Journal actually created a wall between myself and my goals. When I would start a day with a beautifully thought out spread and only one goal to mark off I found it difficult to be attached to it, and equally difficult to go through the process of writing that same, single task over and over for days on end.

Giving up just wasn’t an option, so I chose instead to re-think my approach to keeping a daily account of my life.

My therapist was the first person to suggest that I keep a log of my daily activities. On a simple A4 gridded sheet of paper, with two boxes for morning, afternoon and evening I vaguely accounted for the ‘major’ things that I did every day. At first, they were incredibly basic. I ate food, I watched TV, I played video games. I met with a friend, I went for a walk.

It was the first time I’d recorded my day-to-day life as retroactively, and there were a few days when I completely forgot to write about what I’d done and therefore entire days were forgotten. I’m pretty sure that usually there was nothing significant about the things that I’d done, until I walked back into therapy and re-counted my week. Little things that seemed important when I’d done them, and then insignificant when I came to write down the last few days of activity were forgotten.

That important phone call that I’d been putting off for months to the bank, that form I filled out, the brief discussion I’d had with a friend or family member. Each and every single one of these things were important to my overall recovery from a very dark place that I’d managed to put myself in.

I kept these diaries for four weeks until I decided that enough was enough. My Bullet Journal had fallen to the way-side and turned into something like a book of lists (Books I owned and wanted to read, Holiday Destinations for the future, DVDs I owned, movies I’d watched) and I knew that whilst I was using those relatively small A4 sheets to log my weekly comings and goings it wasn’t going to satisfy me.

As a lover of notebooks and stationery, it wasn’t difficult to rifle through my ’empty notebooks’ drawer and find something to use to start logging my days, and even better that I’d found the perfect use for a notebook. (One of the reasons I have so many is that they’re all in there waiting for the perfect purpose. Sorry, notebooks.)

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So it began.

Almost 2 weeks later, I’m still swearing by it. Claiming that this act, and this act alone is the one reason that I’ve managed to pull myself up out of the funk I’d fallen into is a huge stretch of any imagination, but I feel very strongly that it has contributed to my continued improving mental health and will keep doing so much!

I write the time my alarm went off, and the time I actually got out of bed. Writing it down makes it a fact, and gives you a solid thing to refer back to. I find that when I am struggling the most I lose all sense of time and feeling and life. It’s easy for me to forget how I felt only a few hours ago, when I’m so preoccupied with the current moment, and the thoughts that are in my head at that time and in that place. So I feel it’s very important (for me) to be able to refer back to previous days, not to make negative comparisons or to judge the ‘value’ of the things I’ve done in the present day but to be able to look back and see, from hard factual evidence that ‘things’ over all are better now than they’ve ever been.

Thinking too hard about the shape of my life exactly a year ago would only promote a desire to reach out and take ownership of how I felt back then, in a time when my recovery was in it’s very early stages, and I feel very strongly that it would be detrimental to my health, but if I’d kept the same log I have now I might be able to recognise instantly the stark contrast in my mental health. Of course, it’s arguable – that if I’d kept a log back then, like I do now that perhaps my life would be very different but I also believe very strongly that it’s taken all of these incredibly small steps over the span of a year to get here at all and without them it just wouldn’t be possible.

We can’t fast forward progress, and we can’t force it. There are clear steps in any recovery that have to happen before you can continue on your way. That’s why we call them steps. It’s quite easy to visualise for example, the steps that might lead up to the second floor of your home and to accept the reality of the fact that before you can get to the tenth step, you have to make it up all the ones before that first.

Progress

I was going to come back with a huge update on my progress, but I feel like the whole thing would be very complex and complicated, long and possibly boring so I’m going to start from where I am right now.

Living in the moment is something I have being hearing here, there and everywhere at the moment, which might be because I’ve started listening, or because it really is something that’s taken a grip on the kinds of social circles I run in.

All I know is that yesterday, sat in my 14th therapy session – I understood what it felt like to be content with the way that things are right in that moment.

Getting to this point has not been an easy, or simple drive. There really was no direct route and it’s something I’ve heard all the time, both before I started to ‘get better’ and through this duration (which is by no means anywhere near it’s end, I’m completely and utterly sure!)

