I started a new job, I’m working for the hospital now. It’s different, and so far I like it. I’m still doing CNA work, but it’s a lot different from the nursing home.
I have a great nurse on my shift. She’s from England and has the cool accent. She’s a hard worker, and is always checking on me to see if I need any help.
One day, we were talking and she was telling me about a former patient she had. She was telling me how crazy they were to work with. And then she whispered, “they had bipolar disorder.”
I have to tell you, that my heart stopped. I don’t usually disclose my diagnosis at work, it makes people look at you differently. People just don’t understand. And now, I know for a fact, that my nurse is one that just doesn’t understand.
Bipolar disorder is not a bad thing. I used to think it was. The ups and downs are hard to deal with sometimes, sure. And there are several things that you have to do in order to stay healthy and stable. And sometimes, in order to get stabke, you have to go to the hospital.
But the way she said it, it just hit me wrong. She whispered it, like it was a curse, or something much worse.
I wanted to scream at her that I was bipolar. See, I’m stable now, you wouldn’t know! Do I have my days, yes! But it’s not like we’re homicidal maniacs waiting to chop you up or something. We just need stabilization.
Bipolar disorder can be hard to live with. But it’s doable. You can live with it you can get stable. You can have good days. You can have a life. And you can hold down a job. You have to work at it, which is hard, because your mind works against you. But you can do it.
The thing that helped me, I found someone who listened to me, found a proper combination of medicines. I have to ensure that I’m eating and sleeping, make sure to drink water and stay away from caffeine and alcohol. But I finally feel like I’m stable. It’s possible.
But the way she said it, reminded me that the stigma is out there. That we still have to work to bring awareness to disorders and normalize what is going on in our brains. To remind everyone, we’re not crazy, we’re sick. That you shouldn’t be stigmatized for having to take medication, because you wouldn’t say anything to someone who has to take medication for diabetes or high blood pressure, so why are you judging me for taking meds for my brain? We have work to do.
But I can tell you, you can be stable. Will you have bad day? Yes, I have them. But your track record for bad day survival so far is 100%, so keep going. And if you need help, reach out. There are people who will listen. Call a friend, call the lifeline. Anyone. Don’t struggle alone. You’re real, and you matter, you are not alone.
BPD is the initials for borderline personality disorder, for those who are new to this blog or to the world of mental illness. Borderline personality disorder is a disorder that is marked by unstable moods, behaviors, and relationships. It is diagnosed by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals by using 9 characteristics, and a subject must meet at least 5 of those 9 to receive a diagnosis of BPD.
According to the DSM IV, (there is a new revision out, the DSM V), to be diagnosed with BPD, a person must show a pattern of behavior that includes at least 5 of the following:
- Extreme reactions – including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions – to abandonment, whether it is real or perceived.
- A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with friends, family, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
- Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
- Impulsive and often dangerous behavior, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating.
- Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior.
- Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days.
- Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom.
- Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger.
- Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing tough with reality.
Now, being me, I have the pleasure of experiencing all nine.
When I was first diagnosed back in February of 2014, I remember being shocked. I cried. Because I remember talking about personality disorders in my psych class in college. There are no cures for personality disorders…But I’m finding out there there really isn’t a “cure” for any mental illness, you just treat the symptoms and manage the best that you can with therapy and medications. Anyhow, so I remember crying. I can remember it was my first meeting with the new doctor in Fort Worth and he asked me to tell him a little about myself. I went into the whole story of how crappy my relationships were, how fucked up parts of my childhood was because of sexual and emotional abuse, how I used to cut, how I had recently had a trip to the hospital… Maybe a couple of minutes into it, he stopped me, and he’s like “let me stop you right there, I can already tell you now, you have borderline personality disorder.” I really liked that doctor. He was kind, and he listened, and he was nice enough to explain things to me when I didn’t understand.
Now that I’ve lived with it for a couple of years, I can see how the diagnosis fits me.
Extreme reactions to abandonment
I know that I’ve talked about this before in another post to try to explain what BPD is. I have the fear that the people I love are going to leave me. It’s huge. It’s like a phobia of mine. Whether it’s real or not, someone is going to leave me. Take for instance, my husband. We’ve been together for two years now. Married for almost one – our anniversary is coming up in September.
