This is a new blog series started in conjunction with Mind Space MK to raise mental health awareness as part of their ‘true stories’ campaign beginning in 2020.
**Warning – This blog post contains graphic, perhaps disturbing content and may be sensitive to some readers**
The beginning of BPD & Me
A diagnosis feels different for different people. Some see it as a label slapped across their forehead, a reason for people to be suspicious or seek to blame them. Others get great relief from having their emotions validated by a named psychiatric condition.
For a long time, I wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. My parents divorced early on when I was six, because my father and mother had a less than amicable relationship. He moved to Scotland shortly after.
As a baby, I was stressed. I would never smile but I could cry uncontrollably for hours all and any comforts offered had no impact until I’d exhausted myself to sleep. I grew into a withdrawn little girl, the mere thought of leaving the family home for any social contact like nursery would send me into a panic-stricken state. Later on throughout primary school, instead of making friends I invested my time in books and this love of literature replacing the need for human interaction remained for the next four or five years.
At some point, it switched. I made connections, few and far between, with other social outcasts, intellectuals or as my family saw it ‘unsavoury people’. I moved from spending all my time in the library to drinking cider in the park at a time I was supposed to be approaching my GCSEs. Bouts of anger, aggression, within and out of educational environments led to a GP appointment when my family no longer knew how to cope with my emotional outbursts. I was told I was suffering from anxiety and depression, prescribed citalopram (and well as offered CBT but at that time, being on the cusp of turning 16, I was in no place or mood for therapy) before being sent on my merry way.
I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me back then. In fact, I thought it was everybody else that was the problem. Why couldn’t they stop pushing me over the edge? What was their motivation in causing me such frustration? Who treats a human being, let alone their family member, in this way? I had pictured myself as this misunderstood black sheep, downtrodden, the underdog of my family. The cycle of blame needed to be broken.
The medication seemed to work for a while. My moods stabilised. Small things that normally would propel me into a meltdown–punching walls, shouting, crying, breaking dishes–which could last up to an hour or more, seemed to ease out of my daily routine. My body was no longer constantly in fight or flight mode.
At an early age, I was in an abusive relationship with an older guy. We met when I was thirteen, a time I hung around the shopping centre at an area called The Point. He was eighteen and a cliche bad boy. Although he worked full-time, he also took hard drugs and chain-smoked. Within two years we’d gotten together. He never told me he’d been cheating on his previous girlfriend with me before that.
Within a few weeks, it went from being in the honeymoon mushy stage to hell. If we arranged to see each other, he wouldn’t turn up or would turn up three… four… five hours later drunk to shout at me about how obsessive and clingy I was. When he was made homeless, I took him in until he could find another place to live, bought Christmas presents for both our families, festival tickets for our summer. Some point between all that he slept with two of my friends, unknowingly impregnating one of them. They lied and said it was her boyfriend’s baby. He didn’t tell me until after the festival because he was scared I would take away his ticket. Then, he sent one of these women to my house with a suitcase of my belongings ripped, torn and broken into pieces. Talk about Jeremey Kyle Show worthy.
The following year, I met another cliche bad boy. He was a little different to the first, almost a year younger than me and resembling a young Axl Rose. Again a person who enjoyed hard drugs, rock music, leather jackets and drinking too much. I liked him most of all because he did a wonderful job of pissing off my ex.
We moved in together immediately, I relocated to Edinburgh until I resumed university in the September where he came to live with me in shared accommodation. He even proposed the following summer. But leaving his home town seemed to be too much. The drinking increased, although he was working at a garage he had no aspirations in life.
He would trash the house, throw up in the shared bathroom, yell at our housemates, shove me, steal from people/businesses and blame me. With my university, I completed counselling and then self-referred for CBT with Talk for Change for what would be the first time.
At the end of our tenancy, after I submitted my dissertation, I decided it was also the end of the relationship. I packed my car with all his things and drove him back to Scotland before moving in with my parents.
Every day was waking up to the unknown. Would I burst into tears upon opening my eyes or would I wake up to a happy Charlotte? The emotional whiplash was more than one woman could handle. I self-referred for more therapy but the South East waitlist this time was 10-12 months instead of 4 weeks as my first experience in the South West.