As always, I want to be able to write so that maybe, just maybe something I say is helpful for someone else. Our experiences are all so different, and I know that what works for me won’t necessarily work for others, but I also know that so much of the support and advice I’ve been offered over the years which worked for other people didn’t work for me. I’ll keep going on about it, mostly because it’s a part of my life and I understand it now, but the difference between a diagnosis of depression and one of Borderline Personality Disorder is one I wish someone had made for me years ago.

That there are people ‘out there’, who are just like I used to be – in a constant uphill battle with themselves trying to work out why they feel so up and down is upsetting to me when the answer could be something quite so simple. I won’t reiterate the feelings I’ve lived through from confusion as to why I could not connect with others in my experience of depression – that’s all in another blog post from months ago I’m sure.

The last month of my life has been the most successful since I returned to Melbourne well over a year ago, but that’s not to say that I didn’t have to go through the last year to get where I am now.

Since travelling, my life has been full of comparisons. Right now there’s a lot of thought in my head about where I was last year, and mostly two years ago. I try hard not to dwell on it, but it’s difficult not to get the facts straight in my head. On this day two years ago I was staying with a friend in Washington State, just over a week into my epic journey. The thoughts and feelings I had then were so incredibly different to the outcome of it all, but I don’t really regret it, and even if some part of me does I am doing my best to challenge that thought and change it.

I could get upset that I took the money and ran rather than opting to pay off my debts. (It wouldn’t have covered it). Sat here right now I can think of a hundred things that I feel I ‘should have’ done, but as part of this entire process I am learning to challenge my thoughts and ultimately be kind to myself.

I forgive myself on a day to day basis, but to manage that I had to force myself back until I was in a place where I had absolutely no expectations for myself.

It was difficult, and for a lot of the time I felt very uneasy about the path my life was taking. There are pieces of advice, and things that people say to us which stick out sometimes, and I don’t think I will ever forget the words of my GP to me whilst I was in Melbourne. After making the decision to go home and recover I went on excitedly to tell him that “and then, maybe in three years or something I’ll be back working full time.” 

He turned to me, (he’d been writing something down) and he smiled and said, “Ollie. Stop thinking about what you’re going to do, and don’t make those kinds of goals.” We talked, briefly – about this idea that making goals like that for the future were only going to set me up for disappointment.

It’s taken until now, and I mean 3 months of ‘calming down’ whilst I stayed at my Mum’s, and 10 months settling back down in Lincoln, seeking out and going through therapy to get HERE. Here is just the beginning (and even that I think I’m not really supposed to bank on) but I know that even if things dip again, I can find this place.

This place is actually pretty comfortable. It’s not about the location, but the process. Obviously.

As someone who likes to claim to be a writer, one thing I’ve made sure to do for myself is to write. I write in a diary before bed, I write a daily account of what I do by the hour (which I believe is a part of schema therapy to try and establish routine – it’s been working), I try to write 3 pages a day of whatever comes into my head (Thanks to Morning Pages) for the inspiration.

It’s only been maybe a week or two of trying to establish a routine that I’ve finally managed to accomplish these things, but the most important thing has been to forgive myself when I’ve not managed them. Even though I’d tried to brush off the things that I don’t like, I ended up bringing it up with my therapist. She asked me what the problem was with spending two of my days pretty much just watching Netflix the entire day. Asked me who I knew who didn’t like to spend their evenings watching TV sometimes, or their weekends.

Accepting that my perception of a ‘normal person’ is twisted and unacceptable is going to take a while, just like the many other perceptions that I build for myself.

For the first time in a long time, I can see results. I can see that I’m forming a better opinion of myself, moving forward and doing things that I enjoy without stressing myself out over whether I should be allowed to do them.

Tools

I’ve been using a LOT of tools to help me get to where I am now, and I wanted to share some of them with you. x

Sleep Time – An app for the phone. You set a time that you want to wake up by, and by tracking movement on your bed, the app will (do it’s best) to wake you up during your lightest sleep phase.

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Daily Activity Diary – This was given to me by my therapist, weekly. I’ve found it’s been really helpful to keep a daily log of what I’ve done – I update it at least once a day, but try to keep on top of it for a more accurate record.

