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.

 

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BPD & feeling like a faker.

Someone on reddit posted this: [https://www.reddit.com/r/BPD/comments/3o42jy/still_unsure_whether_i_am_actually_sick_or_just/]. Speaking up about their own feelings of invalidation over their illness.

I started writing a comment, and then realised that as always I was going to start babbling. It really made sense just to get it down in words for myself and babble where it’s safe.

The idea that my illness was ‘all in my mind’ was something I contended with even when I didn’t have a diagnosis of BPD, but was made to feel like I was, in the words of the psychiatrist I saw when I was 20, ‘just depressed’. At the time I didn’t know much about other possibilities and had posed to him the idea that I might have Bipolar. 

I’ve started to wonder if the biggest issue with Borderline is a kind of self-awareness that you have of the people you can be. When I look back on my 10 year career, I realise first of all, how understanding my first boss was, without him knowing that I have BPD or even really accepting that there was an issue. I was surrounded by people who, now that I think about it, accepted me as that person who was capable of fulfilling their task without fault, but also had flashes of time when it was just impossible. I had colleagues that I could work almost perfectly with, because I was so sure of myself, the task and the children that I was working with – but even then I had ‘bad’ days and they were understanding enough of the depressive state to accept that as the ‘issue’. 

I had the type of job where no two days were ever the same. Sometimes I walked into the building with a very clear-cut idea of what I would achieve as an ‘I.T Technician’ of sorts, only to be told that several people were off sick, so could I be a teaching assistant in this class with a teacher I didn’t really know for one lesson and then spend the rest of the day in the office. 

Those days were the hardest, only until I got over the anxiety that I didn’t know how those teachers wanted me to act. Especially in the later months of my employment, when there was a change of management, I struggled with the concept of not knowing expectations, and people – in the way I know so many others with BPD will relate – that I ended up having far too many days off work. I just couldn’t cope with being in an environment where I knew nothing, and was expected to live up to my own expectations! How could I possibly function properly in a classroom of people I knew nothing about. I hadn’t coded them yet. Were they people I could trust, or not? 

My biggest issue has always been the unknown, and now I find it easy to admit that I cannot read people, and I hate it. I cannot read their intents, I cannot read their laughter, or their emotions. 

I went through a period of time where, even now I feel sure I could sense that there was something wrong. It didn’t even have to be something wrong with me, but of course I found it very easy to find a fault in myself that ‘must’ have been the cause of their unfamiliar behaviour. It landed me, and someone I worked closely with in a very difficult situation and I’m still not quite sure how I could have made it better. I wanted to be strong, to learn how to accept that I could be doing something wrong without it being the ‘I’ was wrong. I was so scared of not fitting in, and of being told that this environment that I had grown to believe was ‘the’ place for me that to take criticism of any kind was such an emotional rollercoaster. I don’t even want to say rollercoaster – it would be more like being tossed off a mountain top and being made to feel every rock as I tumbled right down to the bottom. 

I’ve spent many an hour thinking about that situation and wondering how I could change myself so that I wasn’t making people worried to correct me, and I think I’m slowly realising and coming to understand that it’s me. The problem is me, and that’s what’s so frustrating about BPD. You can be so self-aware, and at the same time it’s like if you stepped out of yourself for a minute to look, you might as well be looking at some kind of alien species instead of seeing the you that you think you know so well.

I’m aware that I’m hypersensitive, and I’m aware that I don’t ‘fit’ in so many social situations despite my best efforts. I’m aware that I look for connections with people so I can feel attached to them, and I feel every single difference acutely, as if those things are a threat to friendships and relationships. As if the fact that someone enjoys rock climbing means that we can never be friends because I’m really not a rock climber right now, but I could be! I could be a rock climber too if I went on a diet and lost weight and went rock climbing, I could be that person too! We could be friends. 

I’m babbling, but I’m sure there’s a point in here somewhere. There’s a connection to those feelings of fakery. Despite all this, and this is just the way I’m feeling right now, on a good day when I know the only two people I have to please are my Mum and my Step-Dad and there is no one else who will make a surprise phone call, or a home visit. I don’t have to worry about whether I’ll ‘feel able to work’ in a few days when work starts up again because there is no work. I’m safe. 

Not completely safe though, because every night when I go to bed the thoughts start up. When I stop distracting myself with ‘things’, that’s when the memories of ‘before’ start and the things I did wrong, and the people I hurt, and the words I said, and the things I didn’t do. 

