Someone asked what I would say to someone "neurotypical" that lacked understanding regarding my mental illness.
Shoot, for the average Joe or Jane, I would just say "you are blessed".
But If they aren't kind to the mentally ill, if they lack wisdom, or tell the depressed to be happy, then I'd have so much to say...
That hardest thing for me is being judged or misunderstood. I do not share my diagnosis, but do to suicide attempts, I have many scars. I am reclusive. Not shy so much as untrusting. I will say hello and look you in the eye. I am not afraid to do that. But I will not let you in my world.
I suffer from Borderline Personality Disorder and Complex PTSD.
Borderline Personality Disorder is diagnosed for 1.6 % of the adult population, but may actually be higher than 5%.
It occurs more than Schizophrenia. Or Bipolar disorder. Research underfunded, and although the treatment is very well known to be effective (certain therapies), it is largely unavailable unless you are well off or incredibly lucky.
It is misunderstood. Stigmatized. The media, for example Law and Order, portrays Borderline Personality as a type of sociopath. Yet people with this disorder actually feel too much, quite the opposite of what is portrayed.
So, my first comment to a typical person who was well would be, “do you know how blessed you are?” And if they were judgemental, I would want them to learn, to be educated, to “get it”.
Sadly, even those who treat us, Psychiatrists, lack undertanding.
(I also have the added pleasure of Major Depressive Disorder, and being a recovering alcoholic. so way joy).
And I so hat being told to CHOOSE to be happy.
I did not choose to be unhappy.
Portions of my brain do not communicate correctly, first off. Add genetics and psycho-social factors for added fun.
I didn't decide for my brain to break. Of course I want to be happy.
YOU don't want to feel what I feel.
The pain of Borderline is described as comparable to 3rd degree burns over one's entire body. It can be torment.
but i CHOOSE healing.
however, don't tell me to cheer up
unless you've walked many many miles
(many many decades)
in my shoes.
There is no such thing as good or bad feelings. Forget thinking positive. Act positive-ish. That is, accept how you feel, whether it be anger, sadness, or even joy.
For example, right now, I am going through a hard time. Emotionally and physically. I allowed myself to feel how I feel, but than pushed myself to focus on other things. Did not want to. As we all know who suffer from depression or BPD (not to mention other disorders and mental illnesses), when you are feeling awful, you often just let it swallow you whole.
But I submit to you that you don’t have to. You sometimes have a choice. You may be able to distract yourself...take a walk, watch a favorite movie, meditate (google “mindfulness” or check it out on youtube), try relaxation techniques, talk to a friend or reach out to a trusted resource....do something loving for yourself.
Self care - take a shower or bath, brush your teeth, do your hair. Get out of your home, don’t isolate.
I know all of this is hard. I know, because it is hard for me. But usually it helps. Not always. Sometimes I just have to accept that I am in pain and that’s that. I have to realize I am hurting and raw, and have impulses. Then I do my best to remind myself that I have been here before and survived. If I feel I’m in danger if really doing myself harm, I get help. If I feel safe to withstand the storm I bunker down, cuddle with my dog, and wait it out.
Yes, some feeling don’t feel good. But I no longer beat myself up for how I feel. I just do my best to nurture myself and care for myself during the hard times while i wait for the light to shine through.
But when you are blue, angry, frustrated with your illness, or even feel like self-harming, and someone tells you to “think positive”, just smile sweetly and think in your head, “you are a frickin idiot”.
My psychiatrist was angry at me telling him I felt depressed when I saw him yesterday. He raged, pontificated, lectured, and I just sat there in stunned silence. I was not suicidal, had not self harmed, did not do one inappropriate thing. I was doing what I was supposed to do to care for myself.
Finally, I pointed out this was part of the Disorder (which he knows, damn it), that I will have these feelings, and it is how I cope with them that is important. I can’t stop feelings, I can only manage my reaction to them.
But no, this was not good enough for him. He continued to berate and scold me. I will definitely tell him next time how our meeting made me feel. That was horrible!
I almost forgot May is Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month.
I have suffered from this since I was a teenager, I believe, although I was formally diagnosed at 23.
Thank God there is now Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a combination of meditative mindfulness and cognitive therapy, to manage what was once considered an unmanageable diagnosis!
Sadly, it can be expensive, often is not covered by insurances, and frequently those that need the therapy do not have the financial resources to pay such prices. On top of that, there aren't enough DBT therapists yet.
I *finally* got lucky! At age 49, I met a wonderful psychologist who specialized in DBT therapy and takes my insurance! And despite my severe problems at that time, she took me under her wings and it has been a life changing experience, for sure.
One year ago, I was a reclusive hermit! I did not leave my apartment except to go to buy food, and that was in the middle of the night, when nobody was around.
Now, I go to group therapy twice a week, am about to start volunteering twice a week, go to see my therapist once a week, AND! I have friends! I socialize! Shocking! I'm even reaching out to extending family members to get together with them. So cool!
