Friday, 20 October 2017

National BPD Conference 2017


Hello. Thank you for having me here. It was 3 years ago I discovered the National BPD Conference speeches and National BPD Organisation through surfing the internet when I was in the midst of another crisis. Watching the speeches over the years from consumers, carers and professionals a like, really resonated with me and comforted me in one of my lowest points. So to be here right now was a vision of mine, and I am very proud of the person I am standing here today. It was very motivating to know there were people out there working hard, ending the stigma towards this debilitating mental illness. I have met a lot of really inspiring, driven and kind people over my years becoming a lived experience speaker and mental health advocate. It made me feel like I had a purpose and belonging here, after I spent 11 years of my life not for seeing a future at all. Also a quick mention to my support networks in the crowd here, past and present. Its all you people surrounding me who have kept me long term focused today.

I was first given a diagnosis at the age of 17. I experienced crippling emptiness and chronic dissociation from a young age. I always grew up believing I was ‘too much’. Hospitals became a second home, friends became desensitised to me being hospitalised and as I waded and swam frantically through my over whelming waves of emotions. I discovered a term known as ‘triggers’. When I was triggered, I was sent into life threatening behaviours. This is the part where I swam towards seeking the help I needed to stay alive.

My first initial reaction to the diagnosis was shame. I felt ashamed for who I was, and I felt ashamed seeing the absolute grief stricken look on my Mothers face. It haunted me for years on end, and I was in denial a lot of the time about my illness. I was careless in the way I needed to look after myself as I didn't feel like a human being. I viewed the whole diagnosis as a flaw in character. I viewed it as something being wrong with me. I was a slave to the stigma surrounding it. Googling things obsessively and boxing myself to the point the diagnosis started to define who I was. This is where swimming drove me to exhaustion. I was paddling, faster and faster to the shore, only to be dragged back out with the over whelming currents of my emotions. But the beauty of this illness is we have resilience, and each time I felt I was drowning, I always swam against the currents, with the shore a long term goal. Sometimes not always with the support of others, but I was always determined and driven to find ways to survive.

I was out of my depth in a system that couldn’t cater to my needs at the time. I started to swim frantically against the waves of stigma that came towards me. I was hospitalised 30 times over the space of 11 years. I was turned away from emergency when the nurses believed I would ‘feel better in the morning’. I had to stay a float in psychiatric wards as the doctors viewed me going under as ‘a choice in behaviour’. My suicidal ideations were only monitored for a day, then I was thrown back into the raging seas with no life jacket. I was running out of time. I was drowning, everyone around me watching. The only trouble with drowning is that it is silent and my drowning experience was occurring within me. It wasn’t visible to every single person I interacted with. I felt like my head was held under water, only to be released minimal times for some air to enter my lungs.
Abandonment was to become my biggest challenge with my illness over the years. Extending from my family experience, I begged and pleaded with partners not to leave me in the surging waters that would make me feel like I was out of my depth. I was splashing about drastically, them watching me whimper each time they told me they couldn’t be with someone like me. My illness was viewed as ‘too much’. I was ‘too loving’, ‘too caring’ and ‘too intense’. There was never an in between.

The only way to cope with the drowning was to cope in the way I only knew how- with more suffering from self destructive behaviours. At this stage of my life, I hadn’t formed any healthier coping mechanisms to enable me to sit with the pain. I assumed the only way to make the pain and suffering to stop was through unhealthier coping mechanisms I had acquired since I was a child. Symptoms such as self harm was my first initial coping strategy as I didn’t know any better. Self destructive behaviours over took my life to the point my friends were beginning to picture a life without me in it. I was taking myself under with the pain. The whole fact wasn’t me avoiding the pain, I was very aware it was there, presenting itself when conflict arises. Its only now, 11 years into my recovery journey, I have learnt other ways to tolerate distress when it occurs. It is only now, 11 years later, I started to slowly learn how to swim.

A traumatising experience of another failed relationship saw me at the most suffocating point of my life. I was going under, I had nothing to cling on to. All the energy I put towards splashing and staying a float was slowly disintegrating. I didn’t have the skills to cope. I didn’t have the skills to be able to regulate my emotions when my head was being held under water. I waded towards people who were not willing to throw me a life jacket when I needed it the most. They would watch from the surface, watching me slowly sink down to the bottom of the dark sea.