 

I also wonder if some of those ‘fake’ feelings come from a place where you are safe. It’s because you aren’t working, and don’t have the constant worry about where your next paycheque is coming from, or whether your boss is going to sack you for that thing you said the other day to someone who doesn’t even know where you work. It’s because after a period of ‘protecting’ yourself from the ‘elements’, you feel a little better about things. You know you can work. You know you have amazing days. There are days when there is NO ONE who can do the job better than you. In fact, why don’t they just clone you a few times and you could do the job of all those people you work with and get it done better than them! 

The idea is actually kind of sickening. That you can feel this way about people you care about, people you call your friends and colleagues that you would like to spend time with outside of work. What kind of person does that make you anyway? Then on those really bad days, it’s easy to tell yourself that they’re all thinking the same thing of you. When thinking about the people you love and care about is agony, because you think they like you – but you’re so aware of how you can hate them, what’s to say they don’t feel the same way about you? 

I’ve spent time with a best friend, sat in my living room wishing that they would just go home and leave me alone – but been unable to say the words. So, what’s to say that in those moments where you want nothing more than to spend time with them – that they don’t want the same thing from you? Just fuck off and leave me alone already! I love my friends. They are all the most amazing people, for what they do, the way they think, their quirkiness and their every day ‘being’. I love them all, and I know they must be my friend for some reason, but I wish I knew what it was. 

This is really turning into babble now. 

I just want to be okay in the decisions I’m going to make. I’m scared. I feel fake every time I make that call into work to say I can’t make it in. I feel fake every time I have a complete and utter melt down. I feel fake every time I start thinking about that one day where I did that thing and it turns into that spiral that sometimes I feel like I can control and other times, I just can’t. It starts, and then in seconds you’re there at the bottom and the only thing you can think is ‘why am I even here?’ Anything else feels like a desperate attempt to deny all the bad things you know about yourself, and forget all the people you’ve hurt. 

I don’t want to end this on a bad note, but I’m quickly losing interest in this entire blog post because it’s gone so far off course and I’m a writer – so I should be able to reign it back, but my impulsive tendencies dictate that I can’t ‘leave’ something to edit and post later. My brain doesn’t work like that. 

Everything will be okay. It’s going to be okay. 

Uncontrollable Crying

I feel really strongly that I need to offload about my latest episode in ridiculous crying.

Tonight has been terrible. What happened was actually pretty tame. I talked with an online friend about something I’ve been feeling/thinking for some time now – and at the same time I was talking to another close friend about my money situation at the moment.

The two things were pretty much completely overwhelming and the sense of hatred I had for myself was so intense. I’m in a public a place whilst this happens, or at least the lounge of a hostel in Australia and my nose was running because I was crying. So, naturally I went off to blow my nose but the moment that I got there I locked the door, grabbed some toilet roll and proceeded to sit down against the wall. Crying is nothing something I’ve ever seen people do gracefully, and I hate myself even more when it happens.

My mind was racing, mostly and it’s difficult to convey that in words. I’d already done the damage though. Called myself out on my worst features. My two-facedness, my cowardice. Talking about the fact that I can’t DO what it seems that I’m supposed to do. I’m in a place right now where I feel comfortable but it isn’t ideal – it’s not what other people could accomplish and I feel so pathetic knowing that I just cannot, for whatever reason achieve what other people do. The phrase ‘one day I’m just going to die and it will all mean nothing’ stuck with me and I suppose that’s where the suicidal thoughts come into it.

It all got worse whilst I was crying though. It was uncontrollable and every time I started to think about something I felt the pain rise up in me all over again. The kind of sobbing where you whine and whimper. Pathetic really. I couldn’t cope with seeing things around me. I pulled my hood up over my head, turned my face toward the wall but the tiles in the bathroom are reflective so I could still see the stuff around me no matter how much I turned my head. So I had to close my eyes, and I’m still crying and trying to stifle the sound with my hood because I both do and don’t want people to hear me crying.

When it gets to the point that my throat is dry and hurting I get mad with myself. I press my knuckles against the wall and recoil instantly because I know that sensation of pain will maybe make me feel better but I don’t really want to hurt myself. So I rest my palm against it instead, but I’m still crying. Still thinking about the things I can’t do. The future I can’t think about. I want to pound my fist against the wall this time – and I do, just once, but that makes me stop, because I don’t want to hurt myself. I don’t want to have scars and I don’t want to damage the things around me.

I’m still crying, and it just seems natural to bump my head against the wall now – but I’ve done that before. Against a concrete lamp post some years ago in the middle of my home town and it hurt, but it didn’t make me feel any better. I can recall what it made me feel at the time physical pain was better to think about than the crushing pain in my chest. I don’t think banging my head against the wall is going to help anyone.