I checked into A&E as suicidal early new year 2019. I wasn’t sleeping, eating, washing, I’d stopped caring and given up the will to continue. A psychiatric assessment led to 6 interim sessions of CBT for depression and anxiety at ASTI urgent care. I didn’t want to be this way; angry at the world, hurting over every injustice no matter how minuscule, bitter with the negative thoughts haunting my days.
But before I could come to terms with my mental health problems, I was diagnosed with a chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia, and at the same time, I was released from my place of employment without a contract for querying pay under minimum wage. This led to a sixth-month slump where I stopped working, stopped living almost, entirely cut off from society. The only thing I did ended up being the best thing I did all year. I started a support group for mental health in Milton Keynes called Mind Space MK which gave me a reason to leave the house every took weeks and since has grown into a much bigger project.
Out of the blue, my waiting list for CBT came to an end and I began my first of twelve sessions with IAPT again. My therapist this time did mindfulness, meditation, distraction, attention, relaxation exercises but nothing seemed to widen the gap between environmental/external stimuli and reaction to emotion produced. Every negative emotion I experienced was amplified, every bad experience (even a bad hair day, or just running late) would send me into an emotional frenzy. I couldn’t and still can’t deal with sudden changes in my routine, unplanned events, criticism (whether constructive or not).
IAPT referred me back to ASTI for another psychiatric assessment. My GP increased my amitriptyline dosage initially prescribed as a nerve blocker for fibromyalgia pain as well as a sedative to help sleep as it acts as an anti-depressant, he also referred me to ASTI for a psychological assessment.
The first assessment was inconclusive, I took my mother as support but the professional said outright he didn’t want to look into diagnosis as it’s complex and can take a long time for an accurate diagnosis. I had been in the mental health system for eight years at this point. Was there not enough produced from CBT worksheets, notes from counselling, therapy and analysis to determine the problem?
Another assessment, the day before Christmas Eve, with a more practised psychiatrist was much more uncomfortable. She delved into my childhood, family life, personal relationships, self-worth… no stone was left unturned. Not forty minutes had passed when she told me I demonstrated many traits of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, also known as Borderline Personality disorder.
Both impulsive and borderline in behaviours. Fear of abandonment. Abusive relationships. Childhood trauma. Heightened sensitivity. Extreme reactions.
- Fear of abandonment. People with BPD are often terrified of being abandoned or left alone. …
- Unstable relationships. …
- Unclear or shifting self-image. …
- Impulsive, self-destructive behaviours. …
- Self-harm. …
- Extreme emotional swings. …
- Chronic feelings of emptiness. …
- Explosive anger.
There is a history of mental health in our family from bi-polar to social anxiety. In fact, I have close friends with the same diagnosis that I now have.
I’d punished myself my whole life for acting in a way not deemed socially appropriate, and if the doctors were right, it wasn’t entirely something I could help. When people told me to snap out of it, stop it, lighten up, that just wasn’t advice I could take literally.
Now, I’m in a place where I need to understand the condition, access treatment that is multifaceted… medication (started sertraline already), therapy (conclude CBT next week and then I’m referred on for long term specialist therapy), change of environment out of current unhealthy one stuck in toxic habits (moving in 9 days, a complete relocation), put into place a good support system (compassionate partner is something I am lucky enough to have, as well as the ability to start another support group when I relocate) and my university through DSA have helped with this by offering me a weekly mental health mentor. That should help while I am on a new waitlist for therapy more specific to BPD.
Similarly to my Fibro Blog, these BPD blog posts will be ongoing, as mental health is a never-ending rollercoaster and we all know it is a lifelong challenge everybody faces. I’ll be 100% honest, I know basically nothing about this condition bar the way I feel if it accurately reflects the symptoms but I wouldn’t know yet. I want to learn more about it, find ways to manage to stop destroying the important relationships and goalposts in my life. As I plan to become a teacher, later on, university lecturer, and maybe even have a family -who knows- I don’t want my bubbling over emotional baggage to hurt anyone around me. I’ve got a lot of apologising to myself to do too, based on previous hurtful self-comments.
If you suffer with or know someone suffering from BPD, comment below, I’d love to hear other people’s experiences.