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Open Features: Who Am I? - An Introduction To MY BPD World

"Three words leapt from the paper, hitting me like a kick to the stomach 'Borderline Personality Disorder'. I was alone at the time and it sent me into a panic.,'' writes Sharon Howard.

Who am I?

I used to think I knew the answer to this question. It used to be quite simple. I was a wife, a mother, a student. Yes, I’d had incidents of mental health problems during that time, but none like this. This was pervasive, life changing.

Starting in 2009 my life changed beyond recognition as I became more ill than I had ever been before. By the end of 2009 the only thing left of the person I had been was the ‘mother’ role, I was now a widow, not a wife, an employee, not a student and struggling to cope with the torrent of emotions and behaviour I was experiencing.

It took until September 2010 to find out what was causing all my problems, what had clearly been the root of all my earlier struggles. I had had psychiatric and psychological assessments before but due to the long waiting times with the UK NHS by the time I had my appointments I was 'well' again. As a result I had never really had any therapy, medication or a diagnosis.

Having had no choice but to get through each of my 'crisis' periods alone and unhelped in any way shape or form. As result a potentially earlier diagnosis was missed many times. In addition, I now recognise that I had not in fact 'recovered' but was often either 'masking' the fact that I still had problems or just going through a 'remission' phase - the problem still existed it just wasn't so 'prominent'.

The diagnosis came after a prolonged psychiatric assessment from July to September 2010. However, I was not given my diagnosis in a secure, safe environment such as the psychiatrist’s office - No; I found out by receiving a copy of the report that had been sent to my GP.

Three words leapt from the paper, hitting me like a kick to the stomach 'Borderline Personality Disorder'. I was alone at the time and it sent me into a panic. What is BPD? I had never heard of it before. What does it mean for my future? Who can help me with this?

Rage bubbled through me, tinged with fear, as I swore at the despicable injustice of being diagnosed by post. How dare the psychiatrist not tell me to my face? Shouldn't I have been informed of such a thing in a controlled environment, where someone could explain what this meant? Instead here I was at home, alone, already emotionally distressed at reading the rest of the report spilling my inner most pains in front of me. Rather than having someone to guide me through yet another trauma I had to 'Google' to find out for myself what exactly Borderline Personality Disorder means. Surely one shouldn't have to look it up on the internet?

I was shaking with rage, tears of fury and shame pouring down my face as I simultaneously Googled the condition and texted my partner and best friends to inform them of the latest pile of crap to hit my fan. Of course they all wanted to know what this disorder is and how it would affect me, but I didn't have the answers myself!

My best mate drove straight over to be with me, whilst others reassured me by text that at least we had a name for it now and I was going to get the help I needed, this was the start, not the end.

Words of comfort and reassurance did not help stave my anger at finding out something so important in such an impersonal way. My mistrust of 'professionals' once again compounded by their sheer inability to do a proper job - I should have been told face to face, instead I'm reading a website describing my illness as a kind of 'post-traumatic stress disorder' and sufferers pf it as 'unstable' in mood and relationships. While almost everything I read appeared to apply to me - confirming an accurate diagnosis, I am still stricken by fears of being forced to take mind-altering medications, years of therapy, being 'sectioned' and my dream of going to Medical School is flushed down the toilet - all before I even know what is really going to happen. But what else can I do? It's not like I can ask someone who knows!

Moving on...

The following week I get to see my GP and put some of these questions to him. But, he doesn't really have any answers for me, he knows very little himself. I think - no wonder they are 'general' practitioners, they only know 'general' information about everything, no real knowledge about anything. I'm on a waiting list for my therapy to start. It's October now and it looks likely that it won't be until the New Year that I am seen, maybe even as far away as March. So I have five months to deal with this bombshell on my own - pah! - by then I'll have virtually treated myself.

I'd already bought and read two books about BPD. One, an autobiography of a 'recovered' fellow sufferer (Get Me out of Here - Rachel Reiland) and another a 'Borderline Personality Survival Guide'.

One thing that really didn't help (and to this day annoys and frustrates me) is the amount of inaccurate, out-of-date information about BPD that is out on the internet! It is scary that people would read things that are so wrong, such as information on the allpsyhc.com website which has not been updated since 2004. Life is hard enough for Borderlines as it is without further stigma and bad information about our condition to make others fearful of us! We are not 'bad' or 'dangerous'. We have a disability that you can't see, it is not an 'excuse' for our behaviour, but it is a 'reason'. We hate as much as you do that we are unable to 'control' ourselves in certain situations!

But please, beware what you read online - check the credibility of websites and the like! One good easy to read guide is the NIMH (National Institute for Mental Health) factsheet on BPD.

Throughout the next few months I continued to struggle as yet more problems continue to occur for me (in my relationship especially) along with juggling starting a new job and moving home.

In February 2011 I finally get seen for another 'assessment' before I can start my therapy, only to be told that due to moving house I will now have to be referred to a different health authority for my treatment and go on their waiting list before I can start getting any help - GREAT! just what I needed to hear!

So, playing the waiting game again, I continue to have problems - exacerbated by my partner being away with the Army. I see in myself that I am deteriorating; I self harm in many ways - I don't eat, don't sleep, party all night, drink to excess, sleep around, cut myself. I obsess over things, make foolish life changing decisions, and start another new job.

Then in April 2011 it all comes to a head when I take an overdose of 45 Tramadol tablets mixed with Port and WKD...

36 hours later I am in A&E, homeless and wondering why I'm not dead yet. I don't want to live, don't deserve to live and now I have nothing to live for as I've thrown it all away...

Four months later. I'm back home, my partner is back and doing what he can to help me. ow he was able to see beyond the awful things I did and still want to be with me I don't know, other than he has read about BPD (something he hadn't done before) and has 'hope' that I can recover from this. He loves me (though I still don't feel I deserve it) and I do love him (even though I have difficulty showing it at times). We are engaged. Lots of our friends and family (especially his) think we are both crazy.

I'm back at work after nearly 2 months off ‘sick’. Though this is has been a struggle to deal with in itself, as I am clearly still not doing all that well, but if I didn't agree to a phased return now I would have been looking at losing my job - which would have been even worse as it would make it difficult to get another job in the future, and even though I am scared and worried about it I need my job as an 'anchor' to help me progress.

I am finally getting some therapy, but I have to pay privately for it as the NHS has still not been forthcoming. And while I know it is part of my BPD all the waiting has made me feel like it's just going to be a waste of time (and potentially money) and my willingness to work with 'professionals' and talk about my problems is diminishing as I sink back into my own 'coping' mechanisms (block it out and keep busy mainly).

I know this won't do me any good as the BPD hasn't gone anywhere - evidenced by my still poor eating habits, excessive spending, obsessing over things and even my latest desire for a 'career' change. I want to just write for a living (but this is just another symptom of my BPD - constant career changes). I am trying to be strong and fight myself to work with the therapist rather than against her. This is a battle I can't win alone - even though I’ve lived by the mantra 'It's me against the world' I realise and accept that I need help to overcome this thing.

So, who am I today? I am a fiancé, a mother, an employee and a borderline, but most of all I am me and for what feels like the first time in my life I am actually growing comfortable with that. Being me means progress.


Do visit Sharon's Web site


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