July 2, 2010
It is hard to believe that just eight months ago, I truly thought my life was over. That there was nothing left for me to live for. That I was worthless, used up, incapable of ever being happy again. After years of struggling with debilitating depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and what I later found out to be Borderline Personality Disorder, I was tired of trying. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to give up the fight. Over a two month period I attempted suicide three times and overdosed on at least five other occasions. I coped with the pain of past and present abuse, trauma, guilt, and self-loathing with binging, purging, cutting, alcohol, drugs, and victimization. In order to survive, I either disassociated from my surroundings or changed my entire personality depending on where I was and who I was with. I didn’t know who I was from one moment to the next. Most people didn’t even know everything that was going on with me, because I was very good at putting on a mask. Life was chaos. Chaos was life.
I failed therapy after therapy. Medications made me even more suicidal. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder that things started to make sense. However, it still took me a little while to accept my diagnosis and to make the decision to change. It wasn’t until after my third hospitalization that something inside me snapped. I realized that if I didn’t commit to recovery now, I never would, and I would be miserable the rest of my life. It was a decision I had to make on my own. No one… not my family, not my therapist, not anyone… could make it for me. It was a deep, inner choice and true dedication to becoming healthy.
I am convinced that the one deciding factor to my success in recovery was my commitment in that critical and pivotal moment to becoming better.
Without that, nothing would have worked. Not the best therapy in the world, not the most perfect combination of meds, not even the most loving relationship. No…only that commitment that remained even in the most difficult, heart-wrenching moments when those voices screamed at me “Give up! Give up!” …that one small voice of commitment inside that remained, that whispered… “Remember, remember…” That is what made the difference.
My current state of happiness and healing did not happen all at once. It is a result of a lot of hard work, of a long and painful process. Healing, progress, recovery… They are all a result of a series of small, but very important, choices. Really, there is no such thing as a small decision. Every choice you make has vast consequences, no matter how insignificant it may seem at that moment. Remember that when you when you try to get down on yourself when you think you are “failing”… give yourself credit for the tiny successes…. They make more difference than you realize….For it is those seemingly small victories that accumulate and create something magnificent in the end.
Another thing that has greatly helped me in this process has been getting outside myself. The more I reach out to others, the happier I am. The more I isolate myself and retreat inside my own little world, the more depressed I feel. It is hard because I struggle with social anxiety, but just like any other skill, the more you practice, the better you get and the easier it becomes each time. One thing I love to do is bake, especially at night when I can’t sleep. But I don’t just do it for myself, I do it for my friends and family… There’s nothing more fun and rewarding than seeing the joy on someone’s face when you show up at their door with a plate of fresh-baked cookies. Talk about endorphin rush! Believe it or not, it’s little things like that that can really lift you up out of a rut. Try it. Experiment. Can’t hurt, right?
I also had to decide, at a point, to let myself be happy. For most of my life, whenever I started to feel happy, I would immediately begin to feel guilty. For me, I never felt I “deserved” to be happy, because only “perfect” people deserved to be happy. And since I was never perfect, I could never be happy. Took me a very long time, well… my entire life!… to realize that: 1) I am never going to be perfect, and no one is; 2) There is no such thing as “deserving” to be happy; and 3) I can (and should) be imperfect and happy simultaneously. Once I could accept that, emotionally as well as logically (and I still have to work on this daily, as a lifelong habit is hard to break) I was able to do things like enjoy the little things, be in a relationship, and get married (tomorrow!)
Something else I’ve had to learn and work on is boundaries, especially when it comes to helping other people at the expense of neglecting myself. I’ve always had a bit of a “savior” complex, partly out of a genuine compassion for others, but also as a result of low self-esteem. I need to love, but also be loved, as much of my self-validation comes from others’ approval. As a result, I tend to give everything I have to others, whether they deserve it or not, and am often left empty. I give others validation instead of encouraging them to validate themselves.
