Mental Health

I Talk



‪In 2014, three years ago today, I publically announced that my censorship was teetering due to entering a manic episode. It’s well known in my family that May, June, July is a triggered time of the year for me. It’s that time of year now, and happening again. This is hard. It’s scary and surreal to know I was feeling this same intense incongruity three years ago ‘on this day’ to have a manic episode exactly three years apart, to the month, if not the day, what if the hour? Who can know? But I documented it excruciatingly well. I am in turmoil, embarrassed & euphoric all at once. Fuck me.

Countless therapists speculate as to why, but no one knows for sure. Personally, I believe it’s due to being born late in May. My mom endured trauma during pregnancy, she says I screamed from the moment I was born, throughout my infancy. We were unable to bond until I was an adult. I believe this is because of the trauma she experienced while I was in utero, I didn’t feel safe enough to form a bond. My mom and therapist believe I was born with PTSD and so do I. To me, it makes sense that being born could be traumatic enough to leave lifelong emotional scars. My childhood was wrought with abuse, and some think something happened to me as a child for these months to have imprinted on me in such a negative way, but things happened to me in all months from child through adulthood. This is why I believe being born was the most traumatic thing to have happened to me in my entire life, and I’ve been molested, raped, beaten, brainwashed, witnessed abuse, and been abused. I have five psychological conditions because of my genes and environmental circumstances, and I won’t hide, or stop talking about what I deal with, and I make no apologies. I spent enough of my life shying away from telling people the truth about myself, and it’s only ever hurt me, and enabled other people to feel ashamed for the things they deal with behind closed doors. Note: I often entertain other topics of conversation, time and place matters.


Silence contributes to stigma. This isn’t to guilt anyone, it is what it is.


When I talk about my mental health issues, openly, it helps me take thoughts and feelings that, when left to myself, unspoken, fester, and build into irrational delusions. Saying or writing things out helps me frame things with a new perspective so I can figure out how to rationally deal with my delusions, negative, or injurious moods and behaviors. More importantly, talking openly about genuine emotions enables others to talk openly about theirs too. The more of us who speak honestly and openly about our mental health, the more human the face of mental illness becomes. 

I don’t think everyone realizes, certainly not people who don’t live with MI, but stigma, denial, and ignorance is *still* very real, and damaging. Stigma shames people into secrecy and keeps many from seeking help for what can be life threatinging issues. I hear so many people say how much better it is now than in the 80’s. Well, damn, then we should be fucking ashamed, because I’m still the only person I know irl who openly talks about my mental health. It took some practice, and I have cried myself to sleep at night in worry after talking publically about specific issues, but all in all, I regret nothing, and have had countless people confide in me, their personal struggles. They shouldn’t have to feel they need to whisper in my ear, but that is the stigma. 


I realize that coming out about MI may jeopardize some people’s career’s, even temp jobs, shame on us for that too, because that’s stigma telling employers that everyone living with mental illness can’t be capable, and that’s absolutely untrue. Don’t tell me it’s not stigmatized to the point of job loss, of inability to get a loan, rent an apartment, college admission, down to finding a significant other. So I realize why people don’t talk, but I’m in a position where I have nothing to lose, I’ve already lost it. All I have left is my ability to talk, about what or why it went wrong, what I need to function, how I can prevent myself from getting worse, and how I can encourage others to get the help they need before they lose it too. ~Davs

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Mental Health

What They Won’t Tell You About BPD

I found out eight months ago that I have Borderline Personality Disorder *BPD. It’s taken me a long time, this whole time, to not only come to terms, but understand the symptoms as well. I’m still learning, to be honest.

It’s 4am as I write this. I went to bed hours ago, but some thoughts kept me awake until I was forced to get up and write about them, right now.

First off, let me explain to you that, eight years ago my therapist wrote in her personal notes the suspicion that I may have BPD, but she never told me. Over a year ago, my boyfriend started researching my symptoms online. I have bipolar 1, but he felt that I was presenting symptoms outside of the spectrum of bipolar. Several things came up, which is why armchair diagnosis is not good and rarely accurate, but he kept coming back to BPD. Despite not ever knowing anything about BPD, I heard *personality disorder* and immediately recoiled, accusing him of gaslighting. Six months later, while he was sleeping in bed, I took a BPD aptitude test. Yes, I know how silly that is. No, I do not put truck in random online “tests.” But, I did happen to get a score that was very high above “Extremely Likely BPD.” I took my knowleadge of the “test” results in to my following therapy appointment, where my therapist proceeded to not only go through the BPD DSM (Diagnostic Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders) checklist with me, and check each box as I fit every symptom, but she divulged the reasoning behind not wanting to write it in my charts or formally diagnose me.

