Asking for Help

Recently someone opened up to me about their mental health difficulties after reading through some of my blog, and I found myself talking about being able to ask people for help.

I distinctly recall a time when ‘asking for help’ felt like an impossible feat. Suffering from the most crushing depressive moods was obviously unpleasant. It would always start quite simply, a wayward thought about something someone had said to me, or something I’d said – some kind of injustice that I felt helpless to correct; and from there on it felt a lot like I was on a downward slope.

It was best described as a spiral, starting with a single point that spun wildly out of control within minutes. Right now it’s difficult to reflect on what those initial thoughts were, or at least it would be impossible for me to sit here and tell you exactly what any one trigger was – but at the time I had no idea that there was anything anyone could do to help me. Help was never going to fix the things that I had done wrong, and ‘help’ was never going to stop me thinking about those things. There was nothing anyone could do to erase the thoughts and feelings and memories – why should they, and why would I want them to? All the mistakes we make, or think we’ve made build us as people and I do believe quite strongly that it’s these things that build resilience and strength, although I definitely recognise now that the things I once thought were never really true.

These ‘incidents’ happened with increasing frequency until one day I opened up to a friend about them. No, it wasn’t the sudden miracle cure I’d been looking for, and it wasn’t the start of some unique healing process that would happen on its own but I made the decision there and then to try to tell that friend – the next time I experienced these spiralling thoughts.

Yes, I can remember the night. No, I have no idea when it was – but I do know that I called my friend, in floods of tears and asked her very simply if she could ‘come and get me’. I know that I’m very privileged to have friends that are able to do just that, and if I’m honest I tried hard to ask her in a very calm tone whether or not she was busy before imposing myself.

My friend had a few lovely words to say, and then she was in her car on the way to pick me up.

Instantly, I felt relief. At the time, I believe there were probably too many overwhelming feelings to really work out how I felt about the whole thing other than the obvious fact that I was no longer in that spiral. Maybe just sharing my problem was enough, maybe knowing that I had friends who cared this deeply about me was enough to quell the disturbing and incorrect assumptions I’d been making about myself. Either way, it was the first time I reached out to someone when I thought I never could – but it definitely wasn’t the last.

There is a huge difference between the person who called her friend that night, and the person that I am today. Back then I didn’t know that I have a personality disorder, and I definitely didn’t know how to cope with those debilitating beliefs that felt so real. I had no idea that I could feel something so strongly, and believe it so firmly – and accept at the very same time that it was not true. How many times had I convinced myself that people who loved me actually didn’t?

I’m rambling again (when don’t I?).

It’s only really been in the last day or so since talking to someone about being able to ‘reach out for help’ that I’ve begun to think about the meaning of the phrase. It’s not about asking someone else to take away your pain, or expecting them to have an answer to all your problems, and I assure you it is certainly not about attention seeking!

Asking for help is about knowing that you are not alone. It is about breaking whatever cycle you fall into. It is definitely not easy, but we all know that nothing worth doing IS.

These days I have learned to recognise those ‘trigger thoughts’ when they rear their ugly heads, and most of the time I can dismiss them. If that doesn’t work, I know there are several people who are only a phone call, e-mail, text message or IM away who will make me feel better again. I tend to pose the issue to people differently, depending on who they are – but I know I only have to say the words ‘I’m really struggling today’, and it’s enough to put a stop to the thoughts.

Please remember, if you feel like you can’t talk to your friends or family about how you’re feeling there are support services out there, run by people who want to help. In the UK you can contact the Samaritans at any time of the day by phone or email for free.

 

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It’s Christmas!

Here it is, obligatory ‘Happy Christmas’ post from me to you.

It’s currently ALMOST 1am, and I’m sat listening to Christmas songs whilst April puts the last finishing touches to Lilly-Mae’s doll house.

I love being surrounded by the kinds of people that don’t mind doing things for other, people who trust each other and don’t mind accepting help. Hannah’s worked so hard this year to get everything ‘just right’ and I think it’s important to remember that we all have people who can be there for us whether we like it or not and whether we find it easy to accept that help or not. It’s a lesson I think we all have to learn sometimes – and I do wonder if there generally two different types of people, those who struggle to accept help and people who expect it.

ANYWAY. I digress. As I so often do.

This was supposed to be an opportunity to reflect on the last year – as so many people do this time of year.

It’s not been a terribly easy year, but not for the usual reasons. Generally speaking I’ve felt much calmer about most things. ‘Stuff’ doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, whether that’s because of the medication or because I’ve had a change in the way I look at life I don’t know (and it’s likely I’ll never know!) but it’s nice to recognise a difference in myself so clearly.