Therapy – I can’t stress this enough, and it’s actually really upsetting to me when I hear that so many people are unable to access therapy. Just having someone that you see once a week is so helpful. Some useful things you can possibly do for yourself that I was asked to do by the therapist are:

  • Set a two hour window to go to bed between. (I started with 11pm – 1am, but this moved to 10pm-12pm)
  • Make sure you’re eating 3 meals a day
  • Write a list of POSSIBLE activities

Calm.com – I’ve been using this both from the website, and the app. Even after the initial 7 days of calm, there are other guided mindfulness activities you can do for free.

Be kind to yourself.

This is Borderline

This video was posted on the BPD sub on Reddit. It’s an emotional video, and admittedly had me in tears, but it is well worth a watch.

Short films like this are perfect to try and spread the word about the truth of disorders like Borderline. It is incredibly difficult to properly convey how it feels to live on the edge of your emotions all the time, but this does a very good job of getting the point across that so much of our lives is fleeting.

I try to prescribe to the thinking that life is short, and therefore we should make the most of what we have, the people around us and the things we experience. This idea seems to work tenfold for me as someone with BPD. No one knows how long a good mood will last, but I don’t think that people without Borderline ever spend ‘good days’ trying not to think about when that particular time will end. High moods are tainted by my own fears that after a high, there is bound to be a low and the higher you go – the further there is to fall.

I definitely recommend that you take a few minutes to watch this film, whether you have Borderline Personality Disorder or don’t.

Extreme Emotions

When you’re bombarded by extreme emotion, it’s not just the extreme emotions that you have to deal with. Most of the time, when something unexpected happens it’s because you’re in a situation you can’t control.

I like ‘my’ time best. When I’m on my own and completely in control of my environment. If I don’t feel like washing dishes right now, I don’t have to, and I know that if they stay there all day the only person I’m upsetting is me. 

There is pressure, of course. I don’t like living in a messy environment, but some days I’m happy to let things pile up until such a time when I feel ready to deal with it, whether it’s dishes or laundry.

When you live with others, the pressure changes entirely. Things have to be done, or at least that’s how I feel about things. Leaving one dish isn’t enough to throw me head first into a mood swing, but leaving just that one dish isn’t easy because I know that if I don’t clean it right away, it’s highly likely they my housemates will when they do the dishes. Although I know I do my fair share of the dishes, and often offer to do them all in one go (mine and my house mates, in an evening) the notion that I am putting someone else out brings on a world of stress that is not easily ‘pushed aside’. People lie, people tell white lies all the time and I’m still undecided about how I feel about it. I tell them too. We all do. 

“Sorry, I forgot to wash that plate.”

“It’s okay!”

It’s okay? Is it though? Is it really? Are you not just seething inside? This is the third time this week I’ve made myself a sandwich and left the plate there and you’ve washed it with all your dishes. There are days for me, when nothing is okay. Sure, you can dismiss it, whatever okay. It’s just a plate, but it’s not. You left it on the table and that’s not where it belongs. How lazy are you? You’ve walked into the kitchen twice and not bothered to take the damn plate with you and it’s on the way. It’s. Not. Hard. 

Some days, it’s easier to let go of those uncertainties than others. Some days it’s okay to leave the plate there, and perhaps that’s down to confidence rather than mood? Having confidence in the things that other people tell you comes and goes. 

“No worries, I was washing up anyway!”

On a ‘good’ day it’s easy to have confidence, to accept the word of others without question. In the same vein, it’s likely not to happen on those days. On a good day, I’m on the ball. I’m the one clearing up dishes and engaging in normal conversation, I’ve probably hoovered, cleaned and done dishes already or at least contributed in some way that feels valid. That in itself makes a huge difference to general mood. 

‘Good’ days come with their own set of ‘base’ emotions. Positivity, excitement, and enjoyment of simply being. It’s a state of mind and on it’s own, apparently, (because I haven’t noticed a pattern), uncontrollable. It’s the difference between waking up in the afternoon and feeling like there is no point in showering, dressing, eating, doing out and doing something – and waking up feeling like you can get something accomplished even if you don’t get out of pyjamas. (Which I hasten to tell you! Doesn’t happen very frequently!)

