The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘self harm’

Love your body

So often we are bombarded by images and words about ugliness. We are lead to believe that we are inadequate and unworthy because of our appearance. We got (or get) bullied at school for wearing glasses or for having a few extra folds of skin and fat, or for having a birthmark on our face or for stuttering or for having stretch marks or … for a whole range of other things. We get bombarded by messages that say we MUST buy certain things in order to change who we are to be acceptable. Skin-care and makeup and surgery and clothing and accessories and whatever else you can think of.

We learn to hide ourselves from others and to fear being who we truly are. We become afraid of being judged and work hard to prevent it by buying into the messages we hear. We buy all the things we can to cover and mask ourselves. We cover up the small scar above our eye that told the story of when we fell off our bike at the age of 9. We get liposuction to rid ourselves of the fat that remains on thighs that have carried us through the hardest moments in our lives. We get our tummies tucked. Tummies that have carried precious children inside and allowed them to grow and to be nourished. Or tummies that tell the stories of how we have overcome years of abuse to be the healthiest we have ever been in our lives. We buy gym memberships to punish our bodies for being 5 kg larger than the person next to us. We buy gym memberships and hire personal trainers to smash us into the ground to rid our bodies of those extra 5kg. 5kg that protected us from the bullies or 5 kg that protected our babies or 5kg that enjoyed a little extra cake as we celebrated a major milestone in the lives of the people we love the most. Or 5kg that marks the journey of us mourning the loss of the person most important to us.

We do these things over and over and over again for years and expect to feel better about ourselves and the person we are becoming. We disconnect ourselves from the world. We disconnect ourselves from ourselves. Our mind becomes separated from our bodies and they operate independently. While we are busy cleaning or walking or whatever, our mind is busy thinking about how ugly we are or how inadequate we are or how we need the next best thing to repair the hole that was created 20 or more years ago.

The hole that nothing can repair. It seems that no matter what we try to do, no matter what we buy, no matter which gimmick we get sucked into, it doesn’t work.

You’re right. It won’t work. Because you don’t need a gimmick.

You cannot repair a hole, a disconnection between mind and body, with the next quick fix. You’re looking for a solution full of hate. A solution that is, in itself, flawed.

The idea of a quick fix (marketed to keep you buying products and designed to keep you feeling inadequate) repairing an emotional injury is ludicrous.

An injury of hate and inadequacy and unworthiness requires a solution of love, worth, and meaning. You need to feed the injury the emotions that it is missing.

There are no quick fixes that will ever work.

The only way to repair a disconnection is to reconnect. To get your mind and body talking to each other. To get them doing the same thing at the same time. Here are some key things I have learned about reconnection in my life.

  • Acknowledge the story. Each “inadequacy” on your body tells a story about who you are. Those 5kg (or 10 or even 70kg) served a purposestory to tell at one point in your life. They may have protected your heart from the impact of abuse or they may have nourished and helped your children grow. Or maybe they supported you through years of grief. Your scars tell a story. Whether physical or emotional, the stories behind those scars have made you the person you are today. They got you through. They strengthened you. They supported you. To deny them is to minimize your spirit. To deny them is to say they mean nothing. And that is the furthest thing from the truth, when without them, you wouldn’t be who you are. So acknowledge the scars, whatever they look like. Send them love and gratitude for helping you get to today.
  • Years of disconnect, abuse and hating yourself cannot be undone overnight. It takes patience and practice to reprogram your mind with messages of love, self-respect and support. So be patient with you. You deserve it.
  • Surround yourself with a support team of people who believe in and practice unconditional acceptance. You deserve it. Include a team of professionals you can trust, to help you heal from the hurts. It’s worth it.
  • Wean yourself (at your pace) from the quick fixes.
  • Let go of any guilt you may have about needing the quick fixes. Even they serve their purpose. Sometimes they start you on your path back to connection and self-love. Mine have, and I am grateful that I had those tools at the time I needed them. It’s ok to need them; it’s ok to use them. When you no longer need them you’ll begin looking for new tools that will serve you moving forward.
  • Send love to your body. Spend time regularly exploring it. Get to know it. The bumps, the bruises, the cellulite, the scars, the stretch marks, the bony bits. Run your fingers over your skin, observing the imperfections. Try to remain mindful of the experience. Remember the stories behind each imperfection. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Pamper yourself. You deserve it.
  • Use physical exercise to help you reconnect. When you’re walking, observe and feel the way your legs move. Feel the aches of being on your feet. Feel your arms swinging by your side. Observe the things around you. Notice the ground under your feet. Notice the path. Notice the flowers or the grass or the water or whatever it is you see. Observe your body as it navigates the terrain.
  • Learn to listen to your body and what it needs. Learn the difference between the signals that say “I need to rest” and “I know you want to stop but that is your mind giving you false signals. Your body can do more and you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment if you can learn that you can do more than your mind thinks it can”.