Over just the last couple of months, I have learned (the hard way), that unless I am taking care of myself first, I am not good to anyone else. I had to learn to step away a bit and focus on my own recovery, otherwise I was at risk of breaking down again myself. One day, when things have settled down and I am comfortable and strong in this new chapter in my life, I will return to helping others in their journey – it is part of who I am and always will be. I love helping others – listening to them, comforting them, being a help and support wherever I can. But I always need to be sure I am in a good place myself first, before I can be a strength to someone else.
The best thing I can offer the world and others is myself – healthy and whole, with a voice that is clear, strong, and true.
June 7, 2010
I am sitting in the large living room window of my uncle’s beach house in Sea Ranch on the spectacularly beautiful California coast. The sun slipped below the horizon half of an hour ago, yet the waves – only a hop, skip, and a jump away from the house – are still clearly visible as they push and pull against the shore. A curious little fox just peered through the glass sliding door, probably hoping I had left him another orange to much on, but finding no such tasty morsel prepared this fine evening, scampered away to search for meatier prey. It has been a while since I have really sat down and written. I’ve made a blog post here and there, but since my engagement I have been quite preoccupied with wedding plans and more overwhelmed than I’d like to admit about this impending life transition.
And what a transition it is. From single to engaged. From engaged to married. It all happened so fast my head is still spinning. Don’t get me wrong… it is wonderful. Exciting. Even fairytale-like you could say. But… overwhelming. So… So… Overwhelming. To the point where I feel like I’m just an auto-pilot most of the time. Floating through a dream. That I’m going to wake up and realize that none of this is real and that I’m still in the hospital. Sometimes I’m afraid that my emotions haven’t quite caught up with me yet, and that when they do, I’m going to crash and burn. But then, I realize that my emotions catch up with me every day, that I have my “break-downs” every day… That hardly a day goes by where I don’t cry for some reason or another, that hardly a week goes by where I don’t feel like I’m going to snap… I’m still me. I still have BPD. I’m still fighting depression. I’m still on medication. I still have demons. I’m still living one day at a time.
But…I have a very real life I must live. I have dreams to chase. A wonderful man to marry. A home to build. A world of my own to create. I must move forward. And I am. And I will. Doesn’t mean I’m cured. Doesn’t mean I don’t struggle every single day. Doesn’t mean I still don’t have my insecurities, my fears, my nightmares, my urges. But I have to be bigger than this monster that tries to convince me to give up. To run away. That says “All of this is just too much for you. Getting married? You’re not ready. Run. Run while you can! Or better yet. End it. End it while you can. You don’t have to do all this. Avoid the hassle, the pain, the risk… The risk you may fail. The risk you may lose everything in the end. End it. End it now….” The voices are real. The demons are real. The dreams are real. The depression is real. The BPD is real.
But I am real too. And I am stronger. My will is real. My spirit is real. My daydreams are real. My happiness is real. Todd is real. Love is real. Hope is real. Faith is real. Beauty is real.
I am real. I am strong. I am stronger than what seeks to destroy me. And I will win. Every time. Again and again and again and again and again… For the rest of my life.
I don’t know if this will ever leave me completely. I don’t know if the thoughts, the feelings, the fears, the insecurities, those things that torture me and haunt me will ever go away… I hope so. Maybe. Someday. But if not… It’s ok. I’m at peace with that. I accept it. Because I know I’m stronger.
Someone asked me today… “Are you sure you have BPD? Because you never complain.” I said, “Because I know… That this too shall pass.” Radical acceptance of what I cannot change, at least not right away… What I cannot change, but what I can conquer, moment by moment, day by day. I could complain. I do. Sometimes. What holds me back? Guilt. I don’t want to be a burden. There are a few people I feel comfortable letting go with. And that’s ok. I don’t need to try and be strong and positive all the time. I guess that’s part of leaning on other people and letting them be there for me. But for the most part… I want to focus on the positive and what I’m doing right, not what I hate about myself. But no one’s perfect, and we all need to vent once in a while. That’s what friends are for. I am grateful for my friends.