Of course, this is before you put into consideration the great number of environmental factors that can so drastically destabilise whatever mood you happen to wake up in. Like anyone.

There are simple, every day things – the weather, the state of the bank account, what day it is, what plans you have, what letters arrive in the post. 

Then there are things that I find the most difficult – social engagement. 

I have strong feeling for a lot of my friends and family. People exist in ‘my world’ in very different extremes. There are people I love. They are sometimes family, sometimes friends and mostly animals. I’m compassionate, mostly toward those whose voice is not as ‘strong’ as others. Animals, children, and so many others who have enough on their plate, or are unable to voice their feelings, worries and fears. 

Then there’s this huuuuuge gap. To exist in that space is impossible, and it’s what makes social situations so complicated for me. I’m focusing on anger, and a sensation of hatred, but it’s equally applicable to a whole range of other emotions.

On the other side of my ‘scale’ there is hate. I’ve been taught, from an early age not to use that word, especially by my Dad, because it is such an extreme and to this day I’ve been unable to accept that there could be a better word to fit the way I feel. It’s lonely, to go from feeling intense affection for someone who is a friend and then feel so deeply hurt and frustrated by them or something they have done or said that the feelings inside you switch and develop, consume and utterly control you. 

I can only describe it as hate, and it’s an awful sensation. It comes with an intense desire to be away from them, to hurt them, to make them realise how much you’re hurting and to hurt them back. You become unable to focus – words and almost impossible to muster, and because you know that the feeling is only temporary it’s so important to be able to get out of the situation without saying anything damaging. The anger is so finely and specifically directed at this one particular thing, but to control the emotion feels like a mammoth task. 

It’s followed instantly by the desperate need to GET OUT. Whether you’re there in person, or talking on the phone, text messaging, or talking through e-mail or online messaging. 

Everything becomes impossible. This anger is the sole emotion. There is nothing else. Even though you might fight desperately within yourself for rationale, there is nothing. Struggling to stay ‘level’ takes a lot of effort in itself. Often, in the time it takes to fight the wave of emotions a host of other thoughts, feelings and general awarenesses happen to further confuse the situation.

You can’t just pause time, and often that need to explain yourself is too difficult. You know that you shouldn’t be angry, but in the time it takes to try and reel in your emotions it’s just too late. Whoever you’re with, or talking to knows that there is something wrong. So the question comes. Rarely, is it understanding, slow, careful. Usually it’s defensive or provoking. You don’t want either of those things. A defensive question brings the clarity to understand that yes they know you’re feeling something – and the wave of concerns comes all over again. 

I often have strong feelings, and I prefer to keep them to myself because that’s just easier.

I have many friends that I have simply had to leave or hang up on and almost always it’s without a word because formulating words is physically impossible. 

It’s not easy, but I’ll try to explain how complex the things that rush through my mind in those moments are. 

First of all, there is the ‘thing’ itself. Whatever the trigger has been. Meltdowns happen much more regularly on a ‘bad’ day, as if the chemicals in your brain are just so unbalanced that the only things that come from it are negative, low and depressed. 

A ‘thing’ will happen and all the possible causes, consequences and potential from that thing play out in your head all at the same time. Each new possibility tends to be worse than the last. You go from feeling upset that you can’t do this simple thing to feeling sad about what that means. Then the worry steps in. Will you ever be able to manage this? In fact, have you ever actually been able to manage it? Were ‘they’ right all along? You are not able, you are not capable, you are not useful, you are not accomplishing anything, you are a burden, you can’t even keep the promises that you make to yourself, never mind the promises you make to anyone else. In fact, why do you ever make promises?

It’s at this point, you’ve effectively cancelled out all the future plans in your life. Nothing is achievable. You’ve gone beyond all your basic needs, there’s no need for any of them so there is only one question. 

Why am I even here?

The ‘truth’ – that you don’t know is so soul destroying. It’s like everyone you love breaking your heart at the same time because they’ve let you go on like this. Believing that you could be something when really you’re just going through the motions. The belief that everyone you love hates you is strong, and difficult to cope with. Perhaps if you’re lucky there is a slither of desperation. The need to reach out, to make a phone call, message a friend, go to someone but it’s such a fragile moment. Calling someone and ending up with their answer machine is difficult, especially. Do you leave a message? In the state you’re currently in any friend will know that you have a problem and where does that leave you then? You can’t possibly leave a message because if you end it all you cannot imagine the guilt that you will leave them with. 

