For years I had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I dissociated, and at one time in my life, I engaged with many of the unhelpful coping mechanisms that accompany the disorder: binge eating, anorexia, bulimia, drinking, cutting, and overdoses. I was constantly trying to understand, and ease the immense pain that I felt from living, breathing, existing on this earth.
I had therapy.
I had years and years of various therapies with various therapists of varying intensities and specialisms. CBT, talking, EFT, schema, metallisation, all of which geared towards healing my inner turmoils in order to build a more stable future. Of course, that’s what all therapies are about right?
But it wasn’t working. I was frustrated. I’d cry in frustration – seriously, why am I so fucked up?
“you’re at the start of a long journey?”
“WHAT! The START. I’ve been in therapy for 8 years, how is this the start!?!?”
Because nothing, nothing I did was working on easing my depression – if you believed I was depressed that is. My psychiatrist didn’t. From their responses I gather they considered me to have a hidden agenda within my suicidal obsessions and deep rooted depression. I didn’t. I was quite literally depressed, nothing more, nothing less. Yet still, I had to get on with it even though it felt very real to me, it wasn’t – and so on and so forth.
And I wasn’t sure if it was just me, but for some reason I just didn’t ‘get it’. I did everything that was advised, and everything recommended from various self help resources. I used my therapy, went to as many sessions as possible – and I engaged. I tried, really. fucking. hard. REALLY. FUCKING. HARD. Yet still, I lived in a descended fog of despair and hopelessness. Fuck this. Seriously. Fuck. This. Shit.
Until I started walking on sunshine. Holy shit. I’d been missing the point for so many years, yet now, now all of a sudden, I had all the answers I’d ever been pining for. Of course life was wonderful. No. It wasn’t. Life was fucking magical, and so was I. It’s the highs and lows of the borderline disorder they said: until I lost my shit.
I lost my shit thoroughly for a whole week, or maybe longer, and finally, some bitch social worker named Penny sectioned me. I was re-assessed, and upon release my GP stirred up a fuss pulling my current diagnosis into question.
“You’re not the first, and you wont be the last to be lumbered with this diagnosis because they just don’t know quite where you fit and can’t put any other label neatly on you”
And she pissed a lot of people of, but she didn’t care. She wanted me to have the correct treatment, and could from her own expertise say that she’d seen me on both ends of the mood spectrum. Finally, my diagnosis was officially changed, I don’t have a personality disorder… I in fact had bipolar disorder, and so many jarred edges clicked into place like a the cogs made for my machine.
At first, this news came with a relief. Finally, they were listening and understanding the mood difficulties that I face. Finally, they were taking me seriously when I was down, and when I was walking on magical unicorn sunshine. Finally, I was given medications at a dose that would actually help a person, rather than eager sprinkles of psychiatric drugs that do nothing, to anyone, in the guise of “trying to help’. I’m quite sure they were trying to induce the placebo effect- but it never worked.
However, from this relief spawned a new vulnerability, and a new set of realisations. Shit, this isn’t something I can “get over, move on from and forget”. Shit, this isn’t going to go away as I’d been told it would for years. Shit, bipolar is life long, and I’m going to have to stay on my meds, and shit, I’m losing hope that those depressive episodes will never reappear in my life.
Within my sigh of relief, at the same time, I had a whole new set of circumstances within which to adapt to, to accept, to manage, and to acknowledge. It is not only a new label under my name, on my file somewhere that is likely a meter thick with truths woven between chapters and chapters of bullshit: but also, I have a new treatment plan to accept and use. I have to accept that these problems are probably going to be challenges for a lifetime, and that these challenges are going to have to be managed, but never recovered from: and that believing in my own invincibility last time i was sectioned, might not be the last time that I thoroughly lose my mind altogether for a while. And that uncomfortable thoughts like, “I want to shoot myself in the face” may continue to haunt me for lengthy periods of time again in the future. And that, it is now important for me to adhere to my keep well strategies and routines even more so, for longer than I had initially planned for, in order to prevent a relapse. And all of this I started to take in one evening, on my own, after the sigh of relief had passed and gone into the wind, leaving me bare, vulnerable and having to re-evaluate my understanding, acceptance and management of my mental health conditions.
I now have answers, more answers than what i have previously had: however, I also have more learning to do, more understanding to gain, and more insight to develop. It is rather daunting, but with the support of those around me, I am rather confident that such skills will eventually be acquired, and such resulting challenges managed, I hope.
Going to the doctor about any illness can be difficult. It is, after all, a stressful ordeal because when you’re going to the doctor it means that you are feeling unwell in some way. The same rings true for visiting your GP for the first time about a mental health problem. All sorts of questions may arise.
What do I say? How do I explain what I feel has been wrong with me? How do I talk about something that I may find difficult to put into words? What if they are not understanding or empathetic about mental health difficulties? What if they tell me I’m just fine and that I need to get on with it? These are all part of normal concerns.