One thing is certain in all this. You, and your body, are worthy. Worthy without conditions. You deserve unconditional love and acceptance, simply because you were born.

This video by Mary Lambert sums up this core message nicely.

Advertisements

Who cares for the carers?

People with mental illness usually have a support team around them. Psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses, social workers, general practitioners. People in mental health organisations such as the Richmond Fellowship (this link is QLD but you can google other states). People handing out medications and people providing emotional support. For the most part, these people do fabulous work in paving the way to wellness.

mental health stigma

But there is a whole other population that often gets overlooked. The family and friends. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. The carers. They are often excluded from treatment due to “confidentiality”. How do carers help monitor medications if they don’t have accurate information about which prescriptions to fill or how many tablets are needed? How do they help regulate moods if they aren’t up to speed on which strategies have been used in therapy? And that also means they are unable to provide feedback to give the professional team a full picture of what is happening for their loved one. While I can’t speak for all carers, I know that the ones I have spoken to genuinely want to help support the road to wellness. And they want to respect personal space and privacy.

During periods of illness, carers are often confronted with some pretty tough stuff. Major mood swings. Irrational demands. Thought processes that aren’t based in reality. An inability to reason. Violence; to self and others. Hospital visits. Self-harm. Suicide attempts. Manipulation. Sometimes even homicidal tendencies. And they are often in the middle of the fray, caught up in the maelstrom of chaos.

carer head chaos

Chaos

Watching the people they love most in the world go through these experiences is heartbreaking. You watch your spouse with depression stay in bed day after day, week after week. You know that they are in pain and you try everything you know to help them. Encouragement, tough love, praise, cajoling, bringing friends in. You try talking to the doctors but you don’t get anywhere because they can’t talk back. You take over the running of the household, managing the children, cooking, cleaning. And you listen to your husband or wife talk about their inner pain and how much better off you and the children would be without him or her in it. You feel helpless and scared. What if they kill themselves? You wonder what else you can do to help. You don’t always understand why they can’t get themselves out of bed and rejoin the family. You feel lonely because the partner you knew isn’t there anymore. You feel alone because you don’t have your best friend to bounce things off. And you feel hopeless and helpless because the professional team won’t talk to you and tell you what you can do to help. Not to mention feeling guilty, fearful, resentful (of the illness), and a whole host of other emotions.

If you are a carer and can relate to this, please understand. You are not alone. There are hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people with mental illness, and each of them very likely has a group of family and friends around them, feeling exactly the same way you do. That is a lot of people feeling like you.

Exhausted. Stressed. Alone. Afraid. Confused. Helpless. Guilty. Isolated.

That is a lot of stress to deal with. And when you feel it for long periods of time, it is really important that you take care of yourself. Some very simple strategies can make a big difference in how you well you bounce back from the stresses and ultimately in the quality of your life.