So the proposed questions I am here today to answer is, what worked for me? I cannot express the utter chaotic storm I navigated through just to be standing in front of you today. I am living proof that some humans are in fact bullet proof. I believe everyone who experiences this illness and lives to tell the tale have a gift. A power as such. The power to gain control of their own life when they did not for see life. The power to be a change in people. A power to put the myths that this mental illness is untreatable to bed. We have the power to touch peoples lives, even sometimes going as far as saving peoples lives just by having the courage to stand in front of you today and share our story. Our individual stories becoming a positive ripple effect, conveying messages that other people can pass down. I can not firmly extend that the change starts with listening attentively to lived experience people. Forming a connection with the person who has BPD is vital. Out dated help is what is slowing the system down. Clinical myths that we dont deserve our rights in hospital just like everyone else needs to be thrown out the window. Burn the I hate you dont leave me book. Fight the stigma and end it now, end it today. At least take initiative to be that change. There are a lot of people here today doing some very important things to change how we approach bpd on a whole spectrum. This is the future for the generation coming up who still are scared to speak up when they need help the most. We have to be role models and we all have to band together to help one another. No ones experience with BPD or mental illness for that matter is invalid.

What worked for me was learning what validation REALLY means. There were times I would grovel for other peoples validations to feel a belonging. Through a traumatising relationship I learnt to be able to validate my own feelings, thoughts and emotions. I learnt that there are mental health professionals out there who are capable of validating you as well. I swam through the red sea to find these professionals, and I am lucky they guided me back to land. I am hoping in future aspects with this illness that all professionals can be on the same level as the ones who guided me.
The second thing that worked for me was kindness. I was putting unrealistic expectations that everyone was going to practice kindness if you see the best in them. I learnt the hard way, and lost people along the way I thought would always stay with me. Today I can proudly say the most kindest people I have around me are the ones who stood by me when I was at my lowest point. When the ideations and harm hit a all new high. They were able to practice kindness towards me when I could not be kind to myself.

Lastly, the thing that worked for me is surrounding yourself with compassion. I was fortunate enough to have a psychologist
last year who touched me in a way that was healing. Her compassion towards me was something I will never forget. The words that she wanted to be there working with me, and how she likes to work with people who live with this illness was one of the most positively surprising things i experienced through out recovery. I was in a deep stage of grief, and her compassion shown towards me in those dark times really softened the blow when I was in midst of the storm. Through meeting her, I was able to stay on my own ship and gather crew members who showed the same compassion. My life became a bit more bearable after surrounding myself with compassion. I now have a life enriched with compassion. Whether that be through my friends, my therapy program and my work. It is around me because I learnt to accept the compassion I do deserve.

With all these three ingredients, kindness, compassion and validation, I was able to form my recipe of recovery. I was able to energise myself, recuperate and nurture myself from being weathered. The storm had left me feeling betrayed, battered and bruised for a long time of my life. I wanted sunshine, but only took the rain as that is what I thought I deserved. I wanted the nice cool breeze, but would take the burning against my skin. I longed for the clear blue skies, but allowed the grey to hang over for such a long time. When I started to accept the blue sky, the cool breezes and the sun, that is where my healing begun. I still accept the storms, how ever with that acceptance comes management of the unstable weather change. It enables me to bask in the stable weather in all of its glory.

Thank you everyone for listening to me today, and for the people behind the scenes who work on this important event each year. Anyone who has just been diagnosed, there is hope. Although you are going to feel like you are out of your depth at the start, I ask you to try stay a float and try to swim. Swim in your own style and embrace the over whelming waves of emotions. There are people willing to help you stay a float and not watch you drown. I am living proof of that and I will stop at nothing to make sure you are standing on land with me to tell the tale of the raging seas. I will stop at nothing to watch us all with our heads above the water. There are days where this illness will have the urge to pull you under again, and again, and again. I will stop at nothing to make sure I am there beside you, pushing you to keep fighting when you feel like you are drowning again.
Thank you. 

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