My name is Carissa. For those who have just begun to read my blog, I wanted to share the depth of my story for Borderline Personality Disorder awareness week. a lot of my posts have mainly been influenced by the feelings and emotions I had at the time of my life. Many people assume because I am so open on the internet, that they know the ins and outs of my life story. If people were observant, you will see there are only a few things I decide to open up about. Today I wanted to write to show people who I really am, and give them an insight into the last 11 years I have battled the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.
I grew up in a family of 5. I am the oldest of two sisters, who I love deeply and would do anything to protect them. My Mother and I have become closer in the years passed, having a bit of a tense relationship as she didn't really have an understanding of my diagnosis when I was first diagnosed. We were extremely close when I was growing up. She validated me, protected me and supported me with all the sports and academic achievements I had throughout school. The relationship between her and I became quite strained when my Father and she split up in my last year of high school. The impacted of the breakup was the beginning of my experience with BPD. The impact of my Fathers affair impacted me, and I really felt the repercussions of seeing my Mother become deeply hurt. In hindsight, this really abled me to secure solid values and morals at a young age. After seeing her go through that despair, I swore to myself I never wanted to hurt anyone the way I watched her hurting. Not only did it impact her, it impacted those around her and the friends my parents had made over the years of their relationship. My Mother is now happily married and a much more supportive parent role. My writing of my diagnosis has helped her secure a better understanding. I always want her to know it has never been anything she has done.
My relationship with my Father is disconnected. Years of abuse was endured to the point I have become numb towards him. I never feel safe or myself around him. I relied on him for many years financially, as my BPD diagnosis impacted me so much that it stopped me from holding down jobs. When I did have money, my impulsiveness and lack of motivation would make me spontaneously spend it when I knew very well I had other priorities to meet. The impulsive of money spending is a symptom not many people with BPD will explore. Its only the last few years I have been able to manage my financial situation in a more appropriate manner. I spent a lot of years spending it on alcohol to self-medicate. I binge drank a lot to stop any pain I was feeling surfacing. I suffered the repercussions of drinking majorly, sometimes even escalating to experiencing psychosis.
The invalidating environment I grew up in has played a major part in my BPD diagnosis. Years and years of therapy has proven this. I grew up in an environment where my emotional needs were deprived. I was never good enough in my Fathers eyes. I always somehow ended up being punished for things a child should not be punished for. I was thrown into my room and shut in there to think about what I have done', where I started to self-harm at a young age. The first form of self-harm for me was banging my fists against my skull. The after effect of that would be to numb out from all the physical harm and emotional abuse I was enduring. This is only a small snippet of years and years of harm I endured in a house where I was supposed to be safe and cared for.
My teenage years were spent dissociating from what was going on at home a lot. Recently in DBT, it came to my attention I tend to enter social situations with a 'happy go lucky' attitude, masking the amount of pain and trauma internalised in me. I went to school with an energy where I would participate in anything. Participating let me escape the pain. Many scenarios where my friends would try involve me, I would not feel present. I had a lot of outer body experiences from the dissociation, where I wouldn't remember where I was that afternoon or how I got to a certain place when I walked, rode, ran etc. I could never remember happy moments, a lot of my memories were consumed with fear and uncertainty.
I graduated Busselton Senior High School from Marine and Recreation Course. I was awarded Sports Women of the Year while excelling in all subjects I had in Year 11 and 12. After school, I was successful in many things. I was awarded the second highest bravery award in Australia, saving three people from drowning at Smiths Beach in Yallingup, Western Australia. I was introduced into the hospitality pathway after year 12, where I still work. I continued sports, as that was to become a huge outlet for my mental health. I was awarded top awards through soccer, where I was successful the most. However, something still didn't feel right. Even though I was achieving all these positive things, they weren't enough to hold down my suicide ideation. They weren't enough to make the thought of me not wanting to be here fade away.
I was only 17 when I first experienced a hospital admission. This was only the beginning of what became a safer space for me than actually living in society. I have been admitted to hospital for my mental health 30 times out of my 27 years of living. It is a pain I would not wish upon anyone to have to live with and maintain. I was hospitalised the first time for trying to overdose on prescription medication, where I had to drink charcoal to avoid liver damage. My extended family came to my aid, not having any clue or idea that I was feeling the way I was feeling. Suicide was a foreign subject in our family, even though my Father said I made him feel suicidal when he and my Mother separated. The blame was placed upon me, even though I was only 17 years of age. That amount of guilt and shame was something that stayed with me over the years. My emotions and feelings were conflicting, even convincing me at one stage of my life that I tore my family apart. This was the main drive of me wanting to take my own life.