You see, Borderline Personality Disorder is highly stigmatized and misunderstood, not only by the general population, but specificly by medical professionals. I say specifically because it is their job to be informed and they are routinely misinformed. I went home upset and feeling somewhat stabbed in the back, for having this information kept from me for so long. But eight months later, after reading everything I can about BPD, and involving myself in multiple support groups, I finally understand why she felt she was doing me a favor. I still feel that she should’ve told me, but also understand that she wasn’t even aware that there was a treatment (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy *DBT) for BPD until around the time I brought it into conversation. I can see why she felt keeping something from me that has no treatment would make sense, she was sparing me the grief.

Now let’s put my therapist situation aside and go back to the medical professionals, and misinformation, and expand into thousands of articles written about people with “BPD” warning potential partners to steer clear, telling horror stories of our narssistic ways, and unfeeling habits. Making bogus accusations that we’re severely manipulative, and can cry on command, make up suicide threats, lie to get our way, make horrible parents, and my absolute favorite, do not have the capacity to love.

This is what she was sparing me from, are you less mad? Because after hearing stories about people with BPD being turned away from the emergency rooms, hung up on by crisis lines, dismissed by doctors, and psychiatrists, and shunned by their friends and family, I am the opposite of mad.

Here’s the thing. I could spend all day listing off each untrue claim and explain to you why they are myths. But rather, I want to focus on something I feel is more important for you to understand. If you know anything about autism, which is NOT a mental illness or chemical imbalance, but a neurotype, but if you know anything, you’ll recognize the common misunderstanding that people on the spectrum are unfeeling or lack emotion, even claims of narssism. What we know within the autism community is that the opposite is true. People on the autism spectrum generally not only feel so intensely in their emotions, but also experience high sensitivity sensorily. They spend so much of their energy processing all the input that they have little energy left over for output. It leaves them scrambling to regulate themselves and leaves the neurotypical observer or interactor to assume that their buddy on the spectrum just doesn’t care enough to pay attention, or respond in the way a neurotypical would.

Now let’s look at BPD and apply that same logic, yes we seek attention, there is fear of abandonment, we have what is called an FP (favorite person) of whom we attach our existence to and rely on for emotional validation, we have trouble regulating our moods, splitting, identity confusion, and  intense emotion. But can you see how all of these symptoms are related? The number one thing I’ve come to understand about myself, and others with borderline personality disorder is that we are so very highly sensitive that we present our symptoms with abandon and desperation. We display different than someone on the autism spectrum, but the idea is the same; which is, we are so profoundly sensitive that often we act out in attempt to protect ourselves from harm. Too often our emotional response is counterproductive to our desired outcome, but in the process of trying to regulate our sensitivity we do things that someone without BPD wouldn’t do. We’re so busy trying to hold ourselves together that we fall apart much more than I would like to admit.

Many of us have done regrettable things to get attention, many of us have walked away from a relationship, or pushed people away out of fear that the person we were walking away from might walk away first, it’s a form of self preservation, to protect ourselves from being hurt. After all, it’s better to hurt ourselves than to let other’s inflict the pain. Too many of us use self harm as an emotional regulator. We cling, and need, and beg in many different forms for compassion, honesty, understanding, patience, and love, and that’s the thing. That. We. Don’t. Get when  someone sees the diagnosis of BPD hanging around our necks. The very thing we need to mend is withheld by longstanding stigmatization, ableism, and misinformation.

Of course we need to learn to give ourselves the things we crave, and that’s what treatment is for, but in the meantime stop alienating us by villifying our sensitive nature, and instead offer us the appropriate equivalent of a simple hug.

~Davs

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Mental Health, Uncategorized

Nothing Has Changed But Everything Is Different

Three weeks after my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) I sit alone in my studio apartment hovering my finger over my keyboard. My screen set to Google search. I’m hesitant to type, terrified of learning what behaviors I display that are the result of this new, to me, mental illness.