I have this…theory – based on prior history – that people get tired of me after two years. It’s a window. In this window of time, people realize that I’m not good enough or smart enough or pretty enough. And they want to leave me. And I will fight to keep them with me. I panic and fight and, in the past I have threatened to kill myself to keep people by my side, even though people say they aren’t going anywhere. It isn’t just with significant others, it’s with family too.
My husband is great. When I start having these thoughts, he reassures me and we talk about everything. We rationalize the fact that my disorder makes me think irrationally. Just talking about it helps. It calms me down. He understands that I have a mental illness, it’s a part of me, and my brain works differently than most.
Pattern of intense and stormy relationships
I like that they put family and friends in this category, because I think a lot of people just think that it’s with significant others. When my doctor talked to me about BPD, he was focused with the relationships with past boyfriends, as they are a key part. But I think that the relationships with family are important too. I can remember times where there were rocky, “stormy” relationships that I had with family members too. Of course, I had help with burning those bridges. Donna had a huge influence at that time. And she made me cut off relations with my aunts. I can see now how I can go from Idealizing someone, they are my whole world one minute, to hating them the next. Part of this, though I wonder, if it’s a natural thing? I mean, if something in your relationship goes bad, you don’t keep that person on their pedestal right?
I haven’t always had great relationships with people. I have had boyfriends that used me. I’ve used people too. My relationships were intense and fast. They moved fast. I fall hard and fast. And that’s what my doctor focused on. But almost all of those relationships ended poorly, like in flames.
Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
This is something that I have struggled with my entire life. I definitely do not know who I am. Borderlines are often referred to as chameleons. We change our personalities to fit into whatever group or relationship we are in at the time because our sense of self is so damaged. For me, personally, I have changed so many times, I don’t know who I am.
I know that I love music, I love to color, I love to play the guitar and piano. I love tattoos, I love reading, I love animals, I love riding back roads, I love food. But those things don’t really tell me who I am. I don’t know where I stand on politics, or religion. I have opinions. But I have so often been told that my personal opinions are wrong, that I don’t voice them.
As far as a self image, I hate who I am. I hate that I have my diagnosis. Some times, it’s great, because I have a deeper understanding of people and what they are going through. I can appreciate peoples’ struggles. But most of the time, I just want to feel normal. But I know that normal is an illusion. Because of the medication, and poor eating habits and the fact that I don’t really like to work out, I have ballooned to over 200 lbs. I hate that I’m so big. I hate the way my hair looks. I hate they way I look. I could pick myself apart all day. I grew up with Donna saying that I looked like a hobo or a homeless child, she called me fat at one point. Not to mention what kids say at school. It’s hard enough that you pick yourself apart, then you have someone who is supposed to be lifting you up break you down.
Borderlines look for themselves in others. I look for myself in my relationships. I have morphed myself to fit who I’m with. I think, now that I’ve been living with this diagnosis for a while and I’m becoming more mindful of what it means to be a borderline, I’m watching what I’m doing. I’m trying to become my own person. I don’t blinding agree with everything that everyone does. I am forming my own opinions. I still have my own crazy taste in music. I’m learning. I just hope, that one day, I will learn to love myself.
Impulsive and often dangerous behavior
Having a dual diagnosis of Bipolar I disorder, this symptom goes hand in hand with borderline. I haven’t exactly engaged in “dangerous” behavior in a while. But the impulsiveness is what kicks me in the ass. I do engage in impulsive things…Like bringing home a puppy that I have no business having, spending money that I don’t have, things like that. I used to engage in the more “dangerous” behavior after my diagnosis, but I have calmed down a lot since then.
Recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior
Again, with the Bipolar disorder, this goes together. I used to self harm every day. The thoughts are still there, every day. Especially when I get mad. But I don’t do it. I distract myself, or I sit on my hands. I talk to someone, I do anything I can to keep myself from self harming. The thoughts of suicide come up too, but I talk to someone before it gets too bad.
Intense and highly changeable moods
So, there are at least three major symptoms that overlap with Bipolar, which makes me question again, how do you know what I have, but they diagnosed me with both so what do I know? With the moods, some days I call it rapid cycling, and it’s exhausting. Because it’s like one minute you’re at the top of the rollercoaster and then you’re going down, then you’re back up, then you go through the loops, then back up a hill, then back down, then up, then upside down. It’s crazy and there’s nothing you can do about it but take your meds. And they help, but some days, you cycle even with the medications.