Yes, I get scared. My fears, social anxieties and fears of rejection often try to kick my butt. I am not cured yet, but compared to a year ago, I've come far...
When Robin Williams died, it hit me hard. Tremendously so. A shining star who delighted so many people with his humor and talent, he struggled (like me) with addiction in the past, and currently with mental illness. Although he was able to light up the world with his wit, he was unable to lighten his own mind.
His suicide terrified me! In a way, a saw some of myself in him...that need to entertain others, put everyone at ease, put others first, always smiling, always laughing, no matter what I felt inside. I was a bit of an unpaid actress in my life. Only just beginning Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), I was not sure if there was any hope for me. He passed on August 11, 2014, and I truly believe his soul is finally at peace.
Today I saw the above pictured post on Facebook. Back when the Actor died, I would have agreed with those words entirely, but not now.
Yes, it is true that inner workings of my mind are a challenge, but my smile is genuine, and I believe that his was often genuine as well. I do think he enjoyed what he did, making others smile. I could be wrong, but I hope he had some moments of joy despite his pain.
In DBT, one of the skills we learn is to act opposite to how we feel. Which can be darn hard when you are feeling very depressed.
Now, this does not mean you are denying your feeling or pushing them down. You do have to radically accept how you feel, letting the feelings flow and ebb, but without clinging to those feelings or judging them as good or bad.
That being said, action is the best relief for depression, and it is the exact thing depression does not want you to do. Depression tells you, don't eat (or eat too much), sleep all day, don't care for yourself, isolate, self-medicate, don't address your feelings because you can't cope with them, and just shut down.
Been there, done that. Can't say that I have a perfect record over the last eight months, but I have improved. And the best part is that I will continue to get even better as time goes on!
So my message to you (and a reminder to my own self) is whether you suffer from Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, or another Mental Illness, there is hope. Don't give up! Get help! Reach out!
National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-(800)-273-8255 available 24/7 english/spanish
I thought for a change of pace, I would revert to my faith and share some fav biblical passages that have touched my life and I have tried to live by the best I can.
"“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." [Matthew 7:1-2 KJV]
Oy, but that can be a toughie, right? Yet, as someone who suffers mental illness and is bisexual, I have certainly had people condemn me for one reason or another. And for awhile there I was terribly obese, and boy, the looks I got for that! Yet, still, it is so easy to judge sometimes, especially if it hits a hot button! So, I am a work in progress, trying to use mindfulness to be more aware of my thinking and let go of those kind of thought patterns.
Right along those lines is "“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” [Luke 6:41 KJV] I love that! Yup, I better attend to the beam in my eyeball, huh? Tee hee hee!
But my all time favorite?
1 Corinthians 13: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. [NIV]
This one really changed me. It actually was brought to my attention by my DBT therapist when I was in a pretty horrific relationship. I was like, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Wow, that's what love is supposed to be? That is what I need to look for in a relationship? That sounds completely different, but really great!
Like many people, I only spend I short time with my Psychiatrist. Fortunately, I have a therapist I see plus group therapy as well. But my Psychiatrist is really focused on the meds part of the picture and does not know a great deal about what goes on behind the scenes.
Recently, my Father joined me in and appointment to discuss a change in medications as the medicine I was on was causing me to binge during the night. This was fine at first, as I needed to gain about 20 lbs. but now that I have met my the weight needed, I wanted to discontinue the medication. I had already approached the doctor on my own and he had dismissed my concerns, saying that Remeron was a powerful antidepressant. When I reminded him that I had Gastric-Bypass Surgery due to the dramatic weight gain from just these type of meds, he shrugged and said "okay, just go off of it, then."
I found this incredibly disturbing. I do and did not want to give up my emotional welfare for the sake of my physical well being, but did not want to endure the horrors of becoming enormously overweight, diabetic, with high blood pressure, etc again, either. I could not understand why he was unwilling to explore other options.
Hence the meeting with me and my Father, a former Psychiatric Nurse.
My Psychiatrist's response was incredibly negative (and contradicted his initial response to why he did not want me to go off the Remeron in the first place). He told me that I was very reactive to small stressors, sending me off into a tizzy. He had done the best he could for me medication wise, and also with sending me to a DBT Therapist. He then told me and my Father there was not much more he could do for me.
What the what?
I confess that his words did send me into a bit of a tizzy. Having your trusted Psychiatrist tell you such things can really make you feel like a hopeless case. But then I had to sit back and think about how far I have come through my Dialectical Behavior Therapy in the last year, and despite temporary set backs, I've really come far.
I've worked so much harder than he (my Psychiatrist) could know. I ask for help now more than I did. I'm reaching out to the world around me instead of hiding in my apartment 24/7, like a hermit.
I sat down with my DBT Therapist, one on one, and we reviewed where I've been, what I've accomplished, and what I still need to work on, and we both agreed we were thrilled with my progress and my prognosis. I have an abundance of hope for my future, feel that the therapy has done me a world of good, and have ever intention to gently tell the good Doctor just that, thank you very much!