I was first given my diagnosis after my second attempt when I was living in Bunbury, Western Australia. I had taken enough medication this time to have a seizure and pass away. My housemates had found me twitching and vomiting, rushing me to the emergency. I was in and out of consciousness, where I was to wake up at 4 am in the morning in ICU. My heart rate had reached 148 bpm. The nurse came over and said I was lucky to be here still, then walking away after she placed more fluids into my drip. This was the first time I experienced stigma with my BPD. A lot of the hospital staff viewed my admission as a 'choice of behaviour', rather than a way to cope with my undiagnosed mental illness.
They agreed to admit me to Bunbury Psychiatric ward, where I was given my diagnosis. The first admission is a very unclear memory. I remember my two best friends at the time visiting me. Playing card games with me. My mother came in when I was given the diagnosis. She was very distraught and confused when the doctors described my symptoms of BPD.
11 years of BPD saw me in and out of psych wards, on numerous medications which included antipsychotics. Many self-harm injuries, attempts and threats were followed by my needs to manage this illness not being met. But boy did I try to get help. I saw 13 psychologists, a counsellor and even a neurologist at one point. Nothing seemed to be working. Nothing seemed to make the overbearing emotions manageable. I would of rather not woke up then go another day of having to expose the illness of BPD. I was in denial of how sick I was. I put others needs before my own because the relationship with myself was non-existent.
I started exploring self-destructive behaviours that would put myself at risk. I entered a handful of toxic relationships as that is all I thought I deserved. I had one girlfriend at the start who was the only one who respected me. After we broke up, I sought out people I subconsciously knew may leave me and abandon me. My abandonment issues were visible during these relationships, where I would hurt myself each time they said they needed to leave me or couldn't be with me. I longed for validation and acceptance, even though I had that around me through my secure friendships. Still, somehow I didn't think I deserved it. I would block out important emotions as I couldn't express them in a healthy manner, something I later figured out stemmed from my childhood environment. I had 'friends' around me who invalidated me, as that's all I was willing to accept. I always took responsibility for anything going wrong in interpersonal interactions.
It was my last and (longest) relationship that saw me hit the peak of my illness. Betrayal surfaced a lot of deep despair, which saw me admitted to another psych ward. I was accountable for my reactions to the pain. I was driven by emotional responses, no logic was present. I was emotionally attached to the partner at the time, which saw me neglect all of the needs of my own that were not met throughout the relationship. I self-harmed for three weeks on end. The dangers with self-harm are that it can heighten the already heightened suicide ideation. I was running out of time. I needed the help I couldn't get.
A change of scenery slowly directed me with the right help I needed. I was lucky enough to start small components of mindfulness in Melbourne, which in short-term helped me manage my suffering a lot better than previously. I had a very strong and safe connection with my psych at the time. Unfortunately, I had to move home as I lost my Grandmother as well as my friend in the space of two weeks. We made a mutual agreement to come home so I could be around a bigger support network.
A severe psychosis episode at the start of February was another warning sign that I still needed more help. I entered the WA system again, where I was directed into the DBT program I am in now. I was put on a 12-month waiting list, but luckily for me, someone had dropped out of the program so I was able to start it 6 months after my hospitalisation. I am coming up to 4 months in the program, where I have seen significant changes in my life. DBT specialises in dialectical therapy, where I have learnt a lot about how my brain is wired, how my body reacts to my trauma and so on. I have developed a healthier relationship with myself, which I have applied to my friendships as well. I am more grounded, secure and determined to reach my long-term goals of becoming a mental health support worker. I am excelling in my work, study and lived experience speaking. I have a lot of other goals, one is to go to New York to work with an organisation known as Emotions Matter. All these things would not have even been in my line of sight a year ago. A year ago I honestly believed I wasn't going to be here.
Throughout all the years of pain, I have achieved things such as becoming a contributor to a leading mental health site in the world The Mighty. I have raised much-needed funding for mental health organisations statewide and nationally. I have started two blogs, my latest showing peoples lived experience with their own mental illness/mental health issues. The most exciting thing about all this is this is only the beginning. I have 12 months in DBT, and a lot to still explore within myself.
Although BPD doesn't define me, most days I am appreciative of the hardship I have endured. It has shaped me to become a bigger, stronger and caring individual. It has helped me develop skills to help others who suffer from the same illness. The beauty of BPD is the articulation of your feelings and emotions. Although sometimes people have had a negative reaction to the way I deliver my feelings, the majority of the response has been positive. The positives of that characteristic outweigh the negatives. Seeking the help I need has abled me to move 10 steps forward, detaching from the people who have added more suffering to my life. It has helped me value the people I have around me a lot more. The people who stood by me during my darkest period of my life.
A message to anyone who may be experiencing the cycle of BPD, hold on very tight during all your emotional downfalls. I assure you the up is worth holding on to. We are needed here. To set an example of what it is like to be a human being full of love and hope. We are living proof that anything can be possible with the right treatment, help and guidance. Hold on to the people around you who validate you. Let go of the ones who haven't. A handful of people loving you is far more effective than a crowd of people tolerating you. The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. Once you start learning the art of validating yourself, anything is possible. You will be a force not to be reckoned with.