When you’re looking at specific strategies there is one thing to keep in mind. Given the amount of stress most carers experience, sometimes thinking about doing extra can be overwhelming. So keep things really simple and you’ll be able to incorporate some of them into your normal routine. Try these:thought training

  • Take 3-5 long, slow deep breaths. Try to focus on slowing your breaths down and smoothing them out. This will get some oxygen into your brain and help you think more clearly.
  • Pamper yourself. Take a bath, paint your nails, get a massage. This helps you relax your muscles and allows those stress hormones to dissipate.
  • Surround yourself with nature. Visit a garden, sit under a tree, get your hands dirty with soil. This will help ground you and release the stress.
  • Slow your brain down. Meditate, do yoga, or simply sit on your own for a while and breathe.
  • Do something you absolutely love.
  • Laugh.
  • Connect with other people. Often speaking with other carers can help you realise you aren’t in this on your own and give you a chance to pick some brains about strategies that others have used successfully.
  • Talk to someone. Sometimes seeing a professional can help you sort out the jumble in your head and give you some direction.

carer serenity scene

Australia has a network of carers organisations in each state that provide support for carers. They offer a variety of services, including access to support groups, workshops and counselling. They can also link you in with other services you may need. You can find details on each state’s organisation here, or call 1800 242 636 from anywhere in Australia. Some other countries also have carers organisations, including the UK and USA. Other support organisations in Australia include ARAFMI and COPMI (for the kids).

 

Emma’s experience with OCD

I’d like to introduce you to Emma. She does her best to parent her beautiful children while living with OCD. She copes with constant obsessions and compulsions every day. Hopefully her experiences will resonate with some of you. Please remember that if you are dealing with similar situations you may benefit from some support from a mental health professional. If anything in Emma’s experiences triggers you, please consider calling Lifeline for a chat on 13 1114.

——————————————————

When my psychiatrist first suggested I might have OCD, I laughed. Of course not! “People with OCD don’t know the things they do are crazy, that’s why they do them,” I told him. “I’m fully aware that these things I do are crazy, I’m just not sure why I can’t stop doing them.”

In my mind, OCD was Adrian Monk, obsessed with hand-washing and germs and totally oblivious to the fact that he’s completely batshit crazy.

And me? I just have a bit of a thing for even numbers and I’m fussy about how I hang the laundry. Eccentricities. Quirks. Not a disorder.OCD Emma profile1

It wasn’t until the psychiatrist pointed out just how much time these little ‘quirks’  (or as he called them ‘rituals’) take out of my day, and how much of the in-between time I spend feeling anxious about them, that I began to concede that he might be right. In fact, OCD is by definition egodystonic – sufferers are well aware that their actions are irrational and that awareness is the basis for a lot of the anxiety that comes with it. The hand-washing and obsessive cleanliness? A common symptom but not definitive.

When my OCD it was at its worst, I spent most of my waking hours either performing rituals (that’s the compulsive part), or thinking about performing them (that’s the obsessive part). I couldn’t have the volume on my television or radio set to an odd number. I couldn’t take my baby out of the bath unless the digital clock above the bench where I bathed her read an even number. If I arrived home and the clock in the car was on an odd number, I’d pull over to the side of the road just outside my driveway and wait for them to tick over to an even number. When I did the groceries, I had to buy two loaves of bread or four, not three, although I rationalised in my head that one wasn’t technically an odd number because it’s just one. See, totally irrational!

Why did I do all these things? Because in my mind, I believed that if I didn’t do them, bad things would happen. The bad things were rarely directly related to the rituals themselves; I think the rituals were more just a way of keeping my hands and mind busy and in doing so, keeping the churning anxiety at bay.

Perhaps even more distressing than the obsessions and the compulsions however were the intrusive thoughts – thoughts which had no basis in reality but which came crashing into my conscious mind in the most upsetting manner. Perhaps most vivid is the night I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep when I suddenly thought, ‘I’ve never wanted to harm myself because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone else raising my children. But if I kill myself and the children I don’t have to worry about that’.

OCD Emma 3

 

I’d never, not once in my entire life, ever consciously thought about hurting myself. And the idea that such a thought had even occurred in my mind, regardless of how completely ridiculous it was, made me so desperately upset that I lay awake for the rest of the night, terrified to go to sleep lest I wake up to find those crazy intrusive thoughts had invaded my reality.