Families for a lot of people are a complicated thing, but I tend to find that mine is quite simple. My Granny has two sisters, and we have this tradition of visiting them in the run up to Christmas. This year we’ve had a lot more to talk about than usual, which is nice – between university, getting a flat, and my Dad’s new job there’s plenty of good news for everyone. There was a point when I felt that my Dad didn’t want me to keep talking anymore, sometimes I’m not sure what people want to hear or whether they want to listen when I talk about my mental health – but all I know is that I’m pretty much open and honest about all aspects of it. It’s a common theme through most of this year, actually. I couldn’t say how many people have mentioned the fact that I’m open about having Borderline, and equally how many people have said things like ‘Well you don’t act at all like you have a— you know‘ as if somehow I need to be acting a certain way all the time.

Perhaps it all comes back to this idea that one person can make a difference. If I can make one person see people with personality disorders in a different way then I’ve done something that will benefit someone else somewhere along the line.

2018 is definitely going to be an exciting one! That’s for sure. There’s a lot of work to do between now and the middle of January. I’m still trying to work out quite how I balance uni work and painting but it looks like this Wednesday is going to be a fun one. I’m just generally looking forward to things again. Life is good. ^^;

Be good to yourselves, be kind to each other, forgive, take a moment to swallow your own pride and have respect for the pride of others too. Be open, open minded, honest and reliable! If you make a commitment, try and stick to it. If you can’t do something, don’t promise to do it!

Much love.

~Ollie. x

Prioritising

It’s a word I struggle with, definitely not because I don’t understand the concept! I find it quite easy to make decisions about what should come first and which is more important – but there are times when it feels that there’s something else that’s supposed to be going on there.

Okay, so I’m mostly thinking about the situation that I’m in at the moment.

Last week, after my last seminar on Friday of that week I had made my decision! With FOUR WEEKS of freedom, I was going to manage a schedule of uni work, socialising and video games alongside the usual eating/sleeping routine that comes to easily to me.

So, on Tuesday when I got a call to say that there was a flat to go and look at, my priorities were suddenly shifted dramatically. I cannot describe to you the excitement I felt at being offered a flat. It’s something for a whole different post about independence and living on my own and having my own space and trying to work out which colours I want to grace the walls with – but for right now I have two very ‘important’ conflicting priorities.

Christmas of course went out the window. Suddenly my world is confined to painting and decorating. At first I knew that I needed to tackle the issue head on. There was only one thing I needed to do and that was DECORATE. I needed to clean, scrub, sand, paint, plan. What do I need? What do I have? What can I live without for a while? Where should I get this where can I get that? Quite frankly my thoughts have been chasing me in circles all week and I’m only just beginning to feel like I know what the correct approach is.

I just want to focus on how I’ve felt this week.

As soon as I found out that I could move in, it’s been my one goal. As if there is nothing else standing in my way. Everything I did from now until the flat was ready to move in had to be something which moved me closer toward that end goal. It’s a lot to take in, moving is such big business and when you move in to your own place for the first time LET ME TELL YOU IF YOU DON’T KNOW, it’s more than a little overwhelming. I forgot how daunting it can be to tackle everything all at once, I’ve managed the bills before now – and even managed them for a house of several peoples. That’s nothing new, but I think somewhere along the way I forgot about all this ‘adult’ business and suddenly it feels big and imposing.

I told myself that before university started again, I had to be living there with everything ‘just so’, and with at least enough time to get settled in and comfortable!

Honestly, I’m not sure when I realised that this was an unreasonable and frankly ridiculous goal. Today has offered me a break from ‘the flat’, although I did pop by with my Dad & co this afternoon, just so that they could see it first hand and perhaps knowing that they’re all very keen to chip in and lend a hand makes me feel a lot better about the whole thing.

Again, I forget my own advise as I realise that writing about the thing causing me such stress has helped to realign priorities and re-evaluate their weight.

Yes, it would be great to be able to move in over the next two weeks and have everything shiny and new and exciting but actually there are more important things going on here.

After my ‘tiny’ meltdown last term, it’s safe to say that if there’s a way to reduce the chances of that, I want to grasp at them. I started making a habit of writing down the weekly tasks that we’re given in a notebook and then putting a corresponding amount of marbles in a glass to denote each task so that there is a visual representation of the work load. It’s not that I’d forgotten about it – it just became less important to me when my only goal was GET THIS ASSIGNMENT WRITTEN, but a clean start is always a good thing in my opinion and getting that list written out has definitely helped me to reevaluate my current priorities as well as deciding to get a blog post done!

There is NO WAY that I would be able to temper the excitement I have about moving home, but I’m sincerely hoping that instead of focussing fully on preparing the flat, I can find a balance between these two REALLY important things and work out a way to evenly spread my time between the two things. It’s definitely not something I’m good at – and it’s difficult sometimes to know if that’s just a product of who I am, or it’s something that’s controlled by the black and white thinking that comes with having borderline.

