Melanie's Mental Health Blog

I am not defined by my diagnosis!

BPD Setbacks and Wins!

This has been a challenging year, but I have weathered the storm.  I sometimes felt like giving up and other times I have seen hope that BPD does not have to rule my life or define my character. 

The most significant incident is that I lost a cousin in March in a car accident.  My uncle, who I am extremely close to, had his heart ripped out with the loss of his daughter.  I tried to be there for him, but I knew that this would be a wound that would fester for a long time.

For the most part in 2018 I have used my skills to deal with my irrational thinking and emotional roller coasters.  I have found that very small incidents, such as a smell or noise, is more difficult to use my REBT skills than a more horrific event.  I did have a battle with BPD in September that caused me to reflect on my life and reevaluate my goals.  I attempted suicide at the very beginning of the month. 

It has taken me years to learn to think about my thinking and develop a systematic process to use my skills and I am still amazed how I revert back to "survival" mode.  I went so many years in what I call "survival" mode that I never was capable of enjoying life and making goals.  At the age of 45, I enrolled in an online degree program to obtain my BA in Psychology.  I will be graduating in May 2019 and I am very excited.  I have plans to obtain my masters and I feel this is my calling.

Doing Rather Well

I haven't written in a while mainly because I have been doing well, but also because I stay busy on Twitter and Facebook.  You see, I am starting not to view myself as a sick person anymore.  That doesn't mean that there won't be trying times in my life.  I would like to meet the person who has the perfect life with no trials.  I mean that being "sick" is no longer my focus, nor do I want it to be my family and loved ones focus on who I am.

It is difficult to view myself as a person who does not have BPD, or Bipolar, or PTSD, etc. because I have done so for over 30 years.  However, it is possible.  I have heard from others and even believed myself that BPD is a part of my life that you can't completely get rid of, or that you can always revert to BPD tendencies.

Let me use a couple of examples of why I don't think BPD should make you feel like a sick person or worry about reverting. 

The first one is that I think BPD is like a cold and that you have it and all the symptoms.  You are prone to self-harm just like when you get the sniffles.  You fear abandonment just like that annoying cough.  We could go on.  If you work at it and take care of your body, then you will eventually get rid of the cold and be healthy again.  You don't worry about the next time you "may" catch a cold.  You wait for that time to occur, and then you take appropriate action again.  Between those periods, you spend time taking vitamin C and staying away from other sick people so that you can stay as healthy as possible.

The second example that I want to use involves the fear of snakes.  This example would not work for me because I happen to love snakes, but you can substitute any fear, such as the fear of heights.  You attend a zoo, and at the petting zoo they have a corn snake out, and you are terrified of snakes.  Your friend is with you, and she knows this.  She encourages you to face your fear and get a closer look at the snake, and you oblige.  Just being within 10 feet of it terrifies you but through graduated exposure, you feel better about the snake as long as you can see it.  Next, the person holding the snake asks if you would like to touch it.  You are screaming no on the inside, but the person presents the back of the tail and keeps the head away from you.  You feel brave and reach out to touch it.  It does not turn around and eat you, and its skin feels different from your expectations.

The next day you are in your house doing dishes in the kitchen.  Next, you turn around; you throw the dish in your hand about 5 feet into the air while you are screaming.  You see a black rat snake under your table about 15 feet away.

Think about the second encounter where you were afraid.  Did anything change from attending the zoo and the kitchen?  They were both snakes correct?  What did change? Your thinking transformed perhaps?  Your fear was still present in both situations.  However, at the zoo, you had support to face your fear, and you thought about the situation differently because you were more in control.  So touching the animal was an option.  In the kitchen, you were startled by the presence and felt out of control.

Can you see how Borderline Personality Disorder can also make you fearful and feel out of control?  Does that mean you stop going home because there "might" be another snake there?  No!  You get support to help you search your house, rid it of all snakes (even the imaginary ones - similar to the fear of abandonment), and work on making your home snake proof.  BPD is similar.  You have strong fears when you have BPD, but why should you stay in a constant stage of fear.  There will be good times without any snakes.  You need to prepare though for the next unexpected snake and how you will deal with it.