That was my tipping point, the point where I realised that the OCD was controlling me and not the other way around. I started on medication, and while I was skeptical about whether it would work – in my mind, I still saw the compulsions as behavioural and I couldn’t see how altering the chemicals in my brain could fix that – it did. After about three days, I suddenly found my anxiety levels dropping. That in itself was disconcerting. I’d worn the anxiety for so long like an old familiar coat that living without it took some adjustment. At a fundamental level, I still believed that I needed the anxiety in order to provoke the rituals which prevented the bad things from happening.

In addition to the medication, I also started regular CBT sessions with a psychologist who specialised in OCD. These sessions taught me techniques for living my new, medicated life without the anxiety cloak. I don’t know that medication or the therapy would have worked as standalone treatments, but the combination of the two was incredibly effective.

OCD Emma 2It’s been nearly seven years since I was diagnosed with OCD, and while it’s still there affecting my life in little ways, the medication and therapy combo continues to help me keep it somewhat under control. I’ve also learned some creative ways to avoid the compulsions – for example, I have a lot of rituals around hanging the laundry on the line. The washing must come out of the machine and into the basket in a certain order. It must then be hung on the line in a certain order, the pegs must all match and certain items require specific combinations of pegs. It can take up to an hour to hang a single load, and with five small children, there’s simply too much laundry and not enough time, so instead of battling with my head to try to combat the rituals, I avoid them altogether by drying all the washing in the clothes dryer. Yes, it’s an expensive exercise, and no, it’s not great for the environment, but if there’s one thing that living with OCD has taught me it’s to save my energy for the big stuff and not sweat the small stuff.

I’m open with my friends and family about what it’s like to live with OCD, and it’s even been the source of some amusement – my husband regularly tells people that he got ripped off because I don’t have the obsessive cleanliness thing going on. He reckons that if he has to live with the darker side of the condition, the least he deserves is the perk of a clean house!

I’m also realistic about the fact that I’ll probably need to keep taking medication for the rest of my life. I’ve had a few breaks from it over the years and they’ve generally not gone so well. Without the medication, the anxiety is simply too overwhelming for the CBT techniques to touch. Do I love the idea of pumping my brain full of drugs? Of course not! But it keeps the playing field level, it gives me the upper hand over my OCD and that makes it worth it.

I own my OCD, I will not let it own me. 

OCD Emma 1

———————————————————————

OCD Emma profileOne-time high-flying journo turned SAHM, Emma blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about parenting on the edge of sanity – navigating her own personal mental health minefield while raising five girls, one of whom lives with chronic illness. You can find her blog here.

 

To FACT or not to FACT

depression drowning breathing

Depression is one of the more well-known mental illnesses. 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives will experience it. That is 20% of the Australian population. Huge numbers! I could sit here tonight and give you the facts about the illness.

I could tell you that while there is no definite cause of depression, there are a number of factors that influence its development. Life events (work or family stress, abusive relationships or unemployment, for example), family history, personality, medical illnesses, substance abuse, or changes in the hormone levels in your brain, for example.

I could also tell you that there are several types of depression. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, where you tend to feel depressed during the winter months when there is less daylight), major depression (which can include bouts of psychosis, melancholy and also includes ante or postnatal depression), bipolar (which alternates cycles of depression and mania – more on this when we cover bipolar disorder), cyclothymic disorder (a milder form of bipolar) or dysthymic disorder (a milder form of major depression).depression stigma

Or, if I didn’t cover these facts, I may describe the types of things people with depression actually experience. A loss of interest in normal, usual daily activities, withdrawing from social contacts, sleeping for most of the day, no longer enjoying the things you used to enjoy, or self-medicating with alcohol or drugs, thoughts of worthlessness, life not being worth living, inability to concentrate, tiredness, unhappiness, indecisiveness, change in appetites, sexual drive or weight, churning gut or muscle pains. All these are common experiences.