My very first time I went to my GP about my eating disorder I was dragged as a reluctant 15 year old, confiscated diary in hand. She didn’t read it; I said I didn’t want her to. I received help but all I managed to say was, “I don’t like eating”. This was followed by a trip to the weighing scales and followed by a referral to the local CAMHS team.
The most difficult time though, was going back after relapse from recovery. Admitting I wasn’t ok again was difficult, and painful. I was 20 and again trying to deny that anything was wrong. I couldn’t speak for myself about my difficulties and relied heavily on my partner to explain why she had taken me in the first place. Yes, she took me. I couldn’t and didn’t go on my own, nor on my own accord. I was very fortunate to get a wonderful GP who really understands and empathises with emotional and mental health difficulties. She acknowledges them in a sensitive and caring way. That still doesn’t mean that it was easy, but there are a number of ways around this that can help ease the difficulty of talking about difficult feelings, or experiences, and trying to cross that initial hurdle towards getting the help and support you may need.
Sometimes saying it out loud to a stranger can feel daunting. One way of managing this is to go prepared. What are you going to say? What is importantly? How about a back up piece of paper in case you freeze up, forget, or are unable to initiate the conversation. After all admitting to, “I’m not coping” or, “I’m hearing voices” can be really difficult. Handing a prepared piece of paper over, or using the as a conversation guidance can ease the conversation to a start.
– Enlist your support network. Maybe it’s a close friend, a partner, parent, brother or sister. Even just having someone come with you to the waiting room can help ease the stress. At least then, when you come out you have someone to talk to about it, or not talk to about it but either way, someone is there.
– If they can’t be there in person, let someone know what you are doing and hopefully they can at least be on the end of the phone for when you come out.
– It is ok to ask the receptionist which Dr is the most sensitive, or better at helping with mental health illnesses.
– Describe your experiences truthfully and as clearly as you are able. Don’t go in diagnosing yourself as that is the job of the doctor. If you explain how hard you have been finding things, or how you are affected, you are more likely to be steered towards the right direction for getting help by the doctor; that is their job, not yours. Explain why you are concerned, or why you are having a hard time.
– Engage as best you can. If they offer a referral to IAPTS then take it. Even if you think you may need longer than the 6 week therapy on offer they can decide that when you get to there. There are services therefor those who need the, be they specialist psychosis teams, or eating disorder units, or a specific course of CBT help for example.
– Be prepared to wait, work hard, and persevere. Recovering from a mental health illness is hard, and sometimes a long and winding road but with the help of professionals and some hard perseverance, it can and often does get better.
– Reward yourself afterwards. Talking about your mental health can be difficult, especially if you are having a hard time. Relax. Go for a coffee, a walk, or listen to some music on your way to help stay calm and recover from the stress on the appointment should there be any,
– Be honest, if you aren’t honest about how bad things are for you, then how will they know?
– If the Dr you see isn’t helpful for you, ask to see someone else.
– Finally, don’t forget to breathe. Deep breathes in, and deep breathes out using you stomach. It is going to be ok.
Also, if you have to wait a while to get support and things get worse don’t be afraid to go to A&E. Especially if you are having thoughts of serious self harm or suicide. That is an emergency and you have every right to go to A&E. If you find it difficult to talk to the receptionist, again, it is ok to write it down on a piece of paper to hand over. I have done this in the past and they are fine with it.
For years I have been sad. My life for a long time has been hit by extended periods of what felt like perpetual doom. When talking to my psychiatrist about my low moods, he concluded that I had a gloomy personality and that medication would never help me. He was wrong. I knew he was wrong.
I have not always been a dark cloud although, I have spent a lot of my life being a dark cloud. I knew I was depressed, even if the doctors decided to put it down to my own way of being. I spoke to my GP. We decided to try anti-depressants. After a few weeks they started to work and my personal black fog began to lift. I could see again.
I could see why people wanted to get up in the morning. I could see why people enjoyed life. I could see, and finally understand why everyone else wasn’t trying to kill their selves as well, because actually there is a lot of enjoyment, happiness and fulfilment to be had from the world.
I realised that even though there is a lot of bad in the world, that if I focused on that then I will feel sad regardless of whether I’m taking my anti-depressants or not. I realised my key to my own happiness was learning where to focus my energy. I learned to focus my energy on my own inner world of happiness and fulfilment. I focused on the small things.
I re-realised how much I enjoyed exercise: swimming, running and cycling. I re-realised how much enjoyment reading books brought to me. I re-realised how much joy writing could bring me. I re-realised how blessed I was to have such a wonderful partner. Ultimately, I realised the importance of the small things in my day that make the bigger picture: a text to my friends here, a yummy sandwich there, and a beautiful cat to cuddle at the end of the day. This is where I found my happiness.
However, in order to be able to find my personal little gold mine, I had to not be depressed in the first place. This furthers my daily happiness that I find because for so long, years even, I’ve been unhappy, depressed, and working my motions in life in a slow, dark, and despairing place. Now finally, I am able to see the brighter side of life’s small offerings.
For this, and this alone, I am grateful. I feel blessed to no longer be depressed. I can smile and mean it.