Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. That’s what the psychiatrist in the hospital said. Finally, after years of psychological turmoil and endless waiting, I could put a name to these terrible things which were affecting me. Obviously I’d done my own research and had my own ideas, but to have someone properly validate that what I’d been going through was tough but priceless.
My name is Alice...
My name's Alice. I’m sitting in hospital writing this, after an attempted suicide about six weeks ago. It’s my second admission since October 2015, which has been really hard to come to terms with. I guess it’s just the fact I’d been ignoring I was ill for so long that now it’s all come to a head - it’s just very hard to cope with. But that’s okay, and I am managing. Progress is slow, but at least it’s progress.
So there I am, sitting in the psychiatrist’s office when she finally utters these immortal words: BPD and PTSD. I finally know what’s been plaguing me for so long. Both diagnoses, however, come as a bit of a shock. In my ignorance, I thought that being borderline meant being manipulative, that being diagnosed with a personality disorder meant being rude, abrasive and flawed. What’s more, I thought that PTSD was only diagnosed in soldiers returning from war. How wrong I was.
BPD and PTSD affect me on a daily basis. Having BPD means I struggle a lot with my own identity, with my unstable and often overflowing and ever-changing emotions, with relationships, with basic functioning, and very often with self-harm. Self-harm is always my personal elephant in the room. It’s always there, but I never talk about it and try desperately to hide it. So here I am admitting to it, and it feels… good, I think. PTSD causes me to suffer from panic attacks, flashbacks, anxiety and depression as a result of repeated trauma from a few years ago. I’ve very often reached the stage where I want to end my life, and that’s where I am now. It’s a scary place to be, not wanting to face the future, but my hope is that if I keep fighting it will get better. Nothing is constant, everything is changeable- that’s the phrase I’ve kept muttering to myself. I won’t feel like this forever, this too shall pass.
All in all, I’ve come to learn that my BPD does not make me an awful person, as I may have once thought. I’m also learning to accept my PTSD and the trauma which led to it. Although I’m not able to talk about it just yet, having had someone acknowledge that I have not been able to process the trauma correctly has given me comfort.
Part of what's helped has been family and friends...
Part of what has helped me get through is the reactions of my friends and family. Most people have continued treating me as normal, which I’d say is the main thing you can do to help someone who has a mental health problem. They haven’t tried to save me or to cure me, but they’ve just been there for me when I need them, constantly keeping in touch and showing they care through little gestures here and there. Lots of my friends have decided to educate themselves on my condition, which has been really helpful because they are able to differentiate between me and my illness. However, some people haven’t had such good reactions. I’ve had friends tell me that I can’t have gone through real trauma because I’ve never spoken about it, and friends who have distanced themselves since I told them I was ill. To that I have two responses: firstly, that every single person has fought battles that others know nothing about, and secondly, that I’m still the same person despite my illness, and I’ve developed as a person because of it.
Mental illness is that one roller coaster you never want to ride. You get to the theme park and you see it, standing there, in all its terrifying glory. You’re desperate to avoid it, but suddenly somebody drags you on and there you are, riding this awful creation through every twist and turn. There are ups – I’ve met some incredible people and firmed some important friendships through having a mental illness – and there are some extreme downs, but there is always an end in sight if you just continue on the roller coaster and let it run its course.
That’s a really long metaphor, I do apologise.But I hope you know what I mean, and I hope that any other people who’ve experienced similar things can also relate. Mental illness is a roller coaster we’re riding, but it’s not our defining trait, and it never will be so long as we keep fighting and keep talking.