I might also talk about some of the treatments for depression. For example, various drugs may be prescribed to help rebalance the hormones in your brain (you would need to be aware of the side effects of some of these medications and talk with your doctor about them to find one that really works for you). Or there might be some options if you were to work with a counsellor or psychologist, both of whom could teach you some specific strategies to help you change your thoughts and behaviours. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is commonly used effectively for depression, as is Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and mindfulness based therapies. Other things that may help are lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, relaxation training and social support (through family, friends, support groups etc).

depression no escapeOr I might be inclined to let you know that to receive effective help the best person to start with is your doctor, who can then refer you to a psychologist or counsellor. You could also see a social worker, alternative health therapist or even a psychiatrist or mental health nurse, each of whom can offer different types of support.

I might even be inclined to link you in with the Beyond Blue website so you can get more detail on depression and where you can go to get help. They even have an online discussion forum. http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression

But I don’t want to give you “just the facts”.

Depression is so much more than mere facts. There is no way that anyone could understand what it is like to live with it just by reading “the facts”. Sure it describes the basic things, but they can never describe the individual experiences.

“The FACTS” could never describe how it FEELS to experience the helplessness, the fatigue, the lack of interest in participating in your own life. “The FACTS” could never give you an accurate idea of what it is like to feel like you don’t belong on the earth. They could never show you the frustration you feel when you can’t concentrate on your work or study. And the facts could certainly never show you what it’s like to not be able to play with the children you love so dearly because you just can’t summon the energy. Not to mention the sorrow at watching those same children being sad because they can’t understand that mummy or daddy just can’t spend time with them.

depression cycle sleep pretend

There are so many other things that the FACTS just cannot show you. There is no way that you could ever understand what it is like to live with depression unless you were actually in the middle of it. Only then could you understand how, no matter how HARD you try, you just can’t get yourself moving in the morning. Only then could you understand how the “black dog” sits at your door all day every day and impacts on every part of your life. Only then could you truly GET that living with depression is like being in a battlefield every moment of every day, where you are constantly fighting your way out from underneath an overpowering, suffocating cloud of blackness.

depression lying bastart

And I think that if the people who lived with this insidious illness would want you to understand anything, it’s that one of the most basic things they really need from others is compassion. Saying (or implying) “get over it” does nothing more than lead them deeper into the hole. They need you to stick by them and support them through their daily struggle. To let them know that it’s ok to take a break from fighting the good fight sometimes and to retreat, allowing their heart and soul to heal a little. And to let them know that some days, simply getting out of bed and having a shower is enough of an achievement.

depression things not to say

And I am sure that they would love to know that they are enough. Just as they are, even with this illness.

depression love and care

Kaye and BPD

Please join Kaye as she shares her story of living with Borderline Personality Disorder and other mental health concerns. Please be aware that her experiences may trigger some emotions for you as you read her story. If you find yourself triggered, please take care of yourself and seek support. If you need to talk with someone please call Lifeline on 13 1114.

———————————————————-

My name is Kaye and I am a 38 year old married mother of 5 beautiful girls. Like most people, I have a story, one that I am not always proud of but it is mine just the same.  Also, like many people, my story involves a long term battle with mental illness, suicidal ideologies and self-injurious behaviours. In the hopes of reaching one person and making them feel that they are not alone, I would like to share my story with you all.

story to tell

My childhood consisted of a rather insecure family unit, my father died in a tragic accident just after my third birthday and my mother never really recovered from this which left her looking to fill her own void, and in doing so she never really noticed how affected I was by the instability of my family or that I desperately craved her attention and affection. My mother eventually settled down with a man who was wonderful to both her and us kids, however this all changed when they had a baby girl who passed away at six weeks old from SIDS. From then on, my stepdad would beat my mother severely and he would do it in front of us. This continued from the time I was about 7 years old right up until I was about 14 years old. My stepdad decided at that point, that for things to change, he had to leave as my mother would not leave him because she loved him.