So you don’t leave a message. You just hope that they’ll call back. 

The ‘next thing’ is there though. It’s hovering over head like a dark cloud because once you’ve reached why am I even here the next step is obviously ‘I don’t deserve to be here’, so often in conjunction with ‘I can’t do this anymore’.

Getting out is difficult. Escaping those feelings usually means completely escaping. I personally feel lucky, that for whatever reason, I haven’t turned to drugs or alcohol. A quickly as I reach ‘critical’, I can come back down. I’m the first to admit to extreme behaviours and responses in those moments, and it’s embarrassing to know that so many people have witnessed them. I do get scared, that one day the ‘off’ button will be too close, too instant, and too permanent. That one day I’m going to be somewhere potentially life-threatening when something drastic happens to me. 

I’m happy knowing that I am most likely to go home, curl up in bed and cry until it hurts. The emotion comes out so easily like that, even if the act brings along with it a whole host of other intense feelings so self-hate and loathing. As soon as it’s done it’s as if the sun has come out and there’s a rainbow and everything is good. 

By the time that’s happened, a different set of problems arises. Crying doesn’t just seem to rid me of the emotions, but it also acts as a tool to forget whatever I was so emotional over in the first place. I want to forget, and move on – staples those feelings down so that they don’t get thought about any more. It leaves a ‘gap’. I often struggle to remember whether I’ve upset someone, and obviously – the act of leaving a friend in the lurch isn’t a terribly kind thing, but coming to terms with what happened is equally difficult. Admitting to the extreme emotion isn’t simple. I have a lot of pride, and something akin to ego too, and letting go of it to talk things through isn’t easy, especially when – all things considered, maybe that friend doesn’t want an apology? 

That friend deserves for me to be in control of things well before they escalate, and sometimes it feels that the only way to do that is to only interact with others when I’m in tip-top form, and that doesn’t happen very often.

With time, and therapy I’m really hoping that I can learn to control the things that impact the extreme emotions I have. I’m well aware that they were intimately linked with my own expectations and presumptions, whether they are directed toward myself, my friends, or other people around me.

My Story – Melbourne

I was ‘diagnosed’ with Borderline Personality traits at the ripe old age of 29.

Honestly, at the time it was a massive shock – but not for any of the bad reasons that you might associate with a life-changing diagnosis.

At the time, I was trying to ‘live’ in the beautiful city of Melbourne, Australia. I’d managed to find a city I loved, where a few good friends of mine happened to be. The hostel that I’d chosen to stay in due to awesome reviews (United Backpacker’s if you’re headed that way) needed someone to fill in a position four hours a night, for four nights in exchange for free accommodation and I was incredibly lucky to be chosen for the position.

Only, nothing else was ‘working’. There’s a long story, but the short one is like every other story of depression, really. I needed to see a doctor, and that was that. I’d already been on Duloxetine for well over a year, and had a GP for that purpose anyway, but the attitude of those working in the Australia Health Care system was such a pleasant surprise, I had no idea that things would work out so well.

My G.P had already seen me a few times, he even went as far as to remember the name I’d introduced myself to him as ‘Ollie’, and not the name on my records ‘Olivia’. It was the first sense I got that this was someone who saw beyond just another patient looking for a quick fix.

After some coaxing, my wonderful G.P decided to make me a health care plan. Accustomed to long and arduous assessments, forms and conversations I expected that the ball would need a bit of a push to get rolling. I think even he was a bit surprised to see the look on my face when he quite simply printed out all the notes he had on me and handed it over with instructions to call a psychologist to have a discussion with them. He even recommended someone, and of course – as soon as the appointment was over (and I managed to get over the shock of having such a powerful document in my hands) I called the psychologist.

Two weeks later, I sat down in her office and told her the same things that I have always told people. Tensions with family, struggles relating to others, anxiety over expectations, the frivolous spending, the lack of desire to do anything that wasn’t playing video games. On, and on. At the time, I recall focusing a lot more on relationships. I wasn’t in Australia on a whim, exactly – although I didn’t recognise just how much of it was an attempt to run away until later.