Reflection in the Mirror

For as long as I can remember I have had trouble getting to and staying asleep.  Matter of fact, I am writing this at 5:00 AM.  I wake up every morning around 5 or 6 AM without an alarm clock.  Even as a child any little noise in the house would wake me.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I struggle with sleep.  

I am also on a "fruit cocktail" of medicines to help me get to and stay sleep.  I have to take them as prescribed and actually lay down at night ready for sleep. There are still days when I wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I wake up about 2 or 3 AM and get out of bed to start a brand new day.

I still have nightmares.  Sometimes my heart is pounding and I look like I have fought a battle when I wake up in the middle of the night.  The number of times that I wake up and my "rational self-talk" has vastly improved over the last few years to allow me to get a good nights rest.

I never take naps.  This is a golden rule fore me.  If I do take a nap, I won't sleep that night.  I am not sure about other borderline patients if they struggle with sleep as much as I have.  For years, it has been a battle of mine and I am thankful for my psychiatrist for finally finding the correct does so that most nights I get about 5-6 hours of sleep.  This is vastly improved from the 2-3 that I used to get.

 

Shutting Down

Yesterday was an interesting day for me. I was at my therapist's office and we were discussing a couple difficult issues for me. I didn't take ownership of my emotions or actions and I ended up shutting down in the middle of therapy and not participating. My therapist is doing therapeutic confrontation to me and I am very uncomfortable during this process. Instead of using my coping skills, I just shut down.
 
I learned quite a bit about myself. One thing I learned that I could learn to trust my therapist more and that he knows what he is doing. Another thing that I learned is that I have a constant battle inside me to be emotionally healthy and I have skills to do that with like disputation of any irrational beliefs. Also, my coping skills only help if I use them. I was picturing and playing over some horrible images in my mind that were not true. I also did not ask my therapist to help me during this time.
It turns out that I finally started to use my skills after I left my therapy but I could have made better use of my therapy time if I would have just asked for help.

Lack of Sleep

For as long as I can remember I have had trouble getting to and staying asleep.  Matter of fact, I am writing this at 5:00 AM.  I wake up every morning around 5 or 6 AM without an alarm clock.  Even as a child any little noise in the house would wake me.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I struggle with sleep.  

I am also on a "fruit cocktail" of medicines to help me get to and stay sleep.  I have to take them as prescribed and actually lay down at night ready for sleep. There are still days when I wake up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I wake up about 2 or 3 AM and get out of bed to start a brand new day.

I still have nightmares.  Sometimes my heart is pounding and I look like I have fought a battle when I wake up in the middle of the night.  The number of times that I wake up and my "rational self-talk" has vastly improved over the last few years to allow me to get a good nights rest.

I never take naps.  This is a golden rule fore me.  If I do take a nap, I won't sleep that night.  I am not sure about other borderline patients if they struggle with sleep as much as I have.  For years, it has been a battle of mine and I am thankful for my psychiatrist for finally finding the correct does so that most nights I get about 5-6 hours of sleep.  This is vastly improved from the 2-3 that I used to get.

 

What Does Living With BPD Feel Like?

If I had to sum up in one word what BPD is like I would have to say "intense".  I feel every emotion that a person without a borderline personality disorder feels but it is magnified times ten.  When I am sad, I feel depressed.  When I am angry, I feel rage.  When I am happy, I feel euphoric.  Sometimes I feel like I am stuck in my emotions and can not change them.

I also think in "black and white" and have to consciously change how I view people and incidents.  I think that friends, family, and acquaintances are either for me or against me.  Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy helps me accept that there are gray areas  but that is for another blog.

When I wake up in the morning I have to tell myself the following.  "Today I choose life . . . every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain . . . to feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices . . . today I choose to feel life . . . not to deny my humanity . . . but to embrace it."

Sometimes it is difficult to "start" my day off being content and in the moment because I wake up from nightmares.  They started so many years ago and if I don't have them I ask myself why.  I expect them.  When I wake up, my heart is pounding, I am diaphoretic, and my eyes are full of fear.  I make myself get out of bed and head to my office to start my day.

Even now as I write, I look down and see the scars on my arms from years of cutting.  I feel ashamed.  I have to tell myself that my past does not define me, I am content now in this moment and then I go back to writing.