I thought that this event would make my life better, but it did not… in fact it got worse. I was constantly feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless and sad to the point that I began to see suicide as my only way out. I also began to burn myself with cigarettes to try and squash the emotional pain and replace it with physical pain.  I pushed away all the friends that I used to enjoy being around, I stopped going out or leaving the house, I couldn’t eat and I slept endlessly but still felt tired when I did get out of bed. I started seeing a psychologist and was given numerous medications by numerous doctors, so I used them alongside alcohol to slip into that beautiful world of carefree serenity, where the pain and the hurt could not intrude.

sad sun face

Naturally it didn’t take long before my first suicide attempt because I found that I needed more and more medication to reach that happy place. It was all just too much. This little venture landed me in a psychiatric unit on a 72 hour court order, for observation and investigation. I hated the hospitalisation but there was also a sense of relief for a while, relief that I was safe from myself and the demons that seemed to be growing stronger inside me every day. I was released two weeks later and continued to see my regular doctors as well as a psychiatrist who prescribed me much more medication! I was having the time of my life slipping in and out of consciousness on the chemical cocktails I was provided with. Eventually after ending up back in the psychiatric unit after another suicide attempt, I was diagnosed with what was called manic depression and borderline personality disorder with dissociative tendencies. I had no idea what this meant and I honestly did not care, all I knew is that I was getting worse and nothing mental health self harm personalityseemed to help me.

Eventually I married and had 2 daughters but the marriage lasted less than a year and I was devastated. Now I was on my own, battling the breakdown of my marriage, my own monsters were rising up to greet me again and on top of that, I was responsible for two little girls. I tried so many things to squash the bad thoughts and desire to self-harm and over medicate. I tried working but I couldn’t get out of bed. I found that socialising was too demanding and extremely tiring; I just wanted to curl up into a ball and die. Then I decided to try study but I couldn’t concentrate and pulled out with only one module left to complete a diploma in counselling (yeah, ironic huh?). No matter what I tried, I found a reason not to follow through with it. My ability to self-sabotage appeared to be endless. Again I fell back into old habits and began to over medicate and self-harm. But I did manage to quell the urge to attempt suicide.broken mirror

When my girls were 5 and 7, I remarried. I found a man who seemed to be everything I had always wanted in a partner, he was honest, caring, reliable and he had the same values and beliefs around marriage and commitments as I did. The honeymoon didn’t last long though, our relationship became volatile and there was so much fighting, name calling and eventually physical threats. However, I hung in there, determined to make it work because I didn’t want another failed marriage and I desperately loved him. My instability began to show again and the old habits returned in spades, adding to the stress on our marriage. On top of this the 3 daughters I had with my husband all had special needs and one in particular was very difficult to handle. Again I started drinking and over-medicating so it was no surprise when I was admitted to the psychiatric ward again. This time I was determined to make the most of it and sort myself out. Luckily I was being treated by a psychiatrist who really looked at my mental health history and took the time to study what I was doing and what he could do about it. When I was released, he arranged for my medication to be supplied to me on a weekly basis from my chemist and he also kept in close contact with them to make sure that I was picking it up regularly. This man really cared about getting me on track and keeping me there. Things seemed to pick up a little after that. My demons still stirred but I finally had a doctor I trusted and who I believed could help me. I also found that I had a growing support network for my kids’ special needs, which helped all of us to cope.

A few years later I suffered what my psychiatrist said was a psychotic break after my marriage hit the rocks in a big way. I don’t recall what happened or anything that I did, but I ‘came to’ in hospital with both my arms bandaged from wrist to elbow and 2 police officers guarding me. This resulted in almost 3 months in the psychiatric unit and over a dozen doses of ECT. I was well and truly a mess this time and my demons were having a ball. It felt like my mind had split and I was two people fighting with each other inside my own head, one trying to tell me to keep fighting and the other telling me to just succumb to the endless abyss of what I am sure was insanity.  It is difficult to put into words what I felt or thought but the one thing I can say is that I was so close to giving up and letting the darkness swallow me forever. I had nothing left; I was so empty and was in constant pain. I didn’t want to leave the ward, I didn’t want visitors and if the phone rang, I just let it keep ringing. Social interaction was just too much, even having to exchange words with the staff and other patients was exhausting. I think it’s fair to say that that was the lowest and blackest point in my life.living with BPD

