"You will never recover". "I'll never get better". "Its always going to be like this". "There is no point". Far too often I hear these words from people who are living with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Far too often I heard myself also speak the same sentences over and over again. I abided by those sentences. I was told by numerous professionals over my years in Western Australia's mental health system that I would never recover and that they cannot provide the help I needed to recover from my diagnosis. Little did I know two years later I would be standing proud and grounded. Little did I know I was going to be alive when I was certain that living with this illness is a life sentence.
Being on the other end of it now, I am finding it difficult at the moment to see people I care about and love in the pain that I use to be able to relate to. I now realise the frustration my loved ones went through when offering to guide me to the help I needed. However, when you are in the midst of it, you are convinced that this is what you are going to live with for the rest of your life. That you have to wake up every single day of your life feeling immense amounts of pain. Pain that is the driving force that leads to self-harm behaviours, suicide ideation, isolation, dissociation, transendent psychotic episodes and impulsive behaviours. Imagine trying to balance a life like that? Where those feelings are what you feel more than happy. Imagine trying to start a life where those symptoms weren't presenting itself.
Before I started Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, that was my life. I was self-harming nearly every day of my life. Sometimes to the knowledge of others, and sometimes the thoughts that came with the self-harming behaviours (shame, guilt) were overbearing. I was too ashamed to tell my closest friends how severe it was as I didn't want to burden them with my pain. The biggest thing that was holding me back is I felt I wasn't worth being looked after and cared for. So I neglected myself. When I was the one who needed to learn healthier coping strategies to keep me safe in moments that I feared for my life.
There are pros and cons to self-harming behaviours. The pro's of it is that it was a quick fix to the immense amount of pain I was feeling. I couldn't communicate my needs to my support network so when the harm was visible I was able to get help. However, the vicious cycle continued because self-harm is all I knew. Self-harm was comforting at times. However, the consequences of self-harm built up and lead me to suicide ideation. As you can see, the build-up and escalation of self-harm is the con. Because when you rely on that as your coping strategy, it's all you know and you don't have the awareness skills at the time to see how much you can jeopardise your own safety.
I didn't think I was worthy of anyone's affection, care or love. So when I had my closest friends showering me with it, I pushed it away. I pushed it away because I wasn't showering myself with it. To self-manage a borderline diagnosis, you need to learn how to self-soothe when your main support network cant be with you in the present moment. Learning these skills is what saved my life.
Recovery is not a straight path. You have turns, trips, falls and backwards steps where you will fall down and feel defeated. There are times over the last year where I did want to throw in the towel, where sitting with the uncomfortable feelings and unknown territories felt too much. I was persistent in letting people kick me when I was down as I didn't know how to pick myself back up and dust my own self off. Sure some people initiated the kick. However, it was up to me how to learn how to react. Either I reacted to the pain because I didn't want to sit with it. Or I learnt how to sit with the pain and not be fearful of allowing myself to feel it. I now have the coping mechanisms to feel the pain and articulate the pain where I can own it. People can impact you in all sorts of cruel and different ways. At the end of the day, it is up to me what I do with that pain I am experiencing. I can build myself up with it or I can break myself down with it. I decide to let myself build up and to not beat myself up if I broke down from time to time.
To anyone reading this who is currently has BPD and is not being treated, recovery is your own journey. You get to tell the story, no one else gets to write it for you. There is no right or wrong way to recover from a mental illness, the only way is your own way. You do whatever you can to get better and the right people will be there at the very end of it. There is no cure for the pain, however, there are ways to ease it. The illness isn't a choice and sometimes you won't choose the safest path. Trying is at least a small start that has excellent end results. I know trying is one of the reasons I am sitting here typing this right now.