Chronic feeling of emptiness and/or boredom
I struggle with this. The emptiness, I chalk that up to depression. I mean, I get depressed, I feel empty. But boredom. I get bored easily. I thought it’s just…Well, actually I don’t know what I thought. See, when I was working, I got bored. That’s my problem with having a job. I get too bored too quickly and I’m done. I don’t want to be there and then I start having panic attacks and then I lose my job. I guess that’s why the new doctor was asking if I was bored… I didn’t really realize this was a symptom. Interesting.
Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
This. Anger has become a huge problem. Like epic problem. Like I don’t know how to control it, problem. This is what the new doctor focuses on. He’s like “you’re angry”, well I am now because that’s all you keep saying! But then I get home and the smallest thing makes me mad, so maybe I am an angry person. It doesn’t take much to make me mad anymore. A small thing can set me off, and that bothers me. I wasn’t like that before. This is a recent change. I wasn’t always an angry person. And it’s only come up in the last year or so.
Having stress-related paranoid thoughts or severe dissociative symptoms
I can remember a time when I went to the ER because I was sick, or I was having a panic attack – I can’t remember which one – and I was in the exam room waiting on the doctor to come in, suddenly a thought came to my mind. “The doctor is going to kill you.” What? Yea, that was a fun day. Needless to say, I left without being seen. I have had some dissociation. It’s weird. It feels weird.
I know this is a particularly long post, but I’m here to tell you that even with all these symptoms, life gets better. And while I’m living with all of these, they don’t all happen at the same time, or every day. BPD isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s just another thing that we get to live with. And when I say that I mean, it’s not all bad.
Living with it, can be hard. But it doesn’t have to be a death sentence. It allows you to be more empathetic to others. You know what it’s like to live in pain, you know what it’s like to want to die. You can be supportive to others. You know what it’s like to hate yourself, you can build others up. I also think that it gives you more patience and understanding.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, I encourage you to talk to your doctor. While BPD has no cure, the symptoms CAN be treated. If you are feeling suicidal, please reach out or call the suicide hotline 800-273-8255.
In light of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, as well as BPD Awareness Month, I thought that I would go back and share a little more about my diagnosis.
For those who don’t know me, or haven’t been following along for very long, my name is Preslee, and I have Bipolar I disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder (an old diagnosis that has been recently relisted…), and Anxiety. But I am much more than my diagnosis. This is my story.
First, let me start by saying that, at any given time, anyone can be touched by mental illness. Current statistics from NAMI.org say that “approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. – 43.8 million, 18.5% – experience mental illness in a given year. 2.6% of adults in the US live with bipolar disorder. 6.9% of adults in the US -16 million – had at least one major depressive episode in the last year.” So, before you start to say, “it’s not real”, or “It could never happen to me,” it is real, and it could happen to you.
When I was 15, that’s when things started to get more and more depressing. I started cutting myself, I lied of course. To protect myself from punishment and scrutiny, I lied and hid what I was doing. I didn’t need any more pressure. I started to cut myself to relieve the pain I felt inside. I stopped sleeping, because, when I did sleep, I had nightmares. I started hallucinating, death was following me. I remember when I got in trouble at school, for a stupid poem I wrote, and instead of getting help, I got in trouble.
Cutting was something that felt good. It was easy. It made sense. It helped ease the storm inside. There was a rush. I needed it. It became a coping mechanism, it became an addiction.
Looking back, because hindsight is always 20/20, I can tell you that I was depressed long before then. I remember when my nephew was born, I was around 10 years old, and my legal mother had to send me away with some friends to “cheer” me up. She would try to get me involved in things, I was in peewee cheerleading. But I was sad, but it was more than sad.
Moving forward, I managed. I dealt with my feelings the best that I could. I got involved with band and color guard at school. I had boy friends. I had some best friends. When I was old enough to work, I emersed myself in my job. But, the idea to cut, the need and the desire, was always there in the back of my mind.