Eventually I returned home to try to resume some semblance of a life, but I wasn’t living, I was simply surviving. It took me a while to realise that surviving for me at that point, was living. If I didn’t focus on surviving I would end up dead, so I just kept surviving from one day to the next. My husband and I continued to try and work through our marriage and we kept going but things were never the same and neither was I. It is now just over 2 years since that breakdown and I am still surviving, one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time. My demons constantly lurk in the recesses of my mind and I still have the eternal inner battle with myself over living or dying. I continue to take my medication and see my psychiatrist and psychologist regularly. With their firm support and the overwhelming love my family and friends have given me, I have redefined my life and have set myself some goals and a back-up plan for when things get rocky. I am currently studying a university degree in human services and I struggle with it every single day. Not just the workload but with the urge to self-sabotage because I feel that I am not worthy of doing something with my life. Whenever I think about throwing in the towel, I think about why I am doing this. I want to help others like myself who may not be as fortunate as I was in finding a support network that works, or someone that cares. I want to make a difference to them and help them to see that they are worthy and they can be and do whatever they want to do. Everyone deserves that and I intend to tell them so!

Mental health has seeped into every aspect of my life; personal, social, occupational and otherwise. I think the scariest thing about my illness is how my own mind can and has, betrayed me. This demon has twisted my thinking, taken my self-respect, left me powerless and torn me to pieces but it has also given me something. It has given me strength and purpose. No matter how vicious my illness has been, it has not beaten me yet and I am determined not to let it.

overcoming adversity

The Realities of BPD

Following the focus this week on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Tegan Churchill has kindly put together her own experiences living with this illness. She explains how it has impacted on her life and now how she copes with a young family. Very brave and resilient woman!

——————————————-

 I remember the first time I knew that a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was on the cards. I was sitting in the waiting room of my small town doctor, my chart on my lap because there was no computer system yet. Curiosity got the better of me and I flicked through the pages. Nestled in the back was a letter from the psychologist I was seeing at the time, in bold letters were the words Borderline Personality Disorder. I was confused, on the borderline of what? I committed the term to memory so that I could look it up on the internet when I got home.

I didn’t like what I saw, the checklist of symptoms read like a list of ‘how to suck at life’. I knew that I ticked most of those boxes and I was ashamed. I was 15 at the time but a definite diagnosis was not made until I was 18. Doctors decided that I had, had enough time to grow into my personality and this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life.

I sought out support in online forums, losing myself in an online world. All around me my life was falling to pieces. I dropped out of university, I was living with my grandmother and spending most of my days in bed. My GP told me that I was a 9 year old trapped in an adult’s body. I was horrified at the time, unable to process the comment. Looking back now, it’s true.

BPD

I was on a destructive path. A suicide attempt lead to my mother moving with me to a larger center with more mental health services. It didn’t matter, I was hell bent on destroying myself. I was reckless and failed to see the consequences. After ending up in jail for 2 months, my mother moved back to our hometown. I stayed in the city and moved into single’s accommodation for women. I had everything I wanted; I lived in a large town where nobody knew me.

I didn’t know what to do with my thoughts. They were all consuming, every emotion felt like a thousand knives were piercing my skin. I didn’t know how to express my feelings. I lashed out at anyone who tried to help me. I was like a stubborn child. The professionals who were supposed to help me wrote me off as an attention seeker. Therapy was stopped after another suicide attempt and I found myself floating through a system that seemed hell bent on keeping me unwell.

Having Borderline makes making and maintaining relationships difficult. I find myself going between loving a person more than anything and hating them with everything in my being. I often turn people off without a second thought to repair the relationship. I find myself in screaming matches with people who I love, feeling a rage that is so all consuming that I worry that my veins will burst through my skin. I turn into the hulk and it takes me days to calm down.

