From experience, my episodes of Borderline Personality Disorder made things seem impossible. When I was in the midst of the illness, I had no drive, goals or ambitions. Even though I was capable of having them, for 12 years of my life my illness convinced me that I was never going to get better. That I was never going to live a life of ease. That I will constantly be in excruciating amounts of pain due to not having skills to regulate my emotions properly. That I will carry the burden of shame. That I will never find someone who will love me or find people in crowds who I could connect to. That could at least relate to one ounce of the pain buried deep inside me. I stopped looking forward to birthdays. I didn't believe I would ever make it to my 25th birthday. But each year I kept beating the illness, even though my safety was constantly threatened. I somehow managed to push through.
I was at my wit's end with my diagnosis in 2015. I felt silenced and I didn't have the skills at the time to be able to express my emotional wants and needs. You are constantly at war with your emotions when your borderline is left untreated. Some days can be better than others. But the dark days are the most terrifying. I can not sugar coat how hard this diagnosis was to live with. I navigated a system that had a lot of road blockages on the way. However, in hindsight, I do not regret it, as I was lead to a treatment that saved my life.
I had a vision that one day I would like to become a person who spoke about their lived experience to spark a hope in others. I wanted to be a voice for change and through that voice, I wanted to be a person to help better the system to save the agony and pain I felt during the 12 years of navigation. I do not regret the position that it leads me to today, however, a lot of pain and turmoil could have been avoided if we all worked together in the system instead of against each other. I found a lot of clinicians approaches were 'I know more than you'. This proved great difficulty as I knew myself and my illness a lot better than they did. I was living with it after all.
Emotions Matter was an organization that sparked that hope in me 3 years ago. I wanted to give back to them one day as their advocacy and voice helped me find mine. Three women by the names of Paula, Rosa and Roya used their initiatives and bought the foundation to life by having their own experiences with the illness. They created social connection, awareness and advocacy by bringing people together who have been impacted. The main message and what I saw is that they empowered people to embrace the diagnosis. A huge stigma and shame come with the diagnosis. So to have a safe space where you can proudly embrace your battles is instrumental in a journey to recovery.
Recently I was given an opportunity to go to New York for 10 days and work closely with Paula and her team. The connections I made over there will stay with me for life. I was touched by people sharing their own stories with me. I was bursting with warmth at the kindness each person showed me over there. They were eager to learn about our system and how progressive we are in our country. I found that we were moving forward in a lot of other ways to New York. However what striked me the most was the advocacy and all the volunteer work everyone puts in to make non-profit events happen. I attended the National Alliance of Mental Illness walk and there were about 5,000 people attending. It was comforting to see the support the community bring when they all came together.
I spoke with a lot of professionals about my lived experience and how their system works over there. Even though our systems are different, what stayed with me is the determination these professionals had to want to change their client's lives. I think that kind of empathy will never go unnoticed. I believe that empathy is the gateway for change and progression. I have no doubt the people I met will be a whole new ball game for the system in America.
The last thing that will stay with me is the historic moment of the first-ever Borderline Personality Disorder walk in America. I got the privilege of sharing my story with everyone that day. My story reached a lot of the crowd. One lady who was around her 40's was thankful she got to hear me speak and I gave her some insight to help her on her own journey to recovery. This was a reminder of why I am doing what I do. To make people feel like they have a purpose. Because for so long I believed that I didn't belong in this world. When I do. I am only human just like everyone else, who experiences flaws, who makes mistakes and who feels pain. But with all these negative emotions I was able to discover my vulnerability and kindness were my biggest assets. That I didn't have to make myself smaller. That I was reaching the right people who were wanting to live a purposeful life too.
I now have returned home back to my studies and I often think of the city that never sleeps. I never thought I would have been there catching subways, eating deli rolls, passing strangers by and learning more and more about myself and others. It made me realise that life is too short and to make the most of the opportunities I am given. It has worked in my favour countlessly.
I want to thank Paula, her team and everyone who made an effort to make me feel at home over there. You were strangers who became friends with me. Something that will never be forgotten. Lastly, to myself for all the hard work I did. All the blood, sweat and tears were worth it in the end. I worked hard on myself along with my DBT team here in Western Australia. Turns out being kind to yourself is the medicine needed to help yourself heal. Dont ever under value how effective kindness can be.