Forty minutes rolled along, and I expected the usual. CBT comes in bite sized 6-8 session chunks. Anti-Depressants are useful. The waiting list is as long as fifty arms and there’s probably not much point in me even being there because I only had another 4 months left on my visa.

Instead, she said three (not so little) words. Borderline Personality Traits.

I’ll be honest – I just stared at her.

Even as she began to explain where her suspect diagnosis came from I was struggling to keep up. Borderline? Border-what? What was I on the border of, and why hadn’t I heard whisper of it in connection with me? I was given recommendations, along with the sad news that this particular psychologist didn’t feel that working with me on my issues was something she felt fully trained to do. Her focus was on other mental health issues, but I had this golden ticket.

As soon as I got back to the hostel, I did the very same thing I always did. The laptop was out, but this time I had an incredibly clear goal in mind.

There are far too many metaphors to share with you to try and convey just how it felt to learn about Borderline Personality Disorder. Every single article I read hit home in a way that I’d never felt before. Suddenly I had access to a world of information about me. The experiences that others had shared, the difficulties that they were facing on a daily basis, the intensity of the feelings of self-hate, almost every anecdote was relatable.

This new understanding that I have of myself has completely and utterly changed my life, and although I’m not quite back on the horse again – I knew one thing for certain. I had to make my voice heard.

I am one of a suspected 5% of  people with a Personality Disorder.

Understanding, awareness and knowledge about Personality Disorders are pivotal in a person’s ability to cope with, and learn to live with them. Clearly, I speak on behalf of myself as someone with Borderline – but I have seen a huge difference in myself that is completely and utterly down to this new, eye-opening diagnosis.

I hope that by blogging, writing and sharing information about My Story – I can help to raise awareness of Borderline Personality Disorder and the ways that it can be overlooked, and mistaken for depression, especially in the UK.

 

Lessons in Love

“Love yourself before you can love anyone else.”

For years I’ve been hearing sentiments like these. They’re the kind of things that people take on board, and in some ways we know them to be true but the full extent of their truth isn’t realised until we can begin to take the steps to realise them for ourselves. I often explain this feeling to others as knowing something ‘intellectually’, but not being able to comprehend it emotionally.

Self-love isn’t easy. From an early age we are judged from so many different angles that to combat those criticisms requires a lot of love. That love, I suppose, usually comes from parents and family. I feel so incredibly strongly that a loving home is the best start a child can get. Our world has changed so much, and it is a pleasure to see diversity and equality taking such huge strides. (Of course, there is so much more to be done, but that’s for another day.)

‘We’, as members of a western society have so much more opportunity than before. The chance to visit far off places, to work in whichever areas we take interest in, to explore, enquire and learn so much more than we would ever have the chance to. I know that I am lucky to have been fed every day by my parents, and that they worked hard to provide things that I wanted. My Mum certainly didn’t have that luxury and although I’ll never forget the stories of ‘bread and butter if we were lucky’, it never really struck me as something I could believe in.

I have access to a vast array of things. Whether it be simple necessities like food and drink, or more luxurious things like mobile phones, video games, books, movies, work options – the list goes on and on. Love can come from the simple things, as much as it can be shown in the luxurious things, but always it has to come in it’s most direct form. From one person to another.

My parents showed me love in their own ways, and although Love is a difficult thing to describe, and whether it’s due to Borderline Personality Disorder, or something else inherent in me myself – I have struggled to find confidence enough to say that I love me, or that I’ve ever been able to accept being loved.

I don’t love myself, and although I don’t always find it easy to accept, I feel like I am capable of loving others. When I consider my close friends and family, I will openly agree that I love each and every one of them. I’ve been picky about my friends, and I’m critical about the people I meet, but in the end I feel like I love them. Perhaps that’s because they are accepting of me as I am, or because they’ve gone through such a gruelling selection criteria that they were very likely completely unaware of – a criteria I couldn’t put values to myself. I’ve accepted them as people I love.

