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.

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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.

Finally there.

I’ve been here for just over two weeks now, and it feels like months.

Very fortunately I have a fantastic friend whose parents have been amazing enough to let me take over their spare room.

Melbourne is pretty awesome, and so much has happened that I’m pretty sure I’m going to forget everything in this entry but I wanted to really quickly write up something before the turn of the year!

Finally being here is strange. It’s still really difficult to get my head around the fact that I am quite literally on the other side of the world. I tried to get the water in the sink to swirl so I could see which way it drained but the plug had a slightly raised bit so the water just sort of got sucked through that instead of making a swirly thing.

The biggest, most exciting thing that’s happened so far was meeting my awesome friend Aaron for the first time. It was the most nerve wracking thing, but mostly because I could hardly believe it was actually happening.

After 12 years of knowing each other, and promising I would visit some day, working on a concept for a set of novels together for this long and being in different timezones when suddenly we were both hard working people of the world – there was always that thought that it probably wouldn’t happen.

It was my first full day in Australia, so naturally I had heaps of things to do. Open a bank account, get a mobile phone sim, post some things back home, try and file for medicare. I managed two things before I realised that it was almost 3pm. I didn’t have a way to contact Aaron to tell him where I would be and I didn’t actually know where he worked.

The mad dash was on. First I found somewhere to steal internet from. Thank you, CommBank. Message Aaron on Facebook, find out where to get a mobile phone from.

With only 5 minutes to go I barely managed to explain to the store clerk that I needed a sim only plan, and that the problem was I meeting a friend and I could barely contain myself. As soon as I had a signal, I called and he told me to wait just outside the shop, he knew where I was.

I don’t think I have ever been filled with so many emotions at once, excitement, happiness, fear, anxiety. What if he didn’t look like I thought he would, or what if he thought I was weird, and what if we didn’t get along as well as we always had. Every single person that came round the corner from Optus got a glare because oh my god is it hi– no, damnit where is he? I’m pretty sure people were slightly worried about my health, and I was helpfully informed that the sound I made was akin to a squeak when we finally met.

Needless to say, I won’t forget that in a hurry. I had nothing to worry about. We chatted on the Yarra banks, looked at some geeky shops, had food and went our separate ways. Was awesome.

One flew over the cuckoo’s nest (A review of sorts)

When I first picked this book up, in Seattle on my way to California, I really didn’t expect it to have such a huge impact on me. After I finished it, I felt compelled at least to try and get some of those thoughts down. I guess, this would be a book review then!

I’m not proud to say that I knew absolutely nothing about the book, but now that I’ve read it, I really think it might just have been screaming out to me. Whatever it was that made me wait until now to finish reading it was waiting for me to know the things I know now. Things about Alcatraz, and mental health, and most of all, protecting me and waiting until such a time that I was heading off to somewhere bright and sunny.

It’s odd, even thinking that as I finished it – I’ve been reading the sun. The plane is really dark comparatively, and I guess it really hooked me into the story. Perhaps, already half way through the book – I had already begun to suspect the kind of affect it would have on me, especially after having to stop reading yesterday when I picked it up again.

I couldn’t possibly claim to be the kind of person who understands a book very well after reading them. I know what I feel whilst reading, I live in the moments, see everything, imagine the people and there’s not much else. I can’t recount things that happened in it and reflect on what they mean, but I know that this book has deeply affected me in ways I hope are positive. One thing I can be sure of is that I’m glad that mental health isn’t viewed the same way as it used to be – and I do wonder if there are any other people who felt like they were ‘one of the boys’ during the last part, especially out there in the Day Room drinking and telling stories.

I feel like I know that sensation. Of feeling for a fleeting moment that you belong. Like looking at it from somewhere else, drowning out all the noise until it’s just the sound of your friends talking.

I feel angered by the Big Nurse. I’m distressed by the things that she did to those boys. I felt concerned about the people that work there briefly, unsure how I would deal with the situation. Fighting against people just isn’t worth it. If you truly want to help people, you try to help them let go of their pride. Pride is such a heavy burden though. I can’t begin to imagine how Mack felt standing up to her. Knowing that he was right in doing what he did, and I still stand to that. He didn’t deserve to be operated on.

When you’re in a group of people who are being oppressed, against people who are upholding the ‘law’, laws they make themselves, or take on from other people. Rules they’re paid to uphold, and I know how that feels. How many times have I stood in a classroom listening to a bunch of children complain about the work they’re doing, knowing that there are far better things they could be doing with their time. The work the teacher has set them is a load of crap, photocopied sheets handed out to them all regardless of ability, unable to do anything else, even if they do finish it. They still have ‘colour in all the letters’, ‘no, not all in one colour’, ‘you’ll have to do it all again’. For what? So that the teacher can get through another lesson relatively painlessly. They can tick a box that says that child has learnt which shapes are squares and circles, knows the names of different clothing in another language, can listen to a teacher reel off the answers to questions about History and write words that the teacher put up on the board in the places where there are blank spaces.

The system is so messed up, and I don’t even know where anyone is supposed to begin. Working in the immediate area just isn’t enough. Or maybe it is. If you can lead by example in one place, and others pick up on it. That sort of thing takes years, and there’s always someone who will mess it up. Someone who doesn’t actually care about the children they’re teaching. It’s a job – it pays the bills, pays for holidays, gets me a nice car. That’s just the Education Sector. That’s just England. I know nothing about the things that are going on in other countries and what’s to say that they don’t deserve attention too. Children who are taught lies.

I want to know what I can really do.

Without ending up like Mack, I guess.

This wasn’t supposed to be emotional

Life has a really weird way of working out.

Not a lot to say about Anchorage. An 8 hours stay in an airport isn’t any fun in any airport, but when it’s an airport that has as few shops as here it’s pretty boring.

I did make a friend though, which was a bit of a surprise, but really nice. I’d hoped it would be pretty easy to befriend people, and I’m pleased to find it is!

Now, if only I would stop crying over the thought of seeing Mum again after so long, everything would be perfect!!