When I was 17, I was raped by my ex boyfriend. It wasn’t violent or anything. But it is what it is. Still, he’s “sorry that [I] took it that way.” Just add that to a list of sexual abuse history. Possibly started in Pre-K, the counselor was seen taking me into his office and locking the door. They said that you could hear me screaming down the halls, but I don’t remember that. When I ran into him in intermediate school, he said that he remembered me because I “always wore those pretty dresses”. He was fired for indecency with minor girls. Then, there was the incidents with my niece and nephew’s dad. He would have me to sit on his lap when we were alone, kiss him on the lips. He would touch my thighs and my chests. One night, I was watching him play video games and I fell asleep in his bed, I woke up to Donna being all pissed off because he was asleep in the bed with me. Another night, I woke up to him standing in my doorway watching me sleep. He came into my room, saying that I was uncovered and was covering me up, even though the sheets were already up to my chest. “Kiss me”, he said. “No, I don’t want to kiss you, go away.” I kept saying that over and over, but he wouldn’t leave. He kept leaning over me, his lips so close to mine, I could feel his breath on me. He kept asking me to kiss him. And he wouldn’t leave until I did. I’ve slept with my door shut ever since. When I finally said something about it, we took it to a detective who gave him a polygraph test, and called me a liar.
The mood problems, they weren’t problems — or maybe I just didn’t pay attention to them — until I got to college. This was after the first semester, my fiance at the time had cheated on me. I began to isolate myself. I started having panic attacks. I was depressed. It wasn’t until I got my Bid for Tau Beta Sigma that I started to leave my dorm room. I even went to the clinic on campus to get help.
During that time, the mother that I had always known, tried to kill herself. I had called the cops on her. She was taken to the hospital in Ft. Worth. While there, she was telling people how they could kill themselves in their rooms, so I told the nurse, who told the social worker, who told her doctor, who eventually got her sent to Wichita Falls. She was there from November to January, and we have not had a relationship since. While all that was going on, I found out that my real mother was right there, and we have never been better.
I got married to the guy that cheated on me….because that’s a smart idea.
A couple of years later, it got really bad. I got depressed. To the point that I couldn’t handle going to work. I was angry. I was having panic attacks. I broke down and went to the doctor. She started me on Prozac 10 mg. It worked well enough for the first year. I was managing my emotions. Yes, I would have down days, but it wasn’t too bad. Until the meds weren’t helping. But when the doctor wouldn’t help me, I found someone else. She increased the Prozac to 20 mg, until that wasn’t working. And then she started me on Seroquel, because I made the suggestion that I thought that maybe I was Bipolar. I was having mood swings, high to low. I managed. Until managing was all I was doing.
Eventually, I started seeing a counselor, which, eventually landed me in the hospital for suicidal ideations. Stress is not something that I handle well. When I get stressed, I often take it out on myself. I think that there is a type of octopus that eats itself when it gets stressed, maybe I’m not that bad, but it’s bad.
The hospital stay itself, wasn’t bad. The first night was scary. I remember going in terrified. I had never been hospitalized, even for illness. So I had no idea what to expect. And you hear horror stories of mental hospitals — people screaming, padded rooms, etc. I remember my husband (at the time) dropping me off. I was scared. I didn’t want to be there. I knew it would be good for me. But I didn’t want to go. The first night, scary. But I made some friends. One, I still talk to. We have each other on Facebook and check in from time to time. The doctor there diagnosed me with MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and PTSD. And all he focused on was the rape and the sexual abuse history. Yes, I had been recently triggered, but that’s not the whole story. I was reading The Hunger Games while I was there, he said that I needed to be more like Katniss.
That’s when everything in my life, up to that point, fell apart. My marriage, that I worked so hard for, fell apart. When I got home, I was there for two weeks, still going through symptoms, the panic attacks, the depression. And yes, maybe I started a fight. He kicked me out. So I left. I packed what I could, I went to my mom’s. And things were really rough and tough for a while.
I was having a hard time holding a job, I couldn’t stay in one place long. Financial instability means that your housing situation probably isn’t the best either. I lived with my mom for two weeks, then I stayed with my sister for a couple of months, I had my own apartment for a couple of months, moved in with some friends (which was a disaster!), and finally ended up back with my mom.
During that time, I saw a couple of different doctors through the MHMR system. The doctor that I saw in Ft Worth diagnosed me with Bipolar I disorder and BPD and PTSD. Of course, I cried with I got the BPD diagnosis because it’s a personality disorder.
We managed my meds the best we could. I started working again, though I still had the hard time with going to work. But having to help mom and not wanting to disappoint her, I went to work.