I was diagnosed with bipolar in 1993. I was so young that I never had a grieving period for the person I thought I was pre-illness, I had not yet gotten to the point of defining myself. Throughout the years, I’ve lived my life through the lens of someone who is bipolar. It is not who I am, but a distinctly undeniable part of what makes me me. It never scared me because it was always there.

I struggle with Agoraphobia, I have PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. But this (BPD) feels different. All of the mentioned illnesses I’ve aquired were undeniable and obvious when they struck. When I became ill with each new disorder I still knew who I was, I still understood my own triggers, ticks, and quirks. I was still there, sometimes barely recognizable, but I never lost hold of this basic understanding I’ve formed about who I am as a unique, individual person.


Borderline Personality Disorder is not blatantly obvious, if you do not know the hallmarks to look for. It’s a lot like bipolar, not in all the symptoms, but in the stigmas. People generally understand anxiety and rarely fault you for it. PTSD is widely talked about and almost never seen as a personal fail. Agoraphobia, is basically the need to isolate, or fear of public spaces, again, not seen as a personal fail. Borderline though, like bipolar, comes with a lot of assumption and judgment. They are both often misunderstood and treated as a personality flaw.

This new diagnosis makes me feel like I don’t know anymore, who I am. I learned for the first time in over twenty years that there are behaviors I show that are the result of an illness that I know nothing about. I could not stop crying when I got home from seeing my therapist who confirmed what my boyfriend had suspected and even researched for six months prior. He kept saying, in hopes to comfort me “nothing has changed, you’re still the same person you were before the diagnosis” but, what I could not put into words was that, maybe nothing has changed, but everything is different. I may still be the person I was five, ten, even fifteen years ago, but how I think of myself has shifted. I feel upside down, as though the grasp I thought I had, of my own identity, was false. As if I have to relearn what and why I act the way I do, and learn new ways to cope, deal, or curb actions I thought were under my control, or in the very least within my understanding.

I reached out to someone I trust, who in an attempt to comfort me advised that I pay no attention to the new diagnosis. As if ignoring it would somehow make everything ok. I would love to ignore it, but this is not something I can unlearn. Now that it is confirmed, that I have this illness, it is my responsibility to understand it, because how else can I get better or learn to navigate myself if I deny the root of my behaviors?

I don’t know. I like to wrap up my writings like a present, you untie the bow, open the box, and have some sort of satisfactory ending like a shiny new toy. But today, it’s like I didn’t have time to buy wrapping paper. So here it is, in a paper bag, the price tag still hanging off the side. I don’t have an easy way to end this post because I am still grieving for a perception of myself that is now gone. Maybe next time I will have had a revelation, good news, a shiny new toy. But for now all I have to give is the truth, and it isn’t pretty. ~Davs

Image by Davs at http://www.Davs.Etsy.com

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Mental Health

Being OK With Being OK

  

I’ve been ashamed of myself, for months, maybe longer. Ashamed because I have not lived up to the person I thought I was going to be by this time, after making some life changes a little over a year ago.

It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and not find everything wrong, when you are disappointed in yourself. Guilt, I have too much. Emotional issues I believed had been laid to rest, reawakened, unexpected, like fast zombies, because we all know zombies are supposed to be slow.

I am ok though. I am managing. I’m not on top of the world. But I am not at the bottom. I guess being bipolar for over twenty years has left me confused as to what it is to be ok. Before the medication, before the therapist, before the psychiatrist, before I began seeking help for my mood swings, it was either or and no inbetweens. Either singing from proverbial hilltops, or swinging from a metaphorical noose.

What it is to be OK, I am learning only now. Learning to be OK with being OK? That’s where I fall. I’m supposed to be this great mom, artist, friend, writer, individual who breaks glass ceilings. I’m supposed to have an active social life, always adding to my contacts, painting soup bowls for charity. Never sweat pants, never three days with no shower, never sitting alone in a stairwell crying because I can’t come to terms with just being OK. Just here, living, breathing. 