A lot of people that I’ve talked to about time management and organisation try to help by offering advice about breaking up your time, setting yourself small goals and rewarding yourself when you meet them. It’s safe to say I have NEVER accomplished anything by doing that. Seriously, I wish it was easier to do an hours work and then reward myself with 15 minutes of gaming time (or something similar) but I much prefer to work at something until I can’t stand it any more and then wait until the next time I feel like working. Sometimes that can be half an hour later, or after I’ve made myself something to eat and cuddled the cat, sometimes it’s not until the next day.

We all work in different ways, and I’m starting to think that this is just another one of those barriers that I’m going to have to face and overcome. Finding balance between two things, and forfeiting my own desires is NOT easy. No one ever said that it was, of course, but I know that if I want to succeed, I’m going to have to start now.

In conclusion; write stuff down, write stuff down, and write stuff down. It helps!

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.

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.

Medication

You know, I just really needed somewhere to get my thoughts out.

This Tuesday, I had a far more successful appointment with my Psychiatrist. The first is another story entirely that I don’t feel comfortable going through just yet.

The psychiatrist and I talked about a lot of things, and there were a fair few of them that really surprised me. I thought it was a little strange that he asked me what age my parents were, and whether or not they were married, and what they did for work. Weirder still, he was very intent on getting a thorough history of where I’d been on my travels the previous year.

I talked a lot, and as is the case for me a lot of the time at the moment – I questioned the diagnosis of BPD. It’s silly, really. In one breath I feel like I relate to the diagnosis completely and utterly. Thinking about the relief it gave me, and the clarity that it provided when I looked back on the rest of my life meant that to me it just made sense and from that moment on I felt suddenly incredibly empowered to keep moving forward.

Thankfully, the psych was kind enough to take a moment to let me know that if the diagnosis had done all this for me, and still explained so many of my behaviours then I probably needed to accept it. I do. I wish I did all the time, but there are moments when I’m reading about other people who also have BPD, and listening to other people’s stories that I feel like somehow I am cheating them out of their diagnosis. Like there has to be something else that I should be identifying with.

That thought alone is enough to make me angry with myself. Everyone’s story is their own personal timeline. I tell myself, and others quite often that even identical twins have different thoughts, feelings, wants, needs and issues. This is the same for everyone.

Also, during my meeting – we discussed the other thing.

Depression is something I know I’ve also suffered with, and I’m beginning to wonder whether the onset of it was something completely removed from BPD. My memories of childhood don’t stretch back far enough to determine whether borderline has affected my life far before my teenage years, but I could certainly say that I displayed plenty of traits I recognised now well before I was depressed.

By the end of the session, I’d not only had my fears sated, and my concerns discussed – but there was something else hanging between us that I almost didn’t want to have to hear.

Going back on medication is a decision I promised myself I wouldn’t make lightly, and I don’t think for one minute that either myself, or the psychiatrist would even think about it if it didn’t make sense.

It’s scary though. For so many reasons and some of them not as obvious as the others.

I’m worried about my ‘self’. The person I have learned to accept in the last year is more often than not, peppy and upbeat. I get excited about the most ridiculous things and act so often like I know there are other people watching but I just don’t care. I’m happy not caring, and I’m concerned that I’ll lose that part of me I’ve grown to accept and love.

I’m scared of the vivid dreams I haven’t had since last October. I’m scared of appetite changes, sleeping pattern shifts. I’m scared of suicidal thoughts and depressive thinking. I’m scared that they will make me feel sick, and worse – I’m afraid that I’ll stop being able to feel.

To me, feelings and emotions play such a huge role in my every day life. I love life. I smile at buildings, for no reason other than I’m happy.

Knowing that there is another side to me sometimes doesn’t feel like it’s enough to justify potentially changing this attitude.

“Depressed Ollie” is not pleasant. For me, or for anyone else around me. I dislike her, and I know that sometimes that’s not the best attitude to have when you’re trying to overcome living with a part of yourself but I cannot help but question whether some of the things that I have become used to are simply down to the fact that I am depressed. Will going on medication change me so drastically that suddenly I’ll be able to accomplish the things that have felt too difficult or scary?

Will I find the strength, without those underlying thoughts and feelings, to do things I don’t feel capable of yet?

Has this last year been an exercise in ‘mastering’ my understanding of my life with Borderline, and now I need to work on Depression as a whole… other thing that impact so much of what I do, and try to do.

Personality is such an unbalanced concept for me at the moment anyway, and there’s a defeatist part of myself that wants to lean back and let it happen. After all, my traits and habits and thoughts seem to change depending on the weather anyway. Why shouldn’t I just throw caution to the wind and try this? Give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen?

I have a feeling that I’ll go ahead with this decision. It felt right on Tuesday morning, and I know in my heart that things aren’t ‘right’. It still doesn’t stop me from feeling uneasy about it.

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.