For years I turned to self-harm to help fight the feelings. I self-harmed to make me feel and to stop feeling too much. Each time I cut it had to be deeper than the last time. I didn’t want to die; I just wanted to destroy myself, to punish myself for the perceived wrongs that I had committed.

bpd 3rd deg burns

Now I have a child to consider. He is counting on me to be there, and he is the reason that I looked into better therapy. I let my moods and my coping skills get a lot worse again before I admitted I needed help. I had put on a mask, hidden behind a wall and didn’t let my feelings out anymore. I was afraid that I would lose my son. The mask was so good that my current psychologist was skeptical that I had Borderline at all.

I have recently completed a course of Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and found it immensely helpful. It was a relief to have someone take me seriously, who saw that I was someone worthy of treatment and had the time to spend working on my issues.

I’m a different person to when I first received the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I still struggle to express my feelings, and to interpret others’ intentions but I am making progress. I still catch myself wandering down the destructive path, but I know that I have so much more to live for. I still feel like I’m walking around with no skin, taking in every slight, every glance, every word but I am getting better at processing the thoughts.

Borderline may be something that I will always struggle with but I am happy that I am filling my toolbox so the good days begin to outweigh the bad.

  ——————————————-

tegan churchillBlurb: Tegan can be found at http://www.musingsofthemisguided.com where she talks about mental illness, parenting and everything in between. She hopes that by sharing her story and knowledge that she can do her part to help rid the world of stigma. Joining her on the journey is her partner Paul, a 4 year old bundle of energy and a puppy with an attitude.

Personality and Disorders – Part 2

BPD by numbersIn the search for people to write posts on their lived experiences with mental illness, one of the ladies who agreed to share her story is Tegan. She was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and describes the experience as feeling her emotions without her skin on. If you’ve ever had a wound on your arm where the skin has been torn off, you’ll know how tender, raw and painful it feels. Now imagine all of your emotions without their skin. You get hit with everything at once. It’s really intense, and you don’t have any skills to deal with it. You get so many emotions that you can’t even decipher or make sense of them.

So how do you cope?

I would imagine that your survival instincts (remember that Neanderthal man who Sam talked about in the anxiety posts) would kick in. Your brain would narrow your focus to one simple thing. Survival. All those emotions at once would be really overwhelming. You’d probably panic. And then do anything that you could possibly think of to stop it all. You’d feel so overwhelmed and panicked that you’d choose the first thing to enter your head, whatever that may be.

BPD 2

As I mentioned in the last post, it is very common for people with personality disorders to have had a history of trauma or abuse. So it is very likely that you would feel really crappy about yourself. You might even hate yourself so much that you feel like you need to be punished. So the strategies you’re likely to turn to will be things like hurting yourself. It could be with food or it could be with alcohol. Or even with drugs, cigarettes or razor blades (burning or cutting yourself). Anything to relieve the pain you feel inside. Even suicide.need help dont want it

And when people try to help, you reject their advances because you feel like you need to push them away before they abandon you (which is what you feel you deserve). And this confirms your belief so you push people away even more, by using any means necessary. You argue with people, yell, scream, insult, push, shove, steal. And so on.

And then you feel even worse about yourself because you know that kind of behaviour isn’t what you should be doing. So you increase your efforts to punish yourself. You would be unlikely to recognise much good in your life. You might meet someone and marry, but because of how you feel about yourself, the relationship is likely to be full of arguments and bad feelings. Parenting would also be a huge challenge. As would your work relationships.

symptoms of BPD

If you’re lucky though, you will reach a point, like Tegan, where you acknowledge that you can no longer live that way. And so, after many false starts, you begin a very long, slow journey to make changes in your life. You seek professional support from a psychiatrist and psychologist skilled in working with BPD.

Stay tuned to hear from two very brave women, Tegan and Kaye, about what it is like to really live with BPD.

BPD

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: