I want to begin by giving you a little behind the scenes into who I am… Can you really understand someone’s mental health struggles without knowing who they are and where they came from?
I grew up in the back hills of Western Kentucky. I was living what I thought was a typical childhood. Looking back, I realize now that my childhood was anything but typical. I’ll tell you more about that later in my story. I married fresh out of high school, terrified that if I did not marry my then boyfriend would leave me. My marriage did not last, and with in 7 months of divorcing him, I was married again. Now as I’m struggling down the dirt road of divorce number two, and coping with the diagnosis of BPD, I have learned more about myself in 4 short months than I have in my entire life.
I hope that this blog entry can help, even just one person. If you’re struggling with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder), Bipolar Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, or anything at all for that matter, I hope this finds you and I hope it helps you see that you are not alone. Read that again: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
I have always struggled with abandonment issues. I’ve dated the wrong guys simply because I thought they would never leave me. And sometimes, just because I was THAT crazy, they did. In high school, I serial dated. I was one of those girls who “didn’t stay single very long.” And it had nothing to do with wanting to go out and have sex with a bunch of different guys; I just could not stand the idea of being alone.
I met my *first* ex husband when I was in high school. Like I mentioned before, we married fresh out of high school. I married him thinking it would mean that we would always be together. But we fought like cats and dogs. Usually because I was blowing things way out of proportion. Fast forward to the husband I have now, the one I’m in the process of figuring out whether we are going to divorce or stay married, and it’s the same song and dance. We struggled as a married couple because I was constantly blowing things WAY out of proportion.
For years I have gone to the doctor and complained about being down in the dumps, having low energy levels and not really wanting to do anything. And for 7 years I have been misdiagnosed as having anxiety and depression. I’ve been on an abundance of medications. None of which I ever thought made me feel any better than the one before that. Seven years of feeling like I was crazy for not being able to control my emotional outbursts. Seven years of not being able to pinpoint what was really wrong and be able to come to some type of conclusion as to what could make me feel better.
My diagnosis came to an ugly head when my marriage came to an ugly end. During one of my particularly good outbursts, my husband decided he had had enough. He said the statement that he had said so many times before, “pack your shit and get out.” I didn’t, instead I spent the entire day fighting with him and intruding on his work day forcing him to fight with me when typically he’s a “walk away” type guy. Two days later, filled with paranoia that he was seeing someone else or that my marriage was doomed anyway, I finally did pack my things and leave. I left my five year marriage, two kids, home we had built together, etc. I didn’t think the situation was permanent, I honestly thought he’d come crawling back to me and realize the wrong of his ways, but he didn’t.
When I moved out, I did everything I could to try to pass my time. I’m a super creative person, I craft and do embroidery, so I started to stay up all hours of the night engulfing myself into these things. As you can imagine, working becomes rather difficult when you’re not sleeping. I crashed. And I crashed hard. I had a massive panic attack, which led me to my family doctor. I explained everything that had been going on to my family doctor, and he here came my first diagnosis of hope: YOU ARE BIPOLAR. I’m what?
They started me on all these drugs. They put me off work so my body could cope. They said that staying up all hours off the night was normal because I was having a “manic episode.” Okay… so maybe I’m not crazy, I’m just sick. The drugs didn’t help, so we tried different ones. Those didn’t work either, so we were on to the third set of meds. My doctor said that if these meds didn’t work I would have to see a professional mental health doctor after this. I was determined to make sure that these medications worked. And I was tired of being off work, so regardless of the fact that I could tell the medication wasn’t working I went back to work. I didn’t want to go to a mental health professional; what if they hospitalized me? I couldn’t afford to be off work for that amount of time. I didn’t want that stigma. I’m a teacher, would that hospital stay stain my career? I didn’t want to be away from my children.
I was suppose to do weekly trips to my doctor. That worked out really well until my doctor got sick for a couple of weeks and was out of office. After a month or so I realized, I hadn’t been and I’d just let the time slip by me. I knew my doctor was going to make me get professional help so I started to do my own research. This was my body; if I was going to have to see someone professionally for what was going on I should at least know who I was see and what would be going on. I found a place in town, and they got me in right away.
They did an intake visit and an initial therapy appointment all in the same week. They evaluated me for having bipolar and agreed with my doctor that I had bipolar, and narrowed my diagnosis down to bipolar 2 disorder. Over the next couple weeks I had therapy, and was given various homework assignments (readings, things to listen to, etc). This is where things got interesting.
I don’t particularly like to read. I’m a math teacher, and studies have shown that typically people who like math do not like reading. I am living, breathing proof of that. So instead of reading, I downloaded audible and began to listen. If I was going to have this thing called bipolar, I was going to know everything there was to know about it, inside and out. I downloaded the book called “The Bipolar Disorder Survival Guide: What you and your family need to know.” Yes, yes, yes. I want to know everything. And I want my family to know everything!!!
There was this chapter on co-morbid conditions, and I’ll never forget where I was , or what I was doing, or what I was drinking, or the smells I was smelling, when I listened to that chapter. Because listening to that chapter, changed my life. I had been misdiagnosed as bipolar, when in reality I had Borderline Personality Disorder all along. And had I not listened to this book, I may have never found my true diagnosis.
Now, I want to take you through a brief journey of my experiences with Borderline Personality Disorder. First of all, I was terrified to take all of my findings to my therapist, and share them with her. I was worried she would be offended that I was researching my disorder without her or that I was second guessing her diagnosis. SHE WAS NOT. She was super happy that I had brought in the information that I did. Let me go as far as saying though, that with me being a teacher I am not a google search engine, Wikipedia research supporter. If you’re going to research a medical disorder, use medical journals or reputable websites that end in .edu or .gov so that you know that your information is correct. I kept record of everything that I researched, including the websites I found the research at so I could take that back to my therapist as well.
From here, I also made a list of all of the “typical” symptoms of borderline personality disorder, and I wrote out how they pertained to my life. Looking back through my life, I have had this disorder for a very long time and had no idea.
I want to share a very scary statistic with you: 1 in 10 people diagnosed with BPD die a death due to their own hands. This isn’t necessarily suicide, as people with BPD are often reckless and make very emotionally based decisions, but they are also very suicidal in nature as well. I’ve never personally struggled with the suicidal side of things, which I’m very thankful for, but I know what it’s like to make very rash, emotional decisions which lead to consequences which hadn’t been completely thought out. For many people who struggle with BPD, one of those consequences can even be death. 1 in 10 is a huge percentage which can not go ignored.
I mentioned earlier that I struggle with abandonment issues. This is one of the trademark symptoms of BPD. I constantly feel like people are going to leave me. From my relationships to my friendships; I feel like there is always a problem there and that in the end I’m going to end up alone. I feel inadequate compared to my partners, when in reality I have a good paying job, a college degree, beauty. I should be a real catch for anyone.
The mood swings are killer too. Unlike being bipolar, I’m not up for a few months and then down for a few months. I’m up for a few hours then down for a few hours. My husband describes me as a roller coaster ride, which is the perfect analogy. That’s exactly what it’s like to be inside my head too. It’s up and down all the time, constantly. I have no idea what is going to set off my downs, but as quickly as they come, they too shall pass.
Typically a person with Borderline Personality Disorder will exhibit some type of childhood trauma. I honestly thought I had a normal childhood. I was raised by my grandparents. That’s not that uncommon in today’s society. But looking back… It’s not wonder I was left with some emotional scars. My dad left, he worked out of town for work and his parents were the ones who raised me. Yes they took me to see him on vacation but it never really made sense to me why he left me here with them when he had three other children living with him that he did raise. My mom was on meth up until I was in my late teens. She pulled me back and forth from my grand parents house just because she could, and she spent the majority of her time in her bedroom with the door locked because she was sleeping from getting high or she was getting high. During the time that my mom was getting high, her husband at the time was molesting me. I was okay with it though, because as long as he was doing it to me he wasn’t doing it to my sister (pretty fucked up mindset for a child).
Looking at all the things that lead to BPD, I never really stood a chance. But I fought for my diagnosis, and I’ve fought for treatment, and I’m fighting to be better. I don’t want to just be that woman with BPD whose life fell apart. I want to be that woman who found out she had a mental illness and she won.
My favorite mental illness quote is: When you replace I with We Illness becomes Wellness. I’m fighting every single day to be the best version of myself. I get up every day and go to work. I’m repairing my marriage, because my husband is just now starting to see that in my darkest times, I was fighting demons inside my head that he couldn’t see. It was hard enough to fight them off, let alone deal with the crap I had going on outside of my head. And I’m repairing and rebuilding my life, step by step.
Do not submit to mental illness. Regardless of what your diagnosis is. You may have Bipolar, Schizophrenia, BPD, Autism (my son is autistic), depression, anxiety. Shit, you might have a combination of multiple things going on. But you’re still you. Having a mental illness is just PART of you. AND YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
It’s important to also remember that nobody will fight to get you better as hard as you will. And if you feel like something isn’t right with your diagnosis or with something that is going on, say something to someone. To a friend, a loved one, your doctor, your therapist, somebody. Other people are only human and they can not read your mind. And documenting everything and writing it down is a great way to make sure that you tell your doctor or therapist everything that is going on. If I had not started charting my own symptoms, I probably would have missed something, and that something could have been critical in diagnosis what was actually wrong with me.
If you read this far, I genuinely thank you. I’m not typically open about what I’m going through, and I’m definitely not open about my childhood, but I felt like I needed to share this with you all because if my story can help anyone than sharing it is worth it to me.