Thursday, 17 May 2018

Hope is a waking dream



I use to lay awake staring at the ceiling of my room on my bed. I thought if I convinced myself enough times in my head I didn't want to be here that the pain of my illness would come to a halt. I wanted the emotions to drown out without having to leave marks. The marks were left there so the pain could eventually seep out before it killed me. For 12 years the marks would lead to more turmoil pain. Hospital beds became homes. Nurses became friends because I would fluctuate between detachment and attachment with the people closest to me. Being close to people meant exposing a part of me that was hard to swallow for a long time. Due to my own insecurities and due to societies high demands of fitting the 'normal' box, I was finding it hard to live a life of meaning. 

Being diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder was confronting at the start. I was diagnosed in 2008 just two years after I graduated high school. My family was breaking down due to my parent's separation, so everything became overwhelmingly difficult for me to adjust to. The amounts of pain that came from that event were overbearing, and that is where my severe dissociation episodes started to happen. That it was lead me to try to take my life for the first of eight times over the space of 12 years. I didn't know how to deal, accept or even come to terms with this diagnosis. So I started to run away out of fear. There are times I really tried to seek help and treatment. Unfortunately for me, I was set back a lot before I reached a treatment that changed my life which is known as Dialecticaltical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). 

After 30 hospitalisations, 5 inpatient treatments at psych wards around Perth, Western Australia and eight suicide ideations episodes, time was wearing thin for me. In between these episodes, life would seem okay for the time being. But it's those short-term fixes that were making me run circles in a vicious cycle I become trapped in. The system failed for a long time to think of the long-term solution to help me manage the diagnosis. I was trying to juggle symptoms that came with the diagnosis which are suicide ideation, self-harm, dissociation, emotional dysregulation due to trauma, abandonment issues, chronic feelings of emptiness, impulse of emotions, paranoia and transient psychotic episodes. I was fed medications that I was not warned about. I then experienced side effects that would heighten my ideation. Life then began to drown out. I entered relationships out of hope that I could seek the validation and love I couldn't give to myself due to not knowing any better. I was conditioned to believe I was not good enough, that everything was my fault and that I didn't deserve the kindness this world has to offer. 

Then came 2016. I was isolating myself from the world and my support network was running out of options to help keep me safe. I didn't have the skills to be able to cope ahead, so I completely shut myself off from the world. Something in me wasn't ready to give up just yet. So I went on the internet and started to browse Borderline Personality Disorder speeches on youtube. I was lead to Amanda Wang, who is a Borderline Personality Disorder advocate in the United States of America. I watched her speak for over an hour, where it lead me to other speeches. I started to cry of relief knowing that there was someone similar to me out there who understood the pain I was experiencing. I sought comfort in a complete stranger on the internet. This move was instrumental in my recovery journey and inspiring me to share my lived experience. Finding this speech played a huge part in saving my life. 

Amanda's speech leads me to find Emotions Matter, who I am currently interning with in New York. Emotions Matters, Inc. is a non-profit organization created by a network of families and individuals affected by BPD who have united around our mission to improve social connection, awareness and health care systems for those with this disorder. This was a small vision of mine to come over here and connect with an organisation that helped me seek hope when everything else seemed to be failing me. I am currently writing this from my host family's house on Marlborough Street in Brooklyn. What seemed impossible became possible through other people's stories of hope. 

I now don't fit the criteria for BPD back home, but I am challenged by the symptoms from time to time. I know how to self-manage the challenges in a safe and long-term manner, something I never pictured myself doing. I know live a life full of laughter, self-reassurance, kindness, compassion and love. I still feel negative emotions as that is part of life, however, I am able to regulate them properly so they don't become harmful or endangering. I don't have the feeling that comes with suicide anymore. Something I never ever thought would happen. I didn't wake up one day and it miraculously disappeared. I worked very hard and confronted my own pain to make sure the feeling slowly left me. 

On Sunday I will be the 4th speaker at Emotions Matter 'Walk for Borderline Personality Disorder' walk. This is the first time in history that the United States of America has had anything like this occur. To be a part of this is an honour that will stay with me for as long as I live. 

To anyone who is at the beginning of the illness, please know there are people around the world advocating and using their initiatives for change. This is only the beginning of what will be a future where we can say the diagnosis with ease and not be scared of people's judgements and assumptions. I am living proof of how lonely the world seems to be. But remember, you are not alone and there are people out there who will help you see that. 



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