I’m still crying. My abdomen is starting to hurt because of the sharp breaths and my back hurts from the way I’m hunched over and struggling to make the feeling go away. It’s only when I’m thinking, completely focused on making myself stop that I wonder if I will ever stop. Is this going to be like the time I completely blacked out a few months ago? Didn’t this happen then? I’d started screaming and what if I start screaming now? It’s 3am, in the basement of a hostel.

The desire for someone to find me strikes me hard, and it’s both a desperate need and something I don’t think I’d be able to handle. I just want someone to wrap their arms around me and rock me until I stop. I think about something a friend once said to me, and it soothes me for a moment before I remember that it’s the same friend who I feel like I’ve let down. By being so unable to achieve social norms. I hold on to the memory of the words they spoke months and months before and very slowly I can feel myself begin to calm down.

I’m still thinking about that time I blacked out though. I’m thinking about the thoughts I had then, and I’m thinking about the children I’ve worked with, and I’m thinking about the link via mental health and I’m thinking maybe we need to make sure our quiet, calm spaces are clean because I can see dust on the floor here and just the fact that is is there is making me cross. I’m cross that I have to think about it, that it’s THERE when it shouldn’t be and all I want is darkness and calm and I turn toward the tile again and I can feel it’s wet from the condensation I’m creating.

The tissue in my hand is nothing but a wrinkled mass of paper, it’s not going to be any use for my nose, but I press it under my nostrils to try and get rid of anything there because at one point I swear it was just water coming out of me.

At least I’m not thinking by this point. Except that thought alone is a reminder of what I’m trying not to think about. It comes again in a wave I’m really not expecting and that just makes everything worse. Is this ever going to stop? It’s got to stop at some point. I’ve done nothing ‘wrong’ with my body except forget to take my meds and that wasn’t going to have that much impact on this, it wasn’t like it was AGES ago that I last had them, only 5 or so hours overdue.

Eventually I conclude that the only way I’m going to stop crying is if I really try hard to. Deep breaths. I’m still sobbing ever other breath but that means it’s working. I’m going to be okay though. Even if I sit here all night, eventually someone will knock on the door and reality will be here again to wake me up. Do I want people to think I’m crazy though? I don’t want the people that I know are currently on shift to think that there’s a huge problem here. I don’t want to worry them. Yes, I wanted one of them to hold me until it stopped but without the questions.

It’s only when I’ve stopped that I hear a knock on the door. The guy on duty asks me, by name, to open the door. This is okay, because I know him. I can’t stand up though, so I crawl to the door and right when I get there I can feel the urge to cry overwhelming me again. I want to just turn the lock and leave the door, but I manage to pull the door open and he steps in, but I can’t see above the bottom of his shorts. Am I okay. I will be. Of course I will. I’m always okay. I never hurt myself, and I never do anything with any finality. I’m not sure what it is that keeps me hooked so deeply to life. Whether it’s the promises I made when I was 17 to a person I’d never met before, or the lives of the people who didn’t deserve to die but did that remind me how precious life is. If it’s just because I am a coward, or because I still hope it will get better or because these outbursts AREN’T what I am. I’m still alive, and I’m still breathing.

I say I just need five minutes and he’s gone. Promising to be back in five minutes if I don’t. There’s a pressure for a moment. Can I regain enough composure to be out of here in five minutes. I kind of need to go to the toilet anyway. Getting up is hard though. A part of me thinks I could stay there all night, just staring. Just thinking about the fact that I’ve worried someone I barely know and interrupted another person’s cleaning schedule by sitting on the floor of the toilet he was going to clean and suddenly I just want to beg for forgiveness and apologise over and over and over.

By the time I’m on my feet, relieved and washing my hands it’s got to have been five minutes but I just can’t. What do I say? What if there are questions I don’t know how to answer? What if I just start crying again? They’ll think it’s something serious but actually, some of my friends talked to me about some stuff. That’s it. Some friends talked to me about things that needed to be discussed. I’m supposed to think about my future, and the things I’m doing with my life right now and those are the things I was talking about. Normal every day things.

I steel myself, try on a smile and decide that it’s the only way I can get through this. Smile. Let them know I’m okay. Hope it’s enough to act as a thank you. I still feel badly for disrupting their evening’s work. I still feel ridiculous.

Then I sat back where I’d been – as if nothing had happened. Except my nose is the same colour as my lips and it makes me look so pale, and I’ve written a post semi-publicly that I need to delete and this deep need to write about the experience.