Mental Health and Me
The last few months have certainly brought a lot to light for me. I’ve witnessed my strength and my weakness, my fragility as a human being and the insane twists and often unpredictable turns of the human mind. They have taught me a lot too; about myself, about the intricacies of mental illness and about the unnoticed plight of those around us who struggle with different diseases and disorders that often go undiscussed. From a broken shadow of a person to someone who is trying to embrace recovery and sitting here, writing this post as a form of therapy as well as a way to share myself with the world, it’s been one hell of a ride. But I am by no means reaching the end of my journey. No, this is barely the beginning.
Flash back five months and I am slumped in an armchair in an indistinguishable office surrounded by my therapist, my parents and my psychiatrist. My eyes are glazed over, out of focus, and I have retreated so far into myself that all I can see are my fingers fidgeting and my leg bouncing nervously as the faint sound of my therapist talking penetrates my ears. Everyone is looking at me, willing me to answer a question that I have no recollection of hearing, but soon give up when I show no sign of offering anything up. This is what often happens when I’m confronted by a situation too uncomfortable or raw for me to face but have no option of escaping. I am not physically allowed to leave so my mind checks out instead, still very much aware of what’s going on but unable to comment, react or engage, just switching to a robotic autopilot function where I exist but no longer interact. It’s a safety mechanism.
I don’t know if anyone has really ever seen me like this, but I guess when I have entered this state in the past I’ve either not been around anyone or not close enough to anyone to notice. I stare at the wooden arm of the chair just across from me, where my therapist sits and explains to everyone present what I’ve been able to say to her but am unable to explain myself, glancing back at me momentarily to gauge if I’m ready to jump in. I continue to stare blankly ahead, unwilling to come back to earth and very much aware of the step that has been taken by confessing all of this, the first step down a road to which there is no return.
“There's always the option of admitting her…” I hear my doctor say. My heart quite literally skips a beat, my anxiety rising like thick, black bile in my throat, ready to choke me. Not that you can tell that from my expression, still as hollow and vacant as before.
“What have I gotten myself into?” My mind wails, hating myself for even opening my mouth in the first place, knowing full well that it had to come out sometime. The minutes crawl by as I’m both absent and excruciatingly present, hearing others talk about me and being void of the strength to participate. I hear every word but remember very few, my deepest darkest secrets being retold to the very people I’ve been trying to keep them from - my family.
“Has she been hurting herself again…?”
“She’s been going downhill for a few weeks…”
“Have you ever seen her like this…?”
“She hasn’t slept properly for several days…”
“Has anyone ever mentioned Borderline Personality Disorder…?”
That last one sticks in my mind, making a mental note to look it up later. My therapist had mentioned it a few hours before, giving me the name of a book to give to my Mum to read. Up until now this has never been mentioned. What does it mean? What’s wrong with me? I needed another diagnosis like a hole in the head. Varying species of anxiety and depression have been a major part of my being for many years now but this is totally new. How do I deal with this when I’m barely dealing with everything else?
And thus commenced my journey with BPD, a disorder which up until that point I had known very little about. I’m working on a separate post to help educate more about this often stigmatised illness, but the basic gist of it centralises around one key theme - instability. Sufferers often struggle with unstable emotions, relationships and sense of self, all of which are usually dealt with in self destructive and unhealthy ways, but I’ll save the specifics for another day.
I know that this piece is incredibly unstructured and lacks a specific message or purpose, but if I’m being completely honest, that’s just where I’m at right now. Five months on and I have made a lot of progress but I still very much feel like I’m flailing. I don’t remember much for that day but what I do remember was the immense anguish and the paralysing fear of the unknown, and that’s why we need to continue to talk about mental health issues. Tell your story or, if you don’t feel ready yet, share the stories of others. Spread the word that mental illnesses are much more common than you think and although tricky, aren’t the be all and end all.