But here, this is the thing, I am here, I’m alive, I’m breathing and I’ve got to learn to be OK with not always being on top of my game. What good does it do me to pick myself apart? So what? So what if my art isn’t selling right now? So what if I didn’t take an extra two minutes to apply mascara today? So yeah, maybe I’m not wearing a cape and scaling buildings. But why did I ever think I was supposed to be a superhero? This isn’t a movie. Nobody can be great all the time. I catch a voice inside me saying “at least you knew how you felt before. Not like this, where nothing is extreme” I admit, being medicated has been a journey. Nobody wants to want to die, but when you find yourself always at the extreme end of a feeling there is some comfort in knowing exactly how you feel. Not having that intense emotion all the time leaves me confused, to be honest. Am I happy? I’m not laughing hysterically. Am I sad? I’m not making plans to kill myself. I mean, that is strange, right? That I don’t know that I’m OK. That I have to remind myself that I’m OK.

Please don’t misunderstand this: I’m glad I got help. I’m glad for this. This new reality of being OK. But it’s new to me, and alarming at times. It confuses me, it leaves me a lot of room for thought. Before I got help, very little thought was put into some of my biggest life decisions. And I paid dearly for that. I was so fervent in whatever opinion, or feeling, or belief I had, before I got help, that I missed out on a valid reality; just breathing, just being alive, just being here. My dreams come from that time in my life, I like to call it the ‘Hot Air Balloon Era’ and they are so big, I’m embarrassed to tell you. And maybe a big part of what makes this new reality of simply being OK, so hard. Because the urgency of my emotions did not have time to just be OK.

Yes, I am not winning any marathons. But I’m not burning any bridges either, and I need to appreciate it.

I am here, I’m alive, I’m breathing.

I’m here, I’m alive, I’m breathing.

I’m here, I’m alive, I’m breathing.

You have to admit, there’s something very beautiful about that.

~Davs 2015

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Mental Health

Agoraphobia

  

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Mental Health

What Depression Looks Like

  

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Mental Health

The Social Contribution Complex

Here I am. Almost 33, mother of two children without custody, art maker with one hell of an unorganized, tumultuous, self destructive tendency. Being a thirty something. Settle down time? Find myself? Just keep on trucking? WTF. I’ve not been to school since the ninth grade.

I used to harp on myself for being a barnacle on society. I’m the statistic. I’m the one the GOP complains about. I’m Daniel Desario; James Franco’s character on Freaks and Geeks. A loser. 

But what if I’m not? 21 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar and spent my entire teenage career on probation. I was a walking time bomb. In my twenties I was on autopilot in a Kamikaze. After having my second child I did some serious trial and error until my doctor I found the perfect psych prescription cocktail and I’ve taken it with the dedication of a toothpick sculptor ever since. 

That’s the thing. What I don’t think anyone really understands. My life right now, is at risk every thirty days. I take pills that have literal killer withdrawals. When my pharmacy has a glitch I’m teetering on an emotional wire. Today, for example… Oh, this is just something that happens without explaination or known reason other than the magic words: side effects. My tongue, and my shoulders to chest, and fingertips.. just roll a numbing sensation through me.

I do take pills to help with the side effects of my psych meds, that also have side effects. I do this. I do it because I came to a point in life where everyone that truly knows and loves me gave me the ultimatum, get help for my illness or lose their support.

I’m an artist. I rarely make money, lately I’ve used my art to barter goods. I’m poor. I don’t have the ability to hold down a job. I need support in one way or another, always emotional.

So many hours I spend wondering if I could hack weening off my meds, what would I be like? As temperamental as before? Out of order? Would I slink into the night, find a needle and pass out in a gutter somewhere? I’ve been there. In the gutter. I’ve been the hitchhiker in the rain at night without a clue as to what direction was home. Chronic bronchitis. Chuck Taylor’s molded to my feet after weeks of never taking them off. Sleeping under a bridge. Endless cups of coffee bought up with nickels and dimes just to be inside some place warm.

People who don’t know all the chapters in my story can’t fathom my illness. I clean up well. I know how to smile. People who think they understand my illness encourage me to kick the psych meds and whole heartedly believe I can navigate my illness intuitively. People think I was born yesterday, for who could be so naive as to go through the shit storm of hassle it is to take a multitude of medication to Just to control an unruly temperament… Just stop being moody. 

Ah, shit… My friends. If only you’d been there. 

I may not be growing a community garden. I may not be organizing food not bombs picnics or discovering cures to disease. But god dammed if I can’t say with confidence that I contribute to society everyday. Morning and night. With each pill I swallow, trust me, I contribute. 

~Sarah Davenport 2015

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