These days, I don’t really know what I’m feeling from one moment to the next. Thank goodness for Todd, who helps me to figure it out. I will begin to cry my eyes out, and I won’t even know why. It is so confusing and frustrating to not know why you are sobbing, why you feel you are falling into a dark pit and can’t get out. It seems if you could just comprehend the reason why you felt something, then you could solve the problem and all would be well. You feel that if you cannot even understand your own emotions, how in the world can you be expected to navigate your way through this crazy, confusing, terrifying world? The world becomes a monstrous place, a labyrinth of mysteries, gray-areas, and paradoxes where nothing is clear and everything is seen through a kaleidoscope of criss-crossed emotions.
At the same time… deep down… I know that everything is going to be ok. That I won’t run away. That I won’t die. I do not have a sense of impending doom, because I know that, when all is said and done, I will be getting married to Todd on July 3, we will go on our honeymoon, we will move into our new apartment, and we will begin a new life together as a married couple. He will continue to work at the air force base, and I will begin school to get a degree in music and theatre. No matter what happens with my mind and my emotions, those things will happen. And that brings me a measure of peace, of predictability, of stability, of structure. And I need that… desperately.
A plan to keep me going, to keep me grounded when my mind is miles up in space or in the darkest recesses of the earth.
This too shall pass.
Moving forward is the most important thing.
One step at a time.
We rest here while we can, but we hear the ocean calling in our dreams,
And we know by the morning, the wind will fill our sails to test the seams,
The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore,
For ships are safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.
April 7, 2010
I know I promised to write about “Girl, Interrupted” today, but once I started free-writing about all of the thoughts,memories, and feelings the movie inspired in me, I realized that I had taken on something much bigger and much more important than could be contained in just one blog post. It may take a couple of days to process everything. The movie inspired me to write about my own experiences in various mental hospitals, with doctors and nurses, with fellow patients, and with the ongoing war I have waged against myself. My thoughts and feelings concerning the mental health system, my diagnosis, medication, and my personal experience with BPD and depression run very deep. Expressing such complex ideas in words is a challenge. This is especially true for those things that are still tucked safely away in the dark corners of my mind. It’s time they were dusted off and brought into the light. Stay tuned.
Now for the mundane. I got my last disability check today. Which means I need to reopen my file with the unemployment office so I can get by until I secure a job. I am paying over $300 a month for Cobra insurance (which I won’t have for much longer), in addition to my phone bill, car insurance, therapy (which my insurance won’t cover anymore), copays for visits to the psychiatrist, gas, food, and medical bills. Plus I’m responsible for about half the cost of my prescriptions, neither of which are cheap. Needless to say, I’m a little stressed. Especially since I just found out that my insurance denied one of my stays at the hospital. I have already paid $3,000 and I will be responsible for an additional $4,000. I am clueless as to what to do at this point. I simply do not have the money. I’m praying everything will work out somehow.
Besides all of that, I’m doing alright. I’ve felt pretty stable and low-key the last few days. No major downs, no major ups either. I’m looking forward to the day when I can just relax and stop worrying about the future. I used to be highly adverse to the idea of “settling down,” mistakenly believing that life would be most fulfilling if it were full of constant change and excitement, with nothing and no one “holding you down” or keeping you in one place. I don’t feel that way anymore. Sure, I like change. I like adventure and spontaneity. But I don’t want to push away people and throw off all restraints in pursuit of a false freedom. I want to get to the point where I don’t have to run away from home, from people, from myself. To be comfortable enough with myself to enjoy staying in one place for a while, with one person, doing what I love the most – writing and music. Now that is freedom – loving, being loved, living for someone else than just yourself, devoted to your passion, enjoying whatever life brings you.