Erin, 36, Sydney, Austalia

image1“About 3 years ago I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. I also suffer from Severe Depression, Anxiety and OCD.

I could write a book about my life, so much has gone into making me who I am. I have never felt entirely “normal”. For much of my life, I have been depressed. It has come and gone with different events; puberty, family trauma, work situations, having a baby, being physically sick. The difference for me is simply how severe those lows are felt, and how quickly my moods can change. I have a history that includes eating disorders, self-harm, and suicide attempts. On the flip side, I have experienced wild highs where I am filled with energy, enthusiasm, and mania.

I started to see a Psychiatrist after the birth of my child in 2008. We did a lot of talking therapy because I was really scared to take anti-depressants. I thought they would change me, and I was breastfeeding and didn’t want to affect my baby with medication. After a year, I was told I no longer needed to attend because the PND was basically resolved. Life continued and I dealt with things with the help of my husband.

A few years on it became evident that I was not better when my father became very sick and passed away. I was having a lot of trouble with my mother and brother, who don’t understand mental illness well and tend to drive me to the edge of my ability to cope by telling me that I am selfish and the cause of everyone’s’ problems.

I ended up in the office of a different psychiatrist who explained to me that taking antidepressants isn’t going to turn me into a drug addict or a zombie. He told me that my serotonin levels are lacking. My glass is half empty, so when an event occurs that needs a release of serotonin to happen, my cup is only topped up a little bit- still nowhere near the top of the glass. A normal person is functioning with a glass 3/4 full, and when they need the extra serotonin, the glass is filled and they carry on. The anti-depressants help to top my glass up to a similar level of all the “normal” people so I don’t experience crashing lows from upsetting events, though I still experience occasionally severe lows.

I manage my moods with medication and have attended an intensive Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) program at a hospital specializing in treating mental health patients. I try to recall the mindfulness techniques I learned in this course when I am distressed. It’s not easy. I got a tattoo on my hand (because I always look at my hands when I am sad) of a line from a song I love to remind me of the promise I have made to try to keep surviving, to not harm myself and to ask for help before I need it.

My husband attended a course in caring for a person suffering from acute mental illness, and he is very supportive and helpful. Over time he has developed better coping mechanisms and understanding so he doesn’t panic when I am not coping. He remains calm and gently guides me in talking through the pervasive and negative thoughts that often cloud my mind so I can find a way out from that evil black quagmire that tries to drown me inside my head. We are Christians, we go to church and in moments such as these, I try to remember the peace I experience when praying and singing. Focusing on something that brings you joy, no matter how small, is better than nothing. I also like to think about my dog, my little Chihuahua who loves me deeply (it’s a bit disturbing!!). Either holding him or thinking about him and my precious daughter reminds me of the times I have been happy and help me find myself again.

I used to exercise a lot, including weight training and running, but I tore a disc in my spine a few years ago and have experienced physical incapacitation while enduring severe and chronic pain for years. I have had two spinal surgeries to fix the disc. It took me a long time to accept that I need to change the way I live my life. Indeed to be kind to myself and stop punishing myself for not being “perfect”. To just love myself the way I am. I ask for help, my home is not perfectly clean to my mother’s unrealistic standard, the washing often gets left in baskets around the house and I can only work 15 hours a week. I am not perfect woman according to some strange unachievable ideal.

I am trying to take each day as it comes. Some are good, some are bad, I am not perfect and I can’t be any more than I am. We’ve lost close friends who don’t acknowledge mental illness is real or just choose not to deal with me because it’s too hard. I still cry about that sometimes when I am down- but I know that now I have friends who accept me for who I am, recognise that I make mistakes and forgive me those errors and still love me regardless. I have stopped talking to my family because nothing I do satisfies them, and I am treated like a child. Just because I am related to them does not mean I have to accept being abused.

The best advice I can give is simply to find a psychiatrist or Doctor you are comfortable with, take your Meds and be kind to yourself.

Find something that brings you joy and embrace it. If you can find something that makes you feel like you have a reason to get out of bed in the morning, start there, then just move through your day with baby steps. Don’t plan too far ahead, just take each day as it comes and pretty soon you will find that you have made it through a week, a month, a year. You are not alone.”


1 Comment

  1. I know this is going to sound crazy but i think i am your twin in the US same disorders, similar history and i also have a Chihuahua and she is the love of my life. Hi i am Jessica by the way!

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