In 2014, I reconnected with a lost friend. We had met back in college, and I had liked him, but at the time, I was engaged…. Anyhow, turns out, he liked me too. We talked, started dating, moved in together, and got married. It’s been a crazy ride. But, he is very supportive of me. He sits with me in the dark times and helps me ride through the storms. He helps bring me back. It’s been amazing having someone like him with me. Marriage isn’t easy, but it’s even more difficult when someone has a major mental illness.
Now, the doctor I’m seeing has me down as MDD, Bipolar I, BPD. He took me down from 7 medications just down to 2.
My symptoms are everywhere.
-I don’t always get enough sleep, or I get too much sleep.
-I get mad at everything. Like, every little thing. Even things that shouldn’t bother me, bother me. And, when I’m mad, I have over-the-top reactions. I’ve noticed lately that my brain gets fuzzy when I get mad, like I’m going to black out or something. My breathing changes….
-I, mostly, want to hurt myself when I get mad. Sometimes, I want to hurt others. But when I have those thoughts, I turn them around, because I could never hurt someone else like my thoughts are provoking me to.
-I hear a voice in my head, but honestly, I think it’s mine – but more bitchy. Telling me that I’m worthless, ugly, stupid, or worse. I try to get the voices/thoughts out of my head by slapping/tapping/hitting my head. I want to make it stop.
-It’s a coping mechanism (pretty sure) that I can switch to pure bitch in a split second. My husband refuses to talk to me when I’m like that, and I don’t blame him. He tells me that when I switch it’s scary. He said that my whole demeanor changes – face, mouth, tone, speech pattern, even my eyes. Years ago, I called her Paige. But she’s not a true alter, I have no memory loss or slips. I remember what happens.
-Depression – same as ever. Days where I don’t want to get out of bed, eat or shower.
-Manic episodes that include shopping sprees with no concern for where the money is going to come from, until it’s over and I’m left with the guilt.
-Fear of rejection or abandonment. The people I love are going to leave me…
Even with all of this, I am more than just a diagnosis or a statistic.
I am a wife, a sister, a daughter. I love music. I love reading so much that I can get lost in a good book and have no idea that you’re talking to me. I’m a caregiver. I have two dogs and a cat that I love very much, because they are my babies. I love watching Netflix, I found out that the movies I grew up watching are on there, so I’m super excited!
I believe that even though I live with a war in my mind, I am a gentle person. I know that I can take care of others, and I do just that. Because I have been through hell myself, I will move mountains for people. I am compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, and kind. I try to believe the best in people.
You are more than your diagnosis.
So, my grand idea is this: I want to publicly speak about mental health/mental illness, self harm, bullying, depression, and suicide. I think that a great place to start would be at my local high school. But, I’m not sure how I would go about doing it.
I’ve consulted with my contributor, Amber, and she has some ideas and support.
I need to contact the school, my fear is that they will not allow it for 2 reasons: it’s a touchy subject, and I’m some random chick off the street. I know some people at the school I graduated from, the secretary, the counselors assistant, and several teachers. But I fear that this will be something they won’t approve due to the reasons I just listed above.
Pending approval, I would need a program. That’s something that I’m not sure how to do.
I have an opener: How many of you know someone who tried or succeeded in killing themselves? It’s ok, no one is here to judge, you’re not going to get in trouble for raising your hand. How many of you have thought about or attempted suicide? Again, no one is judging you. Did you know, worldwide, 1 million people die by suicide? That’s a third of the population of Dallas, and that is a ton of people.
I would go into my story. My struggle with depression as a teen, evolving into self harm, which later progressed into suicidal thoughts in my adulthood. Leading to my hospitalization, because the thoughts were so overwhelming, and now, I’m in recovery.
The point? 1 in 4 people suffer from depression, and most have engaged in self-injury at least once in their life time. Depression, suicide, and other mental health issues should not be taboo, they shouldn’t hold a stigma. Although it is difficult to talk about, it is something that needs to be said because it affects all of us. When someone commits suicide, it touches their family, their friends, their school, even their community. It’s not just taking your life, but you are taking a piece of everyone else as well. It deserves attention. It’s serious and it’s not a joking matter.
The result: I want to touch people, make them realize that this isn’t just something to joke about, it’s a real epidemic. Mental health is so important to everyone.
That’s my idea. Now, I just have to put it in motion.