* There are references to self-harm and suicidal ideation in this post, if you are not in a place to read this right now please protect yourself and come back for my next post.
Back in 2017 I accidentally dived head-first into a breakdown and I didn't realise quite how ill I was until I went on a little break to Cornwall with my now husband. It was lovely, we stayed in a perfect little B'n'B and had glorious weather, but there was one problem - I didn't feel like I was there. I was there physically but mentally and emotionally I had checked out a while ago and I only realised on that break when I felt numb, like I was watching all the things we were doing from someone else's perspective. It was horrible - I was confused because I had everything I wanted and yet here I am miserable and barely clinging on to reality.
I didn't realise it but I was extremely stressed. Things weren't great at my job, we were planning our wedding, I was a couple of years into starting my own hair & makeup business and work was picking up, and I was assisting at weddings every weekend. I was neglecting the most important aspect of all of those things, me.
Once we got back from that break in September 2017 I made an appointment with my GP. I told him everything and he diagnosed me with anxiety and depression, I was prescribed the anti-depressant Sertraline, referred to TalkingSpace which is a mental health service in Oxfordshire and signed off work for a few weeks.
Adjusting to the medication was horrible, my pupils were constantly dilated for about a week and I couldn't stop staring at myself in the mirror as if I was entranced by my huge pupils. I remember lying in bed feeling like the room was spinning and my husband just lying next to me trying to provide comfort. I will never be able to repay him for the love and care he gave me when I was lower than rock bottom.
I ended up having quite a long time off work, I can't remember exactly but I think it was around 2 months with a phased return over a few more weeks. I felt like a massive failure, like I had let everyone down. I had hidden my struggle so well for years and I was annoyed at myself for giving in and showing my weakness. We got married in November 2017 and thanks to the medication and group CBT I received from TalkingSpace I was able to be present for our special day and it really was one of the best days of my life.
Over the next couple of years I would dip up and down with the depressive episodes and I started to get a feeling that anxiety and depression wasn't the full picture for me. I am lucky in that my GP is very helpful and actually listens to me so when I went back to see him and mentioned that I had been looking into other mental health problems and that I thought I might have BPD he referred me to the Oxfordshire mental health team for an evaluation.
If I recall correctly the appointment didn't take too long to come through and I went to see them in December 2019. That appointment was really difficult for me, I was essentially interviewed by two practitioners with a trainee also sitting in. They spent a little while asking about my childhood, background etc and then swiftly moved on to a very judgemental one sided conversation about my sexuality and relationship dynamic, which at the time was very newly moving to Polyamory. They blamed all of my 'issues' on this and not the fact that I was neglected by my biological father when I was a child and then rejected by him for many years after, or that I had witnessed his violent outbursts at my Mum, bullied relentlessly at primary and most of secondary school and then my my step-dad dying when I was 15. I was told that if I really felt suicidal I would have already done it and that my self harm was just attention seeking. I left feeling lower than when I went in and that everything I had experienced in my life up to that point was my fault.
I received a letter in January 2020 which confirmed the diagnosis of BPD and that their treatment suggestion was a self referral to Mind and an additional low dose anti-depressant to help with my insomnia which my GP did prescribe but only short term.
I was annoyed and felt traumatised by the appointment but I finally had a diagnosis for my symptoms. BPD makes so much sense of my teenage years and early 20's it's actually scary that despite the fact that I was textbook from an early age I got to 28 before being diagnosed.
i am much more stable thanks to the medication which does lessen the depth of my depressive episodes, but I do still have them. I always will. That's the thing with BPD you can treat its symptoms but it's not curable - that does not mean you cannot live a happy and fulfilled life though.
Some symptoms struggle with (this list is not exhaustive but just a snapshot):
a lack of identity - never knowing who I am, what my interests are, what my 'style' is etc.
extreme mood swings - I can be on top of the world having the time of my life one minute and seconds or minutes later I am suicidal. This is probably one of the hardest things for those around me because my mood switches constantly and sometime's even I don't know why.
Splitting - black and white thinking and seeing people as angels one minute and devils the next
self-harm and suicidal ideation - this usually only happens when I am having a prolonged depressive episode
fear of abandonment - I am much more confident in my relationships now than I was 10 years ago. Despite Polyamory and BPD not working on paper it has worked immensely well for me and my husband and I don't know how or why but I actually feel more secure now than before. I do struggle with this within my friendships though, always thinking they hate me or are only friends with me because they feel sorry for me.
Feeling like there are two sides to me - the dark side who shouts loudest and is made up of all my negative BPD traits and then the light side who has does the logical thinking and has the positive BPD traits but struggles to be heard over the dark side.
I don't know whether this will be helpful to anyone but if you take nothing else from this please just know you are not alone in your struggles. There are organisations that can help you, not all of your experiences with them will be positive but it's worth persevering to get the help you need.