I am able to recognise the beliefs in my friends that I share with them. I enjoy knowing that my friends & I share common interests, which is important of course if you want to spend time with someone! It’s very easy for me to quite simply ignore the parts of my friends which I do not like. By putting those traits, beliefs or interests out of my mind and therefore out of sight it’s much easier to get along. I’m sat here trying to work out if this is a human response to friendships or if it’s as a result of Borderline that I chose to vehemently ignore those things I don’t like, because there are definitely some people who I would chose to ‘hate’ for the same opinions.

(I need another half hour of your time to explain my thoughts on the word ‘hate’, I’ve always been told it’s too extreme a word to use in application to people – but I generally find in the past I’ve either ‘loved’ or ‘hated’ people. There is very rarely a happy medium between these two points in my mind.)

Today, I feel like I have managed to take steps in the right direction to loving myself.

Quotes, internet memes, and posts that other people choose to share on the internet have helped to promote what counts as self love. This morning I ate cereal. Then I decided I was feeling far too sick to get up and go and that it was okay to go back to sleep, as long as I took my meds first.

They’re small things, but when you’re recovering they’re so important. Show yourself some love. Build up that warm confidence that you are worth it, to yourself. I am worth my own existence, and I hope that one day I’ll be able to love myself enough to be able to truly love someone else.

Helpful Links

You feel like shit. – A great support, when you’re really having trouble to self-care.

Calm.com – For a quick meditation session.

Tiny Buddha – A place for inspiration and wisdom.

Yesterday was horrible.

The difference in how I feel right now, and how I felt 24 hours ago is remarkable.

I don’t think there was a trigger, but there were a million things ‘wrong’. I don’t even want to go into it because it’s such a shitty mindset and I wish I could just make it go away.

One thing it really reinforced in me is that, now I understand all of this. The illness, the borderline – I realise how far from normal this is.

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It’s 8am.

This would be a good thing, you know – if I was waking up at this time of the day, but it’s night for me. I woke up at 1pm yesterday and since then have pretty much just been on the internet all day.

I watched the last few episodes of Dr Who that I got out from the library, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I’ve been tagging like crazy with Tony and getting ridiculously over-excited about threads with people.

I tried to go to sleep earlier, and about 20 minutes later I gave up and decided to check my e-mails. Again.

After that, I tried to sleep again. There’s a crazy strong wind here at the moment (28mph right now), so that’s been keeping me up. I think I have a headache because of the lack of sleep and also because I’ve pretty much just been drinking Diet Coke, Dr Pepper, Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate for the last two weeks.

I laid down and started thinking about how ridiculous things have gotten for me. I’m so bored I’ve been trying to make ‘plans’ for my future. Wondering about whether I should try and go to university full time, or if I should try to enroll in a college course. Once I get started along that track I start thinking about what kind of job I might end up with, and how awesome it would be to be to actually have the skills to land a well paid job one day, which is laughable because it would only take a smidgen of stress and I’d be out like a light. How can I possibly maintain a job with any responsibilities when I freak out if I think someone thinks I’ve stapled something the wrong way, or made their coffee wrong, or put something down in the wrong place?

That’s when I had the genius idea to look into the possibility of private therapy and that is just laughable. Even if I had all the money in the world there are NO private counsellors I can find within 20 miles of Lincoln who offer DBT as a therapy.

I just want to curl up and give up. I just– what is the point? Everything is fight, fight, fight. I’m going home to amazing friends that I don’t deserve. I’m going to fuck everything up. I’m going to over analyse everything, even more now that I’m aware of even the simplest things being because of who I am. It’s going to drive me crazy asking someone if they’re okay only for them to tell me they are fine and I know they’re not. I can’t stand not being let in, and I can’t stand being too close to people.

It’s just pointless, really. There is no one I can think of that I haven’t upset, or been a bother to. I know that a lot of people don’t care. The point of friends is that you forgive them and move on but I never stop thinking about it. I never stop thinking about that one time I stood somewhere which was a dumb, unhelpful place to stand and didn’t even realise it and had to be told to move. I remember that time I couldn’t say anything so I grunted at my friend when they asked me if I was okay and their cheerful mood died and went to hell somewhere. I’m a vindictive, spiteful, childish little girl and I no more WANT to grow up and feel like I’m capable of it.

This life is pointless. Everything is so pointless.